Month: October 2016

Spotlight on Awesome Paleo Food: Bone Broth

Bone Broth photo
Photo by simpleprovisions

Ah, magic Paleo elixir, liquid gold, whatever you call it, bone broth is one of the most celebrated Paleo bowl-filling foods. And with good reason, as it provides a steamy-great mix of healthful benefits for the body, delivered with savory, hit-the-spot flavor. Quite simply, it’s broth made from the bones of beef or bison, poultry, fish or lamb, then embellished with veggies and spices.

In earlier days, bone broth was a regular part of our diet, often used as a base for sauces and soups. However, with the gradual disappearance of local butchers and the increase in processed, store-bought “broth-like” bouillons and soups, the making of bone broth — and enjoying it – went by the wayside. With the growth of the Paleo movement, however, bone broth has re-emerged as a nutrient-packed food, worthy of brewing up and sitting down to. Here are some excellent reasons why this broth is so magical for our health:

  1. Bone broth packs mega-amounts of minerals. The rich mineral content helps replace the deficiencies that our general diets often lack.
  2. Bone broth helps the gut heal. There’s a fair amount of gelatin in the broth, which works like a hole-filler for the unwanted openings in an unhealthy gut—brought on by factors like faulty diet, stress and medications. This boost to intestinal health helps improve absorption of minerals and guards against autoimmune issues and inflammatory reactions.
  3. It makes for happy joints. Bone broth is full of substances called glycosaminoglycans (GAGs)—the glucosamine they contain is just one of the popular joint lubricating compounds being sold by the boatload in supplement form. In addition, the GAGs provided in a cup of bone broth deliver other key compounds for joint health and connective tissue, including chondroitin and hyaluronic acid. GAGs stimulate cells that produce collagen for the joints, tendons, ligaments and arteries as well.
  4. Bone broth also helps support oral health. The ability of GAGs to restore connective tissue helps improve gum tissue that has been damaged and weakened by bacteria that cause gum disease, which can lead to loose teeth or tooth loss.
  5. Bone broth provides adrenal support. Chinese medicine traditionally holds that the adrenals are part of the kidney system, and from that medicinal perspective, bone tissue relates to the kidneys. Subscribing to the theory of like supports like, the consumption of bone tissue can support the kidneys (and adrenals).  Additionally, adrenal fatigue—the result of our poor diets, lifestyle stressors and inadequate rest destroying the adrenal glands’ ability to function optimally—is being increasingly recognized. Some ancestral nutrition experts suggest that bone broth may actually help repair openings in damaged kidney tissue that cause the kidneys to function in this sub-par state.
  6. Your skin, hair and nails look better with bone broth. The collagen produced from the GAGs in the broth is the main substance found in our skin, hair and nails that keeps them strong and healthy.
  7. It’s very high in proline and glycine—two amino acids that are also vital for healthy connective tissues. Among the roles, proline has also been shown to reverse atherosclerotic deposits and can help the body break down proteins for use in making new muscle cells. Glycine has been shown to aid digestion, help regulate blood sugar levels and enhance muscle repair, among other benefits.
  8. It’s easy to brew up a homemade batch and give your body all that bone broth has to offer. There are a number of recipes out there, but start with some good bones from an animal raised as healthily as possible, some veggies, a little apple cider vinegar, herbs and spices and some water and you’re set.

A few recipes to try:

http://wellnessmama.com/5888/how-to-make-bone-broth-tutorial/ http://nourishedkitchen.com/perpetual-soup-the-easiest-bone-broth-youll-make/

Issue No. 17

Spotlight on Awesome Paleo Food: Oysters

Oysters photoOysters bring the taste of the sea and a chewy texture to craving palates (if you don’t let ‘em slip down the gullet unchewed, as some like to do). They’re simultaneously delicious, nutritious and expensive. They’re that healthy indulgence that many mollusk lovers would say is well-worth their jacked-up price. Although our ancestors didn’t have to buy them, they were likely on the Paleo menu because they were easy to find and consume. Whether you enjoysplurging on them or not, oysters spout a host of beneficial nutrients and can be a tasty addition to any meal. Here are some facts about this salty bivalve and why it’s a Paleo all-star:
  1. They’re versatile. They can be served raw (usually sitting “on the half shell”, one of its two shells), smoked, baked or as the main ingredient in oyster stew.
  2. Oysters are a sustainable seafood. Farmed oysters account for 95% of the world’s total oyster consumption, but unlike farmed fish, they get what they need from their source of sea water and don’t require feed sources like soy or fishmeal. They minimally impact their environment, and many farms are well-managed and sustainably operated. Always select fresh oysters that have been harvested under safety guidelines (look for a tag on the container or sack).
  3. They’ve been helping folks get their sexy on through the ages. These legendary aphrodisiacs are rich sources of zinc, a key mineral for male sexual health, testosterone levels and sperm production. Zinc is also vital for other aspects of our health, playing an important role in our senses of taste and smell and enriching our hair, skin and nails.
  4. Because oyster populations exist naturally around the world (except for polar regions), it’s easy to harvest native species in any location. This helps lower the risk of non-native species contaminating the waters in geographic areas worldwide.
  5. They contain decent amounts of vitamin B-12, iron, calcium, magnesium and potassium in each serving (about six medium raw oysters or 3 ounces of canned).
  6. Oysters are naturally low in calories, containing between 43 and 58 calories per serving.
  7. Fresh oysters should be refrigerated at 40 degrees (F) or lower until they’re served or added to a recipe. When cooked, the shells should open up. Throw out any that remain closed because they’ve been dead too long.
  8. When you shuck (open) them, try to keep the juice, also called the liquor. This tasty liquid gives oysters a good deal of their yummy flavor and should be clear, not cloudy and shouldn’t smell sour.
  9. Usually, raw oysters are safe to eat. However just as with eating any type of raw fish or seafood, the possibility of food-borne illness exists. Make sure you know where your oysters are coming from and how they were harvested. If you’ve been told to stay away from the raw ones, take the advice. The only way to kill the bacteria that can be harmful for some is through cooking.
  10. Dousing raw oysters in hot sauce or drinking alcohol while eating them will NOT kill the bacteria that can be extremely dangerous to vulnerable individuals. Be safe and eat them cooked if you are immunocompromised.

Issue No. 19

Spotlight on Awesome Paleo Food: Salmon

Salmon photo

Salmon is a true nutritional catch from the animal kingdom, bringing to us the gift of superior health benefits (along with great taste) when it lands on our plates. Here are some great reasons why this fish packs such a healthy wallop of Paleo goodness.

  1. It’s an omega-3 superstar. Salmon has an unusually high omega-3 fatty acid content and it’s one of the food’s biggest health benefits. A 4-ounce piece, whether baked or broiled, probably contains at least 2 grams of disease-preventing omega-3 fats. This is more omega-3 intake than the average U.S. adult consumes from all food over several days’ time.
  2. All those omega-3s help your heart in several different ways. Intake is associated with decreased risk of heart attack, stroke, heart arrhythmia, high blood pressure and high triglycerides in the blood. Eating omega-3-dense fish is also connected with improved metabolic markers for cardiovascular disease. These benefits start with even one omega-3 fish meal weekly. More of the benefits, however, kick in with eating these meals 2-3 times per week.
  3. It’s good for eye health too. Eating fish rich in omega-3 fats has been associated with decreased risk of two eye-related problems: macular degeneration and chronic dry eye.
  4. Salmon also supplies the best forms of omega-3s. Approximately half of the fatty acids in salmon are comprised of EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and slightly less are in the form of DHA (docosahexaenoic acid)—which are also unusually high amounts of these types of fatty acids found in common foods. These are the forms of omega-3s that have been shown to provide the most health benefits.
  5. It has a stellar ratio of omega-3 to omega-6. An average serving usually will contain a very low amount of omega-6—less than a half a gram, which is a ratio of 5.5 to 1 for omega-3s to omega-6s. In the standard American diet, there’s the continual problem of the omega-3/omega-6 ratio being lopsided in the opposite direction, containing at least 4-5 times as much omega-6 fat as omega-3 fat. This is counter-productive for our health, as studies have shown that these two types of fatty acids compete for the same conversion enzymes. This means that the higher the omega-6s that are in the diet, the more directly they’ll affect the conversion of omega-3s found in plant foods, to the EPA and DHA form of omega-3s, which protect us from disease.
  6. Salmon gives you beneficial proteins and amino acids. It features short protein particles known as peptides, which are proven to be bioactive and may also act as anti-inflammatory agents. It has also been shown to supply important amounts of taurine, an antioxidant amino acid.
  7. (Alaskan) salmon is sustainable. Monterey Bay Aquarium in Monterey, California, just declared Alaskan salmon as a “best choice” in salmon selection because it is the only low-risk salmon to meet four sustainability criteria: the level of population vulnerability, the effects of fishing on the habitat, the state of wild stocks, and the by-catch (the other types of fish that are caught unintentionally during salmon fishing).
  8. Salmon is a great source of selenium. A 4-oz. serving contains over 61% of the recommended daily value of this immune-boosting mineral. An adequate supply of selenium in the diet has been linked to decreased risk of joint inflammation and prevention of specific cancers, including colorectal. Selenium has also been shown to play an important role in cardiovascular protection.
  9. The DHA salmon provides is considered by many researchers to be the most important fat in the human brain. High salmon intake is associated with decreased risk of certain brain-related problems like depression, decreased risk of hostility in teenagers and decreased risk of cognitive decline in seniors. Some studies show a correlation between higher IQ and omega-3 intake and omega-3 fish.
  10. Other types of wild-caught salmon are still relatively low in contaminants (remember to buy wild-caught only). While contaminants like mercury, pesticides and persistent organic pollutants (POPs) continue to be a problem in salmon habitats and with the fish itself, other wild-caught varieties like Southeast Alaskan chum, sockeye, coho, pink and Chinook, as well as Kodiak coho, pink and chum still pose a low risk of contaminants.

The many ways that salmon nourishes us makes it a perfect addition to a Paleo table if it’s not on yours already. Try eating salmon 2-3 times a week as a delicious and healthy way to fortify and protect your body and mind.

Issue No. 23

Spotlight on Awesome Paleo Food: Sauerkraut

Sauerkraut photo
Photo by manray3

Gobbled fridgeside straight from the jar, or as a tasty topping for pork, sauerkraut is delicious but also beloved as a wonder food by Paleo followers everywhere.

Made from cabbage and salt fermented at room temperature for about a week or two, sauerkraut literally means “sour cabbage” in German. During fermentation, lactic acid bacteria gobble up and ferment the sugars in the cabbage in an oxygen-free environment. This helps lower the pH of the cabbage (acidifying it) and that prevents the growth of unwanted bacteria. The lactic acid from the bacteria also gives it a long shelf-life and its distinctive sour taste.
Whichever way it gets to your fork, here are some great reasons to say yes to ‘kraut and enhance your health.
  1. As a fermented food, sauerkraut is loaded with helpful probiotics – “good bacteria” – that make for happy gut flora and help improve nutrient absorption.
  2. As a high-density source of probiotics, a daily dose of sauerkraut helps keep the digestive process running smoothly. It stimulates peristaltic movement of the intestines and prevents constipation, while helping to eliminate harmful parasites as well.
  3. The fermentation process enhances cabbage’s protective properties, including the production of isothiocyanates, compounds that have been shown to prevent some kinds of cancer growth.
  4. Sauerkraut also contains glucosinolates, which activate the body’s antioxidant enzymes, as well as flavonoids, which protect arterial walls from oxidative damage.
  5. Its primary ingredient, cabbage, also offers a bevy of health benefits. For starters, it’s high in vitamins A and C.
  6. Like other cruciferous vegetables, studies have shown cabbage helps protect against some types of cancer.
  7. Diets rich in crucifers like cabbage may also offer cardiovascular disease prevention.
  8. Sauerkraut can help with weight loss. Its high lactobacillus content helps keep the appetite under control by lowering blood sugar levels.
From its zippy taste to the barrel of health benefits it delivers after we eat it, ‘kraut does a body good in so many ways. While most commercially sold sauerkraut has lost much of its beneficial bacteria, a healthier option is to purchase it freshly made or give making your own a try. You can add shredded carrots, beets or mix several cabbages (including white or red) to add variety and taste. Also look at throwing in garlic, onions and apples or caraway seeds. With all it can do for our vitality and well-being, you might just add sauerkraut to your list of Paleo favorites.

Issue No. 24

Spotlight on Awesome Paleo Food: Beef Liver

Beef Liver photo
Photo by Father.Jack

Ah, grass-fed beef liver, how do members of the Paleo community love thee? Let us count the ways.

1. It’s a super source of Vitamin A—one ounce has nearly 200% of the RDA for this important vitamin. Vitamin A plays a key role in keeping the skin and eyes healthy and maintaining the health of the intestines and other membranes.

2. It’s a rich source of phosphorus, which helps build bones and teeth. It also aids cell growth, heart muscle contraction and kidney function. Plus it helps the body use vitamins, assists in the body’s conversion of food into energy and helps maintain blood pH.

3. It’s an excellent source of high-quality protein. The grass-fed variety provides a whopping 44 grams per ounce.

4. It’s also a great source of iron. You’ll get 50% of the RDA for that mineral in just an ounce of beef liver.

5. It’s the number one food source of copper. Copper is important for us in several ways, among them: helping the body use iron, reducing tissue damage caused by free radicals, maintaining bone and connective tissue health, aiding in the production of the pigment melanin, keeping the thyroid gland functioning optimally and preserving myelin—the sheath that surrounds and protects nerves.

6. It’s a stellar source of other vitamins too, like Vitamin D, Vitamin B12 (and other B-Vitamins).

7. It contains CoQ10 (Coenzyme Q10), which is important for cardiovascular function and the basic functioning of cells. Its levels are reported to decrease in the body as we age.

8. Go grass-fed (when you can) for max nutrition. The importance of trying to consume grass-fed animals whenever possible also makes this a very healthy Paleo food. Pasture-raised animal products provide much higher levels of nutrients in general than animal products that come from commercial feedlots.

9. It’s generally pretty affordable. Grass-fed organ meats beat grass-fed muscle meats price-wise most of the time.

While you might remember it none-too-fondly as a childhood food you put up with, beef liver can be a tasty, affordable and most importantly super-nutritious addition to a Paleo diet. If you haven’t added it to your table in awhile, maybe now’s the time to give it another chance—and give your body an awesome set of health benefits.

Issue No. 25

Spotlight on Awesome Paleo Food: Sweet Potatoes

Sweet Potatoes photo
Photo by Stacy Spensley

Ah, the humble sweet potato—tasty, packed with carbs and a safe way to refuel after a workout, these starchy tubers provide flavor and variety to a Paleo plate while offering nutrients and fiber to boot.  Here’s the goods on these sweet spuds and how to incorporate them as healthful additions to a Paleo lifestyle.

  1. They’re the perfect post-workout snack. With just about 100 calories and 24 grams of carbohydrate, a medium sweet potato does a great job of replenishing glycogen stores after intense exercise.
  2. They deliver loads of Vitamin A—essential for vision, gene transcription, boosting immunity, and skin health. Found to pack between 100-1,600 micrograms of the vitamin in every 3.5 ounces, even this small amount of sweet potato can meet at least 35% (in many cases an even higher percentage) of all our needs for Vitamin A.
  3. Add some fat to reap the full beta-carotene (the precursor to Vitamin A) benefits from sweet potatoes. Recent studies show that adding 3-5 grams of fat for a meal can significantly boost beta-carotene intake from sweet potatoes.  Whether it’s a tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil or a small pat of grass-fed butter or coconut oil, fat can enrich both taste and nutrient value.
  4. Sweet potatoes are a decent source of fiber—and that’s good for the gut.  A medium one will contain about 4 grams of fiber.
  5. They’re good for your heart. Sweet potatoes contain high levels of both B6 and potassium, and both of these nutrients are important to heart health. B6 plays a key role in breaking down homocysteine, a substance that can lead to hardening of the arteries.  Potassium is crucial for lowering blood pressure, as it helps rid the body of excess sodium and regulates fluid balance.  It also helps normalize heart rhythm and helps maintain function of the brain and nervous system.
  6. Look beyond the orange for even more nutritional bang for your buck.  Sweet potatoes can also be a brilliant purple color on the inside.  Sometimes it’s tough to tell from the outside just how purple the flesh inside will be. These purple varieties produce anthocyanin pigments—which have impressive antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits. Most notably, when passing through the gut, they have the ability to lower potential health risks from heavy metals and oxygen free radicals.
  7. Sweet potatoes are also rich in Vitamin C and Vitamin E, other powerful antioxidants that help fight disease and contribute to our longevity.
  8. They’re easy to make. Just cut them into ½ inch slices and steam for about 7 minutes.   It enhances their great taste and helps maximize their nutrient profile. Shake in some cinnamon or nutmeg for extra flavor. Recent studies have shown that anthocyanins are best preserved with steaming, while others comparing boiling sweet potatoes to roasting have shown better effects on blood sugar with boiling them.
Whatever variety you choose, sweet potatoes give you some great options for healthy, flavorful and “safe” sources of carbohydrate and key nutrients.  As with any dense source of carbohydrate, keep an eye on quantity as you watch your total carbohydrate intake. Many trainers and Paleo gurus recommend keeping your sweet potato enjoyment to the post-workout period only if weight loss is a goal.

Issue No. 26

Spotlight on Awesome Paleo Food: Kale

Kale photo

Gone are the days when a withered kale leaf graced a tiny corner of our dishes as a humble garnish. Today, kale is back on our plates in full force as a versatile (not to mention delicious) veggie powerhouse of nutrients and health benefits. Take a look at the many reasons why kale deserves its role as a staple on Paleo plates.

  1. Kale is a crucifer, meaning it belongs to the same vegetable family as cabbage and broccoli. Known as brassica vegetables, all contain a high concentration of sulforaphane and indole-3 –carbinol, two compounds that have been proven to contain potent anti-cancer and antimicrobial properties.
  2. It’s also high in other anti-cancer phytonutrients, including isothiocyanates, which have been shown to decrease the risk of bladder cancer and help the body detoxify.
  3. Kale also contains a flavanoid called kaempferol, a phytonutrient shown to reduce ovarian cancer risk by up to 40 percent.
  4. It’s a super source of several key vitamins and minerals, including Vitamin A. Kale contains 194% of the recommended daily allowance for this vitamin in a one-cup serving.
  5. It also provides high amounts of Vitamin K and Vitamin C for immune support, as well as Vitamin B6, which is important for fat metabolism.
  6. Kale also provides the body with a great source of calcium. Research shows that kale’s calcium is better absorbed and used by the body than calcium from dairy.
  7. You’ll also find decent amounts of other essential minerals in kale, including potassium, iron, manganese, copper, sodium and phosphorus, which helps strengthen our bones and teeth.
  8. And the list goes on, as kale also provides two helpful carotenoids—lutein and zeaxanthin. These compounds help prevent vision damage caused by UV light and can reduce future risk of developing cataracts.
  9. In addition to all the stellar nutrients it provides, kale is also low in carbohydrates and calories and high in fiber.
  10. There are several types of kale to choose from that can be prepared in many different and delicious ways, including Lacinato Kale (called dinosaur kale), which is flatter and milder tasting than curly kale, as well as red, green and purple varieties. You can chop it and use it in soups or salads, have it as a side or bake it as a chip.

For all these reasons and more, it’s no surprise that kale has become a well-respected, nutrient-dense food worthy of many a Paleo recipe. Try preparing it in different ways—you just might count this leafy treasure-trove of health as one your favorites.

Issue No. 27

Spotlight on Awesome Paleo Food: Nattō

Nattō photo
Photo by Kinchan1

It’s been described as “strings of soy slime.” But don’t let its pungent smell, sticky texture and musty taste (which some just call “interesting”) turn you off—nattō is anything but nasty when it comes to enhancing your health. Although made from soy, which Paleo usually says is a no-go, nattō is a special kind of soy. As a nutrient-dense traditional food that originated in Japan, it’s made from whole soybeans that have been soaked, then boiled or steamed and then fermented.

The bacterium strain used in the soybean fermentation is Bacillus subtilis natto, and it takes the soybeans from ho-hum legumes to a potent food supplement with high levels of vitamins and other beneficial qualities.

For the moment, if you’ll suspend nattō’s lack of aesthetic appeal, check out these powerfully healthy reasons to try it.

  1. Nattō has extremely high levels of vitamin K2, which plays an important role in bone mineralization, cancer prevention, and cardiovascular health. This vitamin is present in only a few foods but is vital to our well-being.
  2. It’s a significant source of iron. One cup of nattō contains 83% of the recommended daily value for this important mineral that helps carry oxygen from the lungs to muscles and organs.
  3. Fermented soybeans have been shown to contain a compound known as PQQ, which is important for the skin and can act as an antioxidant. PQQ in human tissues is derived primarily from foods in the diet.
  4. It’s relatively low in carbs, with just 14.36 grams of carbohydrates per serving.
  5. It’s high in fiber, with about 5.4 grams in each serving.
  6. Nattō is also high in protein, providing over 17 grams of it in each 100 gram serving. Protein aids in tissue repair, gives us energy and boosts our immunity.
  7. It’s also a rich source of Vitamin C, which helps bolster our immune system, provides cardiovascular disease protection, prevents prenatal health complications, contributes to eye health and fights skin wrinkling, among others.
  8. It contains high levels of magnesium, a key micronutrient that helps regulate muscle, nerve and heart function.
  9. High in calcium as well, nattō has over 21% of the recommended daily allowance for this mineral in each 100 gram serving.
  10. In addition, nattō provides modest levels of vitamin E and vitamin B2.
  11. Nattō also contains an enzyme called nattokinase, which is produced during the fermentation process and is said to help prevent blood clots.

As a supplemental whole food, nattō is called an “essential” dietary addition by some Paleo/Primal advocates because of all the healthy bonuses it brings to the plate. Like some Paleo foods, it might take some getting used to at first. But, once you’ve given it a try, you just might just like it and all the ways it does a body good.

Issue No. 28

Spotlight on Awesome Paleo Food: Bison

Bison meat photo
Photo by telepathicparanoia

Even though it’s super delicious, chock full of muscle-building amino acids, and a great alternative (if grass-fed), beef is getting boring. That’s just a glimpse of why bison is such a great choice for your next recipe. Because bison meat is packed with a good dose of protein and has a rich flavor, it is becoming a more popular addition to people’s plates. Here’s the scoop on bison and how to incorporate it into a Paleo routine.

Type

1. Buy range-fed (grass-fed) bison instead of feedlot (grain-fed) bison, for the same reason as you would for beef. Grain-fed animals are deprived of vital nutrients and are often pumped full of antibiotics—those shortcomings are passed on to the people who eat that meat. So buy grass-fed bison, where the animals have been living on a natural diet that keeps their bodies strong and healthy. All of that healthy goodness will be passed on to you!

2. The taste of bison is often said to be richer than that of beef. One of the easiest ways to prepare bison is by making bison tails, which are similar to beef oxtails but taste better. Bison tails are meaty and make great broth, and they don’t usually sell for more than a few dollars per pound.

Nutritional Profile

3. Grass-fed bison has some of the best omega-3/omega-6 ratios of any red meat, outscoring even wild elk! Most grain-fed meat has an imbalance of fatty acids, tilting the scale toward omega-6s instead of the preferred 1:1 ratio. Bison meat comes extremely close to that perfect balance, providing you with a highly-usable muscle-building set of amino acids in every serving.

4. Bison meat is a great source of selenium, the mineral responsible for preventing cell damage in your body. In fact, grass-fed bison meat has four times more selenium than grain-fed bison, which still has a lot more selenium than other red meats. No matter what, it’s a win!

5. Bison have a good fatty acid profile. When an animal’s fatty acids are balanced, the animal is not packed full of fat (which gives the trademark heavily marbled look of much store-bought meat). Having the right balance of fat is healthier, not only for the animal but for you as well! Because the bison has a healthier fatty acid profile, its meat has more micronutrients and vitamins.

Whether you choose to make bison chili, some hearty bone broth, or just munch on the tails all by themselves, you’ll be getting a good dose of healthy vitamins, minerals, and protein. Pay attention as you purchase bison—make sure to check the label for a grass-fed certificate. Bison meat also keeps well if it is stored in the freezer, so make a batch ahead of time and freeze it for a convenient snack or dinner later!

Issue No. 29

Spotlight on Awesome Paleo Food: Berries

Berries photo

Whether they’re red, blue, filled with seeds, or crushed into a smoothie, berries have been hailed as a superfood by scientists and consumers alike. And what’s not to love? The whole berry family is packed with antioxidants and is rich in nutrients that help to combat the health problems associated with aging, especially mental decline and heart attacks. Quite simply, you’ll be hard-pressed to find another great source of healthy goodness that comes in so many colors, flavors, textures, and sizes—the right berry for you is out there, no matter who you are!

In fact, the quest for berries isn’t a just recent fascination—people have been seeking out these sweet gems for thousands of years. Tibetan settlers have used goji berries for close to 2,000 years, and the blueberry has been around for much longer than that. However, with the advent of modern sweeteners, humans have let berries fall by the wayside as a delicious dessert. Because berries tend to taste bitter in comparison to the corn-syrup-filled treats we have today, berries have been falling out of favor. Here are some great reasons to pack an extra serving of these delicious fruits onto your plate!

Dark Berries

Berries help to clear toxins from your body. The acai berry is best known for this, but other dark fruits like blueberries and blackberries are good at capturing and flushing out toxins as well.

  1. Berries protect your cells from damage. Dark berries, especially blackberries, elderberries, and black currant contain large amounts of flavonoids called anthocyanins, which allow your cells to resist environmental toxins and remain healthy.
  2. Dark berries help prevent chronic inflammation. The antioxidants in blackberries in particular help to relax blood vessels and keep the blood flowing well. It’s when these vessels are inflamed that we see chronic conditions like cardiovascular disease. Because of their bioflavonoids, berries also help to relieve the inflammatory pain associated with arthritis.

Light Berries

  1. Berries seem to reduce the risk of heart attack and dementia. This study followed women who ate three or more servings of berries every week for 18 years and women who did not. The women who ate berries were 32% less likely to suffer a heart attack. These same women also experienced slower mental decline as they got older, another study reports.
  2. Light berries, especially strawberries, promote bone health. Bones need potassium, vitamin K, and magnesium, and berries have these nutrients in spades.
  3. Interestingly enough, research shows that freeze-dried berries may help prevent cancer! This study of patients with potential esophageal cancer experienced a significantly low rate of cancer when they were treated with strawberry powder. Cherries are also associated with this cancer-fighting benefit because of their queritrin, a flavonoid that is proving to be one of the most powerful known anticancer agents.
  4. Berries are great at helping you sleep. Because berries—and cherries especially—contain melatonin, eating just a handful can improve your sleep patterns. Melatonin comes in pill form for people suffering from insomnia, but why not get that goodness right from nature? This nutrient in cherries absorbs into the blood quickly and will help to regulate your circadian rhythms—that internal clock that makes you get sleepy when it’s time for bed.

While all berries are great sources of nutrients and remove toxins from your body, some berries are especially known for their healthy properties.

These are:

  • Strawberries
  • Raspberries
  • Cranberries
  • Goji Berries
  • Acerola Cherries
  • Acai Berries
  • Blackberries
  • Blueberries
  • Maqui Berries
  • Aronia (also known as black chokeberries—don’t eat them raw!)
  • Noni Berries

So dump a nice, big cup of berries into your next batch of Paleo pancakes! Or better yet, go drink some wine. I know we’ve all been looking for an excuse!

Issue No. 29

Spotlight on Awesome Paleo Food: Pastured Eggs from Free-Range Chickens

Pastured Eggs photo
Photo by USDAgov

There’s no doubt that eggs are a popular part of the Paleo diet; they’re packed with a host of vitamins and minerals that do a body good, and it’s been that way for as long as humans have been around and hungry. Which is, of course, a very long time. Imagine carrying home a whopping 19-inch egg from the prehistoric dinosaur segnosaurus, who laid the biggest eggs we’ve ever seen!

Nowadays, egg consumption around the world is unfortunately dinosaur-free, so we’re left with what makes up the bulk of the world’s modern egg diet—quail eggs in Asia, ostrich eggs in Africa, and of course, chicken eggs in a lot of places. Among these eggs are a sometimes-overwhelming number of options—organic, all-natural, and pastured, to name just a few. So what good are pastured eggs anyway, and what makes them different from eggs that are farmed in the typical way?

How They’re Raised

  1. Pastured chickens are given pasture to roam around in. This is different from just “free-range,” where the chickens may be let out of their coop but just into a dirt enclosure where they can walk around.
  2. Because pastured chickens are not restricted to dirt enclosures, they are free to wander in and consume grasses. This eliminates the processed food that most chickens are fed, which often includes leftover oil (like soybean oil from restaurants) and even, as the FDA admits, arsenic. Anything that goes into the chicken comes to humans through the eggs.
  3. In addition to a wide variety of grasses, chickens are also free to consume their natural diet, which includes bugs, worms, seeds, and dirt. Because this is what they would eat in the wild, the chickens and the eggs they produce will be more nutritious.

Why They’re Healthier

  1. Chickens that have access to their natural diets in a pasture produce eggs that are packed with beta-carotenes, which are responsible for the yellow color of the yolk. (This is why, if you have ever been to places like Eastern Europe where chickens are typically raised in the back yard, the yolks are very orange instead of yellow—more beta-carotene.) These nutrients help you maintain a healthy weight and protect your skin from being damaged by the sun.
  2. You can expect two times more omega-3 in pastured eggs. Omega-3 fatty acids reduce inflammation throughout the body, thereby lowering the risk for inflammatory diseases like heart disease and asthma. Some research also suggests that omega-3s can reduce depression and help to protect against Alzheimer’s and dementia.
  3. Pastured eggs have three times as much vitamin E as regular eggs. Vitamin E has antioxidant properties that prevent damage in your body, such as the destruction of vitamin A through oxidation reactions. Vitamin E also improves the health of cell membranes, and since cells make up every single part of our body, we need them to be healthy!
You might not be able to reap the benefits of a giant, nutritious, and pasture-fed dinosaur egg nowadays, but pastured chicken eggs are pretty close. They’re vastly superior to industrially-produced eggs nutritionally, and the chickens are happier to boot. What’s not to love?

Issue No. 31

Spotlight on Awesome Food:  Things You MUST Know About Bacon

Bacon photo
Photo by Didriks

Meat candy.

You can stuff bacon into practically any food and end up with a more delicious version of that food.  From chocolate to skewered chicken, bacon makes almost everything better (bacon jam, anyone?).

And yet, you’ve probably heard for most of your life that bacon is a heart attack waiting to happen.  Luckily, we now know that’s just not true.

But the real question…

Is bacon actually healthy?

Bacon is made from pork belly, which (if you couldn’t guess) is the underside of the pig. Before the strips are cut off the pork belly, the whole piece is cured; this can be done in a variety of ways.

The two most common are dry curing and wet curing. If bacon is dry cured, it’s rubbed with salt and whatever blend of spices the preparer desires, then kept cool to prevent spoiling. If wet cured, the bacon is soaked in brine. Whichever way it’s cured, after the process is done, the pork is smoked for a few days, then sliced up and it’s good to go!

Bacon is a versatile and nutritious food when prepared right, but be sure to follow the same guidelines as other meat—get the pork that is raised naturally, away from a diet of grains, and not treated with antibiotics. In fact, it’s pretty easy to make your own home-cured bacon (and you don’t need to raise the pigs yourself!), so you might opt for that as well.

Why eat bacon?

  1. Because bacon is made from one of the fattiest parts of the pig, it’s consequently one of the most nutritious forms of pork you can eat.  And that shouldn’t be surprising, since fat-soluble vitamins like A, D, E, & K are stored in—you guessed it—fat.
  2. Bacon is packed with choline, which studies show is a powerhouse for reducing the occurrence of Alzheimer’s and other diseases of the brain. In fact, subjects who consumed bacon showed not only reduced mental illness but increased ability to learn, and consumption of adequate choline, as one study says, “lead[s] to slower extinction.”  That can’t be a bad thing!
  3. You can get more than half of your daily amount of thiamin (that’s vitamin B1) from a serving of bacon. Thiamin is responsible for helping your muscles work like they should (and really important things like your heart are muscles too!), but B1’s most important job is to help your body convert carbohydrates into energy. If your body can get the energy it needs, not only will you feel more invigorated, your brain and nervous system will get the energy they need to work at top quality.
  4. Bacon contains nutrients that are natural mood enhancers. What’s not to like about that? Eat that bacon and feel awesome.

How to eat bacon

  1. Eat it with Paleo breads, especially pancakes. And I don’t mean eat bacon with pancakes, I mean eat bacon in pancakes. Pop that juicy meat right into the batter and cook yourself a nice meal! Why spend the time eating your Paleo pancakes, putting down your fork, and then eating bacon when you could just turn it into a one-step process?
  2. With vegetables and herbs. It might not seem like the best pairing ever, but wrapping things like Brussels sprouts, watercress, and mushrooms in bacon makes for one delectable treat! Not to mention that the two foods’ nutrients complement each other, making for easy absorption and maximum health benefits.
  3. With other meat! Filet your chicken and tuck some bacon inside. Wrap your oysters in cozy blankets of smoked pork belly. Or check out some bison bacon sushi! The possibilities are only limited by your imagination.

As you can see, bacon’s got a lot of great nutrients and is a versatile food that complements most everything it’s put with. Just make sure to eat responsibly—natural bacon without the grain-fed antibiotic treatment.

Issue No. 33

Spotlight on an Awesome Paleo Food: Broccoli

Broccoli photoGrowing up, there were few foods I disliked more than broccoli. (Collard greens was among them—I just couldn’t stand the smell when I was a kid.)

Fast-forward a couple decades, and I want to put broccoli and collard greens in everything. My mom would be proud, except that she doesn’t actually like broccoli. Oh well.

Your own mom might have tried to feed broccoli to you as a kid, and it turns out that she had good reason to do so—broccoli is a true superfood. This famous green has been linked to a variety of positive health effects in nearly all of the body’s systems, from the circulatory and immune systems to mental health.

Just what sort of healthful benefits is broccoli packing in those green bunches?

Why is Broccoli Healthy?

  1. Broccoli contains huge amounts of inducers—molecules that prompt enzymes in the body to start working. What’s great for us is that these enzymes are the kind that protect against cancer-causing agents! Young broccoli has between 10 and 100 times more of these inducers than other, mature vegetables, studies say. In addition to these inducers, broccoli also has indole-3-carbinol, a powerful antioxidant that has been shown to be very effective against breast, cervical, and prostate cancer.
  2. Indole-3-carbinol, mentioned above, also encourages healthy liver function.
  3. Broccoli is packed full of kaempferol, an anti-inflammatory nutrient. Kaempferol gives our bodies the “calm down” signal, reducing inflammatory reactions like allergies and pain.
  4. Studies show that broccoli supplies big packages of energy to the mitochondria—the powerhouses of our cells. And if the engines in our cells are working correctly, that means that they can perform their important functions—like replicating and transporting nutrients—the way they’re supposed to. This mitochondrial support gives us energy and boosts the immune system.

Health-boosting effects are available no matter how you prepare your broccoli. Some studies show that the way you cook your broccoli has a slight effect on the nutrients you’ll get out of it, but the evidence is very mixed. Generally, you don’t want to overcook any vegetable, although light cooking (like steaming) tends to make the nutrients in broccoli more bioavailable than when it’s raw.

So how should you cook broccoli so that you get the maximum goodness in your greens?

Cooking Broccoli

  1. To keep the veggie’s vitamin C intact, opt for steaming or microwaving on low heat instead of boiling or frying. Much of the vitamin C leeches out into the water around it if broccoli is boiled. (If you’re opposed to microwaves for any reason, then just opt for steaming.)
  2. Carotenoids, which protect against cancer, are best retained when the broccoli is boiled or steamed. More than 65% of these carotenoids cook away if broccoli is fried.
  3. Because chlorophyll (the stuff that makes the broccoli green) is a great source of nutrients, it’s best to keep it intact in the cooking process. Studies show that boiling and stir-frying broccoli leads to a significant loss in chlorophyll content. Steaming, however, caused no reduction of chlorophyll.

In general, steaming is the best option, along with occasional raw broccoli. But don’t let that stop you from preparing this veggie in other ways too—while steaming may be particularly beneficial, broccoli is a nutritious food no matter how it’s cooked! So carve out a little chunk of your plate and add an extra helping of broccoli. Your body will love you for it.

Issue No. 34

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