Sustainable Superfoods

Superfoods used to describe food with high nutrient or phytochemical content that may confer health benefits, There is no legal definition of the term and it has been alleged that this has led to it being misleadingly used as a marketing tool.

Blueberries, a so-called 'superfood' that actually does not have unusually dense nutrient content.

The "buzz" about super foods never ceases to amaze me.  We are told to eat: (and this is a seriously incomplete list)

goji berries from southeastern Europe and Asia (by the way, they are nightshade foods, for those who avoid nightshades)

acai berries from Central and South America

quinoa from the Andes Mountains of Peru

chia seeds from central and southern Mexico and Guatemala

dark chocolate from Central and South America, Africa and South Asian countries

wild salmon from Alaska

Why do I bring this topic up?  For many reasons, really, and I will go into just a couple of my reasons here.  If you want the full monty, give me a call, we can chat! 

So many food related writings, cookbooks, articles, etc. are about superfoods.  The word is blasted everywhere I look.  This is a great marketing tool to get people thinking that they need to be buying up every mentioned superfood or their health is in jeopardy.  Really, who wants to miss out on these nutritional powerhouses?  My cellular health could suffer!

I must tell you, any food in its whole state is a "superfood."  Whole foods are just as they come from nature; nothing added, nothing taken away.  I like to take this one step farther and include the heritage state of foods in that definition.  If we were so fortunate to have access to foods in their genetically un-manipulated state, we would have true nutritional power houses to eat at every meal!  Most modern versions of food, both plant and animal origins, have been cross bred and hybridized.  Despite the well meant intentions of these changes, it has an impact on the nutritional quality of the food.  For example, true wild black berries have much higher levels of nutrients (those nutrients we know exist and those nutrients we have not yet discovered!) than say garden cross bred varieties of berries.  When genetics are altered, characteristics are lost to acquire the gains being sought out.

...there are scientific indications that, by favoring certain aspects of a plant's development, other aspects may be retarded.  A study published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition in 2004, entitled Changes in USDA Food Composition Data for 43 Garden Crops, 1950 to 1999, compared nutritional analysis of vegetables done in 1950 and in 1999, and found substantial decreases in six of 13 nutrients measured, including 6% of protein and 38% of riboflavin. Reductions in calciumphosphorusiron and ascorbic acid were also found. The study, conducted at the Biochemical Institute, University of Texas at Austin, concluded in summary: "We suggest that any real declines are generally most easily explained by changes in cultivated varieties between 1950 and 1999, in which there may be trade-offs between yield and nutrient content.[2]"

For a fun listen about how food and it's nutritional content have changed over the millenniums, listen to this edition of NPR's Fresh Air  with Terry Gross and Jo Robinson, author of Eating on the Wild Side.

Eating on the Wild Side: The Missing Link to Optimum Health

In my training in natural healing, herbs and whole food nutrition, one concept kept coming back to me:  "eat food from under your own tree, out of your own back yard."  I think this speaks loudly of how our superfoods are best found: close to home.  I am quite certain, but I could be wrong, that the Himalayan peoples are not importing our wild blackberries as their latest superfood.  I think perhaps that the cultures living high in the Andes Mountains are also not importing our very nutritious buckwheat as a superfood.  What I am trying to say, is get your superfoods from as close to home as you can.  Close to home means fresher foods and the food does not have to travel thousands of miles to get to your plate or bowl.  What a savings on fossil fuels!  

Looking for local superfoods?  Visit farmers markets, join a CSA*, go to your local farm stand and buy the whole foods being grown locally and sustainably by environmentally conscientious farmers.

What better way to rev up your health to pure radiance than through eating what grows locally and in season?  Wild leeks, asparagus, spinach, salad greens, green onions and peas in the spring (peas into midsummer this year at Martin's Farm Stand!); salad greens, tomatoes, peppers, carrots, beets, kale, collards, Swiss chard, garlic scapes and then the garlic bulbs as we move through the summer; parsnips, turnips, rutabaga, celeriac, potatoes, burdock, daikon, salsify, horseradish, squash... the possibilities are endless, right here in your "back yard!" Embrace the superfoods that grow locally!

In summary:

1.  All whole foods are superfoods.

2.  Eating foods grown close to your home is sustainable for the planet.

3.  Need more info?  Call me, we can chat over a cup of locally grown, superfood, herb tea!  Stinging nettle and wild raspberry leaf tea with a hint of peppermint, perhaps!

*CSA: community supported agriculture:  you buy a share of the farm's food production and get fresh food delivered to you or you pick up on a weekly basis. (Frequency and timing of pickups depends on the farm's CSA plan.)

Health and Healing Hint

Gentle exfoliation of the skin improves circulation to the skin, removes dead skin cells, and encourages new skin cell growth.  Take this idea and move it to your scalp.  Gently scrubbing the scalp with an exfoliating blend of natural substances is good for the scalp and just may slow down hair loss as well as encourage new growth.  What have you got to lose?

In an earlier newsletter, I included my half and half mix of sea salt and organic sugar scrub for facial skin.  Use the same blend and gently "scrub" the scalp.  You can blend the salt - sugar mix into your shampoo or use the blend alone, before shampooing.  In the shampoo is easiest to get the "scrubbing" salt and sugar to the scalp.

Another gentle way to stimulate scalp circulation is with essential oils.  Blend 2-4 drops of rosemary pure essential oil into a teaspoon of carrier oil (olive, almond, apricot kernel, sesame) and rub into the scalp after using the salt - sugar scrub.  Leave the oil on your scalp for 1-2 hours, or overnight, before shampooing.

Mix it up!  Add 4 drops rosemary pure essential oil to a tablespoon of the sugar - salt mix to scrub, exfoliate and stimulate with rosemary all in one action.  Rinse the salt - sugar out of your hair but hold off on shampooing for and hour or two, or overnight.

Pay attention to how tingly your scalp feels.  Does your hair start to look fuller and/or healthier over the months?