April 1, 2017

Superfoods: Fuel for Self-Care.

As an advocate for self-care, I speak about using food as a tool to take the best care of your body.

As a holistic nutritionist, I work with people to optimize the meals they are eating each day so that they may be provided with the most nourishment.

I have found that nourishment looks different for each person, and even for an individual, the best nourishment will vary from day-to-day.

In order to nourish yourself at the deepest level, you must find presence and listen to the messages your body is giving you about what it needs. Some days it may be an all green line-up of kale, spinach, and seaweeds—and other days a little sweet soul food could be what the doctor ordered.

The key is to be able to honestly ask yourself what is best for you in that specific moment, and then act with love to give yourself just that.

Presence is a practice—and so is self-care. Some days it will be more difficult than others. What is important is that you do your best, and keep trying to improve each day.

Here are some of my favourite foods for deep nourishment. They are superfoods, but they are also real foods. In other words, they are foods you can pronounce the names of. You won’t have to ask the guy at Whole Foods to help you find them.

Adding nutrient-dense foods to my recipes is my favourite method of self-care.

Aside from making you feel like you can fend off vampires, garlic has an incredible amount of benefit nutritionally. Garlic is a potent part of my immune system tool-kit. It is an infection fighter due to an anti-microbial compound called allicin.

To optimize the potential of your garlic, activate the allicin by chopping it and let it sit for five minutes before heating. I love using garlic to kick a cold or flu, upset stomach, and it is helpful in treating candida overgrowth. Garlic is also loaded with sulphur, which activates liver enzymes that help your body flush out toxins.

Turmeric is hot right now, and for good reason. It is my favourite anti-inflammatory ingredient. It is a food that I use for taste but also for its medicinal properties. Food as medicine all the way!

Stress, exercise, sugar, caffeine, poor diet, food sensitivities, and a lack of sleep all lead to inflammation in the body. I am always sneaking this golden spice into turmeric lattes, curries, stir fries, protein balls, salad dressings, and on roasted veggies. A little bit goes a long way. It can be used as a natural yellow food colouring.

While beets can be an acquired taste, their nutritional content might convince you to give them another shot. Beets are nourishing for your liver, stimulating the effects of liver detoxification.

Beets are an excellent addition to your next cleanse. They improve oxygen flow through the body and increase the production of nitric oxide. This is great for detoxification and also for improving athletic performance.

What you may not know is that you can eat the greens and they have a higher nutritional value than the brightly coloured roots. They have a salty flavour which lends itself well to salads and stir fries. My favourite way to mix in the greens is in a homemade pesto.

Dandelion roots can be made into a healthful coffee substitute. While we know it as a pesky weed, it is cultivated for its incredible nutrient content. Dandelion is used to improve liver function, promote a healthy body weight, and improve blood sugar control.

The root and greens are both very bitter, and the bitter taste greatly improves digestion. It acts as a choleric and a cholagogue which helps to increase the functioning of bile in our bodies.

Make sure the dandelion that you’re eating is grown for consumption, and hasn’t been sprayed with toxic chemicals—don’t pick it from the sidewalk cracks or your neighbours lawn.

Along with their other cruciferous vegetables, cabbages are potent anti-cancer food. The whole cruciferous vegetable family is packed with phytonutrients. These can be thought of as plant chemicals that provide us with benefits above what vitamins and minerals do.

Cabbage is rich in glucosinolates which have strong antioxidant effects and improve the body’s ability to detoxify and eliminate harmful chemicals and hormones. High in glutamine which is beneficial for repair and regeneration of our cells, especially in our gut, cabbage is wonderful for helping to heal gut inflammation. Sauerkraut or kimchi are my favourite way to enjoy cabbage because you’re getting the added benefit of probiotics. Just when you thought it couldn’t get any better, right?

Cayenne pepper
This heating spice acts to stimulate and enhance digestion. Cayenne is also beneficial for the cardiovascular system, and it reduces blood cholesterol. Another benefit is that is increases your metabolic rate, helping to burn fat for energy production. This herb is amazing for cold or flu season as it helps to thin our mucus, clearing out stuck bacteria, and allowing us to breathe more easily.

I love mixing cayenne into an elixir with fresh ginger and lemon juice to wake up my taste buds and digestive system. This combination is great for the immune system too.

Author: Haley Parrent

Image: Dan Nicholas/Flickr

Editor: Lieselle Davidson 

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