January 4, 2012

Natural Foodie:
Go ahead, make a change

We asked four experts, and it was unanimous. The key to a healthier you in the new year can pretty much be summed up in two words: 'Lifestyle changes.’

By Avery Yale Kamila akamila@mainetoday.com
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 2)

click image to enlarge

Mushrooms such as maitake have a long history of use in non-Western medical traditions.

Shutterstock.com

“Dark leafy green vegetables are really helpful for liver health,” Silverman said. “In macrobiotics, they say eat dark leafy greens every day if not every meal.”

Also try collards, bok choy, Swiss chard, watercress and dandelion.

MEDICINAL MUSHROOMS: Mushrooms have a long history of use in non-Western medical traditions. Most help boost the immune system, while each provides different health benefits.

“Mushrooms are something that can be taken over time, and the longer you take them the better they’ll work,” Giglio said. “Many mushrooms are adaptogens, which means they adapt to your body’s needs.”

“Shiitake mushrooms offer immune system-enhancing properties,” Wolff said. “Even having them once a week or twice a week is a big plus for your immune system.”

Try shiitakes, chaga, reishi, cordyceps, turkey tail or maitake in fresh, dried or tincture form. Use in cooked dishes, add to stocks or drink as tea.

SEAWEED: Packed with protein, beta carotene, vitamin C, iron, iodine, magnesium and other trace minerals, seaweeds are low in calories and high in fiber. Seaweeds also contain vitamin B-12.

“Kelp is high in calcium and magnesium, and those are two minerals most Americans are deficient in,” Giglio said. “You’ll get more calcium from kelp than from drinking milk, especially hormone and antibiotic treated milk.”

“Seaweeds also help cut heavy metals and help lower radiation, and are essential for anyone on chemo,” Silverman said. “The best place to get seaweed is in cold water,” including the Gulf of Maine.
Try nori, kelp, wakame, kombu, hijiki or dulse in soups, salads, sushi rolls and broths.

WILD FOODS: Often viewed as weeds, wild foods can be found growing in gardens, fields and forests. Loaded with vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, wild edibles in Maine range from the well-known, such as wild blueberries and fiddleheads, to the lesser known, such as cattail shoots and milkweed pods.

“If people could learn to eat dandelion greens, we wouldn’t have half the health problems we have,” Dow said.

You will pay a pretty penny for organic dandelion greens in the grocery store, but you’ll find them free for the taking in your lawn. Enjoy dandelion greens sauted with garlic, steamed or in a salad.

EAT LESS . . .

GENETICALLY-MODIFIED FOODS: Never tested on humans before entering the food supply, the affect of GMOs on health is largely unknown. However, independent scientists have long raised concerns about the potential for GMO foods to trigger allergies and promote disease. Because the U.S. doesn’t require GMO foods to be labeled, it can be hard to avoid these transgenic foods, particularly because an estimated 70 percent of processed foods contain GMOs. The only way to avoid them is to buy organic foods, which are barred from containing GMOs.

“A lot of research is starting to show this is not good for your health,” Giglio said.

Products made with non-organic corn, soy, wheat, beet sugar and vegetable oils have the highest likelihood of being made from genetically modified plants.

HIGHLY PROCESSED AND CHEMICALIZED FOODS: Snack foods, convenience foods, sugary cereals, soda, fast foods and candy have been highly processed from their natural state, and are stripped of nutrition and often filled with chemical additives. “You can eat a certain amount,” Wolff said. “But you don’t want it to be the mainstay of your diet.”

REFINED SUGARS AND ARTIFICIAL SWEETENERS: Lots of calories and zero nutrition is what you get when you eat refined white sugar or high-fructose corn syrup. Artificial sweeteners may have fewer calories, but their laboratory origins have fueled the ongoing controversy about possible links to disease.

“Sugar is an anti-nutrient,” Silverman said. “It not only doesn’t give us anything, it takes other things away. Sugar decreases the immune system, making us more susceptible to illness.” A better choice is to use maple syrup or locally sourced honey.

MEAT AND DAIRY: It’s no secret that the societies that consume the most animal products have the highest rates of disease. These days, the problem is compounded by the unnatural way in which most animals are raised. Concentrated feeding operations confine animals in tight quarters in a disease-filled soup of their own waste. To keep them alive and make them grow faster, farmers pump large quantities of hormones and antibiotics into them, leading to growing rates of antibiotic-resistant bacteria and early onset puberty in children.

“Milk creates phlegm in the body,” Silverman said. “It causes asthma and allergies, and contributes to being overweight.”

“Grass-fed is the best option,” Giglio said. “There definitely is a reality that buying premium cuts of meat is more expensive. Instead, learn to eat less meat and fish.”

Or as Dow pointed out, “if something costs more, you’ll be satisfied with less.”

Staff Writer Avery Yale Kamila can be contacted at 791-6297 or at: akamila@pressherald.com

Twitter: AveryYaleKamila
 

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