How to Get the Most Out of What You
A key principle to healthy eating is to eat nutrient-rich foods.
Vegetables, fruits, beans, peas, lentils, nuts, and eggs are good
examples of health-promoting, nutrient-rich foods.
Unfortunately, simply wolfing down nutrient-rich foods doesn't
guarantee optimal nourishment of your cells. Your digestive system
has to be able to extract nutrients out of the foods that you
eat - this is why chewing thoroughly is vital to your health.
This is also why most people thrive when they eat a variety of
foods in different forms.
Consider a large serving of salad greens. Fresh and uncooked
leafy greens are exceptionally rich in nutrients - they're naturally
abundant in vitamins, minerals, enzymes, water, fiber, and countless
Unfortunately, the tough fiber content and small overall surface
area of leafy greens make them difficult to chew thoroughly to
allow optimal extraction of nutrients. This isn't to say that
you shouldn't bother eating leafy green vegetables - they're excellent
for promoting good overall health, and they're well tolerated
by the masses. I generally recommend that most people aim to eat
the equivalent of a head of romaine lettuce a day.
The point is to consider eating leafy greens in a variety of
forms to ensure that your body is optimally nourished.
For example, juicing a head of romaine lettuce unlocks virtually
all of the health-promoting nutrients in lettuce, ensuring that
your bloodstream has easy access to these nutrients.
Taking a high quality green food powder that has been micropulverized
is another way of squeezing the goodness out of leafy greens.
Cooking softens the fiber in vegetables, which makes it easier
for your body to extract nutrients from within - this is especially
true of firm vegetables like carrots and cabbage. Some heat-sensitive
nutrients in plant foods may be lost with some forms of cooking,
but the overall net gain is typically more than enough to justify
eating a diet that includes both uncooked and cooked vegetables.
Steaming and boiling are cooking methods that effectively soften
fiber in plant foods while preserving the integrity of most of
the nutrients found in vegetables.
When you boil vegetables, consider using the water as a base
for soups, as some of the micronutrients in vegetables make their
way into the water. This is why homemade vegetable and chicken
broths are so nourishing - if made with a variety of vegetables
and with care, they're rich in a variety of nutrients that are
extremely easy to absorb.
In our home, we like to keep batches of vegetable and chicken
broth in our refrigerator to use as bases for all of our soups.
Homemade broth is nourishing for people of all ages, but they're
especially good for the young and the elderly because they're
power-packed with easily absorbed nutrients - mainly minerals
- that are essential to developing and maintaining healthy bones,
teeth, nerve function, and muscle function.
As we age, our bodies tend to produce less stomach acid, which
is needed in generous quantities to properly break down protein.
This is one of the ways in which digestive capacity is weakened
as we get older. This is also a chief reason to consider making
homemade broths a regular part of your diet, as broths are pretty
close to being devoid of protein - they provide many of the micronutrients
found in plant and animal foods, but without a need for large
quantities of stomach acid to become accessible to your bloodstream.
When looking to introduce nutrient-rich foods to babies who are
ready for solids, I generally recommend serving some type of stew
that is made with vegetable or chicken broth - this is a reliable
way of effectively providing growing babies and growing children
with many of the minerals that they need to develop their organ
Homemade broths don't pose the same risks to health that pasteurized
and homogenized dairy products do; the risk of developing any
of the health challenges associated with regular dairy intake
- intermittent ear infections, sinus infections, nasal congestion,
diarrhea, bloody stools, stomach cramping, skin rashes like eczema,
and diabetes type 1, to name a just a few - can be dramatically
reduced and even eliminated by feeding our children homemade broths
instead of dairy.
To make vegetable broth, combine onions, carrots, celery, and
any other vegetables that you have on hand in a large pot, fill
with cold water until vegetables are fully covered, bring to a
boil, lower heat and cover while left to simmer for one hour.
Strain well, season with sea salt, and voila, you have a pot of
gold to nourish your loved ones with.
To make chicken broth, simply add a whole chicken, or part of
one (with bones) to the vegetables and follow the same directions.
If you can make use of chicken meat, keep boiling time down to
about 20 to 30 minutes, as this will impart nutrient-goodness
to the broth and keep the meat tender and sweet. If you can't
make use of chicken meat, ask someone at your local grocery store
for some chicken backs. The key is to include some bones in the
broth for their micronutrient content.
One final note on making broths: When you're finished making
broth and it's been strained, be sure to let it cool for a while
in the pot before transferring to a glass jar - you never know
how thick a glass jar is and how easily it might break. Vegetable
and chicken broth keep for several days when stored in air-tight
glass jars in the refrigerator.
Next up in this series on what to eat is a look at another food
preparation technique that is guaranteed to allow you to get more
out of what you eat.
Dr. Ben Kim is a chiropractor and acupuncturist living and
working in Barrie, Ontario, Canada. Visit his website at www.drbenkim.com
January 13, 2010