The Healthiest Foods On Earth

One of my favorite nutrition writers is Jonny Bowden.   Hope you enjoy his corroboration of what I’ve been saying all this time, that whole foods are The Answer, not obsessively counting grams of whatever.   This is from Forbes online:

The Healthiest Foods On Earth

By Jonny Bowden, Ph.D., CNS, is a board-certified nutritionist and the author of seven books on health and nutrition, including The 150 Most Effective Ways to Boost Your Energy and The 150 Healthiest Foods on Earth

What is the best diet for human beings?

Vegetarian? Vegan? High-protein? Low-fat? Dairy-Free?

Hold on to your shopping carts: There is no perfect diet for human beings. At least not one that’s based on how much protein, fat or carbohydrates you eat.

People have lived and thrived on high-protein, high-fat diets (the Inuit of Greenland); on low-protein, high-carb diets (the indigenous peoples of southern Africa); on diets high in raw milk and cream (the people of the Loetschental Valley in Switzerland); diets high in saturated fat (the Trobriand Islanders) and even on diets in which animal blood is considered a staple (the Massai of Kenya and Tanzania). And folks have thrived on these diets without the ravages of degenerative diseases that are so epidemic in modern life–heart disease, diabetes, obesity, neurodegenerative diseases, osteoporosis and cancer.

The only thing these diets have in common is that they’re all based on whole foods with minimum processing. Nuts, berries, beans, raw milk, grass-fed meat. Whole, real, unprocessed food is almost always healthy, regardless of how many grams of carbs, protein or fat it contains.

All these healthy diets have in common the fact that they are absent foods with bar codes. They are also extremely low in sugar. In fact, the number of modern or ancient societies known for health and longevity that have consumed a diet high in sugar would be … let’s see … zero.

Truth be told, what you eat probably matters less than how much processing it’s undergone. Real food–whole food with minimal processing–contains a virtual pharmacy of nutrients, phytochemicals, enzymes, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, anti-inflammatories and healthful fats, and can easily keep you alive and thriving into your 10th decade.

Berries, for example, are phenomenally low in calories, high in fiber and loaded with plant compounds that improve memory and help fight cancer. Studies have consistently shown that nut-eaters have lower rates of heart disease. Beans are notorious for their high fiber content and are a part of the diet of people–from almost every corner of the globe–who live long and well.

Protein–the word comes from a Greek word meaning “of prime importance”–is a feature of every healthy diet ever studied. Meat , contrary to its terrible reputation, can be a health food if–and this is a big if–the meat comes from animals that have been raised on pasture land, have never seen the inside of a feedlot farm and have never been shot full of antibiotics and hormones. Ditto for raw milk, generally believed to be one of the healthiest beverages on the planet by countless devotees who often go to great expense and inconvenience to obtain it from small, sustainable farms. Wild salmon, whose omega-3 content is consistently higher than its less-fortunate farm-raised brethren, gets its red color from a powerful antioxidant called astaxathin. The combination of protein, omega-3s and antioxidants makes wild salmon a contender for anyone’s list of great foods.

Another great food: eggs–one of nature’s most perfect creations, especially if you don’t throw out the all-important yolk. (Remember “whole” foods means exactly that–foods in their original form. Our robust ancestors did not eat “low-fat” caribou; we don’t need to eat “egg-white” omelets.)

There are really no “bad” vegetables, but some of them are superstars. Any vegetable from the Brassica genus–broccoli, cabbage, brussels sprouts, kale–is loaded with plant chemicals called indoles, which help reduce the risk of cancer.

In the fruit kingdom, apples totally deserve their reputation as doctor-repellants: they’re loaded with fiber, minerals (like bone-building boron) and phytochemicals (like quercetin, which is known to be a powerful anti-inflammatory and to have anti-cancer properties). Some exciting new research suggests that pomegranate juice slows the progression of certain cancers. Other research shows it lowers blood pressure and may even act as a “natural Viagra.”

Tea deserves special mention on any list of the world’s healthiest foods. The second most widely consumed beverage in the world (after water), all forms of tea (black, oolong, white, green and the newer Yerba Matte) are loaded with antioxidants and anti-inflammatories. Some types (green tea, for example) contain plant chemicals called catechins which have decided anti-cancer activity

Finally, let’s not forget members of the Alliaceae family of plants–onions, garlic and shallots. Garlic has been used for thousands of years for its medicinal properties; hundreds of published studies support its antimicrobial effects as well as its ability to lower the risk of heart disease. A number of studies have shown an inverse relationship between onion consumption and certain types of cancer.

A healthy diet doesn’t have to contain every one of the “healthiest foods on earth,” but you can’t go wrong putting as many of the above mentioned foods in heavy rotation on your personal eating plan.

you’ve doubled your fiber with GS? double it again with LENTILS!

Some foods are highly hypoallergenic.   In other words, just about no one is allergic to them.   And this is a big deal nowadays where intolerances for wheat and milk proteins are going through the roof.   (That’s gluten and lactose intolerances.)   Highly hypoallergenic foods include avocadoes, lentils, brown rice, quinoa, sweet potatoes, figs, and cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, etc.).

 

Lentils have 16 grams of fiber in one cup–wow, right?   That’s six times more than a “serving” of Metamucil, and  slightly more than a quart of green smoothie.   And lentils have tons of iron, folic acid, and protein, too.

 

They’re so cheap, you can’t possibly complain that “whole foods are too expensive!”   All you have to do is rinse them well, then cover 1 part lentils to 2 parts water.   Bring to a boil, then lower heat and simmer 45 minutes.

 

Today’s dinner:

 

I cooked  1.5 dry cups of lentils in  3 cups water.   Then I added two chopped oranges, two chopped red bell peppers, two chopped tomatoes, and some Johnny’s Garlic Spread and Seasoning (from Costco).   Super-easy dinner and yummy.   Even my picky 7-year old liked it.   Didn’t even make a salad–just had a sliced cucumber with it.

chia seed and flax seed

So you’ve been reading about chia seed.   (I know this because I get lots of questions about it.)   Yep, I’m talking about the little things that grow the chia pet, now getting lots of attention as a power food.   And it is.   A highly expensive one (I bought a pound of it recently for about $18).

Chia seed has 7 times as much iron as spinach.   At 18%, it has more protein than beef, and its amino acids comprise  a complete protein.   It slows conversion of sugars in the bloodstream, so it’s great to eat with a  high-sugar meal.   (I mean  like potatoes or fruit–hopefully y’all have abandoned or are at least minimizing refined sugars.)

Its mucilaginous properties mean it absorbs toxins, and it’s fantastic for weight loss.   I don’t like to eat after dinner, so if my dinner was light and I get really hungry later, what I do is eat a large spoonful of chia seed and chase it with a big glass of water.   It absorbs 10 times its own weight in fluids, so it fills you up when you are hungry with hardly any calories.

It tastes mild–tastes like nothing, really.   You can sprinkle it in cereal, or put it in a smoothie–but it will dramatically thicken your smoothie.   For that matter, it’s a great thickener!   Put 1  tsp. chia seed in 3 Tbsp. water, and you’ve got yourself an egg replacement.

It’s packed with those rare Omega fatty acids that your body cannot manufacture and must receive from foods–in perfect proportions.   And it stores for a very long time!

I highly recommend it.   I’ll find a way eventually to get it for cheaper in a local group buy (maybe national–we’ll see!).   I wish it were less expensive.

Now flax seed is still quite inexpensive at less than $1/lb.   You can watch my YouTube video making flax crackers if you want to hear more about its virtues, or read Ch.  4 of 12 Steps to Whole Foods. (All my demos are on GreenSmoothieGirl.com under the Videos tab now–and I have lots of new ones coming.)

Just want to share a thought from GSG reader Rochelle T., who happens to also be my cousin, whom I set up with her husband 19 years ago!   (I have 65 first cousins, 49 of them Romneys, but she’s the one I’ve been closest to my whole life–now she has 5 children.)   She was trying to figure a way to get flaxseed in her diet every day.   She just eats a spoonful of ground flax seed every morning, chasing it with water.   She says it’s nutty and pleasant tasting and it’s a great habit she’s gotten into.   Great idea.   Keep in mind that grinding flax seed (unnecessary with chia) makes its nutritional properties much more available.   Just don’t grind it far in advance, as it goes rancid quickly.

Hope this is helpful!

Food combining for “perfect proteins”

Dear GreenSmoothieGirl:  Do you have any information on what kinds of vegetables need to be eaten together to make a complete protein? Do they need to be eaten at the same time, or just within the same day, so many hours of each other, etc.

 

Answer:  This is an excerpt from Ch. 6 of my e-book 12 Steps to Whole Foods:

 

Most of the main dishes in this chapter are high in protein because I have designed the recipes to contain both a whole grain and a legume.  Together, their amino acids complete each other to make a “perfect protein.”  Recipes in this chapter that contain a grain/legume combination are identified with an asterisk (*), showing that they qualify as a “perfect protein.”  I include the “perfect protein” designations not because I think such food combining is necessary, but because others do and feel better knowing they have it in their main dish.

 

No wonder indigenous people used legumes and grains together for thousands of years—millions of people on this planet have subsisted primarily on the combination of beans and rice.  At dinner, everyone wants energy-sustaining food, and that’s a good way to get it.  However, don’t obsess about the “perfect protein,” feeling that the only true meal must qualify under this banner.  Many experts, including Dr. Robert O. Young, say that if you eat green food, your body has all the amino acids in a free-floating pool to assemble proteins, so you don’t have to eat all of them simultaneously to get enough protein.  The amino acids you eat are used over a 24-hour period, so you needn’t make rocket science of your eating habits.  Just eat lots of plant foods, especially greens. 

 

Because of the way amino acids in plant foods combine, the amount of protein in a legume or grain doesn’t give the whole picture.  Trust your body to manufacture enough protein, even if your food isn’t “quality” protein.  “Quality” only means that it matches human flesh closely, as animal protein does.  The building blocks of proteins are amino acids, and your body can assemble proteins when you give it all the amino acids found in dishes made of a variety of five natural, whole food categories: grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, and vegetables.  If you are imagining these foods being a limited menu, think again: you have a huge variety of highly sustaining foods to choose from!

PCOS and protein

Dear GreenSmoothieGirl: I have PCOS and I have battled weight for years.   I am currently 275 lbs and 5’10”.   I believe that what we eat does impact our health dramatically.   I was on a green smoothie a day for over a month and started to feel better.   Then I was told that it was too high in carbohydrates by my doctor and that I needed more protein to combat insulin resistance that accompanies my PCOS.   The recommendation: eggs, butter and meat.   I had been eating a green smoothie consisting of 1 c carrot juice, 1 c collard greens, 1 c. kale, 1/2 c. spinach, 1 frozen banana, 1/2 c. frozen strawberries, blueberries, raspberries.   I would sweeten with stevia if needed.     They want me to cut out the carrot juice, the banana and the berries.   I like greens but I need the fruit to cut the grassy taste.

 

I cannot believe that more and more dead animal and factory farmed animal product is better for me, but I am desperate to regain my health.   Do you have any experience with PCOS or insulin resistance and can you offer me any hope or education about what to do?

 

Answer:   I can’t advise you about specific health problems.   Doctors, however, mostly don’t know that higher-protein foods aren’t limited to animal products.   Higher amounts of legumes (beans, lentils, peanuts) and nuts will increase proteins and decrease any quick-to-the-bloodstream carbs.   And in your green smoothies, you’re already using stevia for sweetener, but you may want to use the mixed berries (lower in sugar) and use lemon and very little fruit (maybe a small apple).   As fruits go, bananas are very high in sugar.

tribute to my “grama”

I am in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho and Spokane, Washington for the Thanksgiving weekend.   The three of us here are 40, 60, and 80 year old women–me running my five miles each morning, my aunt walking, and my grama lying on the couch recovering from knee replacement.   It’s her third joint replacement, with a fourth scheduled (hips and knees done, shoulder coming up).   Is this an inevitable part of aging?   Is this what I have to look forward to?   As you know, I’m doing what I can to stave aging off.   We staged an intervention this morning to talk about  grama’s unwillingness to use the cane/walker, to consider that driving isn’t such a good idea, and to suggest she stop running for the phone and leaping up off the couch.   She’s already fallen once while we’ve been here, and we’re worried.   It’s hard to see someone you love suffering with arthritis, memory loss,  and many other degenerative conditions.   And this holiday weekend has been a reflective time to think about generations, love, loss, aging, family.

My aunt and grama are  both a little worried that I’m denying my kids the protein they need (my daughters being vegetarian and all of us eating very little animal food).   And they express concern about calcium, since  we don’t get dairy products.   I told them  not to worry because  I’ve never drunk milk and have the bone density of a 20-year old.   They look at me, a little puzzled, confused, and concerned.   From what I see in milk drinkers, both in the literature and in my life (anecdotally), well, let’s just say I’m going to keep going down this path I’m on.

My grama is technically not.   (My  actual grama, I mean.)   She’s my grampa’s fifth wife–my own grandmother died at her own hand at the age of 33.   My aunt I traveled here with was five years old at the time and, in all the chaos with police officers and ambulance EMT’s milling about not paying attention to her, she tragically  walked into the bedroom to see the scene after my grandmother put a bullet in her head.

“Grama” has been in my life since shortly after I was born, so she’s the only grama I’ve ever known.   She’s an amazing lady who is the best caretaker for my grampa I could ever hope for.   He completely lost his memory years ago and is now in a rest home.   I went to see him tonight, where he was preoccupied with touching my hair, and kept telling me it is pretty and gold.   I told him he could touch it all he wanted.   I miss the real him, but his sense of humor is still there even if he asks the same question a dozen times.   And my grama is as patient and loving the 12th time as the 1st.   Her first marriage did not work out–and amazingly, last night, we went to have dinner at the home of the woman who next married her first husband!   That is the kind of woman my grama is.   She’s forgiving and patient.   I want to be like her when I grow up.   (All except for her liberal use of the words “sh*t” and “d*mn,” haha.)

Aging is inevitable.   But I am here watching what hell it is at the end.   And I’m entirely unconvinced that it has to happen as early as it does for most of us.