Posts Tagged ‘Superfoods’

Macrobiotics and the Raw Food Diet

On the surface, Macrobiotics and a Raw Food Diet seem either very close on the continuum or very far apart. Both can be viewed by the mainstream as “radical,” “extreme,” often “vegan,” and “quasi-religious in their fanatism.” Both focus on the energy of food, albeit in different ways. On the other hand, Macrobiotics cooks nearly everything, including fruit, eschews things like chocolate, coconuts and bananas as far too yin for the Northern Hemisphere, and views beer as superior to wine. Most raw foodies steer clear of grains, whereas Macrobiotics puts grains, especially brown rice, into the highest category of nutrition. Despite these apparent contradictions, in my raw food coaching and dietary transition coaching, I have found that Macrobiotics and Raw Food can synergize into quite a valuable combination.

Here’s how you, too, can combine “big life” with “the best day ever”:

Eat with the Seasons

Primarily a Macrobiotic principle, this one offers some strong benefits to raw foodies, most obviously in terms of produce freshness. It also ensures a variety of nutrients instead of the green smoothie ruts many raw foodists can slip into.

You know what I mean, right? Throw some bananas and spinach in the blender and you’re good to go … every single day … for weeks on end! Uh-uh. Green smoothies are great, but every diet needs variety, especially ones that exclude a wide range of “normal” foods. Eating seasonly helps bring trace nutrients and different vitamins into the mix. You can still drink a green smoothie every single day, but mix it up a bit with whatever fruit and greens are in season where you live.

Eat Locally

A Macrobiotic corollary to the last principle, this one seems both obvious and challenging to raw foodies. On the one hand, of course! Support your local Farmer’s Market or CSA. It’s cheaper, fresher, seasonal and usually organic. And did I mention cheaper??

On the other hand, most superfoods come from all over the globe. It is a common feat for that Vitamix to contain items from perhaps 5 of the 7 continents on any given morning. Hey, I love my cacao, hemp, goji berries, and acai just as much as the next superfoodist. OK, maybe more in the case of cacao. 😉 I personally find superfoods a valuable and sustainable addition to the raw food diet, and I would find life without blue green algae, well, a little less fulfilling.

But … and this is a big but … there is something to eating locally. According to Macrobiotics, tropical fruits (especially bananas and coconuts), coffee, nightshades and chocolate are extremely expansive and “yin.” Macrobiotics looks at the energy of food in terms of yin (up, opening, feminine, expansive) and yang (down, contracting, masculine, focusing). I am drastically oversimplifying here, but please bear with me.

Sometimes raw foodists have a difficult time staying “grounded.” They enjoy the clarity and high of 100% raw food but after awhile start feeling spacey, out of body or generally disconnected from “the real world.” If this describes you, then eating locally can help in two ways. First, if you live in the Northern Hemisphere, you will drastically reduce the amount of airy fairy yin foods in your diet because bananas, coconuts and cacao don’t grow in Pennsylvania or New Hampshire. Or England. Second, eating food grown within 1-50 miles of where you live anchors you to that locale. Raw foodies like to say, “You are what you eat.” Indeed, you are also “Where you eat.” If you have trouble with “Be here now,” try working in some local goodies. It really does help!

You will also feel warmer if you eat more local foods, especially in winter. Tropical foods help to cool the body because it’s HOT in the tropics. If you find yourself shivering on a raw food diet during a Chicago January, cut back on the bananas in your morning smoothie and see if it doesn’t curb those goosebumps.

Chew Your Food

Macrobiotics advocates chewing each mouthful 50-100 times. Indeed, with all the whipping, blending, chopping and juicing of a raw food diet, we sometimes forget the necessity of truly chewing our food. Raw foodists emphasize “enzymes” as one of the greatest advantages of raw food over cooked food. Please remember that digestive enzymes begin in the mouth. “Chew your smoothies” even if you blend them thoroughly. You will digest them better. When you eat crunchy things, especially dehydrated crackers or “breads,” make sure you chomp them into a liquid slurry. You’ll find your body handles them much easier.

Eat Sea Veggies

Yep, nori, wakame, kelp … they provide rich nutrients in both Macrobiotics and many Raw Food Diets. If you want to stay strictly raw, watch your sourcing of sea vegetables. Most supermarket ones are cooked. As an added treat, you can use Irish Moss to congeal or thicken raw pies. Holy wow, does that make a tasty difference! Actually, you won’t usually taste the Irish Moss, but you’ll appreciate the texture of Raw Lemon Meringue pie and Chocolate (gasp!) Mousse that much more with this wonderful sea veggie in the mix. Because both Macrobiotics and Raw Food Diets tend to eliminate or minimize most meats, sea veggies provide important minerals that might otherwise be lacking in these diets. Eat up!

Whole Foods

No, I’m not talking about the grocery store that drops your jaw every time you reach the cash register. I’m talking about the principle that whole, unprocessed foods tend to offer more bang for your caloric buck than crazy mixtures of ingredients ground into “flour” or mixed together in strange ways to resemble “traditional” foods. Yep, I’m talking about Gourmet Raw Food and processed raw snacks.

Confession: I adore both and I love supporting places like Cafe Gratitude and One Lucky Duck. Truly. I hope they take over the world like Dunkin’ Donuts, McDonald’s, Hostess and Little Debbie. But … do consider what you’re eating on the most regular basis, especially if you find yourself locked into the “it must be 100% raw” mindset. Do you honestly believe that an entire bag of coconut macaroons is “more nutritious” than an occasional cup of brown rice for dinner? Or that a side of lightly steamed broccoli pales in comparison to say, a jar of raw nut butter? If so, that’s fine. Trust your own body’s response at ALL times over anything I say. If, however, you gradually begin to feel less energetic, more sluggish or generally less than “the best ever” on a 100% raw food diet, examine two things:

1) How much fat are you eating?

2) What ratio of whole foods versus processed items do you eat per day? The body does like simple things, so some brown rice or quinoa with steamed veggies might actually feel more balancing and energizing after awhile than multiple raw fats combined into a tasty “sandwich” or pate.

Watch Your Sugars and Salts

Macrobiotics likes to focus on foods that rest comfortably in the middle range of yin and yang. Sugar, sweet fruits, alcohol, chocolate, coffee and recreational drugs are the most expansive or yin. Meat, eggs, and salt, including miso, Nama Shoyu and sea veggies, are the most contractive or yang. If you find yourself bouncing between extremes of energy and lethargy, between euphoria and irritability, or between spot on intuition and brain fog, you might want to explore your sugar-salt patterns.

The body likes balance. That’s why Coconut Bliss tastes so yummy after a seaweed salad. Oh, alright, Coconut Bliss tastes good anytime! But seriously, even on a “conscious” diet like Raw Foods, we can quickly become a slave to the yin-yang tyranny of foods. If you feel less than optimal on any diet, consider how you’d like to feel and utilize foods to bring you there. If you feel too spacy, think roots. If you feel like you want to bite someone’s head off, back off on the salted sauerkraut and flax crackers for awhile. And if you want to live on cacao, don’t forget your celery-cucumber juice to bring you back into orbit.

For more on the Raw Food Diet, mood and food and Macrobiotics, please check out The Lazy Raw Foodist’s Guide, which takes out most of the work and leaves the fun. 😉

Cozy Takes on Green Smoothies

Brrrr … Autumn’s chill has crept into the morning air, sometimes lasting into afternoon and getting downright cold at night. What’s an aspiring raw foodie to do? If you’re like me, you probably don’t feel wild about tepid green smoothies. I like them very cold and refreshing — except on chilly mornings. Then, I just want something warm and cozy in my belly. Warm, cozy and filling, that is. When the temperature drops, my metabolism goes into higher gear working to keep me warm.

Enter some fun variations on the traditional green smoothie. Raw fooders and health-conscious folks alike can try these ideas to start the day with a nutritional kick and a cozy belly.

The (Now-Famous) Dandelion-Chai Smoothie:

dandelion greens (I used 1/2 bunch)
some leftover chai tea (I like red roobois chai for extra anti-oxidants)
about 9 figs
1 small apple
1 tbsp chia seeds
a little extra water if you don’t have much tea

Blend. This tastes like a thick apple cider!

You can serve warm, but let the tea cool slightly before blending so that you preserve the enzymes in the fruit and greens.

***Please be VERY careful when blending warm or hot liquids. Make sure to tighten the blender lid before starting. Also, if your blender is very cold, please let the tea cool a bit before pouring into glass, so that your carafe doesn’t crack.

Peppermint Hot Chocolate

Herbs “count” as greens, and cacao and mint go well together. This also works well as a cold drink, especially if you freeze the bananas and use chilled nutmilk.

1/2 bunch mint
1-3 TBSP raw cacao (depending on desired kick; also good with carob)
2 bananas
1 cup water or favorite nutmilk
1 cup warm peppermint or other herbal tea (cinnamon flavors work nice, too)
1 dropperful of vanilla stevia (or one xylitol packet + vanilla bean or vanilla extract or 1 TBSP raw honey)

Blend and enjoy. For extra heat, you can also add up to 1 tsp. cayenne pepper before you blend.

Yerba Mate Latte

You can sometimes find unroasted Yerba Mate, but the traditional Mate still packs some nutritional punch with lots of b-vitamins and mateine for energy. Brewed Yerba Mate is naturally a bit green. I like it brewed and then slightly sweetened with xylitol or stevia and mixed with my favorite nutmilk. Being a Lazy Raw Foodist, though, I sometimes just mix it with a little boxed Hemp Milk or Oat Milk fortified with vitamin D — an important winter nutrient for vegans.

For a special treat, I’ll add 2 drops of peppermint essential oil + 1 tsp raw cacao powder before mixing in the milk. Choco-minty-madness in a cup!

Lovely Licorice

I’ve also found licorice tea a nice base for superfood smoothies. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, licorice is added to most herbal remedies. It nourishes the adrenals, helps with diabetes and has also been shown to block one of the main toxins released by the Lyme Disease bacteria.

I like this one:

warm licorice tea
5-15 leaves dinosaur kale (fewer if it’s old and bitter)
1 TBSP spirulina (very optional)
2 bananas
1/2 – 1 cucumber
3 schizandra berries (more will make it too tart, but 3 imparts a complex flavor)
tinctures of:
fo-ti
reishi
gotu-kola
St. John’s Wort (which, in addition to fighting winter blues has the happy effect of soothing frazzled nerves).

I usually add some chia seeds and lucuma powder and/or honey to thicken and sweeten. Licorice imparts a slightly sweet taste, so you don’t need too much lucuma.

For a variant, you could add goji berries instead of the bananas. I don’t eat bananas with gojis as it makes my stomach hurt, but you might fare better.

Experiment!

This morning, I’m going to experiment with some Numi Rooibos, beet greens, pears and pumpkin pie spice. I’ll post the recipe if it turns out well.

In general, think warm, think winter herbs and spices, think drink by the cozy fire … and see what you invent!

For more sneaky ways to get your greens, you might enjoy The Lazy Raw Foodist’s Guide … and if you’d like to curl up with a book by that cozy fire, might I recommend Schizandra and the Gates of Mu? 😉

Superfoods for Migraines

Migraines and cluster headaches: whatever the label, the pain and side effects can be intense! In addition to traditional treatments, including more of the following “superfoods” can help.

What are superfoods? Well, they’re not exactly supplements–although some supplement companies have begun to market “extracts” of various superfoods. By definition, superfoods are whole foods or oils that offer exceptionally high doses of nutrition. People call them “super” in part because of their benefits and in part due to their origins. Most superfoods are not new; rather, they’ve been used by powerful ancient cultures and only recently rediscovered by the West. Although some scientists and many raw foodists credit superfoods with amazing regenerative and protective abilities for almost any health issue, this article discusses superfoods for special consideration by those who suffer migraines and/or cluster headaches.

Cacao (kuh-COW): Commonly marketed as raw cacao or raw chocolate, this “food of the gods” actually became monetary currency in the Aztec empire! Conventional wisdom tells those with migraines to avoid chocolate as a major trigger food. While some people do have sensitivities to chocolate, most people actually react to the typical dairy and refined sugar in cooked chocolate bars. Raw cacao, by contrast, offers seven times the antioxidants of its cooked version, without the offending dairy and sugar. More importantly for those with migraines, raw cacao contains one of the highest sources of magnesium in any food. Magnesium acts as the relaxing counterpart to calcium and helps to balance brain chemisty. In fact, many migraine sufferers manage to stave off headaches by consuming large quantities of magnesium supplements. Magnesium can also help with PMS, another known trigger of migraines. In addition to magnesium, raw cacao offers caffeine (which seems to affect the body less intensely in its raw form). Some people with migraines find that judicious use of caffeine can curtail a headache before it becomes a full blown episode. Most prescription migraine pills contain some form of caffeine. From a nutritional standpoint, raw cacao certainly beats a Pepsi! If you know for sure that chocolate causes a reaction, skip the raw cacao, but otherwise it could be worth a (delicious) try. Add cacao nibs or powder to morning smoothies, or make raw fudge by mixing the powder with coconut butter, raw agave nectar or honey, and some of the other superfoods listed below. As with any new food, start small so you can monitor your reactions.

Maca (MAH-kuh): Also known as “Peruvian viagra,” maca is a root grown at 14,000 feet in the Andes Mountains. Despite its fame for keeping Peruvian men virile into their 80’s, maca actually functions as an adaptogen, meaning it balances all hormones. If someone has too much estrogen, maca works to lower estrogen levels. If another person has too little estrogen, maca helps the body bring those levels back to optimal levels. Maca also nourishes the adrenal glands, helping the body handle some of the stress that so often triggers cluster headaches and migraines. Maca grows in some of the most inhospitable conditions on earth, but it has learned to flourish where other plants die. Natives believe that the root transfers this strength and adaptability to those who consume it: “You are what you eat!” Metaphysics aside, maca’s high mineral content, B-vitamins, protein, fatty acids, and plant sterols allow it to rebuild the body wherever it most needs help–good news for people whose headaches come from stress or hormonal imbalance. Maca tastes a bit like radish, so you don’t want to add too much to sweet smoothies. It blends exceptionally well with cacao, though, and I always enjoy a morning glass of fresh squeezed lemon juice in water with about a teaspooon of maca. The lemon brings out maca’s hidden sweetness, making a surprisingly zesty lemonade.

Hemp: No, I’m not talking about marijuana, even though some people do employ cannabis for medicinal purposes. You can now find hulled hemp seeds, hemp butter, hemp protein powder and hemp oil at alternative health food stores and in many online shops. Despite virtually no THC content (the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana), the U.S. government prohibits the sale of hemp seeds ready for sprouting, so you can only legally buy hulled ones or hemp products, most of which seem to come from Canada. Nonetheless, hemp has experienced a major resurgence in recent years as people have rediscovered what ancient Europeans knew so long ago. Hemp supports the immune system and contains edestin, the protein most easily assimilated by humans–good news for people who react to protein powders made from soy or dairy (whey). Hemp seeds, butter and oil also contain the perfect ratio of Omega 3 and Omega 6 fatty acids, thought to help balance hormones and brain chemistry. In addition, the green color of hemp comes from chlorophyll, which differs only by one atom from hemoglobin. (Hemoglobin forms around an iron atom, whereas chlorophyll forms around that beneficial magnesium atom.) Purifying the blood with chlorophyll-rich foods like hemp, wheat grass and leafy greens can alkalinize the body, which, in turn, eases stress responses like migraines and cluster headaches. Hemp protein powder tastes a bit gritty, but the butters, oil and seeds carry a pleasant, slightly nutty sensation that combines especially well with raw cacao and maca. You can also replace the bulghur wheat (gluten is a major migraine trigger) in foods like tabouli with hemp seeds, or use hemp butter as a nutritious replacement for another common trigger–peanut butter.

Yerba Mate (YUR-buh MAH-tay): For those people who know they need to kick the coffee habit but simply can’t forgo their cuppa Joe, Yerba Mate offers a good substitute. Another highly mineralized South American food, Yerba Mate tastes somewhat similar to coffee, but instead of depleting the adrenal glands, it nourishes them with B-vitamins, 15 amino acids, 11 polyphenols (like in green tea and red wine) and, you guessed it: more magnesium and chlorophyll. Whereas coffee provides a caffeine jolt, mate’s energy comes from the B-vitamins, blood purifying properties and a component called mateine. Unlike caffeine, mateine gives a lift without the crash. Some independent coffee houses now serve soymilk “mate lattes,” or you can brew the tea at home. For best results, warm but don’t boil the water, then let the tea steep for 5 minutes. You can then add hemp milk and essential oils like peppermint with a hint of raw cacao powder, creating your own minty mocha. Yerba Mate also brews well as a sun tea, mixed with orange peel or traditional chai tea spices. A favorite of shamans, Yerba Mate offers a traditional, nutritional alternative to coffee, along with minerals and nutrients thought to support hormonal balance and alkalinity.

In short, these superfoods bring trace minerals, potent nutrients, and a bit of folklore. As foods rather than drugs, they gradually rebuild and support the body, instead of generating a “quick fix.” If you’d like a holistic approach to treating migraines or cluster headaches and haven’t responded to “newfangled cures,” you might want to explore some ancient culinary treats.

 

Related:  www.lazyrawfoodist.com

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