AGRICULTURE HAS CHANGED
I have been involved in agriculture all my life. In addition, I opened a health food distribution company over forty years ago and have been involved intimately in that industry. Because of my close involvement with the health food industry I also began farming comfrey and became the world’s largest grower of that herb. Over the years I have heard many referrals to foods called healthy power foods. At first I was unsure what that term meant, we will look at that a little later. There is no real definition of healthy power foods. The closest definition probably is one used for “superfoods.” First used in 1915 the term superfood loosely means a food such as salmon, broccoli, or blueberries that is considered beneficial to a person’s health. The term also refers to foods that increase energy, help regulate blood pressure and may help to prevent certain diseases. I first heard the term healthy power foods in relation to athletics and foods that help with energy for the human body. The important point here however is that the way we grow our foods has changed dramatically over the last few decades. An example would be the way we apply fertilizers. As a boy the fields of corn that my Father grew were always the recipient of the cow manure from our dairy cows. Today commercial fertilizers have replaced, to a great extent, those older methods. In that process of change we also lost, in most cases, the many micro elements (minerals, chemicals, etc.) that used to be applied with raw manure. Consequently our foods have become lower and lower in their actual nutrient value. Witness how the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s own recommendations have dramatically changed to higher and higher recommended consumption levels for fruits and vegetables over the last few years. Even the Journal of the American Medical Association has in recent years recommended that all U.S. citizens should be taking a vitamin supplement. In addition, the use of strong herbicides and pesticides plus new processing techniques have all altered the food value of our basic crops.
A FEW INTERESTING POINTS
In talking about healthy power foods there are many things to be aware of. We may think of fiber, calories, etc. but four very important areas are the available vitamins, minerals, glycans and phytonutrients. In addition there are certain terms that in the last few years have become very popular which we should examine. Those terms are: Organic, Natural, Synthetic and Semisynthetic. Let’s look at each of them.
!) ORGANIC. This term has been used as a marketing tool for over four decades and is often misunderstood. All plant life on earth is carbon-based. Organic refers to anything that contains carbon molecules. It also refers to anything that is alive or was at one time alive. Example; fossil fuels were once plant life and are organic. Most states refer to produce where no pesticides were intentionally applied as being organic. “Organic” on in-store fruits and vegetables makes no guarantee of purity or nutritional value.
2) NATURAL. Natural refers to anything that occurs naturally on our planet. That would include rocks, lead, arsenic, dirt, etc. Natural does not mean safe to consume or that the item is nutritious. This term is often misused to confer that natural means it is better for you.
3) SYNTHETIC. A synthetic is something made by humans. A synthetic is anything that is not a naturally occurring substance.
4) SEMISYNTHETIC. A fairly new term referring to anything that combines two or more natural or organic substances that do not naturally occur together. This might be a new type herbicide or fertilizer that has been created by combining more than two naturally occurring organic substances.
WHAT DO HEALTHY POWER FOODS DO?
Healthy power foods or superfoods usually help to promote better health by supporting the immune system function and providing better nutrition to the body. No single food source can do it all. A green leafy salad is healthier than a plate of french fries. A tasty salmon filet is far better for you than a cheeseburger. The term healthy power foods was first introduced to me by a friend of mine who played for fourteen years in the National Football League. Obviously a place where the food he ate was an important part of his daily regimen! He was looking for foods that gave him a broad range of antioxidants, as well as minerals and vitamins. Fiber was an important part of his daily diet. He searched out plants high in flavenoids to give him anti-inflammatory and anti-carcinogenic properties. High on his search list were foods that gave him a strong helping of healthy fats.
SOME HEALTHY POWER FOODS (OR SUPERFOODS.)
Let’s look at a few of the foods that have been called Healthy Power Foods or Superfoods.
1) Avocados. Rich in monounsaturated fats and potassium, avocados are a great diet addition.
2) Berries. Let’s list just a few! Blueberries, cranberries, raspberries, tart cherries, elderberry, strawberry, acai berries, goji berries. Loaded with flavenoids berries can be a delicious way to gain good nutrition!
3) Beets. Have you heard of betaine? Betaine from beets has now become one of the most popular prebiotic fibers!
4) Chia Seeds. Native to Mexico and Guatemala they are a good source of fiber, protein and antioxidants, plus minerals like phosphorous, magnesium, iron and zinc.
5) Cinnamon. Great for reducing inflammation, blood sugars and cholesterol.
6) Dark Leafy Greens. So many to choose from! Alfalfa is so rich in nutrients. Arugula, Bok choy, broccoli, kale, spinach, Swiss chard, watercress. Soursop containing powerful phytonutrients. Dandelion greens are an ancient power food!
7) Garlic. Not a leafy green but so valuable I had to add it in!
8) Ginger. Used for generations ginger has a broad range of benefits. Add it to your smoothies for a different taste.
9) Green Tea. Again this one is ancient but only recently has come back into favor. Loaded with antioxidants it also is supposed to help protect your cells from damage.
10) Yogurt. Great source of probiotics. Supplies calcium and protein. Avoid too much added sugar.
11) Kefir. One of my favorite refreshing drinks. Add a little honey and fruit for great flavor. High in probiotics.
12) Salmon. I am from the Northwest and fresh wild salmon is my favorite fish! High in omega-3 fatty acids, your body does not make these. The American Heart Association says to eat at least two helpings of fish per week. Easy to prepare in many different ways. Try broiled with cranberry sauce on top. Yummy!
WHERE TO GO FROM HERE?!
The very best thing to do is to develop a diet rich in fresh fruits and veggies as soon as possible. Fresh fish is a welcome addition to any healthy power food diet. One of the very real challenges in todays world is that fresh fruits and vegetables are very expensive! As a boy I lived on a farm. My Mother canned applesauce (we had a small orchard) she made our own jams and jellies, she even bottled the most delicious concord grape juice each year! Sadly, few of us have a garden or orchard today! For many of us using a good supplement can be a step toward a better diet. One consideration could be to carefully select fruits and vegetables that have a longer shelf life and combine those with a good supplement. Apples can be kept at a low temperature for quite some time. Do you have space for a small vegetable garden? I have a friend in New York City who raises a small (but very productive) garden in low wooden boxes on her patio. She has carrots, lettuce and radishes all spring and summer! They even look decorative!
Please feel free to leave me any comments or questions.