By Rose Kaplan, "virtual intern:" It’s November. There’s a cool, crisp feel to the air, and the sound of crunching leaves underfoot., It means that Thanksgiving is right around the...
By Sara Turnasella, “virtual intern”
While researching Nutrition CHAMPS: The Veggie Queen’s Guide to Eating and Cooking for Optimum Energy, Health, Happiness and Vitality cookbook , (CHAMPS stands for Crucifeous vegetables, Herbs and spices, Alliums, Mushrooms, Peas, beans and lentils and Seeds and nuts.) I’ve learned so much about the intricacies of these incredibly healthful foods through accredited articles and studies. Here are some of the most important eye-opening concepts I’ve discovered in my research (in descending order):
5) Synergy of Food:
It is absolutely fascinating the way in which foods have the ability to work together and combine nutrients to provide us with the most benefit. With the right combination on your plate at meal time, you can greatly enhance the effects of your food; with each component bringing out the best in the other in a perfectly harmonious relationship. Great examples include ginger and fermented foods, and turmeric and cruciferous vegetables.
Fermented foods are already known to be fantastic for digestive health by aiding our beneficial gut flora. Throw some ginger in the mix, and suddenly you have a superhero tag-team for digestive health and an anti-inflammatory punch.
Turmeric and cruciferous vegetables also work terrifically together, as studies have shown turmeric possesses the ability to prevent certain cancers from forming and it may also inhibit the spread of established cancers. The next time you cook cauliflower for dinner, be sure to add a pinch or two of turmeric powder. Another example is quercetin, a flavonoid often found in the allium family (onion, garlic, leeks, shallots, chives, green onions), has been shown to be most absorbable when consumed with fats.
The synergy of various foods is still being studied and explored, so variety is quite literally the spice of life. Mix up your meals as much as possible and experiment with plenty of fresh vegetables, herbs, and spices. You may find a combination that can take your health to the next level.
4) Preparation is key:
When it comes to preparation, knowledge of each food’s little quirks can be very important. Treating our food a certain way as we prepare it may actually contribute to the full spectrum of benefits we receive from it. For example, garlic needs to rest for about 15 minutes after being chopped in order to release its anti-cancer components. Scallions need to have several inches of white skin above the roots before they are considered to be perfect to cook with, and should have the outside skin (leaf) removed. The most frequent cooking tip I discovered seemed to apply to almost all of the CHAMPS, and is my next important concept…
3) Less cooking time, more nutrients:
What I found again and again is that shorter cooking times are key for nutrient retention in many of the Nutrition CHAMPS foods, as well as others. Garlic loses some of its nutrients after extensive cooking, so it’s best to throw it into your recipe in that last 20 minute window. Cooking for extended periods of time has a tendency to leech out certain vitamin and minerals, especially when cooking in a liquid. That’s all the more reason to use that liquid as a broth!
2) Antioxidant content of the Nutrition CHAMPS:
The antioxidant levels in many of the Nutrition CHAMPS foods is astounding. These particular plant foods top all the charts and are packed with potent antioxidant power; potentially lowering risk for several types of cancer and promoting overall health. This makes these foods positively rejuvenating and crucial to anyone and everyone, regardless of what kind of diet we may already follow. These antioxidant properties are undeniably solid, however processing makes their effects dwindle. Powders and pills may hold some of the nutrients that the original state possesses, but rarely does the potency and bioavailability match up. So, when possible, opt for the true whole food, which leads me to my next and most important concept…
1) Whole Food Theory:
“The whole is greater than the sum of its parts” Is an expression that many of us have heard before, and it’s the root of whole food theory. Numerous studies are showing that the greatest benefits come from food in its natural whole state. Many people often gravitate toward what is easiest; components isolated in supplements, in conveniently processed forms sitting on our shelves, and bottles filled with concentrates. One particular study found that some supplements may only be releasing small fractions of their nutrients that are claimed on the label. So, the best way to ensure that we get the most out of the Nutrition CHAMPS, and of all food that is nutritious and good, is to seek out its true form.
Of course it’s perfectly okay to use a pinch of your favorite dried spice, or a hint of chopped garlic from the fridge. The idea is that if you are truly intent on getting the most nutrition from your food choices opt for the whole form whenever possible. Pluck the leaves fresh off of that herb, or remove a thick clove of garlic from the bulb. Incorporating as many parts of the food itself, when possible, is also beneficial. Of course this doesn’t apply to every food, as we certainly aren’t going to eat the shell of the walnut or the pod of the bean. But for many foods this is true, such as the skin of an apple being loaded with both fiber and antioxidants that are not even found in the flesh! Onions are another great example, as their skins are loaded with quercetin, and you can throw them into your vegetable stock. Utilizing as much of the food as possible is the best way to ensure the most benefit and the least waste. The closer we get to the authentic form of the food, the better.
Sara Turnasella eats as many whole foods as possible. She has been doing research for the book Nutrition CHAMPS since the beginning of 2013.
Here is what she says: “I grew passionate about healthy eating and cooking after overcoming obesity as an adolescent. Embracing whole foods and a plant based diet has changed my life dramatically, and it is something that I truly enjoy sharing with others! More than anything, I love to learn about this ever-changing field of all things food-related. I’m a Certified Health Coach and a Dietetic Technician, Registered. I’m currently attending LIU Post where I am studying Nutrition Science, working towards becoming a Dietitian.”