Monday, December 29, 2008

Nutrient Density for the New Year

Have you ever heard the term "Nutrient Density?" Dr. Joel Furhman defines nutrient density in his "Eat for Health" book in this way: "What makes a food healthy is how many nutrients is delivers to your body. In other words, for optimal health we must eat foods that are rich in nutrients, in particular, foods that deliver the maximum nutrients in each calorie."

Often people equate health food or healthy eating with eating foods that have some nutritional value. Or they just call the food healthy if it isn't a dessert or processed snack. Others determine if the food is healthy or not by how many calories, fat grams or carbohydrates it has. With all the diet crazes over the past few decades, that might seem like the rational thing to do. But when you hear how Dr. Fuhrman determines the nutritional value of food, nothing else seems to seems to make much sense.

Dr. Furhman has a formula he uses to determine nutrient density. It's lists the most nutritious foods by how many vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals (which are called micronutrients) are in a food divided by the number of calories. The more nutrient dense foods you eat, the better your health will be. The formula looks like some simple Einstein equation. It's H=N/C, which means your future Health = Nutrients divided by Calories in each bite you take.

When we choose food by this nutrient density equation in mind, it changes the focus from all our usual patterns of thinking, such as:

"What do I feel like eating?"
"What sounds good?"
"What's in the fridge, pantry, on the menu?"
"What am I in the habit of eating and don't possibly think I could ever live without?"
"What am I celebrating and what foods traditionally go along with that celebration?"
"What am I craving right this very second?"

Instead we stock our fridge and pantry with foods that are naturally packed with nutrients and learn to eat and enjoy those foods just like we have with the other foods for so many years. Old habits are hard to break -- they are EXTREMELY hard to break -- it's not a trite phrase I just write to fill up space. It's hard and many don't succeed especially when it comes to food. However, the other phrase that you must replace an old habit with a new one is true too. I'll add that if you think more about the new habit than the one you are leaving behind, you will not feel like a matryr and whine that you can't eat like you used to. You'll be so thrilled and fulfilled with the new foods you are eating that you won't even care about those other foods. You might romanticize at times about how yummy something was (all the good memories of the times attached), but truthfully, your body won't have enough room to eat those foods once you build your diet around nutrient dense foods, so you'll be just fine without them.

If you think you can get these micronutrients from supplements and continue eating the nutrient-sparse foods, you're fooling yourself. Just look around at all the other people doing this with diabetes, heart problems, and a host of other modern diseases. My dad spend Christmas morning in the hospital this year after having a stent put in his heart on Christmas eve. He was telling me the day before that the doctor told him not to fear this procedure -- it was such a common procedure that it was routine -- they did it all the time. I told my dad that could either give him comfort that it's not a risky procedure or it could sound awfully scaryto know that so much of our population is having to have stents put in their heart valves to stay alive. Supplements will not cut it. Nutritional excellence is what we need for excellent health.

We can find the most nutrients per calorie from unrefined plant foods, such as fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts, and seeds. What percentage of these foods do you think the average American consumes? Less than 7 per cent! With Dr. Fuhrman's Eat for Health (or former book Eat to Live) approach, you'll be eating at least 90% of these nutrient dense foods.

You'll need to get Dr. Fuhrman's books to see his list of the high nutrients foods, but basically the very highest (surprise, surprise) are the Leafy Green Vegetables, with kale and collard greens being at the very top (score of 1000). Spinach is a little lower with a score of 739 and then when you drop into the next group of Solid Green Vegetables. Foods like cabbage, broccoli, and asparagus have scores of 420, 376, and 234, respectively. That doesn't mean that they aren't healthy - -they are! It just shows you how incredibly nutritious and essential those leafy greens are! The other high nutrient, non-starchy, non-green Vegetables (all vegetables that aren't green and that aren't potatoes or corn, which are more like a grain to your body)

Off to be a mom for a bit -- will finish up later. Until then, here's a video of Dr. Furhman explaining Nutrient Density.

Wow! I just watched the whole video and I love the info he gives. He's so knowledgeable about nutrition -- it's wonderful to learn from him. I hesitated before to write his whole ANDI (Aggregate Nutrient Density Index) list, but since he shows it there on YouTube, I'll go ahead and list it here on my next post (so you don't have to push "pause" to read the whole thing). That way you can get a good picture of which foods are the most vital to eat for your health and see how useless so many other foods that we usually base our diet on are for good health. It becomes evident that eating high nutrient, healthful foods like green vegetables, berries, and seeds and less animal products, sugar, white flour, processed oil, and processed foods is truly the key to excellent health and well-being.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Christmas Weight Gain -- Inevitable?

A few years ago I taught a workshop for women at my church on eating healthy through the holidays. I told them the statistics for weight gain in our country between Thanksgiving and New Year's Day -- 8 pounds of fat. That means while some are staying just the same or could even be losing weight, others gain as much as 15 pounds or more! I've been one of those upper statistics, year after year.

When I was in college, I gained the freshman 10 (at least) and creeped up here and there as the years (and finals) continued on. Each time I prepared to go home for the holidays, I'd crash diet, not wanting my friends to see how much weight I'd gained. Sometimes I'd lose weight, but I'd always gain when I went home. I'd bake and bake -- it was my passion to cook in the kitchen and eat 1/2 the sugary treats that came out of that yummy smelling oven. I felt like such a failure when I'd go back to school, heavier than when I started my crash diet.

As I've learned more about eating healthy and managing my weight, I've still struggled with keeping it all under control over the holidays. There are so many occasions to celebrate (which for some reason means to overeat -- especially with sugar) that I felt like a Scrooge to not participate fully. I mean, isn't that what Christmas is all about? Baking for others, getting plates of cookies dropped off by friends, picking and choosing through big boxes of See's candies, eating stuff that you're not even sure why anyone would make, but after a few bites, it tastes good so you keep eating.

Some years I'd find that I was only eating sugar throughout the day. I'd start by eating somethign on the counter that I'd baked the day before. Once I got that sugar in my system, I didn't want any real food. I'd keep going from cookie, to chocolate, to muffins, to hopefully some ice cream, back to cookies, cookies, and more cookies. Cap that off with some hot chocolate at the end of the day (seems like such the wintery thing to do) and I'd go to bed with a big headache and no desire to get out of bed the next day.

I finally convinced myself that this wasn't doing my body any favors. At first I had to peel myself away from the sugar. I'd play mental games like telling myself that the cookies on the Snowman plate someone dropped off were a week old and tasted awful. It worked. Sometimes I'd just smell them for a bit of satisfaction. It was never tempting. I knew that I was better off without them.

I'd also keep myself away from the baking aisle at the store. If I didn't see those Guittard chocolate chips on sale during the month of December, I wouldn't buy any and couldn't bake with them either. If I didn't buy any molasses, I couldn't make gingerbread. I could, however, buy up oranges and pomegranates and kiwi (oh my!) I also would buy lots of veggies for warm soup to have simmering on the stove. I found that if I cut up fruit or vegetables and left them on the counter, my kids would eat them. They'd eat whatever was there.

I finally broke the trend of gaining 8-10 pounds over the holidays. I stopped feeling sluggish, heavy, and worse of all, out of control when the New Year began. My problem never ended at New Year's. I'd continue on at least through Valentine's Day and sometimes onto Easter. It took at least until June to get that holiday weight off. But now I seem to manage it. I don't look at all that sugar with longing like I did before. I do still bake from time to time, but I use more natural ingredients and don't bake as often or by quadrupling the recipe. I'm not writing this to brag, but to tell you that it is possible.

After 25 years of yo-yoing through the holidays myself, I've learned to keep my weight stagnant by continuing to eat nutrient dense foods and keeping even the healthy sweets to a minimum. After seeing so many friends pass away this year (even just in the past few weeks) from various diseases, I can see there's much more to this that just weight gain. I wish you all a healthy holiday. You don't need to feel deprived -- you'll be richly blessed.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Dr. Joel Furhman Video

I have so much that I want to share about Dr. Furhman and his latest book, "Eat for Health." I'd planned to write a post about what he calls Nutrient Density last week, but my computer broke (still broken -- on my husbands for a bit right now) so I haven't been on much at all. It's an NTLDR boot problem if anyone wants to come to my rescue :).

For now, I want to show you a video Dr. Furham put on YouTube to explain "Eat for Health" a bit. Hmm, now if I could only remember how to embed a video! It's been awhile.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Raw Recipe -- Citrus Green Smoothie

I just came up with this recipe in my kitchen and it's sooooooooo creamy and yummy. I just had to share!

Usually I use my favorite green smoothie formula over and over (with little variations), but tonight I decided to break out of that mold a bit and see how it would go. I took a cooking creations risk and thankfully, it paid off!

Here's what I threw in my blender:

2 tangerines (peeled)
1/4 c. water
1 frozen banana (I'm sure you could use fresh, but frozen made it seem ice-creamy)
1 c. frozen strawberries (I'm guessing on the amount, it may be 1 1/2 c.)
3 handfuls of spinach
2 large chard leaves, broken off the stalk into smaller pieces

I tried it first w/o the water and it just wouldn't blend the frozen stuff. So I added the water after the strawberries to get it to blend. Worked like a charm!

This filled one 8 oz. glass and one much larger (which I froze for tomorrow). Oh, it was dreamy yummy!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Raw Recipe -- Berry Green Smoothies

When I make my green smoothies, I usually use this basic formula. It's always yummy and gives me plenty of dark green leafy greens. Try it!

Berry Green Smoothie Recipe

2 c. juice (I like to juice apples or pineapple but you can use anything --sometimes I put in 2 c. grapes and blend it up for the juice)
2 c. frozen berries (the triple berries are best)
optional -- fresh strawberries, kiwi, peaches, or mango
2 bananas (or 1 if it's really large)
3 big handfuls of washed greens (kale & spinach seem to work best -- if you use kale, make sure you tear it up into spinach leaf size so it doesn't get stuck in the blender -- the kale stems are really coarse and you don't want them in there).

Blend it all up in the order listed. Drink one glass right away, hand another to a friend and freeze the rest (usually another 2 glasses). It's really good thawed out the next day or even up to a week or two later. I've taken them frozen in a cooler when traveling before and it worked great. In the photo I added a few berries whole as a garnish, but it also tastes good to have some berry chunks inside.