Terri and I are so happy to have Amanda Archibald as our ‘Guest Housewife’! Amanda is a nutritionist who founded Field to Plate, “a visionary food education company, pioneering a paradigm shift in how we think, talk and teach Americans about food and food choice.” Amanda’s expertise is in functional nutrition and culinary medicine (Food as medicine). Field to Plate offers cooking lessons, workshops, retreats, dinners (in Jefferson, Maryland at Fox Haven Farms & Learning Center), nutrition & culinary guidance, and continuing education. Check out their website for details.
So, without further ado, here are Amanda’s 10 Ways to Choose Food That is Your Best Medicine:
Food is information and food is medicine. It tells us how to act and sometimes how to react. But food is often accompanied by a lot of noise, too much advice and a host of conflicting information. So with all that in mind, here are ten straight talking ways you can choose food that doubles as your best medicine.
(1.) Remember the old pickles and relishes your grandmother used to make? There’s medicine in those jars! Naturally fermented and cultured foods such as sauerkraut, kimchee, homemade yogurt and aged cheeses actually feed the good bacteria in your gut. Check out Nourished Kitchen to learn more about these traditional foods
(2.) You are what you eat, but really you are what you absorb. So in other words, if you eat foods that you can’t tolerate or you eat foods that give you headaches, make you feel bloated, give you strange aches and pains, you aren’t absorbing them and you are probably doing some damage too. So stay away from them and use those naturally fermented foods to restore the natural bacteria of your gut!
(3.) Think In Shades of Purple and Red: so you are in the produce department and want to know whether to choose green pears or red pairs, green apples or red apples. From a culinary perspective, you choose based on flavor and how you want to use the fruit. From a nutrition perspective, choose red. The deeper the blush, the greater your food-medicine in general. The red translates to anthocyanins which are powerful antioxidants. Think of antioxidants as anti-corrosives for your body.
(4.) Think Deep Green over Light Green for Leafy Vegetables: The deeper the green, the bigger the health benefits. Deeper green often comes with more robust flavor, which means more antioxidants, vitamins and minerals. If you are timid around greens, start with Napa cabbage, then move to spinach, onto bok choy and then to chard.
(5.) Think Loose versus Tight: when choosing your lettuce, look for the floppy loose lettuces such as Boston Bibb or Oak Leaf Lettuce. The more the leaves are exposed to UV light, the harder the plant has to work to produce phytonutrients to protect it from the damaging UV light. The higher the phytonutrient quotient, the more nutritionally beneficial the plant for you. So go floppy not tight!
(6.) Think Whole Not Parts: the best medicine you can take as food is the least processed kind. Look for foods that are as close to their original state as possible. This means whole beans not refried beans. Whole oats not flaked oats. Edamame not soy milk. The closer the food is in its natural state, the more slowly it is absorbed and the more friendly it is to your blood sugars. The more stable your blood sugars, the longer your life and the better your health.
(7.) Think Bitter not Sweet The more bitter the food the better the benefits per bite. We are not used to eating more naturally bitter or sour/tangy foods in the USA. We err toward sweet. Around the world bitter has been a part of medicine and digestive stimulants for centuries. In the USA we love to kill dandelions, but cultures prize them. According to o Robinson in her book “A Walk on the Wild Side,” dandelions may have 5 times more antioxidants, 2 times more calcium, 3 times more vitamin A and 5 times more vitamin K and E than spinach.” So next time you make a salad, think beyond the iceberg and substitute in frisee lettuce or even some fresh picked dandelion greens (Not from a pesticide treated lawn please). Hint: when you cook more bitter-tasting greens, they lose their bitterness!
(8.) A little More Spicy, A little Less Mild: many of our spicy vegetables belong to the same family: the cruciferous family. This family confers robust health benefits, one of which are glucosinolates which confer strong anti-cancer properties. Spicy vegetables are great for people who like hot and spicy food. So seek out all those radishes, mustard greens, arugula, watercress, turnip greens, kale and YES wasabi!
(9.) Mix Up Raw & Cooked: with some veggies you get many more benefits raw, but others are more beneficial when cooked. Gently cooked tomatoes and carrots actually have a higher overall quotient of health benefits than their raw counterpoint. (Remember red-purple carrots are better than the orange). Rather than worry which is which, eat a mixture or raw and cooked vegetables. Oh AND since many of those deep orange and red veggies contain the fat soluble beta-carotene source of vitamin A, you need a little fat (butter/olive oil) to help the digestion and absorption along. And on that note….
(10.) Fat is your Friend not Your Enemy: Fat is a lubricant. It is also critical part of your cells, your hormones, brain fabric and brain chemistry. YOU need it. But you have to be choosy. Look for extra virgin olive oil that is cold pressed. Other good fats are local butters (Yes I said butter), coconut oil and luscious avocados. Now go to your pantry, open your olive oil and if it smells like paint thinner, throw it out. Don’t go cheap on oils. They are premium fuel for your body. Buy the best and stick with the best.
Amanda Archibald is a Registered Dietitian specializing in food as medicine and health-supportive, healing cuisine. Join her for 2 of her yoga and nutrition-centric retreats at Foxhaven Farms in January with Julie Kaus, RYT and Mary Jo Fishburn MD