Nutrition science has progressed from the discovery of macronutrients (protein, fat, carbohydrate), to vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and over 5,000 phytochemicals. Dietary guidelines have evolved from the "basic 5" food groups, to the Food Pyramid and USDA MyPlate. Nutrition recommendations began very simply, and now include recommended daily intakes for both macro and micro nutrients. We have become fascinated with the idea of isolating specific components of food, and studying their affects on health. It is easy to get overwhelmed when confronted with the topic of nutrition. It is easy to get drawn into the realm of single nutrients and examine their independent properties. We begin to ask ourselves exactly how much and which nutrients provide us with the golden ticket to optimal health. For lean muscle? For weight loss? In this process we have vilified certain nutrients and touted others, sometimes rightly so, and other times with devastating consequences. We have not only succumbed to the highest rates of chronic, preventable disease, but we have forgotten that the intricacies of nutrition science have only existed for a little over a century. We forget that our ancestors did not have the Food Pyramid, the USDA, or nutritionists telling them what to eat, and they survived, in fact, they were healthier than we are today, by a landslide.
I do not undermine the nutritional feats we have accomplished by traveling down the road of nutrition science. Researchers have identified the causes of various ailments, including scurvy (vitamin C deficiency ), beriberi (vitamin B1 deficiency), and rickets (vitamin D deficiency), to name a few. We now use isolated nutrients to help treat cancer, heart disease, and many other conditions. I do believe however, that the isolation and continued emphasis on specific nutrients has contributed to confusion about what and how much to eat. We have lost our understanding of where food comes from and how it is produced naturally. We have lost our understanding of how nutrients work better synergistically in whole food form rather than in isolated supplements, and we have severed ties with traditional whole food, seasonal diets. Our ancestors relied solely on nature for guidelines on what to eat, when to eat, and how much to eat. Nature never fails to provide an ideal diet, one that changes with the seasons, and perfectly complements our bodies changing needs. The following sections define basic nutrition categories, and outline which foods fall under a whole foods, winter diet.
Utilizing Food as Medicine: Ingredient Highlight
Garlic, Allium sativum
This amazing food has been used for 1000's of years in traditional medicine. Garlic is part of the allium family, which also includes chives, leeks, onions, and shallots. Garlic is comprised of potent organosulfur compounds that have been found to illicit pharmacological and therapeutic effects in the human body. These beneficial effects promote cardiovascular, blood, and immune system health. More specifically, garlic has been show to be antibacterial, anti-fungal, and anti-viral, as well as alleviate and prevent hyperlipidemia, atherosclerosis, hypertension, cancer, common colds, the flu, diabetes, and gout. The most studied and seemingly most powerful organosulfur compound in garlic is allicin. Interestingly, this compound does not exist in raw garlic until it is cut or crushed. In order to get the full benefits of garlic in your diet, plan to chop raw garlic and let it sit for 5-10 minutes before consumption. Heat exposure does destroy the health benefits of garlic over time, so enjoy your garlic raw or lightly cooked (when cooking with garlic, add this ingredient during the last few minutes of cooking). Aim to consume 1 clove, eaten with meals, 2-3 times per day.
Recipe: Simple Salad Dressing
3 cloves fresh garlic, peeled
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon balsamic or apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon raw honey
Sea salt and pepper to taste
Place all ingredients in a small food processor and blend for 20 seconds. Alternatively, dice garlic and whisk all ingredients together in a small bowl. Makes 2-3 servings
Turmeric, Curcuma longa
There are over 6,000 peer reviewed articles that prove turmeric to be a very powerful natural medicine! Among these, numerous studies conclude that turmeric is more effective than many pharmaceutical drugs, including ibuprofen and warfarin. Turmeric is used clinically to help treat osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, abdominal bloating and pain, hepatitis, liver and gall bladder conditions, headaches, respiratory infections, cancer, fibromyalgia, amenorrhea, diabetes, and Alzheimers. The extremely potent compound curcuma is responsible for many of the health benefits of turmeric, including its anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer, anti-thrombic, and anti-diabetic properties. Talk to your doctor before taking higher dosage turmeric supplementation if you are already taking prescription medications. Everyone can benefit from adding turmeric into their diet through recipes incorporating this herb. Try to consume turmeric with other foods, including black pepper, which drastically increases absorption, and onions, which have a synergistic health benefit with turmeric because of the combination of turmeric and quercetin.
Recipe: Golden Milk
1 1/2 cups unsweetened almond or coconut milk
1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
Pinch black pepper
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon maple syrup, optional
Heat almond milk over low/medium heat until simmering. Stir and add remaining ingredients. Continue stirring until milk is simmering again, but be careful not to over heat the milk. Turn off heat, cover, and let sit for 5-10 minutes. Use a hand frother or glass blender to create a latte style golden milk (optional). Makes 1 servings.