Friday, April 29, 2011

Top Ten Healthfoods

Here is a list of my top ten healthfoods, meaning foods that can better your health or are good replacement foods for more unhealthier options. Obviously, this is very subjective, but from working in a healthfood shop I learn a lot about all our different items, and these ones tend to stick out.
In no particular order except for number one because number one is definitely my favourite:

1. Spirulina
I am in love with spirulina. Some people might argue that this is a supplement rather than a healthfood, but I've learnt to treat spirulina like a food, even though it's in tablet form. Spirulina is a micro-algae that grows in salt water. I have been taking it as a multivitamin for around a year now. It basically has a bit of everything except vitamin C (that a multi would have). Maybe not in as large quantities, but spirulina is easier for the body to absorb than a multi. It's pure, it's particularly loaded with calcium, betacarotene and iron - it raised my haemoglobin levels from 135 to 150g/L. In the powder form, it's a great food for fussy kids who won't eat their vegetables (to get some nutrition into them) - you just have to hide it in a smoothie.

2. Pumpkin Seeds
So, it's snack time and you're deciding what to munch on to see you through to the next meal. Do you think it would be better to have something with 'empty calories' (meaning all calories and no real nutrition) like a donut, or something that is 'nutrient dense', so fewer calories with lots of vitamins or minerals, like pumpkin seeds, which not only are high in manganese, magnesium, tryptophan, protein and zinc (to name a few) but are also alkalysing and low GI. Basically, they tick all the boxes.

3. Coconut Oil
Coconut oil is like that crazy relative that everyone has and you can never work out whether you love them or hate them. It's gone through some bad press in the last 40 years, but it's onto a good streak again, being recognised as the most heat stable of oils. This means that when you cook with it, it doesn't ruin the structure and you're not consuming oxidised molecules. You can use it in place of butter in baking to make it a little bit healthier. It actually has a lot of health benefits as well - check this website out for more info.

4. Quinoa
Quinoa is the latest (yet ancient) fad to come out of South America. It is a grain (also gluten free, which = handy) which is a complete protein, meaning it contains all 9 essential amino acids. It is relatively low GI (51) and tastes great. You can use it like rice or even like porridge for brekkie.

5. Rapadura Sugar
I wouldn't say that Rapadura sugar is healthy, but it is an excellent alternative to white sugar, which is one of those empty calorie foods we talked about earlier. Just look at the nutrition panel of white sugar and it is 0g of everything except energy. Rapadura sugar still has high energy levels but has the nutrients as well. It is the dried evaporated cane juice of the sugar cane plant, so it is also less processed than white sugar (which isn't hard to achieve). It tastes great, it has a real caramel flavour and you can use it exactly as you would use white sugar.

6. Apple Cider Vinegar
Digestive issues? Start taking a shot of apple cider vinegar in the mornings (watered down a bit though). It's really alkalysing, it stimulates the secretion of your gastric acid and digestive enzymes, so it helps you digest your food properly.

7. Green Tea
I remember when I first tried green tea when I was 16 and thought it tasted like cigar ash (not that I've eaten that though). Since then it's grown on me and I have it all the time at work for morning and afternoon tea. It's really high in antioxidants, and has had a lot of research done in regards to health benefits, and has come up trumps in lots of different areas, including anti-cancer, treating cardiovascular issues and weight loss.

8. Lentils
People think lentils, think vegetarians, then because they are meat-eaters they don't touch the lentils. Well, you don't have to be a vegetarian to eat a vegetarian meal. Lentils are a great source of protein and amino acids and can be made into the feature of a meal. They also have a lot less saturated fat than meat.

9. Himalayan Crystal Salt
This is another replacement food, and is so much better to use than table salt. This salt actually has health benefits, rather than disadvantages. That said, it's something you still use in moderation. During my naturopathy education we were taught that salt is an essential nutrient, it's just that we eat way too much of it. There is a school of thought that believes we need absolutely no salt in our diet, as a very opinionated customer tried to tell me the other day, but that's not my line of thinking. Check this website out for more info.

10. Psyllium
There's nothing like being regular. Psyllium is high in soluble fibre and increases the bulk of a stool. If you eat it and don't drink enough water, you won't go to the toilet at all. Okay that is an overstatement but there's some truth in it. Taken properly, it's great for bowel regulation and maintaining the integrity of your bowel walls as well. It's the main ingredient in Metamucil and other fibre supplements.

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