In part one of this four-part series, we looked at some discouraging reports on the effectiveness of synthetic vitamins and minerals. So, the question now is – how can we obtain the nutrients we need from food?
Every person is biochemically unique, so nutritional requirements vary greatly by person and age.
Our needs are affected by stress, illness, and our emotional, mental and spiritual states. However, there are some common nutrients that everyone can use more of:
Vitamin-B complex and antioxidants help us combat stress. Rich sources of vitamin B’s include nutritional yeast, egg yolks, liver, soaked and sprouted grains, beans and nuts, leafy greens, dairy (preferably unpasteurized), fermented foods and drinks, and meats.
Antioxidants are found in all fresh fruit and vegetables. In the Yukon, we can take advantage of the variety of berries, rose hips, and spruce tips to more than adequately meet our needs. However, B-vitamins and antioxidants are heat sensitive, so they can be destroyed by high heat or long periods of cooking. Fermented foods have increased content and bioavailability of these nutrients.
Healthy fats are most often associated with regulating mental, nervous and hormonal health but many people are confused about which fats are best. Cod liver oil is a must for Northerners in the winter, with its immune-boosting vitamin A and D.
I also recommend getting fats from cold-water fish, wild meat, meat and bone broths, butter and butter oil, olive oil, coconut oil, and nut and seed oils.
Fats are one area where quality really counts, especially in childhood and pregnancy because toxins and hormones are stored in fat cells. So be careful that animal and fish fats come from organic, non-GMO, grass-fed animals or wild stock.
Olive and coconut oils should be cold-pressed and/or virgin. Try Sarah Pope’s e-book, Get Your Fats Straight for a holistic approach to good versus bad fats and cooking with fats.
Minerals, like magnesium, are in short supply in our diet. Most importantly, we need them for strong bones and teeth, cellular exchanges and balancing body pH levels. The best sources are green leafy vegetables, seaweeds and homemade meat or bone broths.
Digestive enzymes and probiotics help strengthen and support digestion. They increase assimilation of nutrients and maintain healthy intestinal flora. Raw foods like fresh produce, sprouts, and unpasteurized dairy products contain enzymes that aid digestion. Fermented foods like miso, sauerkraut, kimchi, kefir and kombucha help with digestion and detoxification and provide beneficial bacteria and yeasts.
For Yukoners, a bowl of soup made from homemade wild meat broth, local veggies, leafy weeds or greens, and served with some sauerkraut, kimchi or miso will provide you with all of the above.
Yet, for many people, eating healthy is still not improving their health. In the next week we’ll investigate that, and explore some simple, non-supplement based ways to get more from our food.