The World’s Most Nutrient Rich Foods
Via Ramesh Bjonnes | May 5, 2015
The standard American diet—the SAD diet—is not fulfilling our nutritional needs. It is making us fat, sick and, yes, you got it, nearly dead. And sometimes completely dead—of diabetes, cancer, and heart disease, the three main common causes of death today.
We’ve been told that the problem in our diet is too much fat. Many corporate food giants have reduced the fat in our food. But instead of getting leaner, Americans packed on the fat, became sicker and starved for nutrients and for real food. The main reason can be summed up in a few sweet words: high calorie processed foods and high fructose corn sugar.
Indeed, it’s mostly the sugar that’s making us fat, tired and unhealthy—all the donuts, bagels, potato chips, French fries, soft drinks and breakfast cereals. Even those sinfully delicious vegan candy bars. The excess carbohydrates (glucose) from this diet that the body does not store as glycogen is broken into smaller compounds in the liver, where it becomes fat. The fat is then transported from the liver and stored in fatty tissues in the body. That’s the really SAD thing about the standard American diet.
Since the current SAD diet exploded about 35 years ago, Whole Foods and a host of other health food stores turned people onto healthier eating habits. Well, at least a small percentage of us.
But about six years ago, even Whole Foods founder John Mackey had to admit to Wall Street Journal that his stores were selling “a bunch of junk.” In fact, the sales of junk at Whole Foods have been going up fast. Healthy, bulk foods such as grains, seeds, nuts and beans now account for only about 1% of sales, down from 15% to 20%, according to Mackey.
To be fair to Whole Foods, CEO John Mackey is now trying to create a new food revolution by educating people about super foods and nutrient dense foods. (You may have noticed those informational signs about healthy eating and nutrient dense foods at the salad bar recently.) But don’t worry, your favorite vegan candy bar won’t vanish from the shelves any time soon. Not until the demand for nuts, beans and kale again outperform the demand for organic, fairly traded junk food.
While the bad news is that the dollar cents of capitalism triumphs over sense and sensibility most of the time, there are some good news on the nutritional horizon. Some very sweet news. Chocolate is very healthy for you. Indeed, chocolate contains 28,000 ORACs per 100 gram. In comparison, wild blueberries contains 12,000 ORACs per 100 gram. (According to nutrition expert Dr. Joel Fuhrman, we need about 20,000 ORACs per day for optimum health, which is equivalent to about two cups of wild blueberries or four green apples)
In plain English, chocolate is the most antioxidant food you can eat. This popular stress relief food and aphrodisiac, however, usually comes packed with a whole lot of sugar and fat. So, even if it’s organic, it’s best to eat just a little. Even better, choose a bar without sugar, one sweetened with stevia, or get your own chocolate fix by mixing raw chocolate in your smoothie, or make your own raw banana chocolate ice cream with your favorite berries and coconut milk. Very yummy!
As food writer Michael Pollan advises, if you want to eat junk food, make it yourself. Indeed, we won’t become a happier, healthier or more wholesome nation the more brands of organic, 70% dark chocolate bars there are on the shelf. Studies have shown that the more choices we have, the more anxious we get. And stress, as you know, is just another way to ruin the immune system and overall health. Simple and raw is the way to go.
So, what are some of the most nutrient rich foods we can eat? The answers may surprise you. Hopefully, some of them will delight you.
- Greens. From spirulina to kale, from watercress to spinach—green plant foods are the clear winner when it comes to nutrient density. Dr. Joel Fuhrman points to kale as the most nutrient dense food available, some say it is watercress. No matter the winner, you cannot loose when you eat lots of greens every day. So make salad the main bulk of your food every day. And when you make it colorful and flavorful with tomatoes, peppers, olives, herbs, seeds and nuts, the nutrient value increases even more. These foods are loaded with minerals, vitamins, fiber and amino acids, as well as important antioxidants that reduce inflammation and prevent cancer, heart disease and diabetes. Salads are also delicious and easy to prepare.
- Hemp Seeds.These easily digestible and versatile seeds have plenty of protein, fiber, essential fatty acids, antioxidants, amino acids, vitamins and minerals. Add them to salads, smoothies, and dips. In addition to hemp seeds, it’s a great idea to eat ground flax seeds every day for their incredibly heart healthy Omega-3 value.
- Chocolate.We already mentioned the high antioxidant value of chocolate, but the cacao beans have much more to offer. They are so nutrient-dense that scientists haven’t even begun to identify all the beneficial phytonutrients in these little brown beans yet. But all we really need to know is that just a little bite makes us both feel and look great.
- Chia seeds. When the famous Tarahumara runners of Cooper Canyon in Mexico go on their 200 mile runs, their food of choice is chia seeds and pine nuts. Holistic health champion Dr. Andrew Weil says that “chia is so rich in antioxidants that the seeds don’t deteriorate and can be stored for long periods without becoming rancid.” These tiny seeds, which you can mix in drinks, oat meal, yogurt, spread on salads and on fresh fruits, contain over 50 important phytonutrients. They are also high in Omega-3 and protein. Since chia seeds are much more expensive than flax seeds, you may want to alternate them with ground flax seeds for their even higher Omega-3 value.
- Berries. Berries have the highest antioxidant value of any fruit and thus the highest ORAC scores as well. Wild blueberries score high, as well as the more exotic and much more expensive goji berries. One cup of blueberries gives you about 1/2 of the antioxidants you need for a day. Unlike sweet fruits like pineapple and mango, berries are less sugary and thus have a low glycemic index for those concerned about hypoglycemia or diabetes.
There are many other foods—such as beans, broccoli, prunes, and more—that could have been on this list. The main points to remember are: 1. You don’t need to buy expensive and exotic superfoods to get the best nutrition available. (Yes, you can just exchange those goji berries and that chocolate with prunes and raspberries). 2. You want to eat both nutrient dense green vegetables and antioxidant berries every day if possible, in order to stay in optimum health.
This becomes even more important as you grow older. The free radical breakdown in the body—which the antioxidants helps to prevent—increases with age. And especially important if you at, say 63, still plan to run wild like the Tarahumara Indians, whose diet, not surprisingly, is mostly vegetarian and rich in both category foods.
Ramesh Bjonnes is the co-founder of the Prama Institute, a holistic retreat center in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina and the Director of the Prama Wellness Center, a retreat center specializing in detox by incorporating juice fasting, ayurveda, meditation and yoga to cleanse, relax and rejuvenate. Bjonnes is also a writer, yogi and workshop leader. He lived in India and Nepal in the 1980s learning directly from the traditional teachers of yoga and Tantra. He has taught workshops in many countries and is the author of Sacred Body, Sacred Spirit (InnerWorld) and Tantra: The Yoga of Love and Awakening (Hay House India). He lives and practices in an eco-village in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina.
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