Back in the ‘90s, spirulina, bee pollen, and bee propolis were the kinds of foods termed “superfoods” because they’re the foods that have everything the body needs to thrive, so, theoretically, you could live on any of them, exclusively!
Then, foods like chia seeds, and whole grain amaranth and quinoa came on the scene as “superfoods” because of their super-high protein content.
Now we hear about foods with the widest spectrum of vitamins and minerals being superfoods like sweet potato, kale, and white mulberries.
Foods highest in omega 3 fatty acids have also been called superfoods, like flax seeds, hemp seeds, and krill oil.
And of course, there’s the most popular, current, superfood camp, which is all about the most antioxidants (cancer-fighters) like blueberries, goji berries, green tea, turmeric, and raw cacao.
Of course, it’d be ideal to get all of these foods into our bodies regularly, but life doesn’t usually unfold so conveniently, say, with affordable natural food stores on every corner.
But there’s hope! One of the most credible natural health gurus today, Dr. Joseph Mercola, lists several of the more common foods that we can get at most grocery stores and farmer’s markets, in certain combinations as “superfoods” because they synergistically maximize antioxidant potency and nutrient profile and nutrient assimilation. Awesome!
Here they are…You may want to keep these combinations in mind for your next recipe…
Broccoli + Tomatoes...When rats were fed diets containing 10 percent broccoli, they had a 42 percent decrease in the growth of prostate cancer tumors. When they were fed a diet containing 10 percent tomatoes, the growth rate dropped by 34 percent. But when the rats were fed a diet with 10 percent broccoli and 10 percent tomatoes combined, the tumor weights decreased by 52 percent!
Tomatoes + Olive Oil…Lycopene, a carotenoid antioxidant in vegetables like tomatoes, is one of the key reasons why tomatoes are so good for you. However, when you eat tomatoes with olive oil, the antioxidant activity of the lycopene is greatly increased.
Brussels Sprouts + Olive Oil…Brussels sprouts contain sulfur-containing compounds called glucosinolates, which your body uses to make isothiocyanates. These activate cancer-fighting enzyme systems in your body. Brussels sprouts have been linked to the prevention of a number of cancers, including colon cancer, ovarian cancer, and others. Brussels sprouts are also rich in vitamin K, with about 243 percent of the recommended daily value in one cup. Vitamin K is a fat-soluble nutrient, so eating Brussels sprouts along with a healthy fat like good quality virgin olive oil will help increase its absorption.
Raw Dark Chocolate + Apples w/the peel…Eating apples is associated with a lower risk of death from heart disease, an association that’s thought to be related to their content of antioxidant flavonoids, including the anti-inflammatory quercetin. Dark chocolate, which is rich in antioxidant catechins, has also been found to support heart health. When paired, dark chocolate and apples have been shown to help break up blood clots. For chocolate, the closer your cocoa is to its natural raw state (cacao), the higher its assimilate-able nutritional value.
Green Tea + Black Pepper…Black pepper contains a substance called piperine, which not only gives it its pungent flavor, but also blocks the formation of new fat cells. When combined with capsaicin in cayenne pepper, black pepper was also found to burn as many calories as taking a 20-minute walk. Brewed tea with garlic, ginger, and black pepper makes a perfect marinade for meats or seafoods.
Turmeric + Black Pepper…Turmeric contains curcumin, the polyphenol identified as its primary active component and which exhibits over 150 potentially therapeutic activities, which include antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anti-cancer properties. If you pair the turmeric with black pepper, it improves the bioavailability of curcumin by 1000 times! WOW!!
Kale + Almonds/Macadamias/Pecans…Just one cup of kale will flood your body with disease-fighting vitamins K, E, A, and C, along with respectable amounts of manganese, copper, B vitamins, fiber, calcium, and potassium. Vitamins K, E and A are fat-soluble, which is where the raw nuts come in to help ensure proper absorption. Also, a study revealed that a one-ounce serving of almonds has a similar amount of total polyphenols (antioxidants) as a cup of steamed broccoli or green tea.
Black Beans + Red Bell Pepper (or other iron foods with vitamin C foods such as cayenne or lemon juice)…Combining black beans or any iron-rich foods with a vitamin C-rich foods may increase the absorption of food state iron by six times!
Brown Rice + Almonds (or other calcium foods such as brazil nuts, cashews, and unhulled sesame seeds)…Brown rice is high in magnesium, which helps the body assimilate calcium. Food-state vitamins and minerals are by far the best way in which the body recognizes and utilizes these nutrients – the way in which nature intended them to benefit us. Chelated vitamins and minerals however, found in inexpensive supplements, actually do more harm to the body than good.
Wild-Caught Salmon + Collard Greens and/or Garlic…Vitamin D helps your body to absorb calcium. In fact, if you have a vitamin D deficiency, it can cause a defect in assimilating calcium into the collagen matrix in your skeleton, leading to aches and pains. Collard greens being rich in vitamin K and phytonutrients that may help lower oxidative stress, fight inflammation, and prevent cancer.
Here’s the link to Dr. Mercola’s original article, for more links to the sources of the research.
I see so many people out there trying to get their vitamin D, but they’re burning! They’re staying out in the sun for way too long, or when it’s overcast.
Dr. Joseph Mercola stresses the importance of SAFE SUN EXPOSURE (guidelines listed below) so your body can produce natural vitamin D. He tells us to gently build up our base tan, which helps protect us from the sun’s harmful, UVA rays.
In this article, I listed which foods Dr. Mercola points to which help establish built-in UVA protection (internal sunscreen) in your skin, and foods for optimal skin-health in general. There’s also a list of the toxic ingredients to watch out for in conventional sunscreen lotions, as well as how to make your own, homemade, natural sunscreen.
Getting a safe, daily dose of sunshine benefits us in many ways; we get natural vitamin D production (which cuts cancer risk by 60%!!), improved mood and energy, synchronization of biorhythms, and beneficial treatment of depression and various diseases like multiple sclerosis, fibromyalgia, and tuberculosis. Wow!
Okay. Let’s start with the principles of safe sunning. Throughout the day, there are two different types of rays we get from the sun. One type is beneficial, and one type is detrimental. The bad rays, called UVA rays, occur all day long. They penetrate your skin deeply, so they can cause free radical damage. They break through cloud cover, pollution, and penetrate most types of glass. They can damage your skin even in the morning and in the late afternoon, when the sun’s rays are bent, or whenever the sun is LESS than 50 degrees from the horizon, which happens year-round in high latitudes such as Alaska.
The BENEFICIAL rays, the UVBs (think: B is for beneficial), are the type of rays that help our bodies make vitamin D. But these beneficial rays only occur in significant amounts between about 10AM – 2PM in the late spring, summer, and early fall at our latitude here on the Central Coast, or when the sun is overhead and the rays are more direct (MORE than 50 degrees above the horizon).
MERCOLA’S GUIDELINES FOR SAFE SUN EXPOSURE
1) Try to get out in the sun in the midday, when the sky is clear of clouds/fog/smog, and only stay out as long as it takes YOUR skin to turn a slightly darker shade. For me, since I’m fairly fair (thanks to my Irish heritage), that’s about 15 minutes in the spring & fall, and only 5-10 minutes in the summer. As soon as I turn slightly pink, I go back inside or cover up. Lately, I’ve been able to spend longer and longer periods out in the sun without burning, as I’ve slowly and steadily developed my protective base tan. It’s best to let our natural pigmentation (tan) develop slowly to avoid burning even slightly.
2) Avoid burning at all costs. Sunburn is one of the biggest risk factors for skin cancer and photo-aging. If you accidentally do burn, use raw aloe vera to sooth and heal your skin. If you have to be out in the sun for extended periods, cover up, or use a non-chemical sunscreen (see “sunscreen lotion” below).
3) When sunning, get as much of your skin exposed as possible, even if it’s simply rolling up your sleeves and pant legs, but shade your delicate face and eyes.
4) Avoid sunning through a window or glass, or foggy/overcast sky, where the beneficial UVB rays get blocked but the bad UVA rays come through.
5) Avoid foods which weaken your skin’s natural sun protection: refined vegetable oils, processed foods, foods with chemical additives, and inflammatory foods. Eat plenty of real foods which contribute to your skin’s natural sun protection: virgin coconut oil, plenty of omega 3 fats, quality vitamin C, oral Vitamin D3, and the supplement Astazanthin (which occurs in micro-algae and in fish/krill oils).
6) After sunning, when showering, wash your armpits and groin with soap but try not to scrub the rest of your skin with soap as it interferes with you body’s ability to absorb vitamin D. You see, vitamin D production happens in the sebum (oils) of your skin, which can take up to 2 days to be absorbed into your body.
If you’re in the sun for extended periods and you want to wear a sunscreen instead of covering up, it’s smart to use a natural, non-chemical formula that’s safe and healthy for your skin. Natural health experts tell us to not put anything on our skin that we wouldn’t eat, as our skin is an absorbative organ.
I like California Baby and Elemental Herbs SPF 33. And, of course, www.mercola.com for natural, affordable sunscreens AND bug repellents.
And here are several ways to make your own, natural, homemade sunscreen!
Know that there are many potentially harmful chemicals in conventional sunscreen such as dioxybenzone and oxybenzone, which are some of the most powerful free radical generators known to man! So, toss your conventional sunscreen in the trash if it contains dioxybenzone, oxybenzone, or any of these other chemicals: Para amino benzoic acid…Octyl salicyclate…Avobenzone…Oxybenzone…Cinoxate…Padimate O…Dioxybenzone…Phenylbenzimidazole…Homosalate…Sulisobenzone…Menthyl anthranilate…Trolamine salicyclate…Octocrylene…
Also, research suggests several of these common ingredients in sunscreen awaken harmful dormant viruses within coral reefs. National Geographic came out with a startling discovery: Sunscreen chemicals are killing coral reefs around the world. Four ingredients commonly found in popular brands of sunscreen – paraben, cinnamate, benzophenone, and a camphor derivative – are suspected of awakening dormant viruses which kill certain algae that live inside coral reefs. Essential to the health and well-being of coral, these algae provide coral with its food energy and contribute to its vibrant color. Without these algae, coral turns white – or “bleaches” – and dies. Tragically, these sunscreen chemical-driven viruses replicate until the algae explode, spreading viruses into surrounding coral communities.
FOODS WHICH CREATE BUILT-IN SUN PROTECTION
To paraphrase Dr. Joseph Mercola:
When it comes to your skin, what you eat has a lot to do with your complexion, and, a number of skin problems can be cleared up simply by altering your diet. By keeping your insides healthy and clean, your skin will have no choice but follow suit and mirror your internal state.
As a general rule, a diet high in fresh vegetables, which are rich in bioflavanoids, and plenty of omega-3 fat, will lay the necessary groundwork for a healthy, youthful complexion. Certain nutrients also have protective benefits, helping your skin develop some natural, built in sun protection, and ward off the damage caused by exposure to the elements.
Remember that your skin needs healthy fats to stay firm, supple, and wrinkle free. I recommend low-mercury fish that are high in omega-3, such as wild Alaskan salmon (not Atlantic salmon, which is typically farmed), and small fatty fish like sardines and anchovies, or take a high quality supplement like krill or salmon oil. Both of these contain a small amount of astaxanthin, which can offer potent sun protection, acting as an internal sunscreen. In terms of antioxidant capacity, astaxanthin is 65 times more powerful than vitamin C, 54 times more powerful than beta-carotene, and 14 times more powerful than vitamin E. It exhibits VERY STRONG free radical scavenging activity and protects your cells, organs and body tissues from oxidative damage which helps prevent cancers.
There are only two main sources of astaxanthin — the microalgae that produce it, and the sea creatures that consume the algae, such as salmon, shellfish, and krill. Many athletes report astaxanthin allows them to stay in the sun for longer periods of time without feeling ill and without burning. Less burning also means lower skin cancer risk. Cyanotech Corporation funded a study through an independent consumer research laboratory to measure the skin’s resistance to both UVA and UVB light, before and after astaxanthin supplementation. After taking 4 mg of astaxanthin per day for two weeks, subjects showed a significant increase in the amount of time necessary for UV radiation to redden their skin.
Keep in mind that insulin and leptin resistance are major accelerants of the aging processes, which affect both your inside and outside, so it’s important to keep your blood sugar levels low and steer clear of refined foods if you want to maintain a youthful look — not to mention optimal health. The most effective way to do this is by reducing or eliminating processed, packaged, and fast foods, as they’re high in refined sugar, processed fructose, trans fats, processed salt, and other detrimental ingredients. Drugs and alcohol are also clearly enemies of a glowing complexion, and pasteurized dairy products are sometimes to blame for skin ailments.
PLANT-BASED FATS FOR BEAUTIFUL SKIN:
Healthy fats which contribute to a glowing complexion include coconut oil, avocado, olives and olive oil, and raw nuts. Macadamia and pecans contain the most healthy fat while being low in carbs and protein. Brazil nuts are another good choice. Besides being on the higher end in terms of healthy fat, and lower in terms of carbs and protein, they’re also a good source of selenium, which can help protect against sun damage and age spots. As little as 3 to 4 Brazil nuts can provide you with nearly 4 times the recommended daily amount of selenium.
SPECIFIC VEGGIES & FRUITS FOR HEALTHY SKIN:
Traditionally fermented foods and/or a high quality probiotic can also be very helpful for optimizing your skin health. Fermented/Cultured foods help promote the growth of friendly intestinal bacteria and aid healthy digestion. They also support healthy immune function, and increase B vitamins, omega-3, digestive enzymes, lactase and lactic acid, and other immune chemicals that fight off harmful bacteria and promote healthy skin…your skin often shows an accurate picture of your gut health.
Raw and cooked vegetables as 60-70% of your diet supports your natural detoxification systems. For example, healthy liver function is supported by dark green leafy veggies such as kale, spinach, dandelion greens, and broccoli. Aim for a wide variety of veggies in different colors for the widest variety of nutrients and antioxidants.
Orange-red vegetables such as carrots, sweet potatoes, pumpkin and red peppers are particularly rich in beta-carotene. Your body converts beta-carotene into vitamin A, which prevents cell damage and premature aging.
Most leafy greens provide lots of vitamin A as well, but spinach, kale, and Swiss chard also provide lutein and zeaxanthin. These antioxidants are perhaps most well-known for their eye benefits, but they also greatly benefit your skin. Similar to astaxanthin, research has shown lutein and zeaxanthin can provide a four-fold increase in protection against skin damage caused by UV radiation. Lycopene also offers protection against UV radiation damage by acting as internal sunscreen. Tomatoes are a prime source of lycopene, levels of which are much higher in cooked, processed tomatoes such as tomato paste.
And high-antioxidant treats like cruciferous veggies, raw cacao nibs, and green tea are also known to beautify your skin. Dark chocolate is another source of valuable antioxidants. Cocoa flavanols in particular have been shown to boost skin hydration and improve blood circulation. In one study, women who drank a flavanol-rich cocoa powder drink daily for 12 weeks saw improvements in skin roughness and scaliness compared to the control group. For maximum health benefits, I recommend raw cacao nibs, which are actually bitter, not sweet. If too bitter, opt for the darkest chocolate you can tolerate, ideally 70 percent cacao or higher. Milk chocolate is worthless, as the sugar content is far too high and outweighs any benefits from the little polyphenols present in it.
Vitamin C aids in your body’s production of collagen, which is the protein that forms the basic scaffolding of your skin. It also helps with skin healing, if you’re struggling with any kind of skin problems. Foods high in vitamin C include citrus fruits, papaya, kiwi, strawberries, red bell peppers, broccoli, and Brussel’s sprouts. Citrus fruits also contain limonene which is associated with a 34 percent lower risk of skin cancer.
Besides vitamin C, vitamins D and B3 have also been shown to provide valuable protection against skin damage and skin cancer. B3 rich foods include: high protein foods like meat, liver, milk and peanuts. Also, rice, whole wheat, turnips, celery leaves, sunflower seeds, almonds, fish, prawns, tuna, chicken breast, beef, halibut, and salmon. Other food sources of vitamin B3 include mushrooms, cantaloupe, mangoes, peaches, asparagus, romaine lettuce, tomatoes, mustard greens, and squash…green beans, broccoli, and potatoes are also excellent sources of vitamin B3.
And, as mentioned initially, Vitamin D is formed in your skin, and once activated in the liver and kidneys it influences the genes in your skin and helps prevent the type of abnormalities that ultraviolet light causes. As a result, sun avoidance becomes the factor that paradoxically can trigger skin cancer.
Here’s a link to Dr. Joseph Mercola’s super-informative, full article on the importance of safe sun exposure
For more helpful articles, please visit Mercola.com today and receive your FREE Take Control of Your Health E-book, by Dr. Mercola, a New York Times bestselling author!
Bitter Greens such as kales, collard greens, arugula, mustard greens, and dandelion greens, are not only amazing nutritional powerhouses, but they aid digestion, reduce sugar cravings, help metabolize fats, and work many other magical effects on the human body.
Half a plateful of steaming kale is what I believe is missing alongside our proteins, unrefined carbohydrates, and good fats everyday in this modern world of fast food & packaged food…especially alongside rich holiday meals! Rural Asian and Indian people who experience vital health late into life, eat diets of 60-70% seasonal vegetables, and one person commonly eats an entire bunch of bitter greens daily.
Bitter greens help cleanse and tonify (strengthen) the liver and gallbladder by pushing bile out of the gallbladder and into the stomach. This action aids in the digestion of fats and proteins, especially high-purine proteins like meats. Bitter greens also act as a gentle diuretic to purify the blood and thusly help cleanse the entire body, which often leads to weight loss, clear skin, normal bowel function, and lower blood pressure. Along with all these wonderful effects, bitter greens also provide us with a wide scope of bio-available minerals (especially iron), they help lower our serum cholesterol, and they greatly reduce acid indigestion and gas buildup.
LIST OF BITTER GREENS
All Kales & broccoli family dark leafy greens (always steam or cook at least lightly)
Beet Greens, Spinach, & Swiss Chard (always eat raw instead of cooked)
Turnip & Radish Greens
To counter the bitter taste, try lightly sautéing greens with a small amount of salt and good fat. Adding unrefined salt and high quality fat like virgin coconut oil when cooking reduces bitterness, enhances digestibility, and even releases nutrients for easy mineral absorption. Also, as a general rule of cooking, the sweet flavor balances the bitter flavor, so cook them or serve them mixed with bite size pieces of carrot, yam or winter squash.
RECIPE: Steamed Veggies & Dark Leafy Greens
In a deep, medium sized stainless steel saucepan, place a fitting steamer basket and about 2 cups of water in the bottom. Wash and slice about 2 cups of any sweet veggies like carrot, yam, fennel bulb, or winter squash into 1/4 inch pieces. Place the sweet veggies in the bottom of the steamer basket, and steam for about 3 minutes until almost tender. Next, add about 2 cups any medium-dense veggies like broccoli, fresh green bean, bok choy, or cauliflower, etc. and steam for another 2 minutes. Lastly, stuff big handfuls of washed & chopped kale, collards, or any cruciferous greens on top of the other veggies, cover again, and steam for another minute. Uncover to make sure all greens are slightly wilted and wet-looking. Steam another 30 seconds if not. Remove lid immediately, and carefully (so you don’t burn your hands with the steam) turn all the veggies out onto a plate. Drizzle everything with lemon juice and a high-quality virgin olive oil. Voila! After you eat this with your heavy holiday meals, or with your meats or eggs or brown rice/beans/avocado, you’ll feel invincible all year long!
Here’s some salad dressing ideas which are great for the kinds of bitter greens which should be eaten raw due to the oxalic acid content like spinach, beet greens, & Swiss chard.
Sweet Fennel Salad…2 cups each: chopped celery, grated carrot, and sliced fennel bulb. Add 3 cups each chopped arugula and spinach, and toss.
Balsamic Vinaigrette Dressing…3Tbsp olive oil, 3Tbsp balsamic vinegar, 2Tbsp lemon juice, and 1tsp grade B maple syrup or raw honey.
Italian Salad Dressing…Making this dressing is so simple – it just depends on your preference for each ingredient. You can make it extra lemony or extra herby if you like. Here’s the basics: 3Tbsp good quality virgin olive oil, 1Tbsp lemon juice OR raw apple cider vinegar and finely minced fresh herbs of choice (marjoram, sage, rosemary, parsley, dill, fennel, etc).
Good Quality, Extra Virgin Olive Oil drizzled over salad with a squeeze of Meyer Lemon Juice is simple & tastes fantastic!
For a No-Sugar, but Pleasantly Sweet Dressing…3Tbsp olive oil, 1 Tbsp raw apple cider vinegar, and 5 drops Nu Naturals brand vanilla stevia.
For those coming off the standard American diet, colon cleansing is one of the most important first steps on the road to vitality. The colon works with the liver and lymphatic system to keep our entire bodies free from toxic accumulations. It’s the first organ you’ll want to cleanse, so that there is a clear pathway out of the body when you finally decide to do a liver or gallbladder cleanse, etc.
You see, every time we’ve eaten mucos-forming food like pasteurized dairy products especially melted cheese, refined flour products, meats, and heavy fats/oils (sound like the standard American diet?), a thin layer of sticky matter adheres to the walls of our colon. These layers (called peutrifecative matter, which is literally decaying food that houses parasites) builds up, and the passageway through the colon gets smaller and smaller. Over time, the layers get harder and dryer as the colon is constantly working to dry out feces so that they’re solid and thusly passable. These layers block the body’s cleansing action of the colon, liver and lymph, and we then experience lethargy, headaches, distended abdomens, irregular bowel movements, acne, and a whole host of other symptoms of systemic toxicity. The colon’s peutrifecative matter can get very thick over time. There has actually been a 40lb colon removed from a man!
Intense colon cleansing is usually most needed when initially getting off years of eating the standard American diet. A whole foods diet is gently cleansing over time, so, those who have been mostly off refined/processed/fast foods for several years, won’t need intense colon cleansing, but gently cleansing the colon, at least yearly, benefits everyone.
A whole food diet, by the way, looks like this:
- seasonal, regional vegetables (some raw, some cooked) as the base of the diet (50-70% of diet)
- either soaked or cultured, low-glycemic, whole grains
- grass fed/organic animal proteins when needed for warmth or building strength (during pregnancy, for people who work hard physically, or according to ancestry – type O blood)
- getting 60-100oz per day of re-mineralized water
- unrefined (extra virgin) oils and moderate amounts of saturated fats
- whole sea salts like Celtic, Himalayan pink, or Real Salt
- small amounts of unrefined sweeteners like grade B maple syrup, raw honey, coconut sugar, sucanat/rapidura sugar, etc.
Colon cleansing is NOT a fasting cleanse, and can be done comfortably from 1 week to 3 weeks. But you don’t want to eat any mucos-forming food (mentioned in the second paragraph above) while cleansing your colon, because the herbs you’ll be taking need to be able to reach the walls of your colon to break up and help you pass out the old matter, instead of those valuable herbs getting caught up in mucos-forming foods.
“But where do I get my protein during the cleanse?” you may ask. What I’ve found works best is 1-2Tbsp spirulina or chlorella powder daily. You see, these blue-green algae have everything your body needs. That’s why they call them superfoods – you could live well on them exclusively. They will give you enough protein and other nutrients while on your cleanse to curb your appetite for building foods, and the chlorophyl they contain is VERY cleansing. Midway through your colon cleanse, when you start getting the old matter out and you’re feeling lighter, more energized, and your belly is flatter than ever, you’ll get excited and want to keep doing it for whatever length of time feels right to you. Your body will tell you when it’s time to quit the cleanse.
I have done various cleanses, and I wholeheartedly believe in the revitalizing and re-balancing powers of cleansing. I’ve come up with step by step recommendations and guidelines for this first and most important cleanse, the colon cleanse, which I give participants in my information-packed class, “Whole Food Cooking for the Optimal Woman”. If your intuition is telling you that you need to colon cleanse, I hope you’ll join me for this class on Sunday February 7th, 2-4PM at Whole Foods, SLO to hear my personal experience with colon cleansing, as well as diet and lifestyle tips for natural hormone balance, calcium and iron uptake through various combinations of whole food, strategies for getting off sugar, and to receive support and guidance on your path toward reaching your highest health potential.
Gluten & Sugar Free Lemon-Lavender Poppy Seed Cake
For about the past 5 years in the healing foods community, there have been many proponents for a no-grain diet. Personally, I’ve enjoyed sprouted and simmered (or fresh ground and cultured), low-glycemic, whole grains like millet, amaranth, buckwheat, and brown rice as staple foods in my diet for 20 years with excellent health. But, I’ve recently had to re-evaluate which types of whole grains are actually serving my body best, since experiencing an unrelenting bout of rosacea acne since June.
Concerning ALL grains, I believe that there are definitely the good, the bad, and the ugly. Because of the genetic modification, the high glycemic aspect, and general overuse of hybridized, refined, gluten-brimming wheat and GM corn in processed foods, the regular consumption of these grains (as well as the other high-glycemic foods), are major factors in many modern diseases.
This article is a tad longer than usual because, in covering ALL grains, several factors need to be addressed such as: glycemic aspect of various grains, genetic modification, gluten-sensitivity, traditional preparation of grains vs. modern use of grains in processed foods, a whole foods diet and lifestyle, individual body type’s different needs, mindfulness, and finally, cereal grains vs. grain-like seeds. So, if you’re in for the ride, big thanks for your time, and hang on!
Why Are GM Corn And Modern Wheat So Ugly?
Beside the fact that both corn and wheat are very high glycemic, commercially grown corn is extremely bad for us because, like most other genetically modified (GM) crops, it contains pesticide. This is very maddening to me, considering that there are billions of people who eat processed foods containing corn as a main ingredient daily. Sterility and various cancers in mice fed GM grains were the first adverse effects discovered. Today, about 45% of modern people end up with some type of cancer, and millions of women can’t get pregnant.
One of Dr. Mercola’s articles, is about the dangers of eating modern wheat. Wheat now contains 80% more gluten than ever before, due to it’s hybridization over recent decades. With increasing exposure to gluten (a protein in the bran of wheat termed “wheat germ aglutinen” or “WGA”), more and more of us are becoming gluten sensitive, and many of us are even gluten intolerant. Gluten exists in large amounts in modern whole wheat, and in lesser but still significant amounts in refined wheat, spelt, barley, rye, kamut, and triticale. WGA has been recently proven to not only cause systemic inflammation (which has been known for years), but is now considered cardiotoxic and neurotoxic!
Wheat Sensitivity Symptoms
Each of us is sensitive to gluten in widely varying degrees, and with widely varying symptoms. For instance, if I eat a piece of wheat bread, I get a bit of a bloated feeling, as if I ate too much. For the past year since living with my new sweetie Matt who ISN’T wheat sensitive, I have been unwisely dabbling in wheat a few times a week (pizza, lamb shawarma sandwiches, beer, etc), unlike when I was with my last partner for 3 years who is borderline celiac, I ate almost no wheat. So, in eating about 1000% more wheat over the last year, it’s reasonable that I’ve developed a wheat allergy-induced rash (rosacea), which is a common symptom of wheat sensitivity.
Concerning the widely varying symptoms of wheat allergy, I know someone who, if he eats one bite of something made with any gluten grain, he experiences a cardiac inflammatory response causing heart arrhythmia. Also, he lost 50lb in one year, simply by quitting eating gluten grains! Another friend of mine can’t even have a crumb of anything made with a gluten grain, or she ends up in the bathroom all night with loose bowels. If she accidentally has a full bite of anything made with a gluten grain, her throat begins to close up and she has to go to the emergency room.
Wheat sensitivity symptoms vary as widely as the severity of them, from stomach pain and intestinal diseases/digestive disorders, to asthma and skin rash, malnutrition, to chronic pain and inflammation (arthritis), to heart arrhythmia, to infertility, to brain chemistry imbalance.
Alternate Grains and The Big Picture Of Diet And Lifestyle
There are many other, wonderfully nutritious, low glycemic, whole grains like millet, amaranth, brown rice, quinoa, and buckwheat that are gluten-free, full of vitamins and minerals, and which you can you can make even more nutritious with certain traditional methods of preparation.
Okay. I believe that every part of the picture must be considered, before coming to the conclusion that all grains are bad for all people. Corn, wheat, white rice, oats, barley, rye, kamut, and triticale are all high glycemic grains. Thanks to articles like this one by Dr. Ron Rosedale, we know that these many diseases are all brought on by a high-glycemic diet: diabetes, high cholesterol and heart disease, cancer, high blood pressure, thyroid dysfunction, depressed immunity, hormone and brain chemistry imbalances, depressed immune function and systemic inflammation. Wow!
And, of course, I believe it’s important to look at all the other major factors in the causes of disease: 1) the regular intake of refined salt, refined grains, and refined sugars, and refined vegetable oils (canola, corn, soy oils, etc.) via processed foods, restaurant food, and fast food, 2) the lack of seasonal regional vegetables (especially the dark leafy greens) as at least 50% of the diet, 3) the lack of sufficient daily hydration with re-mineralized water, 4) the over-consumption of pasteurized dairy and commercially raised meats, 5) sedentary lifestyles, and 6) the polluted, stress-filled lives we live with socially unbalanced, competitive, and emotionally void standards of behavior.
On the other hand, or should I say, on the ‘ancient hand’, a whole foods diet looks like this: seasonal regional vegetables as 40-60% of the diet, low glycemic whole grains prepared in the ways of our ancestors, soaked and simmered beans, fresh raw nuts and seeds, small amounts of seasonal, regional fruit, moderate amounts of whole sea salts, extra virgin or “unrefined” natural fats and oils, and consciously raised (preferably organic) animal proteins like meats and raw dairy products in moderate amounts when needed for building strength and warmth.
Individual Body Types
One of the basic guidelines of Macrobiotics (the Asian tradition of eating and living in harmony with nature): eat to balance your individual constitution. A person may need building foods like high quality animal proteins or spirulina/chlorrella algae if they do hard physical work, are pregnant or nursing, feel weak or cold, have a wasting or deficiency type illnesses, are underweight, or if they are a protein-type with meat-eating ancestry, and/or slower metabolism (usually people with type O blood). Dr. Mercola has an excellent, free, nutritional typing test, which can help you discover your individual constitution and needs, not only with particular foods, but with lifestyle too!
Until recently, I thought I was a carbohydrate nutritional body type, and now, if my health improves from cutting out even the low glycemic cereal grains like brown rice and millet, I will consider myself a protein type or possibly a mixed type.
Traditional Preparation Of Grains vs. Modern Use Of Grains In Processed Foods
When ANY types of grains are soaked (aka: sprouted) and simmered, OR freshly ground and cultured, they provide an easily digestible, nutrient accessible, long-lasting carbohydrate source. The modern processed food industry skips these important steps (soaking or culturing), which our ancestors nearly always took in preparing grains. These steps are important because they help break down the complex carbohydrates in the grains, making them much easier to digest. When our bodies don’t have to work so hard on digestion, our internal energy is free to heal and balance other areas. Also, soaking or culturing neutralizes the phytic acid in the bran of the grain, which makes it’s vitamins and minerals much more bio-available. AND, soaking (and thusly initiating the sprouting process) in grains, creates many more amino acids in the grain, which the body can use as the building blocks of proteins. Wow again!
Cereal Grains vs. Grain-Like Seeds
Okay. Cereal grains are the edible, carbohydrate-packed seeds of certain grasses including wheat, kamut, rice, rye, spelt, corn, millet, barley and oats. All of these grains are high glycemic except brown rice which is considered medium glycemic. What!?! Millet is high glycemic?!? I knew brown rice is medium-glycemic, but I thought millet is low-glycemic. Sheesh! My whole world is beginning to crumble here!!!
When one of my friends saw my rosacea recently, she said it looked like a food allergy symptom. Since I eat so many different grains, she said that it could be an allergy to the cereal grains. Okay, okay. No more cereal grains for me for a while!
Thank God I’ve learned to cook main dishes and sugar-free desserts with quinoa, buckwheat and amaranth. I’ve loved the taste and the power-packed punch of these little “grains” for decades now. These three gains are actually small, edible, protein-rich seeds. They’re not grass seeds, and therefore, they’re not cereal grains. They provide much more protein than carbohydrate, and therefore, they don’t spike the blood sugar. Also, amaranth is highest of all the grains in both calcium and iron, and in countries where it’s a staple grain, there is no malnutrition. Hey! That’s nice!
The Body’s Changing Needs
Everybody’s body and needs are different, AND our needs can change over time. I’ll be experimenting with eating only quinoa, buckwheat, and amaranth as my source of grain for several months to see how my skin improves. If healing happens, I may try re-incorporating small amounts of one type of cereal grain at a time, to see how my body tolerates each one. I’ll probably try millet first, see how that goes for a few weeks, and then I’ll try brown rice. My intuition tells me that I now needed to stay away from all glutenous grains, but I’m willing to cut out all cereal grains too, if that’s what my body needs. I encourage you to experiment with various whole foods for periods of time, to see which ones nourish your individual constitution, and give you the most energy and vitality.
Quieting Our Mental Chatter
Another key piece of the puzzle that I feel is of great importance, is consciously tuning into one’s changing needs on a regular basis. I’ve experienced the benefits of this practice myself, and I’ve seen it work for many other people. There are several ways to tune in, such as being quiet in nature, using mindfulness practices, or beginning to learn to meditate. Each of these will help steer you in the direction that’s best for you, for that period time in your life.
The body’s needs can change decade to decade, year to year, week to week, day to day, or moment to moment. I’ve found that quieting mental chatter is an invaluable tool, not only to discover which foods are best for you in the moment, but to establish a foundational way of being which leads to moving through life’s challenges with grace, non-judgement, fearlessness, and joy.
Much of the content for this article is brought to you by Dr. Mercola, a New York Times bestselling author. For his helpful articles, please visit Mercola.com today and receive your FREE Take Control of Your Health E-book!
Culturing (aka: fermenting) vegetables has long been a tradition meant to extend the shelf-life of fresh summertime produce throughout the winter months. In our modern world, we don’t experience this particular dilemma much. But so much has been recently discovered about the health benefits of eating live-cultured (probiotic-rich) foods which are brimming with beneficial bacteria (about 100 times more than probiotic supplements!), that many people are now beginning to culture their own veggies at home.
Making your own cultured veggies like sauerkraut, kimchee, or beet kvaas, is a great, inexpensive way to re-establish a healthy population of beneficial bacteria. I say ‘re-establish’, because in our toxic, modern world, our natural bodily populations of beneficial bacteria get significantly knocked down by: the use of antibiotics (prescribed AND residual amounts in commercially produced animal products), corticosteroids, birth control pills, chlorine in tap water, heavily cooked meat, preservatives in processed foods, refined sugars, hydrogenated fats and oils, toxins in our food and environment, and stress.
The wonderful little vitality-givers should actually cover our skin, swim in our blood, and colonize our intestines and vaginal tracts. Some scientists say that we are ideally 90% bacteria, and only 10% human! Wow! That’s a really weird thought! But beneficial bacteria help our bodies to thrive on multiple levels. Aside from helping our bodies to better digest and assimilate food nutrients, they act as the foundation of our immune systems, they help lower blood pressure, they keep bad bacteria and yeasts in check, they contribute significantly to healthy skin, AND they work to help normalize our metabolism and thusly our weight. Oh! They also produce both vitamin B12 and K2 in our intestines. Wow, right?
As if all these various benefits of probiotics aren’t enough, here are more findings via Dr. Joseph Mercola:
“Many fail to realize that your gut is literally your second brain, and can significantly influence your mind, mood, and behavior….mounting evidence indicates that ignoring your gut may have far-reaching psychological consequences, and it’s becoming increasingly clear that nourishing your gut flora through proper diet, from cradle to grave, is extremely important for proper brain function, and that includes psychological well-being and mood control.
“This mysterious connection becomes easier to grasp when you understand that your brain and your gut are actually biologically identical, as they’re created out of the same type of tissue. These two systems are connected via the vagus nerve, the tenth cranial nerve that runs from your brain stem down to your abdomen. The featured research, published in the August 29 issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, confirms that the vagus nerve is indeed the primary route your gut bacteria use to transmit information to your brain.”
There are even more amazing new findings on how probiotics influence our continued genetic expression. Dr. Joseph Mercola has explained this in another recent article. He says, “One of the most cutting-edge fields of medicine is epigenetics, which has shown that your lifestyle plays a significant role in how your genes are expressed. Probiotics influence the activity of hundreds of your genes, helping them to express in a positive, disease-fighting manner. The widely accepted dogma that your genes control your health destiny is now being completely uprooted, as your genetic code is not set in stone. Rather it is constantly changing based on factors like your diet and stress levels. To put it simply, the more dietary and lifestyle habits you engage in that positively influence your genetic expression, the more protection you’ll naturally receive against a host of chronic illnesses. For instance, eating broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables, garlic and onions helps to activate tumor suppressor genes that fight cancer. Likewise, researchers revealed that eating probiotic-rich foods influenced the activity of hundreds of human genes in a positive manner.”
We can start to take advantage of epigenetics by incorporating probiotic-rich foods into our diets such as raw sauerkraut, kimchee, beet kvaas, miso, kefir, yogurt, kombucha, etc. Cultured foods should always be raw or unpasteurized, refrigerated, and never cooked or heated to boiling, so that the good bacteria are kept alive. I prefer making my own cultured veggies rather than buying a probiotic supplement, not just because it’s way less expensive, but because, as I said before, cultured veggies contain about 100 times the amount of probiotic bacteria than probiotic supplements. Also, the sour flavor satisfies the third taste according to both Ayurveda and Macrobiotics. So, if a meal contains all 5 tastes (sweet, salty, sour, bitter, and pungent), we’ll feel more satisfied and have less of a tendency to overeat.
Making your own sauerkraut can be tricky, but it’s very satisfying. The first time I made a batch of sauerkraut that actually turned out, I felt triumphant. The weeks of waiting had finally proven worthwhile. And, I realized that I was connecting to my ancestors by going through the motions they had gone through for so many hundreds of years.
Showing people what I’ve learned over the past 15 years about the art of culturing vegetables is very gratifying. I know I’m sharing a hugely health-promoting practice which they and their friends and family will definitely benefit from.
Much content for this article came from Dr. Mercola, a New York Times bestselling author. For more helpful articles, please visit Mercola.com today and receive your FREE Take Control of Your Health E-book!