When it comes to nutritional advice, naturopathic doctors (myself included) tend to take more than we give. We provide long lists of foods that are forbidden–gluten, dairy, processed foods, fried foods–but do not often provide our patients with foods that they can add to their diets.
To put a positive spin on things, I’ve included five groups of food that you should add to your diet as often as possible. In the words of Hippocrates: “Let food be thy medicine, let medicine be thy food.”
1. Leafy Greens
Portion: 5 cups of leafy greens per day
We should aim to eat ten servings of fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables per day for optimal health. To pack an even bigger punch, try to make half of these servings leafy greens or cruciferous vegetables such as kale, spinach, cauliflower, beets, parsley, cabbage, broccoli, brussels sprouts, Swiss chard, radicchio, collards or arugula.
These vegetables are rich in fat-soluble vitamins, such as vitamin K, and sulfur and flavonoids–which help support your mitochondria and the health of your blood vessels. They also contain glutathione, which helps to detoxify and cleanse your liver. Including these foods in your diet will help you to both lose weight and heal your skin, while also providing you with antioxidants that will neutralize any free radicals generated in your body.
Add these foods in raw form to smoothies and salads or cook them into soups, stews or stir-frys. Steam, sauté or bake them in order to preserve their nutrients.
Portion: 1-2 cups of berries a day
This includes blueberries, blackberries, strawberries, raspberries, cranberries and acai berries. These foods are rich in antioxidants, such as the anti-inflammatory bioflavonoids, which help to protect blood vessels and neutralize free radicals.
3. Fatty Fish
Portion: 3 servings of fatty fish per week
Fatty fish is rich in the essential anti-inflammatory omega 3 fatty acids EPA and DHA. These fats help to decrease pain and improve skin health, protect your cardiovascular system, and help to maintain a healthy weight. High doses of EPA have been shown to positively benefit mood. To remember which fish carry these potent anti-inflammatory fats, memorize the acronym SMASH: salmon, mackerel, anchovies, sardines and herring.
4. Coconut Oil
Portion: 2 tbs coconut oil a day
Coconut oil contains Medium Chain Triglyceride (rapidly-metabolized fatty acids) which help to promote a healthy weight. It is also potently anti-inflammatory and contains gut-healing properties. Coconut oil also contains lauric acid, a healthy saturated fat, which is antibacterial and helps to kill unwanted gut bacteria. Healthy fats are nurturing to our hormones, skin and brain, so try to get a decent amount into your diet each day.
5. Flax Seed
Portion: 2-4 tbs ground flax seed a day
Flaxseed is high in fibre and promotes healthy digestion, stable blood sugar and healthy cholesterol while simultaneously eliminating intestinal toxins. It provides food for healthy gut bacteria, which helps to balance the immune system and improve digestive function. Flax seed contains lignans, which have been shown to modulate estrogen levels by binding to estrogen receptors; this means that flax seed will reduce estrogen in states where there is too much estrogen, such as PCOS; hormonal acne; fibroids; endometriosis and breast cancer, and will stabilize estrogen levels when taken peri-menopausally.
Flax also contains an omega 3 fatty acid called APA, which contains potent anti-inflammatory effects. Studies of patients with lupus show that giving 4 tbs of flaxseed per day helped preserve kidney health in these patient.
- 1-2 cups leafy greens
- ½-1 cup berries
- 1 scoop protein powder
- 2-3 tbs ground flax
- 1 avocado or 2 tbs coconut oil
- ½ banana (for sweetness)
- 1 cup almond milk
- ½ cup water
Directions: Blend ingredients together and serve cold.
- ½ - 1 bushel of fresh kale
- 2 tsp olive or coconut oil
- Sea salt and/or spices for flavour
Directions: Rip kale into chip-sized pieces, wash and dry. In a large bowl mix together the kale, olive oil and spices. Lay kale flat on a baking sheet. Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Insert baking sheet for 7-10 minutes. Remove baking sheet, mix the kale around, reinsert baking sheet into oven for 7-10 minutes. Repeat until kale is crispy but not brown. The amount of time to cook kale depends on your oven.
Breakfast Seed Bowl:
- 1 cup berries
- 1 tbs chia seeds
- 2 tbs flax seeds
- 1 tbs hemp seeds
- 1-2 tbs coconut oil
- ½ cup Almond milk
- ¼ cup hot water
Directions: Mix ingredients in a cereal bowl. Let stand for 10-20 minutes. Eat as a cereal.