What is Holistic Natural Medicine?
Natural medicine has a very long history and does not represent one unified discipline or modality. The most developed traditions, Chinese medicine (which includes acupuncture) and Ayurveda from India, go back thousands of years. Naturopathic medicine is a Western system that is over 100 years old, and homeopathy was developed in the late 1700s. These are highly developed medical systems that differ from natural folk remedies because they’re based on a coherent theory and system of diagnosis and treatment. Unfortunately these traditional approaches have been overshadowed by the development of modern Western medicine or biomedicine, and technology-based medicine. This is one reason natural medicine is often called alternative or complementary medicine and is not as well known in Western countries. However, since the 1970s, it has been steadily growing in popularity.
In simple terms, we can define natural medicine as the use of natural means to treat and prevent illness. It includes a broad range of modalities and methods, ranging from manual manipulation (bodywork, massage, and chiropractic adjustments), diet, nutrition and herbal-botanical remedies to more subtle techniques like acupuncture and acupressure. We can also include exercise (like yoga, Qi Gong and aerobics), as well as mental or consciousness-altering practices like meditation. Because the body and mind are not separate, psychotherapy and somatic therapies can also play an important part in this approach. Stress, which is one of the major causes of health and life problems, is often emotionally based, and some forms of psychotherapy are very helpful in getting to the root causes. These modalities can be used individually or in conjunction with each other. Since every person’s system and condition is unique, it’s necessary to determine which approach or combination will be most effective. Lifestyle is considered central to the treatment and prevention of illness but is not often addressed by mainstream medicine.
These different approaches work on different levels and parts of the body, but they share some basic assumptions and a similar orientation. The most important is that the human body, as part of nature, possesses an innate intelligence with the ability to self-regulate. Science observes the results of this innate intelligence and calls it self-organizing systems. That is why the body can heal itself, and the goal of this approach is to facilitate that natural process rather than interfere with it. Systems always tend toward balance and harmony, even after they are interfered with or disrupted by illness or breakdown. Medicine is based on a practical understanding of the natural laws that govern life and the human body. These laws or principles are studied by ecology and physics and used by natural medical approaches even if the practitioners do not know it. When viewed from a holistic or integral perspective, all systems exhibit characteristics that are greater than the sum of the parts. They have the ability to self-correct themselves when imbalances and dysfunctions develop, if the body is strong enough. That is why practitioners put emphasis on strengthening the body and avoiding internal and external stress. They consider the body, mind and emotions as aspects of one system in the context of lifestyle—they cannot practically be separated. They look at how the different parts work together as a whole, as an integral system, rather than how they act independently or separately. If illness or health problems develop, the principle question is how to intervene in the system and at what level in order to facilitate a return to balance and optimal functioning—health. According to this perspective, the less the body’s normal functions are interfered with, the less burdened it is, the more balanced it will become. The more we unburden the body-mind the faster it will return to health. Empirical evidence is steadily mounting that shows natural medical approaches are significantly more effective, less expensive and safer than biomedicine. Health is the harmonious, dynamic balance of body, mind and emotions.
Mainstream medicine focuses on disease itself, not the whole body or person. It identifies and defines a particular dis ease based on objective signs (skin rash, blood in stools, high blood pressure, etc.) and pays less attention to subjective symptoms, like fatigue, headaches and stomachaches. Once identified it usually treats the disease by using pharmaceutical drugs or surgery. For example, if you have a headache, you’re advised to take an aspirin or a prescribed medication; for a skin rash, like eczema, a steroid based cream; high blood pressure or high cholesterol, various medications. Although these treatments bring significant relief, it is temporary, and the downside to our health is the side effects they produce. In most cases the medication ends up damaging, via toxification, the immune system and some vital organs, which are essential to healing, disease prevention and maintaining health. Biomedicine can diagnosis a disease very effectively but does not address the underlying cause of most illnesses. Surgery can remove a tumor or open a clogged artery but generally ignores causes. It does not explain the cause in the first place! That is because treatments only act on the objective signs of the disease, independent of the whole body system. The measure of success is based on whether the signs disappear or not. Unfortunately the elimination or suppression of disease signs ignores the root causes for why the symptoms developed in the first place. The different diagnoses by biomedicine can result from the same cause or underlying condition.
Another key distinguishing characteristic of the natural approaches to health is that they do not treat the disease, but the person. This may sound like a contradiction because most believe that medicine always treats disease and illness. Natural medicine thinks about the body-mind, illness and health so differently from biomedicine, and this is a crucial point of difference. Disease is actually the body’s resistance to imbalances, which manifests as signs and symptoms—causing us to not feel well. As pointed out, the goal is to help the body return to balance, which cannot be achieved by fighting the disease alone. We have to change and aid the bodily system and natural functions rather than focus on the signs of the disease process.
The positive side of a modern medicine is that it is extremely effective at diagnosis, lifesaving emergency care, inoculation, surgery and the sophisticated technologies it uses. But it does very poorly with chronic health issues, mental illness, stress and the most common health concerns in Western countries: heart disease, cancer, stroke, diabetes, lung disease and autoimmune diseases like M.S., Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s. Biomedicine does very well at extending life by suppressing the disease process. However, in many cases “healthcare” has become “sick-care.” Empirical and anecdotal evidence show that these health problems can be
successfully prevented by lifestyle changes and treated by using 100 percent natural means. The most powerful tools are diet, exercise and stress management – the central components of lifestyle and preventive medicine. This is where traditional and natural approaches truly excel. Preventive medicine holds the keys to wellbeing and health. These approaches together collectively possess the practical knowledge needed to strengthen the body and increase wellness so we know what to do to create health, not just cure or manage sickness. Natural medicine focuses on the whole person and on getting the body itself back in balance so that its innate self-healing abilities are able to correct the imbalance which manifest as ill health. As the body rebalances itself, the signs and symptoms disappear naturally, not through repression (what drugs do), but because the body overcomes the disorder(s) that produce them.
We now have the possible integral or holistic approach based on a new paradigm that would help people create the conditions for health and wellbeing. Natural medicine becomes truly holistic when it treats the whole person, when the body, mind, emotions and lifestyle are included as part of our health considerations. Increasing wellness is much more effective than treating illness. By changing and strengthening the system, it will naturally overcome disease and we can thrive again.
© 2016 Keyvan Golestaneh
Introduction to Transition to an Optimal Healthy Diet
Most people want to stay healthy and prevent illness and disease. Some of you may already have health problems and want to find ways to cure them. Others may be confused about all the diets that are available on the market today. Besides avoiding stress there is nothing more important for your health, self-empowering and practical than eating the right foods and maintaining the right diet. Its number one!
But what is the “right diet”? By “right diet” I mean what is right for you, not a one-size-fit all diet. No one diet can absolutely suit all the need of everybody, because everyone has a unique genetic, constitutional body type and historical background. But there are general principles founded on biology, chemistry, qualities of elements in nature and the body that can guide us. These principles apply to everyone and will guide us in the course.
Diet is not just about chemistry and molecules, which is what Western nutritional science has made it into. Western scientific approach to food and diet is usually oriented toward weight loss or bulking up (muscle building). The two major traditions of Asia (Traditional Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine) use food to create health, prevent illness and treat disease and other psychophysical symptoms. They don’t consider food and diet in terms of chemistry and nutrients, but in terms of what we call flavors (taste), energies, and actions.
Here is the model used in Asian traditions. Nature manifest different qualities, like cold, hot, dry, wet, damp, and windy. Nature has what we call a weather system, sometime it nice and balanced and other times it to hot or to cold, or to windy and damp. The same goes for the body. It can be to dry or to damp, hot or cold. The idea is to maintain a balance among these elements. If we can maintain a balance we can help prevent disease and promote health. Foods these qualities can either promote or aggravate the actions and qualities of the body. For example if you are cold, foods with a warming quality can help balance you and make you warmer.
There is a “right diet” for everyone but no single diet is right for everyone!
Beside pleasure we need to eat to keep our body and cells alive. From a scientific perspective the main nutrients that our cells need are call macronutrient, which consist of protein, carbohydrates, and fat[K1]. Macronutrients are converted in the process of digestion to the fuel glucose, which is what power our cells. The proportions or ratio of these macronutrients will vary from person to person and according to ones biological type and beyond that, according to ones unique individual needs. What your metabolism and body type are will determine the proportions of macro-nutrients you require.
There are various way of determining your constitution or body type based on different systems like metabolic typing, Ayurveda, humors, and Chinese medicine[K2]. To determine what constitutional and metabolic type you are we have provided a self-test for you to take (constitutional type). This is a good way to provide you with general guideline from which to start choosing foods that are right for you. No matter what body type category fits you in the end only you can determine what you needs are through trail and error, intentional experimentation and personal experience. Learn to trust your experience.
This course is meant to give you a broad overview of a how to create a benign and healthy diet that is suited the general population. It will serve as a jumping off point for developing your owe personalized diet. Some of you may end up staying closely to what we have presented here, while others will move towards a mostly uncooked “raw” food diet. In the end I hope you are motivated enough to start to follow a diet that meets the needs of your body types and health requirements.
As a general rule the further away food is on the genetic and evolutionary scale the human body the healthy and more compatible that food will be with your body.
The following are meant as general guidelines. Individual needs and health conditions should be taken into account. (It is always best to consult with or be guided by a health care professional trained in natural medicine and nutrition for personalized guidance and recommendations.)
Where to Start: (it helps to start in the order given but that is not absolutely necessary)
1) - if you are not already a vegetarian start by cutting back on the consumption of animal products like red meat, pork, poultry, and fish to no more than once a day than to 3x per week; after that cut out red meat, pork and poultry all together and eat only fish two or three times per week - gradually eliminate fish altogether
2) - eliminate dairy, and caffeine (black teas and coffee), green tea is ok
3) - eliminate processed foods, starches and refined sugars
4) – cut back on the quantities of carbohydrates in your diet and make sure you are getting enough fats and proteins
5) - eliminate gluten based products like wheat, pasta, and barley (you can switch to non-gluten grains like quinoa, teff, and millet)
6) – start using mainly olive oil for dishes and olive and sesame oil for cooking
7) - gradually increase the amount of greens and vegetables in your diet
8) - start increasing the amount of uncooked raw foods in your diet (eating uncooked foods does not mean you have to eat cold foods, let food get to room temperate before you eat it)
9) – increase your intake of fresh living water to at least 4-6 8 oz glasses per day (depending on your body weight)
10) – increase the amount of nuts and seeds in your diet
11) – gradually cut back on your level of non-gluten grains to no more than ¼ to ½ cup per day
12) – move to non-sweet fruits like berries and only eat sweet fruits occasionally and preferable away for other foods
13) - make your goal 50% uncooked foods
14) – eat a lighter breakfast and latter dinner (if possible) and don’t eat past 7:30 pm & don’t overeat
15) – eat fresh organic foods whenever possible
16) – masticate or chew your foods well because digestion start in the month, and it will help prevent overeating
17) – don’t over cook foods, steaming mean foods are crispy not limp
Emotions and Food
When you start making significant changes in your diet as I suggest you will go through a period of adaptation in which many of you will experience cravings for foods you were use to eating. May of you will especially crave carbohydrates and sweets. Some people will also experience emotional stress but in time this will gradually subside and you’ll have a whole new experience of yourself and the world. You’ll feel freer and have more vitality and even great tolerance for stress. Drinking lots of water, enjoying tasty foods, and de-stressing your self through activities like exercise can greatly help. Also very helpful, is being around others who are supportive of the changes you are making. If you find the emotions and mental stress to difficult to deal with than it would be advisable to seek out help form a professional who can help you process what is happening with you. This will help free you from the burdens that may beset you.
In many ways, emotions are similar to food. If you digest and process foods well they will nurture and benefit your body, if you do not digest food properly they will end up creating a toxic environment in your body bringing down your energy and ability to function at your full potential. Emotions are similar. If you have “digested” or processed experiences in your life effectively and emotions are not repressed or “somatizied” you will be psychologically, mentally and physically healthy. If you have not processed (or “digested”) experiences and avoided your emotional life these emotions will create unconscious obstructions in your body, nervous system and life. They will prevent you from fully enjoying life, vitality your potential. Like food, emotions can create a toxic environment as well.
Food directly affects the body and therefore emotions. Once you stop eating certain foods you body may react and you will feel things (have experiences) that you may have avoided in the past. Stresses will arise that you will be either forced to deal with or to suppress with certain behaviors like eating for consolation and comforting.
Enzymes are needed to breakdown proteins into amino acids, carbohydrates into glucose and unsaturated vegetable fats into fatty acids.
How diet fit into how the body works.
Digestion is all about taking in the proper nutrient to maintain bodily functions and that requires nutrition. If the body doesn’t get these nutrition is will begin to breakdown and will become susceptible to dysfunction and eventually disease. The body exhibits a universal cycle that can be described as absorption-assimilation (reception) and excretion (release). If this cycle is interfered with anywhere in the process it will eventual interfere with the body’s ability to function at it best. Therefore it is best to eat foods that enable this function to work effectively. This functional cycle will vary from person to person, and according to body type. You can adjust your diet according to whether you need to increase absorption or excretion.
It is not only the kind of foods that you put into your system that count, but the condition of your system as well. You can eat the best foods in the world, and if you digestive system cannot absorb and process them it will not help and toxins will start to build-up in the body and slowly spread.
So when it comes to diet the key is to be able to take in food as easily as possible and to release the waste as quickly and easily as possible. If foods remain in the digestive tract the waste ends up creating toxins that eventually spread through the body and into the blood stream.
Health starts in the digestive system
In addition to using your body type and metabolism to determine the best food for your diet, personal testing and experimentation is best. If you are in relatively good health and after you have gone through a transition period of at least 3 month of being on this diet considering fasting as a tool to helping you. There are different types of fasting from no food at all (only drinking water) to mono-diet of eating only one food like mung beans or rice. Fasting shuts the digestive process so that the body does not release digestive fluids and eventually the body starts to go into a process similar to “autolysis” which is self-digestion. The body eliminates the weaker cells and moves toxins out of the system. For this to be cared out effectively you needs to make sure you drink at least 2 quarts of liquid per day and do an enema each morning.
What fast you choice really depends on your health and body condition and its best to get guidance for a professional who has experience fasting. I do recommend that if you want to fast you start with a simply one day fast of filtered vegetable juice (see recipe).
Once you have gone through some purifying period you will be able to find out for your self how foods make you feel and suit you best. After you fast keep a food log and write down how you feel right after you eat and hours after you eat. Start by adding one new food at a time and over time you will have a list of the food that we enlivening and those that brought you energy down or gave you gas and were difficult to digest. This may seem like a tedious process but it not as bad as it seems and once you do this you will save yourself a lot of time and troubles in the future and your energy and health will be the better for it.
- What foods to choice?
- Marco-nutrient proportions
Vata/sympathetic dominant: Protein – 20% Carb. 40% Fat – 40%
Pitta/sympathetic-parasympathetic: Protein – 30% Carb. 50% Fat – 20%
Kapha/parasympathetic: Protein – 30% Carb. 40% Fat – 30%
Most Neutral foods good for almost all body types
Vegetables: Acorn Squash, Articoke, Asparagus, Butternut Squash, Cucumber, Okra, sweet Potato, Green Beans, Onion cooked
Moderation: Carrots, Sprouts, Leafy Greens
Occassionally: Leeks, Pumpkin, Fresh corn, Sprouts, Daikon, Spaghetti Squash, Broccoli, Jicama
Grains: Oats, Basmati Rice, Amaranth, Quinoa (a seed)
Oils: Coconut, Olive
Seeds & Nuts: Pumpkin, Sunflower, Almond (sock)
Condiments: Coconut, Cottage cheese, Dulse, Ghee, Mango Chutney, Kombu, Hijiki
Modertation: Black Pepper, Coriander leaves, Daikon Radish, Mint leaves, Sprouts,
Spices: Coriander, Cumin, Dill, Fennel, Mint, Peppermint, Saffron, Spearmint, Wintergreen, Vanilla. Moderation: Cardamon, Cinnamon, Basil, Caraway, Poppy, Tarragon, Orange Peel, Parsley, Blk. Pep., Bay leaves, Fenugreek, Ginger (minimal), Turmeric (tridoshic with cumin).
Legumes: Aduki, Mung, Tofu
Fruits: Apricots, Avocado, Berries, Coconut, Grapes, Mango, Raisins
[K1]You will be weak or strong with one or another of these nutrients and may need help with digesting them.
[K3]A self-test can only provide you with a very general idea of what your body type is. For a more accurate determination and guidance we recommend you contact a trained health professional with knowledge of this approach to health and diet.
Planning a Balanced Meal
So far, you’ve learned about many types of foods, and discovered dozens of delicious recipes. But how do you put what you’ve learned into practice, to create easy meals on a daily basis that are balanced, healthy, and satisfying?
In this lesson, we’ll cover how to use the right foods to create healthful, balanced meals. First we’ll review the most nutritious foods and also foods to avoid. We’ll look at where to get protein on a vegetarian diet, and how to combine foods for optimum digestion. (Remember this cannot subsist for guidance from a trained experienced natural health care professional, so if you have an particular health problems or simply want expert individualized guidance for your unique needs contact a professional.) Finally, we’ll look at the components of a balanced meal, and what to eat when for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. And of course there will be sample menus and a few more delicious recipes along the way.
What to keep in mind:
- Dietary principles apply to everyone, but individual needs and health condition must be taken into account when determining one’s optimal diet
- Even if you eat the best foods you need a good digestive system to digest, process, absorb the nutrition and eliminate waste
You may have heard about the food groups from an early age. But unfortunately, the meat, dairy, and starches in some of those groups aren’t the best foods for health, and I do not recommend you follow the food pyramid. So far in the course, you’ve been learning about foods that support a healthful diet. Let’s review them and put them into groups. Additionally, since it’s not just what you eat but how much and the condition of your digestive system that determines nutrition, we’ll look at reasonable servings of various foods.
Healthful Food Groups
Vegetables are the most nutrient-dense foods available. They are high in vitamins, minerals, enzymes and fiber and low in calories. Since vegetables are the most important food group, they should be most (biggest proportion) of what you eat. Emphasize green leafy vegetables and non-starchy vegetables. A serving is 1 cup of raw vegetables or 1/2 cup cooked. Aim for at least 6 servings per day, but even more than that is better.
Fruits are filled with vitamins, phytonutrients, and fiber. Eating fruit can also reduce cravings for unhealthy sweets like candy, cookies and chocolates. (If you eat chocolate choose 70%+ and/or chocolate powder.) Even though fruits contain natural sugar (fructose), most fruits have a relatively low glycemic index compared to other types of sweets and starches. However, blood sugar ups and downs from fruit are a concern for some people. If that’s a concern for you, in addition to avoiding concentrated sweeteners, I recommend you avoid completely concentrated fruit juice and dried fruits. You can also emphasize low-sugar fruits, including green apples and berries. A serving of fruit is either a piece or about 3/4 cup chopped. Many people do well eating 2 to 3 servings of fresh fruit per day, but this amount can be higher or lower, depending on the person constitutional needs.
Fats have gotten a bad reputation in our culture, which is why you find advertizing for “LOWFAT” everywhere. But the reality is that to be health you need fats in you diet. Fat provides the essential fatty acids that our body requires. Fats help us absorb certain vitamins, promote healthy cell function, and maintain healthy skin and hair. The good fats include mono-unsaturated fats, present in avocados, almonds and other nuts, and olive oil, and Omega-3 fatty acids, which are present in fish, but also in flax seeds, chia seeds, hemp seeds, and walnuts. Coconut oil is also a healthy fat. It contains medium-chain saturated fatty acids, which mean it does not raise LDL cholesterol levels, like other saturated fats. A serving of fat is small: 2 tablespoons of nuts or seeds, 1/4 of an avocado, or 1 teaspoon of olive oil or coconut oil. Most people only need a few servings per day, though the amount could be more or less vary depending on how many calories you eat.
Whole Grains and Starchy Vegetables
Grains were introduced into the human diet about 10,000 years ago. A large portion of the human population depends on grains as a staple to there diet. However grains are also high carbohydrate and many people react negatively to them. Many grain contain gluten which many people have a allergy to. For most people we recommend not eating gluten products and keeping grains quantities low.
Certain grains are a good source of healthy carbohydrates and fiber. Gluten-containing grains such as wheat can cause reactions in some people including fatigue and digestive problems. Gluten is particularly concentrated in flour products such as bread and pasta.
When eating grains and starches, choose whole grains, which have a much higher nutrient and fiber content than refined carbohydrates. The following grains have no gluten: rice, wild rice, quinoa, millet, amaranth, buckwheat, corn and teff. Quinoa is actually a seed and also is complete protein. We recommend if you do eat this you consume them in low quantities. In order of priority: quinoa, wild rice, brown or basmati brown rice, amaranth, buckwheat, millet, teff.
Good whole starchy vegetables, such as yams, sweet potatoes, winter squash, plantains. Because grains and starches are more concentrated sources of calories and carbohydrates, it’s important to watch portion sizes. Grains and starches do not need to be included in every meal, in fact I recommend you do not, especially because it will affect you insulin levels and for some can make you tired and gain weight. For many people, 1/2 to 1 cup is a reasonable serving size.
List of grains to AVOID: wheat, spelt, rye, barley, bulgur, barley
Beans and Legumes
Beans and Legumes, including soy, are sources of low-fat protein and fiber. They make a good replacement for animal protein. Beans have a low-glycemic index and are filling and satisfying. A reasonable serving size is 1/2 to 1 cup.
Foods To Avoid
A healthful diet depends just as much on the foods you avoid as the foods you include. Sometimes just eliminating certain foods (like wheat) can make a big difference in your overall health and energy levels. Here are some of the foods that cause problems for many people.
Even though we need some fat in the diet, too much of the wrong fats can contribute to heart disease, weight gain, and other problems. The bad fats include trans-fats (in margarine, shortening, and many packaged snack foods), saturated animal fat (in butter, dairy products, and meat), and refined polyunsaturated fats (in foods fried in cheap cooking oils). Additionally, it’s important to get the right balance of Omega 6 and Omega 3 fats, as most people don’t get enough Omega 3’s and get to much Omega 6. That’s why it’s important to limit overall fat intake, but increase consumption of Omega 3’s from sources such as flax seeds, chia seeds, and walnuts.
Perhaps the worse thing for your health is to much sugar in your diet. Too much sugar will raise blood sugar levels and contribute to weight gain, diabetes, gum disease, fatigue, mood swings, and many other problems. The worst offender is white sugar—an unnatural substance produced by industrial processes that refine natural sugars from sugar cane or beets down to pure sucrose. This process strips away all the vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Sucrose enters the blood stream quickly, giving you a quick burst of energy. But soon afterwards, blood sugar levels drop, leaving you feeling tired and jittery and craving more sugar.
Many health-conscious cooks replace white sugar with other refined sweeteners, such as honey, maple syrup, and agave nectar. While more natural than white sugar, these sweeteners are still very concentrated sources of sugar, and should be eliminated or limited to small amounts and occasional use. Despite is many medicinal properties recommend you avoid honey except when needed. Of these sweeteners we recommend coconut sweeter, but you can also use stevia and xylitol in small amounts and only occasionally.
White flour is a highly refined carbohydrate—low in fiber and stripped of vitamins and minerals. It can raise your blood sugar levels quickly, the way sugar can, leaving you hungry again soon after. Because it’s such a concentrated carbohydrate, flour is also higher in calories than whole grains. White flour is present in most breads and pastas. Baked goods and pastries, such as muffins and cookies, are particularly bad for you, as they usually contain sugar and bad fats in addition to the white flour. Additionally, many people are sensitive to the gluten in bread, pasta, and baked goods. I recommend you avoid all gluten based flours.
Dairy products contain protein, but they also contain saturated fat and sugar. Full-fat dairy, such as cheese and ice cream, are particularly high in saturated fat. Some people cannot tolerate lactose, the sugar that is present in milk and other dairy products, and react with digestive problems and mucus. Dairy products cause phlegm and mucus in the body, which causes the body to not function at its optimal and creates the conditions for all sort of health problems. Additionally, conventional dairy products may be high in antibiotics. Nut and seed milks make a good substitute for cow’s milk.
Where do you get protein?
Getting adequate protein in the diet is important for satiety, stable blood sugar levels, and maintaining muscle mass. One thing to note, however, is that our culture has a bias toward high-protein animal foods. Many North Americans eat too much protein—more than the recommended daily allowance. Animal protein causes the blood to get acidic and can cause constipation. That being said, not everyone’s metabolism is the same, some people will need more protein than others. Depending on you weight, the average person will want about 50 grams of protein per day. The best way to determine you protein needs to according to your body type and persons experience.
People sometimes think that eating meat and dairy products regularly is the only or best way to get adequate protein. But this is a misconception. Protein can be found in all natural foods although NOT in complete form (correct proportion of 9 essential amino acids[K1]). Quinoa and soybeans are complete. It is particularly concentrated in green leafy vegetables and sprouts, lentils, almonds, buckwheat, chia and hempseeds seeds, and algae such as spirulina and chlorella. Complete protein can also be found in quinoa.
Goji berry (Wolfberry) is an important fruit and antioxident that also contain all essential amino acids plus 21 essential minerals, 18 amino acids, 13% protein, 500 time more Vitamin C than oranges, is the richest source of caratenoids (more than carrots), more iron than spinach, and polysaccharides which strengthen the immune system. The goji berry is an amazing fruit and it excellent if you are sugar sensitive or hypoglycemic and have sugar or carbohydrate cravings.
IMPORTANT TO NOTE: that none of these plant-based sources contain B12, so if you are a vegan I recommend you supplement you diet with B12 (coenzyme) with 50 to 70 mcg per week (sublingual or patches are the best method of absorbing).
Green leafy vegetables and sprouts are particularly high in protein—about 50% of their calories are from protein. If all you ate was kale, you’d actually be getting more protein than if all you ate was meat, without some of the potential negative side effect. We don’t normally think of green leafy vegetables as being high in protein, because most people don’t eat enough of them. If you only eat a few leaves of spinach, there aren’t enough calories in that to be a good source of protein. But a cup of cooked spinach has 5 grams of protein. And if you eat a bunch or two of greens a day, they become a rich source of protein and also other important nutrients, such as Omega 3 fatty acids.
Beans and lentils are an excellent source of lean protein, and it’s easy to eat enough of them to meet protein demands. 1 cup of lentils or aduki beans, for example, has 18 grams of protein. Yet unlike meat, beans and lentils are very low in fat and high in fiber.
Most nuts are higher in fat than in protein. Almonds, however, are a particularly high-protein nut, with 1/4 cup containing 8 grams. They do contain fat, but it is heart-healthy monounsaturated fat. They also contain minerals and Vitamin E.
Seeds are lower in fat and higher in protein. Most seeds contain a similar amount of protein as almonds. Hemp seeds are particularly high in protein, with 1/4 cup containing 15 grams. Their protein is also complete, with all the essential amino acids, and easy to absorb. The Ground Seed Mix and Multiseed Porridge recipes we learned in Lesson 6 are an easy and tasty way to benefit from the protein and nutrients in seeds. Quinoa, a so-called grain that is actually a seed, is another complete plant protein. 1 cup contains 8 grams. Amaranth, another grain-like seed, while not a complete protein, also contains quite a bit—9 grams per cup.
Perhaps the most concentrated source of lean plant protein is algae, such as spirulina or chlorella. Spirulina and chlorella contain 4 grams of protein per tablespoon, but only 20 calories. Taking a tablespoon in water each morning is an excellent way to boost protein intake.
The basic principle behind food combining is to make the food you eat digest as quickly and easily as possible, leaving maximum energy for physical and mental activities. Different foods digest at different rates, so you want to avoid combining them because the food that digest quickly will end up remaining in the digestive tract and putrefy. When this happens toxins can end up leaking into the blood stream and moved throughout the body. This is one of the principle reasons the body starts to breakdown and it creates the perfect context for the development of illness and disease. Most disease has it origins in the digestive system.
After any meal, blood goes to the digestive system, and away from the muscles, brain, and other systems. Because fruits and green leafy vegetables, mostly water, take a short time in the digestive tract. You feel alert after eating these foods, even able to exercise.
Just eating a healthier and lighter diet, in and of itself, often improves digestion. Additionally, some people find that paying attention to food combinations helps. For some, food combining doesn’t make much of a difference. But if you have a sensitive digestion, you may want to try some of the following principles. This can serve as your guidelines.
Eat fresh fruit alone, or with greens, starch or nuts and seeds
Fresh fruit digests very quickly. If combined with heavier foods, especially fats, it can stay too long in the digestive tract and cause bloating and indigestion. The fructose in the fruit is digested quickly and if combined with starches and grains will not digest properly. Most fruit (except for tomatoes) is best eaten alone, for breakfast or as snack. Combining fruit with greens, as in a green smoothie, is fine. Try to stay away from combining fruit with fats.
Don’t combine animal protein with starch
Typical combinations of meat and potatoes and chicken and rice can be hard to digest. Animal protein is best combined with greens and non-starchy vegetables. Vegetable proteins, on the other hand, combine fine with starches. Lentils and rice is an example of this.
Take liquids between meals, not with meals
Drinking a lot of water with a meal can dilute digestive juices and also deter you from chewing enough. Water is best consumed between meals or 30 minutes or so before meals. Do not drink cold water, room temperature and warm water is best.
Include some healthy fat daily
Healthy fats, such as avocados, almonds, walnuts, and olive oil, provide essential fatty acids and also help with the absorption of nutrients in other foods. Have a small amount with meals daily. If you are having fruit for a meal, however, skip the fat.
Don’t combine too many foods
Combining too many foods at a meal can create indigestion for some people. Keep meals simple, and you will feel lighter and more alert afterwards. Eating to many different foods at the same time is one of the principle reasons people get gas, flatulence and bloating.
In this lesson you’ll learn how to prepare whole grains, a healthy and hearty cooked food you might want to include in your diet regularly.
Grains were introduced into the human diet about 10,000 years ago. Whole grains are low in fat, and a good way to get healthy calories, complex carbohydrates, and fiber in your diet. Unlike refined grains (white rice and most breads, pastas, and baked goods), whole grains retain the entire grain seed and are rich in fiber, vitamins, and minerals.
While whole grains can be healthful, it is possible to overdo grains and starches, especially refined ones. Some of the problems with too many grains include:
- Cooked grains don’t contain enzymes and have less vitamins and phytonutrients than fruits and vegetables.
- It is easy to overeat on grains, particularly refined ones, which can lead to blood sugar imbalances and weight gain.
- Gluten-containing grains such as wheat and rye can cause reactions in some people. In sensitive individuals, eating wheat can cause fatigue, digestive problems, and other symptoms. Gluten is particularly concentrated in flour products such as bread and pasta.
In recent years, there has been a growing awareness about gluten sensitivity. Gluten is a protein that's found in certain grains—wheat, rye, barley, kamut, spelt, and barley. (Kamut is an ancient grain related to wheat, which has less gluten and some people are less allergic to it than to wheat.) The word "gluten" comes from the Latin for "glue," and it's named this because it provides a glue-like, elastic consistency. Unfortunately, many people don't digest gluten well and/or they have various allergic reactions to them. That's why in this lesson, we’ll focus on whole grains that are gluten-free and have a high nutrient and fiber content.
Depending on you metabolism and individual nutritional needs I generally recommend you do not make grains the largest portion of you meals and not to eat them on a regular basis. They are a high carbohydrate food.
Some of the grains we’ll be discussing aren’t technically grains. Quinoa, buckwheat, and amaranth, for example, are botanically seeds, but since they are typically referred to as grains, we’ll include them in this category.
In this lesson, we’ll cover simple ways of cooking whole grains as a breakfast cereal or side dish with lunch or dinner. You’ll also learn some recipes where grains combine with raw or lightly cooked vegetables to make delicious one-dish meals.
Types of Whole Grains
Oats are a highly nutritious grain. They contain a type of soluble fiber known to help lower cholesterol, have a relatively low glycemic index (won’t spike your blood sugar), and contain minerals such as selenium and magnesium. Oats have a good amount of high-quality protein, similar to that found in beans and soy. Additionally, many people find that a warm bowl of oatmeal or other whole grains has a calming and grounding effect on the nervous system. While some oats may contain a very small amount of gluten, they are often well-tolerated by gluten-sensitive individuals. If they are processed in a gluten-free facility, they will be gluten-free, though oats contain a compound that may cross-react for some people who are gluten-sensitive.
Different types of processing produce different types of oat products:
- Oat groats are whole, unflattened oats. They require plenty of water and an hour of cooking time, and have a very chewy texture.
- Steel-cut oats have been thinly sliced with steel blades. They take about 25 minutes to cook, and feature a delicious flavor and hearty, chewy texture.
- Old-fashioned oats have been steamed and rolled flat. They still contain plenty of fiber, and take only 10 minutes to cook.
- Quick-cooking oats are processed like old-fashioned oats, except they are cut finely before rolling. They contain less fiber, and are not as flavorful or chewy as longer-cooking types of oats. They also have a higher glycemic index than steel-cut or old-fashioned oats.
- Instant oatmeal is the most processed and least nutritious type of oats. The grains are cooked and then rolled thin, and often sugar, salt, and other flavorings are added.
As a staple food in many cultures, rice is one of the most widely grown grains in the world. Unlike white rice, brown rice offers a number of nutrients, including selenium, manganese, magnesium, B vitamins, iron, and fiber, and is easy to digest for most people. Brown rice has also been shown to help lower cholesterol, and shown to have significant cardiovascular benefits for post-menopausal women.
There are three main varieties of brown rice:
- Long Grain: This rice is three to four times longer than it is wide and fluffier than the other types. Brown basmati rice is a long grain rice with particularly aromatic scent.
- Short Grain: These grains are small and round. When cooked, short-grain rice is typically a softer and chewier than long grain. It’s commonly used in Japanese cuisine.
- Brown Jasmine: This floral-scented long-grain rice is commonly used in Thai cuisine.
A staple in Native American diets, wild rice is not a true grain or even rice; it’s an aquatic grass. Like true rice, wild rice is gluten-free and a good source of fiber, B Vitamins, and magnesium. Wild rice is lower in calories than rice and other grains, and quite high in protein, at 7 grams per cup cooked. To offset the higher price of wild rice, try mixing it half and half with brown rice.
Although we refer to quinoa (pronounced keen-wa) as a grain, it's actually a seed that comes from a plant related to spinach and chard. It originated in the Andes, has been cultivated for over 5,000 years, and was prized by the Aztecs. Unlike other grains, quinoa is a complete protein, and an excellent source of it (8 grams per cup cooked). It also contains many minerals, including iron, B Vitamins, magnesium, and zinc.
Quinoa has a light, fluffy, and slightly crunchy texture, and a pleasing, mildly nutty flavor. It's very quick to cook, taking only 20 minutes.
Buckwheat is technically a seed rather than a grain, and is gluten free. The hulled groats have a triangular shape and are similar to short-grain rice in size. Native to Northern Europe and Asia, buckwheat is a high in fiber, magnesium, and cholesterol-lowering flavonoids. Because of the way it is metabolized, buckwheat may also be useful in controlling blood sugar levels and diabetes. Hulled buckwheat groats can be purchased raw or roasted. The roasted variety is also known as "kasha" and has a nutty flavor. Both varieties take about 30 minutes to cook into a grain side dish or breakfast porridge. The raw groats can also be sprouted and eaten as a cereal with nondairy milk.
Buckwheat is available in noodle form, as Japanese soba noodles. Look for 100% soba noodles, which are gluten-free. Added to a miso soup with vegetables, these noodles are satisfying and delicious.
Like quinoa and buckwheat, amaranth is a gluten-free seed. It was a staple grain of the ancient Aztecs and Incas, and was reintroduced to the United States in the 1970's. Amaranth is highly nutritious—rich in protein, fiber, calcium, and magnesium. It has a mild, sweet, nutty taste and a sticky porridge-like consistency. Try it as a hot breakfast cereal, or savory stew with vegetables. If you prefer a more traditional flavor and texture, try mixing it half and half with steel-cut oats or brown rice before cooking.
Millet has been consumed in North Africa for thousands of years. It is another nutritious gluten-free seed, even though we typically classify it as a grain from a culinary perspective. This tiny, yellow seed looks similar to couscous, and it cooks in about 30 minutes. It can be cooked in a 1:2 ratio with water for a rice-like texture, or in a 1:3 ratio for a creamy texture similar to porridge or mashed potatoes. Millet is a good source of the minerals phosphorus and magnesium.
If you’ve ever eaten at an Ethiopian restaurant, you’ve probably tasted Injera, the delicious fluffy sourdough flatbread made from teff flour. Unlike wheat-based bread, this bread is gluten-free. Cooked whole-grain teff makes a delicious breakfast cereal, similar in taste to cream of wheat. Just use 1 part teff and 3 parts water and cook for about 20 minutes. It has a mild, nutty taste. Teff is high in calcium and other minerals and in protein.
How To Prepare Whole Grains
Soaking Whole Grains
Before you cook most grains, it's a good idea to soak them in water for 8 to 24 hours. Like sprouting, soaking breaks down the grain and makes its nutrients more available.
Steel-cut and rolled oats need no soaking, but other grains benefit from it. Soaking brown rice neutralizes rice's phytic acid, which can interfere with the absorption of certain minerals. Plus, soaked rice has a slightly sweeter flavor and softer texture. Soaking other grains, such as quinoa, buckwheat, and amaranth, also makes them softer, tastier, and easier to digest.
If you'll be making the grains at any time the next day, soak them overnight. Or, for a shorter soak, start them in the morning if you'll be preparing them for dinner. After soaking, drain and rinse the grains before cooking. Cook them with a little less liquid than you would dry grains, since soaked grains have already absorbed some water.
Whole grain porridges make a satisfying, nutritious, and delicious breakfast. They are high in complex carbohydrates and low in fat, easy to digest, and warming, comforting, and grounding.
Oatmeal is the most well-known porridge. Steel-cut oats taste like oatmeal should—nutty, slightly sweet, and with a chewy, fuller texture than rolled oats. They are so substantial that they'll keep you satisfied through lunch time.
They do take about 30 minutes to cook. You may wish to make quick green smoothies for breakfast during the week, luxuriating in a bowl of steel-cut oatmeal occasionally on the weekend. Here's a delicious way to prepare steel-cut oatmeal.
Apple Pecan Oatmeal
Yield: 4 cups, 4 servings
3 1/2 cups water
1 cup steel-cut oats
1 apple, diced
2 tablespoons pecans, chopped
1/4 cup currants or raisins
Put water and and salt in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Add the oats, and turn the heat to medium-low. Simmer partially covered for 25 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the apple, pecans, and currants, and stir to combine. Let sit 5 minutes before serving. Stored in a sealed container in the refrigerator, Apple Pecan Oatmeal will keep for 3 days.
You can also make hot cereal out of other grains, including quinoa, buckwheat, and amaranth. Simply cook them a little longer using more water. Or, use leftover cooked grains, and cook them again briefly in a little water to a porridge-like consistency.
Porridge can be served sweet, with nondairy milk, honey or maple syrup, and fresh or dried fruit. But it's equally delicious with savory additions, such as greens, vegetables, and perhaps a salty seasoning and a sprinkling of sesame or sunflower seeds.
Basic Cooking Instructions for Whole Grains
The basic method for cooking whole grains is as follows: Combine the soaked grain with water and a pinch of salt. Bring to a boil, and simmer, covered, until all the water is absorbed.
For brown rice and quinoa, you can also use a rice cooker if you like (buckwheat, amaranth, and oats are too sticky to cook effectively in a rice cooker). Fortunately, now you can find stainless steel rice cookers. This makes cooking brown rice and quinoa incredibly easy. You just add the grain and water, plug the cooker in, and forget about it. The grain cooks perfectly, and the cooker turns off automatically when it's done.
Here's how to make basic brown rice:
Basic Brown Rice
Yield: 3 servings
1 cup basmati brown rice, soaked 8 to 24 hours
1 3/4 cups water
Put the rice, water, and salt in a saucepan, and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Turn the heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer for 40 minutes. You can serve the rice right away or let it stand, covered, for up to 30 minutes. Stored in a sealed container in the refrigerator, Basic Brown Rice will keep for 3 days. You can freeze it for up to a month.
- To make this recipe in a rice cooker, just put all the ingredients in the cooker and turn it on; it will shut off automatically when the rice is done.
- If you are using unsoaked rice, increase the water to 2 1/4 cups.
For Brown and Wild Rice: Replace 1/2 cup of the brown rice with wild rice, soaked.
Preparing quinoa is even easier. You can make quinoa with just water and a dash of salt, and it takes only 20 minutes to cook. The amounts are easy to remember—2 parts liquid to 1 part quinoa (or 1 3/4 cup liquid if the quinoa was soaked). But the flavor is substantially enhanced if you include some vegetable broth. Personally, I like quinoa best when it's cooked in a liquid that's half water and half vegetable broth.
You can certainly make your own vegetable broth from scratch, or just use a natural store-bought broth. But here's another option. If you steam vegetables regularly, you'll have lots of leftover water in the saucepan underneath—vegetable-infused water, rich in minerals and flavor. You can store that in the refrigerator for up to three days, and use it as vegetable broth.
Here's the recipe for cooking quinoa.
Yield: 3 servings
1 cup quinoa, soaked 8 to 24 hours
1 3/4 cups water, vegetable broth, or a mixture
Put the quinoa, water, and salt in a saucepan, and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Turn the heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer for 20 minutes. You can serve the quinoa right away, or let it stand, covered, for up to 30 minutes. Stored in a sealed container in the refrigerator, Basic Quinoa will keep for 3 days. You can freeze it for up to a month.
- To make this recipe in a rice cooker, just put all the ingredients in the cooker and turn it on; it will shut off automatically when the quinoa is done.
- If you are using unsoaked quinoa, increase the water to 2 cups.
Once you learn to prepare brown rice and quinoa, you may wish to experiment with buckwheat and amaranth. Cook these grains just as you would rice. For buckwheat, use 1 3/4 cup water for a cup of soaked buckwheat, and cook for 25 minutes. For amaranth, use 2 1/4 cup water for a cup of soaked amaranth, and cook for 20 minutes. If you are not soaking the grains, use 2 cups water when cooking 1 cup buckwheat, and 2 1/2 cups water when cooking 1 cup amaranth. To make either of these grains into a creamy breakfast porridge, use 1/2 cup additional water, and cook 5 to 10 minutes longer.
Whole Grain and Vegetable Meals
Once you have a pot of whole grains on hand, you can use it in a variety of ways. One of my favorite ways to combine whole grains with vegetables is in salad. For example, by simply adding 1 cup of cooked brown rice or quinoa to the Rainbow Salad recipe from Session 2, you'll create a satisfying, one-dish meal. The rice can either be warm or room temperature.
Brown rice and quinoa are also great tossed with raw vegetables when the grains are still hot. This softens and warms the vegetables to give them a familiar cooked texture. Yet the vegetables remain essentially raw, which preserves more nutrition.
Try this one-dish meal below. It's warming, nourishing, and filled with vitamins and minerals from the raw greens and tomatoes.
Brown Rice with Swiss Chard and Tomatoes
Yield: 4 servings
1 cup brown basmati rice, soaked 8 to 24 hours
1 3/4 cups water
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 roma tomatoes, diced
4 leaves (about 1/2 bunch) swiss chard, stemmed and cut into thin ribbons
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1/2 leek, thinly sliced
1 cup sliced shitake or crimini mushrooms (optional)
2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
Put the rice, water, and a dash of the salt in a small saucepan. Cover, bring to a boil, turn down the heat, and simmer until the water is absorbed, about 40 minutes. Turn off the heat. Add the tomatoes, chard, garlic, leek, optional mushrooms, remaining salt, and olive oil. Cover and let sit for 10 minutes. Fluff with a fork before serving. Stored in a sealed container in the refrigerator, Brown Rice with Swiss Chard and Tomatoes will keep for 2 days.
Now, I'll demonstrate (insert video of making Brown Rice with Swiss Chard and Tomatoes).
Here is another one-dish meal made with brown rice and vegetables. This recipe originates in the Middle East, where fresh herbs are typically added to rice pilafs. Don't be surprised by the large amount of dill—it's the secret to the fragrance and flavor of this dish. Be sure to cut the kale into very thin strips, which makes it soften easily when added to the warm rice.
Dill Rice with Kale and Sesame Seeds
Yield: 4 servings
1 cup brown basmati rice, soaked 8 to 24 hours
1 3/4 cups water
1/4 teaspoon salt
8 leaves (about 1/2 bunch) lacinato kale, stemmed
1/3 cup fresh minced dill, or 2 tablespoons dried dill weed
2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons sesame seeds
Stack the kale leaves. Roll them tightly like a cigar, and slice crosswise into very thin strips.
Put the rice, water, and a dash of the salt in a small saucepan. Cover, bring to a boil, turn down the heat, and simmer until the water is absorbed, about 40 minutes. Turn off the heat. Add the kale, dill, olive oil, sesame seeds, and remaining salt. Cover and let sit for 10 minutes. Fluff with a fork before serving. Stored in a sealed container in the refrigerator, Dill Rice with Kale and Sesame Seeds will keep for 2 days.
- Combining whole grains with raw vegetables. Give example of salad.
- Brown rice with Swiss Chard and Tomatoes (recipe and video)
- Dill Rice with Kale and Sesame Seeds (recipe)