Bird food any one?
Being a fervent, curious person, I am led to continuously search the internet, different areas of the world and by word of mouth for herbs, nuts and seeds that are not well-known or understood. I’m constantly drawn to other continents, to learn about locally consumed fruits, veggies and other foods whose appearance in the market, can resemble something from outer space. I have discussed this with Darin on several occasions, and imagine how puzzled these people from other regions would be to look at our local varieties of natural foods. Much more so at the actual foods the average westerner eats, they would question altogether if we where natives of earth for eating the plastic in which most of today’s food is packaged.
A simple, common apple would seem just as exotic to an Amazonian as their local fruits would seem to us. So, I fly off in my mind to distant lands, just wondering of the vast untapped natural gifts available, and wonder at the diversity that this magnificent planet we live on provides for us. I sometimes forget to plant my feet on the earth and take advantage of what we already have, here and now. Through discussing a potential mixture with Dr. Neugebauer, he brought to my attention Alpiste. I recalled this name vaguely from my early years in Mexico. Then as I typed the name online, it came back with all these bird feed logos, and bird information … and then I realized the English translation is, “canary seed”, (Phalaris canariensis) and it all made sense. Just the sheer idea of eating bird food, would seem outright preposterous, except maybe in an extreme circumstance, but I don’t expect it would be on your shopping list any time soon.
I did remember, they would sell it toasted as a street snack in Mexico and that in certain regions they would make atole, a rich thick beverage dating back to pre-Hispanic times usually made from corn. It was also used as confection for sweets, and to make other foods, so the idea was not as unfounded and coming from Dr. Neugebauer, it was definitely a serious proposal. So I did my research and came up with some extremely interesting information, which I would like to share.
Canary seed is a grass native to the Mediterranean regions of Europe, where in ancient and not too ancient times, flour was milled and made into bread. Presently, I have discovered that still, in some parts of North Africa, Italy and the Canary Islands, it is very much a part of their diets as sunflower seeds might be to ours. Before I proceed any further, in relation to the information being shared, we need to consider many factors before we run to our local bird store and purchase this seed.
I have started using the seed myself for over a month. No side effects have occurred, so I can testify that is not harmful. The second thing I looked into is the quality and origin of the seed and making sure it is organic. Then come the facts, as with any other product out there, someone or some people take advantage of the hype and over-exaggerate, without even the slightest trace of validity behind their claims. Once I went through a handful of websites, mainly out of Spain, glorifying canary seed as the next reincarnation of some deity. I came upon a good website in Spanish which actually broke down the pseudo-science, and it started making more sense.
Here is what I found; canary seed is believed to help in reducing weight, cholesterol, hypertension, triglycerides, balancing blood sugar and helping to detoxify liver, kidneys and gall bladder. Sounds good right? Well let’s take it one step at a time, first let’s look at the nutritional profile.
It has been analyzed to contain 61.0% starch, 18.7% protein compared to 15.0% in wheat, and the proportions of prolamin and glutelin in the protein averaged 77.7%, exceeding that in the control wheat protein of 73.5%. Canary seed proteins were more deficient in lysine and threonine than wheat proteins but were very rich in cystine, tryptophan, and phenylalanine. For a cereal, canary seed groats were very high in crude fat, 8.7%, and purified total lipid, 11.0%, containing 55% linoleic, 29% oleic, 11% palmitic, and 2.5% linolenic acid, fibers ranged in the 8-12%. The composition of small granule starch and gluten-like proteins, rich in tryptophan, suggests unique functional and nutritional properties for canary seed. It also contains high amounts of Iron 68mg/kg, phosphorus .55%, copper 7mg/kg and sodium 185mg/kg, Zinc 48mg/kg.
Nutritionally canary seed is no powerhouse. However, I would like to rescue the little, if any, importance we have given to canary seed. To find a larger range of foods we can consume, if we choose to increase the digestive enzyme functions, given that eating a small diversity of foods, tends to wear the enzymes required to digest and process these foods. Take into account that the digestive system contains a range of anywhere from a couple hundred to probably a couple thousands enzymes. So the greater the diversity, the better chance at being less nutritionally depleted. Given the millions of people consuming canary seed in a wide diversity of forms, we can safely assume you won’t get ill from trying it.
Contrary to the many claims and promises of lowering your weight, blood pressure etc. I NEVER, recommend diving into anything without first understanding what it is you are trying to do and understanding the component you are attempting to add to your diet (supplementation). Second, if your situation is chronic and you are taking medication consult with a competent nutritionist or an MD. Also, never depend solely on one product, no matter how outrageous the claims, and incorporate it into your LIFE STYLE routine of which diet is but one component.
Now, if you are somewhat curious as to what canary seed is all about, I recommend the following; firstly the seed is consumed always semi to completely processed. The most common form of consuming and reaping the nutritional benefits of the seed is to soak and sprout it. You can soak the seed 12-24 hours in the fridge. Otherwise it starts fermenting which can be a good thing, but not what we are discussing here. Drain the water at least once, then you have what looks like wheat berry-like seeds, ready to eat. They become soft, but watch out for the seed hull which tends to get stuck in your teeth. I then mix it with cinnamon, honey, sunflower seeds, and cashew nuts and eat it like a muesli type cereal. Another way to consume it, is to sprout it and eat in a salad. The most famous form is to obtain an ¨enzyme milk,¨ as is called in Spain, simply made out of the soaked seed and then blended with water or another liquid of choice and strained. You can sweeten with yacon syrup, agave, honey or whatever suits you better. Don’t like soy milk? Is almond milk too expensive? Try canary seed milk. The major claims surround the idea that the benefits of Canary seeds are found in the extremely rich enzyme diversity found in the seed. This is believed to regenerate the pancreas, primarily due to assisting in taking part of the work load of its ¨shoulders¨. Also, the enzyme diversity is said to detoxify liver, gall bladder and kidneys.
Is Bird Food not just for the birds?
As much as I would love to believe all this information, there is just so little actual validation and even less scientific information to back up all these claims. When it sounds too good to be true…rather I present the seed to be very similar to flax seed (though much lower in the omega-3 factor), eventually found to provide many benefits when used in a conscious form. I do believe we can harness the nutritional benefits, from which the body in its wisdom, will put to good use in creating and supporting health. We are in a time when there is no lack of ¨food¨, yet we still see malnutrition type symptoms, due to food industries’ attempts to control our food supply, reducing the diversity to the minimal, most profitable crops. And where exotic diversity driven foods tend to get expensive, it makes sense to me, to complement your diet with a bit of bird food. Maybe we’ll grow wings, and that wouldn’t be so bad either.
I close this article with a quote from Dr. Bernd Neugebauer
¨We tend to complicate our diets, and we forget to observe the diets of the worlds humblest populations, simple, diverse, non-processed, nutritious. It´s the best¨