Ever feel as though you’re in a rut at the grocery store or farmers market? Are you wanting to integrate healthier foods into your life to contribute to a more optimal level of wellness? Well, we are here to get you started.
HERBS AND WEEDS
The earthy, wild flavors of herbs and strong, green weeds tell us two things: that they are good to eat and – for the modern person – that they are full of healthful substances. We have evolved over thousands of years to prefer foods that provide a healthful effect, and these wild foods were some of the first consumed by humans. .
Dandelion is a wild food that can occasionally be found at green markets but seldom at the grocery store. But why buy dandelion greens if they are available wild? As you may know, the average neighborhood is filled with edible wild plants; I’ve chosen to highlight dandelions for their availability and popularity. If you are a fan of mildly bitter greens, this plant cannot be beat.
If you have ever seen a dandelion pushing through a crack in the sidewalk, you know what a hardy weed it is. It passes its strength on to those who eat it. Of the numerous phytochemicals that it contains, the most conspicuous are taraxacin and taraxol, both substances that provide dandelion leaves with their bitter flavor. They are also potent agents for cleansing the liver and gallbladder. – [Gallová]
Lethargy can result when a body is filled with toxins, so one of the best ways to maintain a high energy level is by consuming foods that aid the body’s natural cleansing organs.
There are many ways to enjoy the healthful benefits of dandelion, and the average health food store will stock several varieties of dandelion extract, either in the form of tea, concentrate or pill. Many of these may be fine, but I would highly recommend the fresh greens themselves. They are ideal for salad and juicing, though most would find the undiluted juice rather bitter, so try mixing it with other vegetables.
Dill is one of the greatest herbs for those on a raw-food diet. It can be used in small quantities or as a main vegetable, and its flavor is strong but never overpowering.
Aside from the expected health benefits of a green herb, dill has some interesting qualities. Its main flavor component, dillapiol, is currently being researched for its possible effect in treating malaria. It seems to exhibit synergistic activity with gedunin and 7-methoxygedunin, both of which are used to treat the disease. Dillapiol increased their effectiveness by around 15%. – [Omar].
It is an amazing booster of the immune system with phenomenal health effects. Its cousin, fennel, is also a delicious green with similar healing properties.
Although little known outside of Mexico, this pungent weed is quickly becoming more widely available. The herb is valued for its flavor, but like many strong spices, humans may have originally acquired a taste for it based on its anti-parasitic effect. It contains ascaridole, an organic peroxide effective in the treatment of amenorrhea, dysmenorrhea, malaria, cholera, hysteria, catarrh, and asthma.
In the small quantities used to flavor food, the herb acts as a cleanser and can help prevent infection by funguses, parasites and other harmful pathogens. These foreign organisms drain our energy and sow the seeds of disease, so it is best to remain free of them.
As an added bonus, epazote is well known in Latin-American countries for its anti-flatulent properties. When consumed with pulses it achieves this effect.
Oregano is known best in its dried, shakable form, but it is widely available fresh and easy to grow. An important addition to the cuisine of many cultures, oregano can be found growing from Italy to Mexico.
In recent years, a great deal of research has been done on the phytochemical content of oregano, owing to its reported benefits in the treatment of pathogenic diseases. One stood out, and it has since been isolated and is widely available. This is carvacrol, a thick lipid that has proven anti-microbial properties even outside of the body. Research has shown, in fact, that its amazing oxidizing abilities can disinfect a stainless steel surface. – [Knowles]
Yet, it is entirely safe for human consumption! Funguses, parasites and yeast can decrease one’s vitality and contribute to larger health problems, and it is well known that many cancers originate with foreign pathogens. Oregano is great for cleaning the body of these invaders, and it should be used liberally, especially in warmer climates where one is more likely to encounter parasitic invaders.
Parsley may be the strongest weed available at the average grocery store. Unlike most common vegetables, which have been hybrid to soften their flavor, parsley is unapologetic about its strength. Perhaps for this reason, it too often finds its way back to the kitchen when the meal is done.
Parsley is a Western garnish, not a main course, and it is most often eaten in small quantities as a breath freshener following garlicky dishes. But there is no reason why this potent herb shouldn’t be treated with more respect.
The breath-freshening attributes of Parsley are due to the plant’s incredibly high chlorophyll content, and chlorophyll is a powerful carrier of nutrients. Like dill, parsley also contains dillapiol and a smorgasbord of other phytonutrients including bitter glycosides, carotenoids (including lutein and violaxanthin, both important for the eyes), and terpenoids. Choline, a nutrient necessary for proper cardiovascular and brain function, is also present in significant quantities.
Also known as Shiso or “beefsteak plant,” perilla is a powerful and delicious herb that is quickly becoming popular in the United States and Europe. It can often be found in Korean grocery stores as “sesame leaf,” though the plant is unrelated to sesame.
Though I have no experience with it myself, perilla is reportedly easy to grow and will even thrive indoors. It can be eaten raw, in salads, prepared with vegetables, or pickled. It is a popular addition to kimchi, or Korean “sourkraut.” If you have the opportunity to grow this herb, do so, because it is one of nature’s most marvelous plants.
Aside from the plant’s extremely healthful oil, which has been implicated in cancer prevention, the leaves contain a number of powerful agents, including apigenin, ascorbic acid, beta carotene, caffeic acid, citral, dillapiol, elemicin, limonene, luteolin, myristicin, perillaldehyde, protocatechuic-acid, quercetin, and rosmarinic acid.
All of these agents have potential or proven health effects, but perhaps the most promising is one that perilla has a great deal of – luteolin. Luteolin is a flavanoid that not only protects cells from free radicals; its ability to shrink cancerous tumors has also been demonstrated. – [Selvendiran].
Research conducted in Taiwan has recently demonstrated the phenomenal effect of rosemary in the prevention and treatment of cancer. – [Ai-Hsiang]
One of its active ingredients is carnosol, a phytopolyphenol that scavenges free radicals and protects DNA. Another study, conducted in China, demonstrates the effect of two other, similar triperpene acids, ursolic acid and oleanolic acid, on colon cancer. Together, they not only prevent but also wipe out pre-existing tumors. – [Jie Li]
Though I am tempted to sing rosemary’s praises as a marvelous culinary gift, I will limit myself to the topic at hand. Let it be said, however, that learning to skillfully use flavorful herbs such as rosemary will enhance one’s life both aesthetically and physically. Rosemary, being one of the most delicious and useful herbs, should be used without reserve.
Peas and beans should be a vital part of every person’s diet. In terms of maximum nutritional benefit, all pulses are best consumed sprouted, a form in which they retain their high-protein, high-density character but contain plant phytonutrients in unmatched quantities. A healthy person can enjoy them cooked on occasion, but the pulses that I mention arebest eaten germinated (all pulses should be germinated before being cooked).
Azuki, a popular legume in many parts of Eastern Asia, is one of the most digestible beans available. It contains all of the powerful nutrients found in its cousins but is more easily digested than any of them, with the exception of mung. It is a healer of lung, kidney, and bladder ailments due to its high antioxidant and phytochemical content.
How can I say enough about chickpeas? Their usefulness as a staple food will be clear if you look at cuisines across the globe. This legume is prominent from Cuba to Turkey, from Mexico to India.
The physical profile of a chickpea looks rippled, like a well-sculpted abdomen. And its physique corresponds to the legume’s’ healthfulness. Chickpeas are rich in daidzein, a powerful isoflavone that is one of nature’s biggest cancer fighters. Most of the studies on this isoflavone have been conducted on soybeans, but other legumes, especially chickpeas, have higher levels of the substance. (It is easy to research soybeans because they are so widely consumed, but of all the legumes they are one of the least healthful and difficult to digest even when raw.)
Sprouted chick peas are one of the most delicious and least flatulence-producing legumes.
Lentils, which have been cultivated since the Neolithic age, are one of the oldest human foods. They are also one of the most valuable nutritionally. For this reason, they are widely cultivated throughout the world, especially by largely vegetarian societies.
Genistein is the most prominent isoflavone found in lentils. Although cooked lentils are only a low antioxidant, sprouting increases their healthfulness exponentially. Genistein is usually isolated in soy, but lentils are a better source of the valuable nutrient. Studies have proven genistein’s ability to kill cancer cells, particularly those in the prostate. – [Kyle]
Lentils are also rich source of protease inhibitors, which promote cellular homeostasis, yet these will be completely lost if the lentil is cooked. Luckily, this small, thin lentil germinates quickly and is delicious.
An especially rich source of the isoflavone daidzein, peas provide the benefits of both legumes and green plants. They are best consumed fresh and raw, but dried peas can be prepared like any other legume. When grown as an indoor garden sprout on soil it’s anti-cancer effect greatly increases.
This category is a mix of things: greens, fruits that work as vegetables, roots, sprouts and tubers. For health seekers and raw-foodists, a meal will be based on food from this category. These are main-course foods; here are some of the best.
Artichokes are rich in a flavanoid called silymarin and, like the quercetin so abundant in onions and apples, silymarin protects the liver from toxicity damage. Our organs are constantly being bombarded by oxidants and harmful chemicals. Over time, the damage can be significant. An underachieving liver will force toxins into the bloodstream, causing illness and disease.
The amount of information on the health benefits of garlic is nearly overwhelming. We know conclusively that it cleanses the body, prevents cancer and acts as a natural antibiotic. Garlic has an extremely high concentration of organo sulflides, but it has been proven that even minimal heating destroys their effectiveness. – [Song]
The best way to consume garlic is by crushing the bulbs through a press and placing the pulp directly on food.
Although vitamin E is often touted as the most powerful antioxidant, quercetin may be even more powerful, and onions contain a higher concentration of this flavanoid than any other known food. Quercetin is so powerful, in fact, that it can effectively neutralize liver damage caused by arsenic exposure. – [Bongiovanni]
Quercetin is being researched by conventional medical scientists who are interested in its ability to rapidly shrink prostate tumors. – [Shoskes]
Onions are also a rich source of allium compounds, organosulfides unique to the allium (or onion and garlic) family.
As is usually the case, the brilliant colors of ripe peppers, whether sweet or spicy, are a sign that they are brimming with vitality. They should be consumed when they turn red, which is their ripest state, when they contain far more nutrition than they do unripe. Red bell peppers contain nearly four times as much folate as green bell peppers. – [Phillips]
I mention spinach because it is a phenomenal food, but most commercial spinach has been stored too long to retain its healthful benefits. Fresh, spinach has all the benefits of dark green foods at maximum concentration.
Sunflower sprouts are an incredibly powerful food, and I recommend their consumption on a regular basis. Like the sprouts of many seeds high in fatty acids, sunflower sprouts are high in secoisolariciresinol, a lignan (or phytoestrogen), which is a proven anti-carcinogen. – [KITTS]
This research has primarily been done on flax, but flax does not produce a palatable green. Sunflower spouts are a staple food in the raw living diet.
Sweet potatoes are one of the most nutritionally rich foods on the planet. If asked what foods I would take on a permanent trip to a desert island, sweet potatoes would show up near the top, directly after a long list of green foods.
They are amazingly rich in phytonutrients, many of which stand up to blending (sweet potato is edible raw, but it is one of the best vegetables to include in the cooked portion of a healthy person’s diet.)
Although I am primarily referring to the familiar sweet potato tuber, the leaves of the plant are also one of the most nutritious greens available. – [Kurata]
Sweet potatoes are a virtual cocktail of anti-oxidizing nutrients. If you are lucky enough to have enough space to plant a garden, sweet potatoes are an excellent choice. The sweet potato blossom is also edible and sometimes available at Asian supermarkets in dried form.
I have places these vegetables, all of which belong to the mustard family, in their own category. All share similar nutrients, most notably the glucosinolate sulforaphane. Glucosinolates are sulfur-based organic compounds (forms of Isothiocyanates) that plants use to deter pests, and sulforaphane is one of the most common. It is present in all crucifers and responsible for their pungent flavor. Naturally, more pungent foods like mustard and arugula tend to be higher in this natural chemical. It is also responsible for the spicy flavor of horseradish. Sulforaphane is one of the most powerful antioxidants known.
The amount of research that has been done on the healthfulness of these vegetables over the last decade is impressive. Not only are they proven cancer fighters, but sulphoraphane’s pest-deterring qualities seem to have an effect on bacteria that are harmful to humans.
A landmark study published in 2002 demonstrated the link between consumption of sulphoraphane-rich foods and a reduction of the stomach pathogen Helicobacter pylori.- [Fahey].
This bacteria is responsible for ulcers and most stomach cancer, especially in tropical regions.
I will list a few of the most notable and accessible species, but there are literally hundreds. All are superb.
Arugula is loved by those who gravitate toward vital foods. Its pungent flavor is stimulating for both the senses and the digestive system, and eating the greens provides a sense of well-being.
A popular Chinese vegetable, bok choy is light and not as strongly flavored as most of its cousins.
Broccoli, of course, is king of the cruciferous vegetables. One should eat nothing but organic food, but this is especially important in the case of broccoli. Broccoli (and its cousin, cauliflower) is a sponge for pesticides. Organic broccoli is also far more nutritious.
Cabbage is an incredible food. Although it seems denser than a potato, cabbage is nutrient-packed from its leaves to its core.
Not as nutritious as broccoli, but excellent nonetheless. Don’t discard the green leaves on the sides of a cauliflower head – they are as delicious as cabbage!
Collards are not as strongly flavored as kale, but their flavor is similar. As well as sulforaphane, they are also a rich source of zeaxanthin, a yellow carotenoid linked to the prevention of age-related macular degeneration.
Kale is deep green (some species are nearly blue) and closer to its wild ancestors than most of its cousins. Kale should be eaten regularly.
Mustard greens taste like… well, mustard. Their seeds are used to flavor the ubiquitous mustard condiment, and the greens have a similar flavor.
With a flavor not completely unlike that of mustard and arugula, watercress tends to be milder than both. It is one of the oldest cultivated greens.
For a healthy person, there is nothing wrong with including a moderate amount of fruit in the diet. Eat fruit in moderation, however; the high sugar content of fruit (even that of acid citrus) makes over consumption dangerous. A large quantity of sugar overworks our vital organs and drains us of vitality.
Açaí is nearly impossible to find fresh if you don’t live in Brazil, but this unique fruit from a tropical palm is widely available in frozen form. It has become a “wonder food” for its unique nutritional profile. Besides being packed with scores of phytonutrients, açaí also contains an exceptional level of essential fatty and amino acids.
Açaí’s phytonutrient qualities are mainly due to Anthocyanin, water-soluble pigments that show as blue or red in leaves or the flesh of fruit. Notably, they are responsible for the color red in apples and roses. Other compounds found in the skin are Cyandin 3-glucoside and cyanidin 3-rutinoside, orientin, taxifolin deoxyhexose, isovitexin and scoparin. – [Schauss]
It is safe to say that, given its remarkable nutritional profile, this “berry” is one of the more complete foods on the planet.
That said, it is a sweet fruit, and a great deal of the attention it gets may be due to the fact that it tastes like chocolate and happens to be rather good for you. Don’t overdue it, in other words. It is always best to rely on green vegetables and foods with lower sugar content. A great deal of the vital energy provided by the fruit may be compromised when the body is forced to deal with a high sugar load.
We use apples at Hippocrates in conjunction with our liver cleanse. Like onions, they are high in quercitin, one of the most powerful antioxidants known to man. They also contain catechins and tartaric acid.
There is a great deal of talk about the blueberry, and most of it is warranted: the blueberry is a powerful food. As always, consumption of sweet fruit should be limited, but blueberries are one of the most powerful and antioxidant-rich foods available. One of the nice things about blueberries is that they are widely available.
Perhaps one of the reasons that blueberries are so nutritious is that, unlike many cultivated fruits, they are close to a wild food. Wild blueberries, (the type one should eat if at all possible), are dense with the substances that many people seek in wine – without the unhealthy side effects of alcohol consumption. Almost as a rule, dark blue and purple fruits are especially high in antioxidants.
Because blueberries are popular, easy to access, and delicious, a great deal of antioxidant research has been done on them, and a number of studies have demonstrated their ability to reverse cellular destruction and protect against it. – [Yi]
Aside from the vitamin C for which citrus fruits are known, there are many reasons to indulge in citrus fruit, particularly those with less sugar such as lime and grapefruit. (These not only have the least sugar but they are the most nutritious). All citrus fruits contain high levels of alpha and beta carotene, and rinds of all citrus fruit are high in monoterpene and D-Limonene, powerful anti-cancer agents.
Like the açaí, the goji berry (also known as the wolfberry) is a much hyped fruit fashionable in health-conscious circles. And like açaí, it is virtually impossible to find fresh. While açaí is often sold frozen, however, goji berrys are popular as a dried snack. The fact that the berries are dried increases the risk of overeating sugar.
That said, research done on this high-protein, high-polysaccharides member of the nightshade family has proven that they are undoubtedly a superfood. With one of the highest antioxidant levels of any known food, goji berries are incredible at protecting cells from free radicals and thereby preventing cancer. – [HU]
As we age, the only way to retain maximum vitality is by preserving our senses, including sight, which is often the first to go. Goji berries are rich in the carotenoids zeaxanthin and lutein, both of which are vital to proper vision and the prevention of macular degeneration. Carotenoids, particularly these two, are so important to vision that they may single-handedly prevent the formation of cataracts. – [Trevithick-Sutton]
This would be a good time for a reminder that in seeking full-spectrum nutrition, just because there are volumes of research on how wonderful goji berries are, and just because they are highly nutritious it doesn’t mean that one should make them a staple food.
Mangosteen (which is unrelated to mango) has all the characteristics of an over-hyped fruit: as well as purportedly being excellent for us, it is also rather difficult to find, and is prohibitively expensive. Most people who do not live in a tropical environment will be lucky to see it in a form other than pasteurized juice. In this form it is almost always adulterated with other fruit juices.
Mangosteen is truly unique, and its health benefits make it well worth the effort it takes to procure it. Because mangosteen contains a variety and quantity of nutrition unavailable in most fruit, I mention it here with great praise.
The miraculous attributes of this strange looking, tangerine-sized fruit are due to xanthones, compounds used by the plant to deter pests. Over 200 xanthones have been discovered, and most of them can be found in the pericarp (the flesh surrounding the skin) of the mangosteen fruit. Virtually all are powerful deterrents of fungus, cancer, and viruses. – [Moongkarndi]
Pharmaceutical companies are busy trying to discover why xanthones are so effective against leukemia; pharmaceutical drugs do not work nearly as well. The most active and unique of the compounds seems to be mangostin which, as its name suggests, is unique to this fruit.
Noni is a strange fruit. Like some others on this list, one is unlikely to find it fresh in the produce section of the grocery story. But this isn’t because the fruit is simply difficult to ship. Ripe noni’s scent has been likened to dirty feet or rotten cheese. It is not a delicious fruit, and on its native island of Fiji it is only eaten as a famine food.
Nevertheless, noni is available at most health-food stores, usually in pasteurized juice form. Though studies are largely inconclusive, the fruit seems to exhibit some anti-cancer properties. Noni is safe to use, and I take it myself. My only recommendation would be to make sure that the noni extract you choose is as pure and uncooked as possible. Certain companies ride on the reputation of a touted “superfood” but adulterate their extract with large quantities of apple juice, grape juice or sugar. Pure noni enhances cell anatomy communication.
Papaya is notable for being high in carotenoids, as one would expect from such an orange fruit. It is also high in digestive enzymes.
As one would expect, this high-pigment fruit is extremely vital. I recommend eating the seeds of the pomegranate over drinking the juice). This fruit is entirely as nutritious as the red grape’s thin skin (see below).
Research demonstrating the healthful effects of wine is rather silly, since the very same nutrients supposedly abundant in wine are obviously found in grapes as well. Dark-colored grapes contain the highest level of resveratrol, a powerful phytoalexin. Other plants have it as well, notably raspberries and mulberries, but deeply-colored grape skins are an incredible source.
Watermelon contains an abundance of lycopene, the same nutrient found in tomatoes and other red fruits and vegetables. It also contains zeaxanthin, sulphoraphane, and indole-3-carbinol.
Nuts and Seeds
Nuts and seeds should be eaten sparingly. Often, those new to the raw food diet eat far too many, which is understandable: the transition from a high fat, high density diet can be challenging and requires a transition. That said, sprouted organic nuts and seeds are a must. They provide us with protein, phytonutrients, and essential fatty acids. Without these fatty acids, other nutrients are not absorbed by the body. They are also important for proper brain function. I mention them here not as much for their antioxidants (which they have, but those should come primarily from foods with a high water content) but for the part they play in processing other nutrients.
Nuts should always be eaten raw, preferably germinated, and should be purchased from an organic seller – old nuts will contain rancid oils that defeat the purpose of eating them. Store nuts in a refrigerator or, for long-term storage, a freezer.
Almonds are the most digestible of the nuts, and the easiest to consume in germinated form. They contain a high level of bio-available fatty acids.
Pine nuts contain about 31% protein, making them higher in protein than any other nut. Like all nuts, they should be eaten sparingly but often. One of the reasons that you should be sparing with pine nuts is because they are rather unpalatable in germinated form.
The pistachio is a familiar nut whose color should clue you in to its possible health benefits: bright green, deep red, rusty orange – what a beautiful nut! As previously mentioned, the color of food is a great indicator of whether it will increase our vitality.
Filled with lignans (sesamin, sesaminol, sesamolinol, sesamolin), vitamin E, lecithin, pinoresinol, myristic acid, and linoleate, sesame seeds are one of the most nutritious, oil-rich foods. Raw tahini (sesame butter) is an important element in vegan cuisine. – [Morris]
The walnut is one of the healthiest nuts. If anyone tries to argue the necessity of including fish in the diet for it’s omega-3 fatty acids, simply offer them a handful of walnuts. Fish does not offer any benefit that walnuts do not offer as well, and walnuts contain no pollutants.
The health benefits of nutritional phytochemicals are innumerable. By consuming a variety of these powerhouses in your diet you will invariably create more vitality in your life.