Booster FoodsPosted: June 17, 2011
A crucial part of the eating for health™ model that forms the basis of bauman college‘s curriculum that doesn’t show up on other dietary guidelines is the section known here as “Booster Foods” – healthful and wholesome additions to your daily meals that can make a big impact on your vitality. But it’s a bit daunting when you’re taking on a whole new way of eating. How are you supposed to fit these booster foods in? And do they really make that big of a difference?
The answer to that last question is a big fat YES. And as for the other matter of fitting them in, I’m here to help. I’ve broken it down for you into four major groups of booster foods. Two of these you’ll definitely find easy to fit in (and probably already do). The other two might be new for some or weird for others, but are certainly worth considering due to their high nutritional impact. Read on and enjoy boosting your diet with these powerful foods!
It should come as no surprise that FRESH herbs contain far more of a boost than DRIED herbs. The flavor is so much more prominent in a leaf of basil than in a sprinkling of ground up dried stuff. I love it when I go up to my Grandma’s house in North West England where she grows countless beautiful herbs and plants – I’m always sent home with a bag full of freshly picked leaves and stalks. It makes everything smell AMAZING! So which herbs are best? Well they’re all pretty spectacular, but here are a few of the really extra great ones and why they pack that extra punch…
Carrying a hefty amount of vitamins A & K, calcium, and magnesium in its leaves, basil is a versatile herb that brings all manner of dishes to life. Best of all, and probably most popular, is pesto, using the herb raw. Try adding a few leaves to a spinach salad for a flavor enhancement, or make the great caprese salad with ripe tomatoes and fresh buffalo mozzarella this summer for a beautiful evening meal. If you’re avoiding dairy, omit the cheese and have some slices of avocado or tofu.
I find dill to be underappreciated in the herb world, but always enjoy it when its added to a dish. We may commonly associate it with Scandinavian dishes like cured salmon or beet salad, but I really like it as an addition to potato salad in the summertime. It’s great in yogurt dip with cucumber to go alongside a spicy curry or kebab. Nutritionally, dill’s got great iron and calcium levels, as well as antibacterial properties resembling garlic.
One of the most common garnishes to absolutely everything, parsley is widely used throughout many cuisines. But what we may not realize is that those little leaves contain powerful antioxidants, in the form of vitamins A, C & K. So why not make parsley the star of the show rather than just a sprinkle on the side? Add it to a bbq veggie salad, stir a huge bunch of chopped parsley leaves through tabbouleh, or create a herb rub for baked fish.
Beautifully fragrant and a staple for most french dishes, thyme is one of my favorite herbs. It is absolutely wonderful with fish, especially this caribbean fish stew. Or roast up some carrots with a tiny drizzle of honey and a sprinkle of freshly chopped thyme for a great side dish. Need extra vitamin K, iron, and manganese in your life? Thyme’s your herb!
Love it or hate it, this herb AND spice livens up the simplest of dishes. I don’t think I’d enjoy guacamole as much without some fresh cilantro leaves chopped up, and our curries just wouldn’t be the same without a dash of ground coriander. Not only is it a great source of fiber, cilantro also has antibacterial properties in the form of dodecanol, which has been proven to combat salmonella. Add it as a garnish to any spicy dish, such as this lovely prawn laksa.
I assume everyone has a spice rack in their kitchen – or maybe a spice drawer. Or just a couple of bottles lying around. Whatever the case, spices are an essential in our cooking arsenal and bring some serious energy to a dish. Not only that, but there are ton of great health benefits to some of the most common spices. Here are 5 of the nutritional superstars…
Do not be scared off by the fiery heat of cayenne pepper. A tiny dash of the stuff is all it takes to add some of that powerful pain-fighting capsaicin into your body without burning your tongue off. Not only that, but you’ll also receive its anti-inflammatory properties, clear your congestion, prevent stomach ulcers, and even lose weight! Not to mention its high levels of antioxidant vitamin A. But how to use it? Sprinkle it into a stir-fry, spice up your hummus, make your hot cocoa mexican-style, or clear away a cold by adding it to a mug of hot water with lemon and ginger.
An excellent source of manganese, cinnamon is essential in the spice cupboard/rack/drawer. I’m not sure apples would survive without it, and moroccan cuisine would be certainly be lacking that aromatic dimension if it didn’t exist. Its antimicrobial properties make it a great booster food for anyone suffering from candida overgrowth. Even just smelling this sweet spice has been known to boost our brain function and warm our souls in the depths of winter! Try these allergy-friendly graham crackers, just in time for s’mores on 4th of July.
Calming to the digestive system and anti-inflammatory, ginger is a great relief for nausea and upset stomachs. It protects against cancer and provides relief to arthritis sufferers, due to its powerful protease, gingerol. Of course, fresh ginger root is optimal (rather than powdered or ground ginger) as this keeps the enzyme intact. Try adding some thin sliced strips of fresh ginger to your next stir-fry or noodle dish, steep some in tea for an immunity booster or nausea reliever, or grate it into a salad dressing for some spicy heat.
Shockingly powerful and beautifully golden, turmeric is the mother of healing spices. Why? Because it has been used for centuries in India and China for a whole slew of ailments. The reason for this is largely due to turmeric’s potent antioxidant in the form of curcumin, which gives it that yellow color. So, see ya later, cancer, cardiovascular disease, and arthritis! When making a curry that calls for turmeric, make sure you use the isolated spices rather than a curry powder or blend, as these have very low concentrations of the individual ingredients.
Another staple spice in curry, cumin adds a richness to dishes. The seeds provide a great source of iron and aid digestion. You can cook with them whole, grind them up yourself using a mortar & pestle, or use the ready-made ground variety. However you choose to use it, you’ll probably finding the need to re-stock your supply often, as it is so versatile. Many Middle Eastern and African dishes rely on cumin for flavor. I particularly enjoy adding it to fresh hummus or sweet potato & peanut butter soup.
The gorgeous photo above comes from 101 Cookbooks accompanying a recipe for wild seaweed salad. I wanted to find a picture of seaweed that didn’t LOOK like seaweed. This recipe shows just how easy and simple it can be to incorporate sea vegetables into your diet. And you should definitely consider doing so, given their immense nutritional properties. There are several varieties available, mostly in dried form (which you can then soak to “awaken”), but the one we’re most familiar with in our western world is nori, the seaweed used to wrap sushi rolls. Still, whichever type you choose to munch on, know that you’re getting an immense dose of the good stuff: iron (good news for vegans and vegetarians, as this is a much more bioavailable form of iron than other plants), iodine, vitamin K, calcium, magnesium, folate, copper, etc etc (I could go on).
But how do you eat them? Well, besides sushi, you could pick up some kelp noodles, try adding a sprinkle of kelp flakes to meals instead of salt, throw some into your favorite miso soup, or add some soaked and dried sea veg to your lunchtime salad. Now if only the oceans could stop getting so polluted…
Here’s where I might lose you, but hear me out! Nutritional yeast, while smelly, is rich in B vitamins, including folic acid and b12, and is also a wonderful source of protein. The people who will benefit most from adding this wonderful product to their diet are those who avoid eating meat and dairy, though we could all do with a B vitamin boost every so often. Just FYI, this is NOT the same thing as brewer’s yeast (from beer-making) – “nooch” is cultivated from sugar cane and beet molasses and will not affect candida in your system.
There are a variety of ways these nutritious flakes could be incorporated into your food, most of which involve the replacement of cheese. The raw cheesy dip I made at Thanksgiving last year as a starter was so delicious, I can’t wait to make it again! And I love using rawmesan in place of parmesan to sprinkle on pasta. You can also season kale chips or popcorn with it, add it to salad dressing for extra flavor, make vegan mac & cheese, or mix it into roasted veggies. Or how about raw dairy-free spinach dip?