The following are foods I choose to eat on a regular basis; grains, nuts, seeds, vegetables, sprouts, fruits, wild greens, fermented foods, oils, herbs, spices, and natural sweeteners like fruit syrup and maple syrup. To a lesser extent I include tofu, tempeh and TVP (vegetarian soy mince).
My basic recommendations are:
- Always use the freshest foods available, organic whenever possible.
- Eat as many foods as you can in their raw unprocessed form.
- Combine foods for maximum nutrition. A colourful plate is a healthy plate.
Grains are rich in principal nutrients and when cooked have a very grounding affect. In moderation they have a very benign and balancing effect on the body but should never be over consumed as this tends to toxify the body. Millet, brown rice and buckwheat tend to have a healthier alkaline effect while all the other grains tend to be acidic.
Use whole grains for maximum nutrition, staying clear if possible of refined or processed grains. These have had their trace minerals removed like zinc and cadmium as well as almost all the fibre.
Sprouted grains and grasses are the most nutritious, most digestible and most benign form of grains. They’re full of life energy and the sprouting process releases valuable nutrients that the cooking process can’t, thus sprouts contain nutrients that are not available anywhere else.
Nuts and Seeds
Nuts and seeds are high in protein and fats. Nuts are a grounding food and a principle source of protein in the regenerative plant based diet. Nuts should be used in moderation due to their acidic effect although Almond and Brazils tend to be more alkaline. Although nuts can be added to stir-fry’s, roasts and cakes I find them far tastier and nutritious soaked then made into butters, chesses and dips. Seeds are also great soaked and made into dips but can also be sprinkled over salads and eaten as a snack.
Because nuts and seeds are rich in oils they can quickly become rancid if shelled or broken. As a rule, if nuts still have their brown outer coating intact the nut will stay fresh for many months. Some seeds like sesame, if unhulled, can keep fresh for up to six months. Always keep nuts out of strong light and cool if possible.
Vegetables are an excellent source of vitamins and minerals. Vegetables are most nutritious in sprouted or raw form and can also make an excellent juice. Almost all vegetable seeds can be sprouted and make an interesting addition to salads and garnishes.
When cooking vegetables, heat them as little as possible in order to maintain their enzymes, vitamins and minerals intact. I prefer to steam or stir-fry rather than boil although root vegetables can benefit from roasting to concentrate flavours.
I also enjoy sea vegetables which are extremely high in trace elements and minerals particularly iodine and iron. They’re also rich in protein and can offer the taste of the sea to numerous dishes and make an excellent stock.
Wild greens are the most nutritious of all plants and can offer a whole new taste experience. I tend to pick them in spring when their tender and full of living energy. My favourites are nettles, dandelion, wild garlic, chickweed and samphire.
Vegetable oils are the best source of unsaturated fatty acids which are essential to the body’s health. The best sources of vegetable oil are seeds, nuts and olives. My personal favourite is olive, but others like rapeseed and hemp are even more nutritious and include omega 3 and 6. Always buy cold pressed for maximum nutritional content, organic if available and always store then in a cool dark place like a larder or fridge.
Spices and Herbs
Spices are not only flavourful but contain many useful vitamins, enzyme’s and minerals. Try to season your food with spices and herbs rather than the traditional western condiment of salt. If a recipe does call for salt I like to use either Himalayan pink salt of a herbal salt like Herbamare. In the Indian tradition of Ayurveda herbs and spices are used for their medicinal properties and in the western world we’re now just wakening up to their true potential in treating dis-ease and cancer.
Fermented or soured foods are highly digestible and help the bacteria in our gut and intestine. The benign bacteria in fermented foods also assist the production of vitamin B. I particularly enjoy pickles, sauerkraut and miso.
Try to avoid refined sugars like cane and beet as these are completely devoid of any nutritional content and are the scourge of the western diet. Instead try using natural sweeteners like pure maple syrup, date sugar or fruit syrup. Although some syrups are processed their still a better option than refined and are also made without using animal ingredient’s. In raw dishes you can’t beat whole dates which are also high in fibre.
Soy is high in protein, has the ability through food processing to become an ever increasing number of food products and can offer vegans a greater cooking repertoire. In supermarkets and health food shops you can now purchase TVP (textured vegetable protein), soya cheese, milk, yogurt and cream as well as numerous tofu’s like smoked, herbed, silken and firm. My personal favourite is Tempeh, an Indonesian fermented soy product that’s easy to digest, has minimal processing and has a strong savoury flavour. I tend to limit the use of other soy products but enjoy tofu in moderation, maybe once a week.
Firm tofu can be used in stir-fry’s, stews, bakes and cakes. It also makes a great scrambled egg substitute. Silken tofu can be used to make sauces, dips and smoothies.
There’s been a lot of negative press recently regarding soy products so again, everything in moderation and consider this, anything that’s good for you will at some time be vilified. You only have to look back at the food fads and scares of the last decade to realise that almost every food on the planet has at some stage been heralded as healthy then vilified as unhealthy.