My new housemate said to me today, “You eat pretty healthy hey? You have all this crazy sh*t in the cupboard I’ve never heard of. I guess it comes with the job though, right?”
To be fair, I also think a lot of the processed crapola my housemate eats is crazy, but I know what he means. Naturopaths tend to live a bit of a different lifestyle to most people in our Western world. It’s not all that weird, and hopefully you’ve heard of some of these nutritious gems as they are slowly becoming more popular and accessible, both in supermarkets and restaurants.
Aside from an extensive collection of herbal tinctures, supplements and natural first aid supplies – as well as every herbal tea blend under the sun – these are some foods you are likely to find in your naturopath’s pantry.
CACAO: Cacao (“kuh-kow”) is the original, pure form of chocolate. Obviously we love it because it tastes amazing, but this Amazonian treasure is also loaded with minerals (magnesium and iron in particular) and a whole range of antioxidants (these protect our DNA and prevent age related illnesses). Cacao also contains ‘bliss chemicals’ that lift your mood and make you feel amazing. I avoid eating cacao at night (except when I am going out partying, or when I was studying and had assignments to get done – BEST study food!) because the theobromine boosts energy and can keep you awake.
It is important to note the difference between cocoa and cacao – while they come from the same plant, cacao refers to the RAW product, while cocoa has been heat processed. This is super important because many of the nutritional benefits of cacao are destroyed at high temperatures. Most processed chocolate bars and cocoa products are devoid of nutrients for this reason, plus they are usually packed with health-robbing sugar, milk and junk additives. Your naturopath most likely has a stash of raw chocolate blocks (Pana is the best), raw cacao powder for smoothies, raw cacao butter to make their own chocolate and healthy desserts at home, and cacao nibs or cacao beans to munch on or add to trail mixes.
CHIA SEEDS: These little seeds are packed with omega-3 fatty acids for brain health and beautiful skin, as well as calcium and vitamins B, C and E. Their gentle form of fibre promotes healthy bowel movements, supporting weight loss and detoxification; while the protein content of chia makes it a great food for athletes. Add a scoop of chia seeds to your smoothie or breakfast cereal, or get a bit more creative and make a delicious chia pudding. Make sure you let them soak a little til they get a gel-like consistency, before consuming.
CELTIC SEA SALT OR HIMALAYAN SALT: Salt has got a bad rap over the years, but in moderation, it’s actually essential for our health. Forget refined table salt – whether “iodised” or not, it’s total junk – and go for a naturally occurring product like Celtic Sea salt, Dead Sea salt or Himalayan rock salt. These are each loaded with 84 different essential minerals. They help to restore electrolytes and hydration, and balance pH levels. Add a pinch to your savoury dishes during the cooking process, or put some in your post-workout drink to assist with rehydration.
COCONUT OIL: Being a saturated fat, this is the healthiest oil to cook with, because it remains stable at high temperatures. Vegetable oils like canola have more changeable chemical bonds, which alter their structure and become oxidised when heated. This leads to cellular damage when the oil is consumed.
Coconut oil has antiviral, antifungal and antimicrobial properties. It is composed of medium chain fatty acids which support the immune system, boost skin health, promote energy production and help the body utilise healthy omega-3 fatty acids. This oil is also good for your heart, hormones, thyroid, nervous system and cell membranes.
Your naturopath probably uses this as their primary cooking oil, and may also add it to smoothies and raw desserts. (You’ll also find coconut oil in the bathroom and bedroom – but more on that another time!).
DANDELION ROOT TEA: There’s a good chance your naturopath has a LOT of teas in the cupboard with all sorts of weird and wonderful names, but this one is a mainstay. Dandelion root stimulates the liver and promotes healthy digestion and bowel motions; thereby supporting detoxification and weight loss. (Be aware that dandelion leaves have different benefits to the root of the plant.) For best results, buy this herb as a loose tea from the health food shop. Add to a pot of water, bring to the boil and simmer for around 15 minutes to extract all the beneficial constituents out of this woody herb. Strain before drinking.
GOJI BERRIES: These super berries are antiinflammatory, antiageing and packed with antioxidants. They also boost immunity, adrenal health, stamina, mood and vision; and are one of the best foods for supporting methylation. Keep a pack of dried berries in the cupboard for snacks, trail mix or use in raw desserts and smoothies.
QUINOA: (Pronounced “keen-wah”.) This super grain is a great source of protein, fibre, iron, lysine and magnesium. It’s a great food to support energy levels, gut health, and tissue growth and repair. It is easy to cook and tastes great. Simply rinse it first, put it in a pot and cover with water, bring to the boil and simmer for about 15 minutes until it’s soft and fluffy and has absorbed all the water. Enjoy in salads, as a breakfast cereal alternative or as a side dish to your main course.
SEA VEGETABLES: Including seaweeds in your diet can aid detoxification, boost immunity and promote thyroid health as seaweeds are rich in iodine and other essential minerals. Seaweeds also reduce the risk of some cancers and support adrenal health. Asian cultures have long been known for their beautiful skin and longevity, which is partly attributed to the seaweed content in their traditional diet. Wakame, kelp, kombu, arame, dulse, nori and bladderwrack are just some of the edible seaweed varieties available to get you started. Experiment with using sea vegetables in soups, stews, vegie dishes, sushi and salads.
SPIRULINA: We all need more greens in our diets, and nutrient dense algaes are a great way to boost your intake. Being at the bottom of the food chain, algaes must contain all nutrients required to sustain life. Spirulina is super high in absorbable protein and iron, making it a great food for vegetarians and athletes. It is also rich in betacarotene and zeaxanthin for eye health, and gamma linolenic acid (GLA) which is antiinflammatory and helps build soft skin and shiny hair. Spirulina generally comes as a powder by itself or in a mix with other supergreens. Don’t let the strong colour put you off, as it has quite a mild taste. Put it in your smoothies or juices, mix it into energy bars or mash a little into your avocado and spread on toast.
TURMERIC ROOT: This super herb looks just like ginger root, except with a distinctive orangey-yellow pigment. Turmeric is highly antiinflammatory, packed with antioxidants, supports heart health and has anticancer properties. There are endless ways to incorporate this one into your diet. Put a little of the fresh root in your juices, add to rice dishes, roast vegies, marinades, healing teas and elixir drinks, salad dressings, casseroles and so forth. Two warnings with this one – it is best avoided by people with bleeding disorders because it can thin the blood, and it stains EVERYTHING, so be careful!
So, now you know the benefits, are you game to give them a try?