Health is going mainstream. Not a day goes by without hearing about some new, exotic, “it” superfood, a gadget, or a preparation process that can make our current food choice even that much healthier. When I first set out into the field of nutrition, the main goal was to make sure the veggies and fruits made it into your grocery cart. Today, more and more of us are curious: how can we kick it up a notch?
Well, welcome to level two! Here are a few new techniques to add to your repertoire and the reasons why your body will thank you.
Dehydrating – Dry it, you’ll like it!
Enter any raw foodie’s kitchen and you will no doubt encounter a dehydrator. This multi-tiered appliance uses either a fan or convection air circulation to zap the moisture out of foods without heating it above 118 degrees F, the temperature that begins to deactivate the living enzymes, vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients. It allows you to expand the variety of raw foods you can consume to ensure you meet your daily-recommended intake of specific nutrients. It is also a great preservation method and a way to make healthy on-the-go snacks for kids and adults.
Have you tried a kale chip? Most likely it was dehydrated. Dehydrators are wonderful for making raw crackers, breads, dried fruits and herbs, as well as jerky. If you are transitioning to incorporate more raw foods into your diet, but still want to enjoy a sandwich, this may be the next item you add to your gift wish list.
Best Brands: Excalibur, L ‘Equip, Nesco/American Harvest
Fermenting – Nature’s natural probiotic maker
Your digestive system is considered your second brain and is the foundation of your immune system. Therefore, it is imperative to keep it in tip-top shape. How do we do that? All it takes is a balancing act with the natural gut microflora; keeping the good bacteria plentiful and the bad bacteria at bay.
Fermented foods are a wonderful source of probiotics to help regulate your digestive health.
You may have heard that yogurt is an all-star source of good bacteria, however, I’d recommend some of the new versions of yogurt made from coconut milk or almond milk to avoid any hormones or large, irritating protein particles (casein) found in dairy that may present allergic reactions. Not a yogurt fan? Have no fear; there are plenty of other options to choose!
Foods such as kimchi, kefir, kombucha, tempeh, natto, and sauerkraut are a few you may already be consuming. Fermentation is said to release more nutrients, rendering them highly available and absorbable.
It’s easy to get started with fermentation. You just need a packet of starter cultures, mason jars, and some patience.
Nuts, seeds, beans and grains contain “enzyme inhibitors” that are released into the water when soaked. This occurs in nature when seeds absorb the rain to begin the sprouting process. So why should humans mimic this process? Well, soaking will help ease digestion of these foods; music to the ears of the estimated 20% of the population suffering from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). In addition to neutralizing enzyme inhibitors, soaking may also reduce phytic acid’s effects of bonding essential minerals such as calcium, phosphorus, and iron, making them easier to absorb and utilize by the body. Why eat these healthy gems if we aren’t reaping the benefits? I’d say soaking is nature’s NutriBullet. It predigests our food, making it easier to get the most nutrition possible.
Soaking grains may also begin breaking down proteins like gluten and other complex starches that can irritate your stomach. Ideal conditions for soaking include warmer than room temperature water (~100-110 degrees F), an acidic medium added, soaked for 12-24 hours depending on what is being soaked.
You’ve heard of alfalfa sprouts, broccoli sprouts, sprouted legumes, and sprouted grain breads such as Ezekial brand, but may have left those to the earthly, tree-hugging hippie types right? Well, they may just be onto something. When a food is sprouted, similar to soaking, it releases the powerful nutrients contained inside. Sprouting decreases the carbohydrate content (the starch is the food for the seed), vitamin C and A increase, enzyme inhibitors are rendered useless, phytates no longer bind to minerals which makes them available for absorption, and sprouting may also increase other nutritional compounds like protein and B vitamins
Since sprouting is unique to seeds, legumes, and grains and involves a great deal of detail that is beyond this blog, you’ll need to do some research to ensure proper techniques and precautions are met such as how to avoid mold, bacteria, or toxin contamination. For example, certain grains and legumes (soybeans and kidney beans) will need to be cooked before consuming due to them being toxic if eaten raw.
Refer to this table for some information on sprouting various foods:
And this link has some more valuable tools: http://sproutpeople.org/sprouts/grow/sprouting.html
There are several ways to sprout: using a sprouting bag, a DIY mason jar and net, or sprouting kits, but with our hectic lives, many of us don’t have the time to water our food 2-5 times a day or to sit and wait for our food to sprout before we can eat. Thankfully, sprouted foods are widely available in health food stores. However, if you do get a chance to do it yourself, it really is a great experience. It hones in on the miracle of life, growth, and the main source of all nutrition: plants!