by Dr. Millie Lytle
Dr. Millennia Lytle will be teaching an 8 week series (Thursdays, Sept. 24-Nov. 12, 5:45-7:45pm) entitled Eat for Meaning Now: Lose Weight and Change Your Body in Eight Weeks.
Usually, we don’t think of our food choices as “medicine”. Eating is simply part of our daily routine, and it can become monotonous to the point that we forget about the impact nutrition has on both the body and mind. Your food choices are either supporting your health from the inside out, or damaging it! There are some key methods of increasing the nutritional value of your food, and it all starts in your kitchen.
Cooking at home is one of the best choices you can make for your health. You know exactly what you are eating and what ingredients are inside, unlike when you grab a greasy sandwich from the deli. But knowing how to cook is just as important as knowing what to cook. Cooking methods can either rob foods of their nutrients or enhance it. So, learn the difference! There are certain methods of preparation that increase your food’s nutrition content and help reduce inflammation, support digestion, and help your body better absorb nutrients. Here are a few key tips to help you turn up the heat and get the maximum nutritional benefits from the meals you prepare.
Dried out food products are less nutritious than soaked products because of enzyme inhibitors, phytates and dehydrated fibers. So before you prepare dried foods like beans, nuts, seeds, grains and even flours, soak them to support digestion and nutrient absorption. This is a key process in the kitchen especially if you’re prone to gas, bloating, indigestion and fatigue after you eat.
To soak your food and get the maximum nutrient content, you need four things: liquid, acidity, warmth, and time. Here’s a great preparation method you can take care of at night before you go to bed and have a healthy breakfast waiting when you wake up:
Mix one cup of whole organic oats like rice, quinoa, teff, millet, or wheat berries with two tablespoons of whole flax seeds in a ceramic bowl. Cover the bowl with water and one teaspoon of fresh lemon juice for acidity. You can also add buttermilk or whey (the liquid from yogurt) instead of lemon. Store in a warm place overnight, and in the morning you’re good to go – no need to cook breakfast in a rush!
The process of sprouting can actually change the nutrient structure of your food. If you continue the soaking process you can actually change the nutrient structure of your foods.
In your garden, a dormant seed becomes a living plant with the right amount of water and sunlight. The same process can happen on your kitchen counter. The sprouting process actually breaks down starch content in your food, changes the protein into nucleic acids, and maximizes the vitamins, minerals and enzymes. Here’s a good example: unlike cereal grain wheat, sprouted wheat grass contains no gluten and is rich in nutrients like Magnesium, Vitamin C, Vitamin B6 and Folic Acid.
Just about any non-irradiated seed, lentil, bean, pea or grain can be sprouted with regular rinsing in a mason jar. After soaking for 8-24 hours, move the objects of your affection to a transparent glass mason jar covered with cheese cloth to keep out the dirt. Depending on the size and density, a tail will start to grow within 24-48 hours. Place in the sunlight, and continue rinsing every 8 hours to grow a longer, greener tail.
Usually, health experts say that less salt is healthier, but your body actually does need about 1500mcg of salt per day. But there are ways to make your salt consumption healthier. Instead of bleached and chemically-derived table salt, or the high salt content found in canned and fast foods, go for all-natural Celtic Sea, Khombu strips or Himalayan salt. Using these kinds of salt in your cooking provides a great source of 99 trace minerals, including calcium, magnesium, selenium, boron and silica. Not all salt is created equal!
Furthermore, adding salt to fresh vegetables can initiate the pickling process, which is the process by which the food is preserved with healthy bacteria. Make some “quick pickles” by sprinkling thinly sliced cucumbers or radishes with a generous handful of healthy salt and fresh dill. Weigh them down with a ceramic bowl full of water. After 8 hours, dump the liquid and serve. (Source: www.freeportfarmersmarket.blogspot.com/2012_06_01_archive.html)
It’s true that condiments prepared commercially, like the ones found in fast food restaurants, are filled with unhealthy sugar, starch and preservatives. But you don’t need to avoid dressing altogether. You can make your own healthy salad dressing with a tablespoon of olive oil and a tablespoon of lemon juice. These ingredients help you to feel fuller, as well as increase nutrient absorption from the healthy veggies in your salad. The combination of olive oil and lemon juice breaks down oxalates and makes vegetables such as raw spinach more digestible. Another enjoyable option is a dipping sauce with a teaspoon each of miso paste, liquid aminos/tamari, maple syrup, fresh lime juice, tahini and a clove of garlic. Healthy and delicious!
Herbs and spices are not just for flavor! Spices like cumin, coriander, fennel, and pepper come from one of nature’s most nutritious food: seeds. Like pumpkin and sunflower seeds, spice seeds are packed with anti-inflammatory omega-3 oils, zinc and protein. Fresh herbs like cilantro, sage, mint, parsley, rosemary and thyme are rich in chlorophyll, B-Vitamins, and immune-boosting essential oils.
Fresh Food: Healthy and Cost-Effective!
Cooking with fresh food is healthier for you – and it’s cheaper, too, despite popular belief. You just need to know the right ingredients and the right way to prepare them. It is possible to boost your nutrition and lower your grocery bill at the same time. Traditional cooking methods are cost-effective because you can buy foods in their whole, natural state, which is both healthier and cheaper. A cup of brown rice goes further than a cup of white rice because it’s more filling, so you don’t eat as much of it. Once you get in the habit of preparing foods ahead of time, you’ll always have a meal prepared and you can eliminate the need to rely on convenience food on the go. Your need for unhealthy processed food, expensive fast food meals, take out and bags of chips that serve as a meal will disappear when you have your own assembly line of healthy food on rotation!