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When I first start working with clients, I look at what they are eating and assess if their meals and weekly intake is balanced. From there, I recommend things to remove/add to their routine, then address the quality of the ingredients they are eating, tweak their macronutrients to best, and most quickly, reach their goals and finally we discuss superfoods. The magical thing about superfoods is they target inflammation in our bodies. Inflammation is defined as a biological response of cells to a stimuli, and chronic inflammation can lead to disease. So basically inflammation is the body’s attempt to self-protection and causes of inflammation include, but not limited to: low grade food sensitivities, an imbalance of gut bacteria (do you take a probiotic?), stress, environmental toxins (mercury, lead, etc), constant dehydration, lifestyle (sleep deprivation, inactivity) and certain foods (caffeine, sugar, oils (canola, cottonseed, sunflower, safflower oils), poor quality dairy, conventional meat, alcohol, grains, food additives) and the list can go on. Please note though, some inflammation is good. Too much is clearly bad.
I can continue to cover how to we have an overload of inflammation in our body’s, yet, my takeaway is to focus on good things you can eat daily, optimizing our health. When we focus on the good and healthy things to add to our diet and lifestyle, there isn’t a need (or as much of a need) to focus on what we need to take away.
Enlisted are a few of my favorite superfoods. What superfoods do you consume?
Why and how to consume? Cocoa nibs are very satisfying, especially if your senses are just after a chocolate taste or your body is in need of magnesium. Yet, cocoa nibs do have a bitter edge. For this reason, to get a chocolate craving satisfied I mix them either with some nuts/seeds and or coconut flakes, which all mix well in Greek yogurt. As you may know, cacao is a nutrient-powerhouse containing over 300 compounds including: protein, fat, carbohydrates, fiber, iron, zinc, copper, chromium (appetite control and insulin sensitizer) calcium, flavanols (antioxidants, known to lower blood pressure and cholesterol), sulfur (strong nails/hair) and magnesium (muscle relaxant and strong bones). If you eat cocoa nibs, or dark chocolate, you want to ensure it’s organic to avoid chemicals from irradiation and spraying of chemicals which are standard practice in growing cacao beans.
“Every study on chocolate is pointing to the same conclusion: there is something in chocolate that is really good for us. That something is the raw cocoa bean, the nut that all chocolate is made from. The cocoa bean has always been and will always be Nature’s #1 weight loss and high-energy food. Cocoa beans are probably the best kept secret in the entire history of food.”
— David Wolfe, co-author of Naked Chocolate: The Astonishing Truth About The World’s Greatest Food.
Why and how to consume? Chia seeds provide protein, fat and fiber to our diet, and one of my favorite perks, is they help us detox. To reap the fullest benefits, soak chia seeds overnight in either water, almond milk or coconut milk. I often add the end product to my morning smoothie or I mix in some berries and have it for an afternoon snack. Chia seeds provide satiety, absorbing 12 times their weight and expand in our stomachs. Chia seeds are good for our hearts and bones, providing a dose of calcium ebgs for an alternative to milk.
Why and how to consume? I stumbled upon maca powder when doing some research for fertility and fatigue/low energy. Wow, was I impressed. Coming from the radish family, maca is touted to aid stamina, support immunity, increase vitality, balance sex hormones (PMS/PCOS/menopause) including an increase in sex drive and enhances memory. I most enjoy this nutty-flavored powder with my morning smoothie, but it can also be added to soups or just water. Maca includes 55 phyto-chemicals, including vitamins B1, B2, B12, and Vitamin C, zinc. It has amino acids, calcium and phosphorus as well.
Why and how to consume? Known for its content of B vitamins, chromium and protein, aids in blood sugar control, relieves diarrhea, cold/flu, PMS and skin issues. The easiest way to consume Brewer’s Yeast for me is in my smoothie. Can you tell I like smoothies? I aim to have 2-3 a week, at a minimum. You can also mix Brewer’s Yeast in your eggs.
Why and how to consume? Coconut flakes are great by themselves, used as a core ingredient in a homemade trail mix, mixed into Greek yogurt with berries and more. Coconut oil, along with grass-fed butter is the preferred fat to cook with at high heat. Coconut flakes have a nice helping of fiber and both flakes and oil contain medium chain triglycerides, lauric acid, among other nutrients. Overall, coconut has so many health benefits including weight loss my friends. One study out of the Journal of Nutrition suggests that we can expend more calories digesting medium-chain triglycerides (coconut) than digesting long-chain fatty acids (found in almonds, avocados, olive oil). Want to know more? I enjoy this write-up by Dr Mercola.
Why and how to consume? The difference between regular butter, even organic butter compared to grass-fed butter (I’ll name drop – Kerrygold is my favorite) is substantial. When Dr. Weston Price studied native diets in the 1930’s he found that butter was a staple in the diets of many supremely healthy peoples. Do you find it shocking that butter is America’s best source of absorbable vitamin A? Even more, butter contains a number of anti-oxidants that protect against free radicals that damage and weaken the arteries. Yup, Grandma was right – eat (grass-fed) butter to protect your heart. Butter protects against cancer, arthritis, osteoporosis, low thyroid and more. As for how to consume, I am not sure I need to explain this one, do I? Grass-fed butter is richer in the fat soluble vitamins (A, D, E, K), lauric acid and has vitamin K2. Grass-fed butter is also the best source of conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), which aids in weight loss/weight management and targets cancer prevention.
Why and how to consume? Kombucha is a slightly sweet, carbonated fermented tea. You can make your own, yet, I find it most realistic to purchase a bottle every trip I make to a nutrition/specialty store, such as Whole Foods. The Ancient Chinese called Kombucha the “Immortal Health Elixer” for its health benefits containing organic acids, active enzymes, amino acids and polyphenol antioxidants. Kombucha improves joint pain, immunity, digestion and, again my favorite, helps cleanse the body.
Why and how to consume? One, you can start the day with a shot of it, or you can add it to water with some lemon and honey. The most common way I find myself using it (besides cleaning my house) is on m salad. Please note, unfiltered is what you want to look for when buying a bottle. The unfiltered version has a wealth of vitamins, minerals and acetic acid. Acetic acid helps control appetite, increase insulin sensitivity, and helps decrease fat storage. I can’t fail to mention the alkaline benefits of ACV. Many foods and stress cause the pH of our body to be more acidic, which isn’t favorable.ACV can help combat this.
Lead Contamination in Cocoa and Cocoa Products: Isotopic Evidence of Global Contamination (http://www.ehponline.org/members/2005/8009/8009.html)
Yu, L. J., & Jin, W. W. (2004). Study on nutritional components and the anti-fatigue effects of dry powder of maca (Lepidium meyenii). Food Science, 25(2), 164-166.
Cicero, A. F. G., Piacente, S., Plaza, A., Sala, E., Arletti, R., & Pizza, C. (2002). Hexanic Maca extract improves rat sexual performance more effectively than methanolic and chloroformic Maca extracts. Andrologia, 34(3), 177-179.
Dini, I., Tenore, G. C., & Dini, A. (2002). Glucosinolates from maca (Lepidium meyenii). Biochemical systematics and ecology, 30(11), 1087-1090.
Price, Weston, DDS Nutrition and Physical Degeneration, 1945, Price Pottenger Nutrition Foundation, Inc., La Mesa, California
- Berries (always organic) – perfect for dessert with some full fat heavy whipping cream, or smoothies, added to a green smoothie.
- Seafood (wild, never farmed) – tilapia, salmon, halibut. shrimp
- Vegetables (likely broccoli)
- Breakfast Meat (sausage, bacon, canadian bacon)
- Grassfed Beef/Bison – ideal for burgers, spaghetti (squash) sauce, meatballs, stuffed peppers, tacos, chili, etc.
- Frozen Bananas – staple for paleo pancakes, plain with some chocolate chips, smoothies,paleo ice cream and more.
- Free-range Chicken – great to have on hand for salads, chicken salad, kebabs, and more.
What items do you always have on hand?
Often when speaking with clients, I find myself applauding folks on eating whole, real food, while suggesting they need to add more anti-inflammatory foods. And as you can imagine, people just look back at me as if I have 3 heads. What do you mean, and what foods does this include?
Overall, an anti-inflammatory diet is important for optimal health. It can combat heart disease, joint pain, enhance performance, among many other things. When people are inflamed, they may not know it. Dr Sears calls inflammation a silent epidemic that triggers chronic diseases over the years. Indeed the Standard American Diet is very pro-inflammatory as is processed food. Yet, even eating a whole food-based diet can still lack phytonutrients to help calm inflammation in the body, and therefore this list calls for attention.
My favorite anti-inflammatory foods, and always remember to fill at least half of your plate with produce:
- seaweed including kelp (yet go easy on the seaweed snack as they are loaded w/ salt and potential vegetable oil/safflower oil/canola oil)
- spices including turmeric (don’t buy spices in bulk either. They can easily grow mold in them and lose their nutritional benefits if not used up quickly. I love Costco for many things, yet, spices is not one of them).
- seafood – wild salmon, sardines, mackerel (farmed fish does not hold a candle to wild, cold water fish. Read labels).
- tea, especially green tea
- extra virgin olive oil – Explore an olive oil store (I love the few in Lincoln Park) or take my word on this online one, it is guaranteed to have no fillers and it tastes awesome.
- cruciferous vegetables like broccoli and cauliflower. Cauliflower can be the perfect comfort food too.
- sweet potato and pumpkin
- spinach and Swiss chard
- macadamia nuts