Who doesn’t love a good warm bowl of ethnic pulse-grain food with some good spices and veggies on a cold day? Or maybe even more than once in a day? It is common for certain peoples to eat a grain or pulse dish 2-3 times a day or more if we consider the wide range of foods with a grain, seed or pulse as a main ingredient or derived from one. As debatable as it might be, let’s try to focus and discuss a specific phyto-component that I came across. Although we might have heard of it, we might not be aware of its effects. Recently, some studies have uncovered the extreme complexity of this component and it’s relevance to our health. Let’s take a look.
This controversial component is phytic acid, known also with a more familiar name IP6 (insolitol hexakisphosphate) or phytate when in salt form. IP6 might sound familiar from a certain hype build around it a couple years back, where it was marketed as a powerful cellular protector. It was claimed to enhance natural killer cells and chelate reactive iron halting hydroxyl free radicals, among other things. Most notably, rice bran was the source of most of the IP6 in the markets! Even though it’s interesting to know we can find a source of cellular health with amazing claims obtained from rice bran, how does that affect us in general on a day-to-day basis? Well for one, phytic acid by definition is quite a ubiquitous substance present in nearly most vegetables, some fruits, nearly all seeds, nuts, grains and pulses.
Knowing that we might be consuming this Phytic Acid nearly every day, sometimes a couple times a day makes things more interesting.
What makes this substance so abundant in nature is the fact that plants utilize this form as a sink or storage for the element phosphorus. This essential micro-nutrient phytic acid by definition metabolizes into the structural framework of ATP, RNA, DNA and Phospholipids (the latter one forms all cell membranes), and calcium phosphates salts, which assists in stiffening bones. Though generally not available for non-ruminants, given the lack of the essential digestive enzyme required for the hydrolization of the complexes in order to separate the phosphorus from the phytate molecule. Other molecules, ph ranges, acids, phytonutrients and anti-nutrients found in the vast diversity and complexity of nature allow for plants to protect themselves from being eaten completely, prematurely, out-competing other varieties of flora, attracting pollinators, defending from pests etc. Phytic acid plays a role in the development and health of the plant, constituting 1 to 5% by weight. Concern about its presence in food arises from evidence that it decreases the bio-availability of many essential minerals by interacting with multivalent cations and/or proteins to form complexes that may be insoluble or otherwise unavailable under physiologic conditions.
It forms fairly stable chelates with almost all multivalent cations which are insoluble about pH 6 to 7, although pH, type, and concentration of cation have a tremendous influence on their solubility characteristics. In addition, at low pH and low cation concentration, phytate-protein complexes are formed due to direct electrostatic interaction, while at pH > 6 to 7, a ternary phytic acid-mineral-protein complex is formed which dissociates at high Na+ concentrations. These complexes appear to be responsible for the decreased bio-availability of the complex minerals and are also more resistant to proteolytic digestion at low pH. Development of methods for producing low-phytate food products must take into account the nature and extent of the interactions between phytic acid in foods and other food components.
Thus a strong argument is being collected, trying to discredit the nutritional roles certain foods, most notably legumes and grains, and centering more directly on wheat. Play in our current diets though these studies have been corroborated with other studies in Mexico and China, signaling phytic acid as a primary component in the intervention of bioavailability of minerals, niacin and certain proteins by forming complexes through chelating.
Before we all jump on the ¨wheat-hating¨ bandwagon or ¨all legume, grain-hating¨, lets consider the following. First of all, if we are to completely eliminate phytic acid or similar components out of our diet, we would be limiting our choices to a handful at the most. The component is very abundant in nature as previously stated. The following is a list of common foods and the relative amount of phytic acid in foods.
Sesame Seed 5.36-5.38%
Brazil Nut 1.98-6.34%
Bean Pinto 2.38-2.38%
Soy protein 1.24-2.47%
Soy Bean 1.00-2.22%
Wheat Flour 0.25-1.35%
Brown Rice 0.84-0.99%
Polished Rice 0.14-0.60%
NOTE: These percentages are based on minimum to maximum dry weight volumes. Sources: REDDY, N. R. and SATHE, S. K. (2002). Food Phytates. Boca Raton, CRC Press.
Another aspect to consider is where the phytic acid is found in the product. In cereals, it is mainly found in the husk and bran. So one might deduct that by simply removing the husk or purchasing polished cereals we eliminate this problem. It’s not so simple. Not only do you eliminate the phytic acid component, but along with it, high volumes of the fibers, minerals, vitamins and other nutrients. So the question arises if it’s worth eliminating this part and compromising the integrity of the product. We either fail to assimilate the nutrients due to the phytic acid or eliminate an important source of nutrients through its removal. Interesting trade-off.
Fermentation Process – It’s All in Nature
Time and again, when we are attentive and observe nature with admiration and reverence, obstacles tend to become opportunities and blessings. As we might be very aware, all legumes, seeds, grains and nuts in essence, are seeds meant to be replanted though various means, natural or human, in order to propagate the variety. Even the very popular pseudo-grains like quinoa, amaranth and wild rice are actually seeds. The seed undergoes biochemical alterations when planted. This changes the chemical structure, allowing a shoot to come forth under the right conditions. We can deduct that germination changes an acid, nutrient-locked, paralyzed enzyme into a relative neutral PH (depending on variety), nutrient-unlocked, enzyme-active food. Within the same example, we acknowledge that in order to have germination, we need key elemental components such as water, the essence of life. This leads us to the second obvious nature proven model of how to eliminate obstacles…soaking. Through soaking, the chemical processes are activated primarily through enzyme catalytic functions. This is a key process in germination, and it must be stated that germination, by all accounts, is the best way to really potentiate and reap the highest benefits of your sproutable foods. Yet due to lack of knowledge, time, energy, space,etc. we tend to not do it, making soaking the second best option. Another way of viewing this is ¨sprouting cut short¨. The third and potentially least understood and practiced method is the following; nature tends to have a way to attract animals (humans included) towards picking and eating the fruits, making the seed exposed through the digestion of the meat of the fruit and once eliminated via defecation the seed is not only exposed but has undergone changes in its chemical composition. These changes are caused by digestive juices, enzymes, intestinal flora secretions , and different PH ranges as it passes through the GI tract. These are the first steps of fermentation although none actually occurs given the process of digestion is uninterrupted or altered. The seed tends to be eliminated without actual fermentation taking place. Past cultures in Japan, Korea, China, Finland fermented their grains, possibly due to an understanding of this principle. The most current, widely accepted form of fermentation is lacto-fermentation (Lactic acid bacterium induced).
Potential Health Benefits of Fermentation
Though many claims are being made, as we previously stated about IP6, no actual concrete evidence exists which links this component solely, directly and effectively with any of the related claims. Although it is, in effect, an active antioxidant in plants or a phytochemical. Phytochemicals in the pigments (lycopene, carotenoids) and polyphenols (flavonoids, tannins, etc.) are widely recognized and furthered studied in depth to provide more concrete evidence of their health benefits. From this, we can conclude that in much the same way other phytochemicals benefit our health, phytic acid can also. The extent and the form this benefit can take is yet to be determined with more precision. Other interesting considerations are the release of inositol. Alhough it is not an essential nutrient, it has great potential and is being experienced by patients with depression and other psychiatric disorders. It acts as a secondary messenger in cells and affects nerve guidance, intracellular calcium concentration control, gene expression, and serotonin modulation. All in all, phytic acid is not an enemy trying to deprive us of our much required nutrients. In the right conditions it serves it’s purpose.
On another note, provided pH and other environmental conditions are favorable, phytic acid can also influence certain functional properties such as pH-solubility, protein profiles and the cook-ability of the food.
We are now aware of the polar opposite characteristics of this component. what does this mean? For one you don’t have to stop eating all the foods with phytic acid. If you did , you would end up eating pretty much nothing, except maybe fruit. It is present in almost everything, even meats (farmed fish included), since they are fed untreated grains rich in phytic acid.
Cooking tends to reduce the phytic acid content, but at the same time decreases everything else worth ingesting. Industrial processes are starting to consider mechanical, enzyme, chemical, gene manipulation and other techno-fixes in the attempt to lower phytic acid from commercial mass consumed foods. I believe the answer lies in the natural processes and the multiple interactions which can be encountered in the growing, processing, preparation, (fermentation),mixing and ingestion of the product.
More research has yet to be carried out in order to clearly state where phytic acid stands. I personally don’t agree in jumping to a premature conclusion and defaming the component and the foods of which it is part. Rather, if we put into practice the most efficient methods of eliminating the inhibiting effects of the component from our foods, we are closest to harnessing the nutrients from them. As opposed to concluding that phytic acid is nature’s warning to stay away, I think it is one of nature’s processes by which it emerges, and one which can provide us with nutrients, if proper management of the product is applied.
You might better know it by the name ¨Mesquite,¨the common name given to basically any leguminous pod grown from any of the prosopis varieties which grow all along the Americas. This species maintains an especially important presence in Southern United States, Mexico, Peru and Argentina.
Much is being done proposing uses of this plant. It is commonly considered to be a weed because it competes for moisture and water with range grasses which are meant for cattle and other herds. It has shown an extreme resiliency to counteractions against it, including efforts for its complete removal from certain regions.
The mesquite plant’s durability is primarily due to its long taproots which tend to extract water from deep water tables, while also being able to extract from top level water sources. Mesquite works efficiently to switch between mechanisms of drawing water in order to accommodate the harsh desert conditions in which it lives. The tree also can regenerate from a small piece of root left in the soil, which makes its complete removal quite difficult.
Mesquite as Nutrition
The importance of this tree as a source of nutrition, has been widely recognized among desert dwelling Native American groups, such as the Pima, Tohono O´Odham, Zuni, Raramuri, Mayo, Seri etc. The name by which we recognize this food is a derivative of the original name given by the Aztecs, ¨mizquitl,” the etymology of which I have yet to find. Presently, communities living in the southern United States have started a revival of the consumption of the species prosopis glandulosa, better known as honey mesquite, as well as Prosopis pubescens (screwbean), prosopis velutina (Velvet) and prosopis juliflora.
Wood, dye, medicine, and other functions were given to the whole tree. It has recently been used as a source of delicious mesquite honey. The most important thing to note here, is the variance that exists in the market’s mesquite products. Not all mesquite is made equal and not all mesquite is actually mesquite! The common most popular ¨mesquite¨ in the market is actually prosopis nigra, alba and pallida. All come from South America, the first two primarily out of Argentina and the latter from Peru. These were baptized with the name ¨algarrobo¨, the name for the actual fruit or pod which grew from the tree. These “mesquites” share most of the same characteristics: desert to arid growing condition, leguminous, nitrogen fixer, source of food for native fauna and human colonies. The name algarrobo came from the similarity of the fruit to the better known European Carob. What does all this mean? Although algarrobo is extremely similar to mesquite, the two are different. Algarrobo products that are called mesquites in the market are not properly named.
Mesquite has a unique taste due to its specific ecological conditions and its resulting nutritional constitution.
The fact that one group of mesquite finds itself enclosed in the area surrounding northern Mexico and Utah in the United States, thousands of miles away from the Algarrobo varieties found in Peru, Chile, and Argentina leads us to believe that a common ancestor might be shared among the genus. Central America has almost no proposes, except for proposis juliflora, which is found there, but only due to recent introduction. Despite the possibility of a common ancestor between the similar plants in North America and South America, its adaptation to different environments, though both grow in arid locations, can cause slight to severe differences to the fruit yield. Much like the Cacao (theobroma cacao L.) tree, which has it made its way across the tropical Americas, its morphology, biochemistry, and organoleptic properties change from place to place. We can deduce that the same is true for the prosopis varieties. This is evident in the shape (leaf, pod), taste, morphology (whole tree), and the taste of the different varieties.
In short, the emphasis is not on whether North or South American varieties of Mesquite are superior. More importantly, a clarification of the nomenclature being used in the commercial, organic industry is appropriate for honoring the integrity and unique composition of all varieties of this plant.
Hello! I would like to share a delicious recipe that the very young to the very old can appreciate, pancakes, healthy pancakes. This is easy to prepare and the raw materials are easy to find. It’s an easy recipe with a twist on an old classic. NOTE: any of the ingredients used can be exchanged for others more locally available. So, if you have difficulty finding any, there are always substitutes. This recipe can be enjoyed for breakfast or as a snack.
Utensils for Healthy Pancake Recipe:
- Non- Stick pan
- Fork or any other whisking utensil
Ingredients for Healthy Pancakes:
- Mesquite or Algarroba Meal (if you don’t like the rich coffee/cacao like taste, exchange for other meals that suit you best) 1 tablespoon
- Wheat Germ (if you are gluten intolerant, allergic, or have celiac’s diseasea, substitute with more mesquite meal, quinoa or amaranth meal) 1 tablespoon
- Soaked rolled oats 1 tablespoon (I make a big emphasis on soaked due to the high natural phytates, which can lead to blocking mineral uptake in the body. Although soaking won’t eliminate completely, it will remove moderate to high amounts. For better results try to lacto-fermentate your oats in a high quality yogurt or kefir overnight)
- Soaked nuts or seeds (I personally like Flax and Chia or Canary Seed and Flax, soak 4-6 hours or as little as 2 . This also serves as the basis for an omega-cake, read more below. Harder nuts and seeds like Almonds, Walnuts, Pecans etc, take 12-24 hours to soak) 1-2 tablespoons
- Egg 1 large or small depends on requirements or condition (Alternative for vegetarian – 1 tablespoon of black strap molasses, if you are using egg, do a little investigation and try to get the highest quality. Free range and organic are the best)
- Whole butter (Vegans can substitute with coconut oil) 1 teaspoon
- Sea salt just a pinch (If you are hypertensive, or suffer from another condition where you should limit or eliminate salt all together, skip this. If you can’t get good sea salt, use Himalayan salt or kelp)
- Cinnamon ½ teaspoon (You can skip this or substitute with ginger)
- baking soda, sodium bicarbonate Just a pinch
- Water ½ cup. Or Milk (animal source or vegetable your choice, I personally use clean water)
- Your favorite fruit for topping
Ok let´s have some fun making healthy pancakes…
- Mix in your bowl, the pinch of salt, egg (substitute) and whisk well if you have a mixer. If not, give your arm a work out, that would be better!
- In a separate, larger bowl, mix all the dry ingredients (meals, nuts/seeds, baking soda, cinnamon).
- Mix 1-2 together in a bowl/mixer and mix well until homogenized.
- Get your non-stick pan ready and pre-heat, if you don’t have one get your best quality pan out (iron is always great). Spray with some non-stick solution or do it the old-fashioned way and get some butter on that bad boy (Vegan or don’t like the effects of heat on lipids? Use coconut oil, it tolerates heat much better and tastes good!)
- Pour the mixture onto the pan, it’s up to you, if you want to make one big one or a couple of small ones. I like to add all of the mixture.
- Wait 4-5 min and with your spatula flip over to cook well.
- All done.
Now serve and enjoy, you can top your healthy pancakes off with what ever you like, maple syrup, honey, jam, nut butters, fruits and berries, etc. I personally use a small teaspoon of wild crafted honey. I don´t like it too sweet and it defeats the purpose. It’s pretty well balanced in it self. Too sweet tends to make it harder to digest. I hope you enjoy!
Another fun and nutrient-rich variation is what I call the Omega-Cake: The Healthy Pancake without eggs
This healthy pancake recipe variation calls for no eggs, instead use as a binding agent, such as soaked Chia and Flax seed. As you might already know, when soaked they produce a sticky mucilage. If you are worried about the protein lost without the egg, you can add nuts and seeds to increase the protein content. You can add a full teaspoon of each of the seeds to really increase the omega-3 content in your pancake. Naturally, it is preferable not to cook or expose heat to the seeds due to the chemical change occurring to the fatty acid constituents, so best to expose them to the heat quickly.
NOTE: The amounts presented are what I use, you can add more or less and customize to your needs and requirements. If you are a body builder or pretending to be one or just want more bulk, add some almonds, walnuts, and powdered protein of choice. If you are watching your waistline or are diabetic, heart patient, or terminally ill use less and verify what works for you.
NUTRITIONAL VALUE of these amazing Pancakes
This is a rough estimate of the nutritional value in this pancake recipe, given that ingredient amounts may vary. Here is a basic nutritional breakdown on 100 grams of raw material of each ingredient.
100g of Mesquite Meal
- Protein 16 g
- Fat 3.4 g
- Calories 380
- Fiber 36 g
100g of Wheat Germ
- Calories 360
- Calories from fat 81
- Fat 10g (1.79g Sat. 1.4g Mono. 6.0g Poly) 7-1 Omega 6-3
- Protein 23g
- Total Carbs. 52g (Fiber 13g)
- Sodium 12mg
- Calcium 12%
- Iron 34%
- Thiamin 1.9mg
- Calories 389
- Calories from Fat 59 (1.2g. Sat. 2.2g Mono. 2.5 Poly.) 21-1 Omega 6-3
- Sodium 2mg
- Protein 17g
- Total carbohydrates 66g. (Dietary Fiber 11g.)
Egg 1 large
- Calories 102
- Calories from fat 67 (2.2g Sat. 2.9g Mono. 1.3Poly.) 16-1 Omega 6-3
- Total fat 7g
- Total Carbs 1g
- Protein 7g
- Sodium 171mg
For further information on nutritional break down please visit www.nutritiondata.com
Enter individual raw materials and you will get a rough idea of the nutritional content. I emphasize the word ¨rough¨ given that this page seems to fail to take into consideration ecologically grown products. Eggs for example would have a much better omega 6-3 ration, higher protein, mineral, vitamin content if they were organic and free range, as would the rest of the products. Also, don’t forget about our ¨unknown friends¨; poly phenols, i.e. active plant molecules which we are just beginning to understand. Have fun and enjoy your healthy pancakes and the pancake recipes!
Mother earth in her ever-changing states, from prehistoric times to the present, has adapted to a myriad of fluctuations. These fluctuations have severely influenced the flora and fauna existing in every corner of the planet, altering their properties and physiology to a an impressive extent. This is the case for all of the known and unknown foods we use to supply our diets. A certain group of these foods have evolved to such a degree that they tend to metabolize within their physical constitutions a higher than average volume of nutrients (vitamins, minerals, proteins, enzymes, phytochemicals, etc.). Given the unique circumstances to which they might be exposed, they have evolved due to environment, location, topography, human manipulation/domestication etc. These have been baptized by some as superfoods, though no actual medical, nutritional references exist to accept the term. There are however, actual references to citations in the Oxford English dictionary dating back to the 1915´s stating “a food considered especially nutritious or otherwise beneficial to health and well-being”.
Although, it is becoming a household name, do we really understand the meaning of the term ‘superfoods‘ and is the meaning we are being offered truly significant? Certainly we can make the case for extremely higher than normal, nutritional profiles and health benefits through a myriad of complex phytochemicals and other ¨mystical¨ power interactions within the human body. Their benefits being SUPERior to other foods contributes to the reason we would categorize something as a superfood. But is that all there is to it? Why does it always seem like the more exotic looking and the more exotic the place of origin, the more SUPER the food is? And what place do the non-superfoods have in our diet? Should we just go for broke and spend all of the money we would usually spend on ¨regular¨ food and spend it on superfoods, since we will get ¨all¨ the nutrients we will ever require? It all makes sense, at least superficially until you start thinking outside the lines of the marketing of certain companies.
Some food for superfoods thought
As we stated earlier, the general idea of a superfood is one packed with nutrients which digests easy. In earlier history such common products like vinegar, salt, wine, peanut butter and soy milk were considered along the lines of what we now think of as superfoods. We can recall them being marketed as the ¨fountain of youth¨, ¨youth from X place in the planet¨, ¨natures whole-food multi vitamin¨etc. Such products like Noni, Goji Berries, Maca, Quinoa, and Açai are just a few of the ever growing list of exotic superfoods.
Contrary to popularized pretenses that they served as staples in the common diets of indigenous groups around the world, such claims are ill-founded, given that generally most of these cultures lived on a diversity of foods, which we are just now beginning to uncover. Historically some crops where lost due to being ¨un-holy¨ or of ¨lower nutritional value¨ as stated by European colonizers mainly in the Americas. Also, it is now known that most of these cultures lived on what, by today standards, would be considered quite unpleasant. Items like dog, lizards, insects (including their eggs), worms, fungus, yeasts, plants, etc. are hardly seen as acceptable today. How about that for a superfood diet? In extreme and seasonal times they would live almost exclusively on certain foods given the circumstances. Most civilizations, had little or no written records. Those that had hieroglyphs or other means of keeping records where wiped out along with any trace of what really happened in their societies including their nutrition. The depictions of what kind of eating habits occurred back then is only now being pieced together. Most of the information we have is a watered-down version. Also, what I am finding is that the superfoods have been commercialized as being sacred to these cultures and thus known to be endowed with some sort of magical aura of hyper-nutrition. Here the word sacred is loosely used, as there is no similarity, at least in the Native American languages for this word. Rather a Christian European-based introduction that depicts the high reverence and respect the natives showed for their crops. These cultures depended on them, yet given their highly superstitious nature and lack of in-depth understanding of the chemical processes by today’s agronomical standards, they tended to have a different relationship with these foods. It was almost spiritual. Together with the mythological, sometimes allegoric stories presented for some of these products, we have to understand most, if not all of these cultures had no actual written languages and believed in an energy which moved through all living things, personalizing their foods no different than they personified all living and non living things around them. In their cosmo-vision there was no essential difference.
This is food for thought. Be aware of the typical commercial tools being employed to make something more interesting and enticing. It is not the intention to discredit any product, but rather to present a non-biased opinion on the superfood hype.
SO WHY BOTHER WITH SUPERFOODS?
Being clear and informed on the whole concept of superfoods, which tends to sometimes create a misconception of the current understanding and facts, is important. Then, we can be creative and carry out personal and educated choices. These will be a result of free will, not out of an impulse to consume.
We need to rescue and expand the stance that nature blesses us with its bounty.
This bounty tends to adapt to certain extreme to abnormal natural conditions. Creating a different nutritional profile, which tends to take shape in the most beautiful of ways to attract pollinators, provide protection from pests, environmental hazards, competition from other plants, amongst other things. This comes in the form of pigmentation, shapes, densities, and a reason to be, give and propagate. We tend to pay attention to the main ones, these being protein, minerals, vitamins, and recently lipids as well as over-exaggerated antioxidants. The late Dr. Christopher had a quote which I love:
¨We eat apples because of their vitamin A, B and C, but also, we will find in time, their richness in vitamin W, Z and X and the integrity of which, is what provides the benefits¨
What this amazing man elegantly presents to us, is the fact that we are just barely scraping the surface of nutrition. That the biological and chemical constituents found in ordinary everday foods, have a potential to create and maintain health is incredible. Though science is working at understanding metabolic pathways and how nutrients really work within the body, the truth of the matter is, the body is like the universe – we will never understand it completely. Furthermore, most studies are carried out under isolated, reductive principles. Take into consideration the vast and incomprehensible resiliency of the body, the way it disassembles and reassembles nutrients in innumerable ways, is mind-boggling.
Every product has its place and worthy of appreciating it’s gift.
Being critical of the superfoods hype is essential in order to be non-categorical regarding common, more ordinary foods. If superfoods exist, it is implied there are normal and sub-normal foods, which is not the case. Diversification of flora and fauna is critical for global well-being; diversification in your diet is critical for your well-being. Introducing exotic foods is certainly not a bad thing, if anything you could be positively helping a local economy, saving a potentially endangered species, saving a piece of a rainforest, a culture, or a way of living.
But don’t forget your local farmer at your farmers’ market providing you with those wonderful superfoods.
Certain European countries are actually enforcing laws, where companies are held accountable for naming a product ¨super”, requiring them to provide insight into what classifies it as such. There is no denying the magnificent qualities of certain products. Both companies and consumer are held responsible for their role in the commercializing and consumption of a product.
Are all Plants Created Super?
To sum things up, you will always have people to glorify and others to criticize a product. So take both sides of the story into consideration and try not to fall prey to the marketing propaganda on one side and or the fear propaganda on the other. Rather educate yourself, be sensitive to the product and try it. If you feel it is worth it, give it some time and if it is working for you, then great! Incorporate it to complement your lifestyle and balanced nutrient intake. If it doesn’t produce results, give thanks and move on. Always listen to your body and what you require! Most importantly, erase the whole superfood concept out of your mind, or better yet, apply it to all foods our planet provides us. When you think about the fact that plants are about 2-4% earth minerals and 96-98% condensed sunlight and gases you can believe that all of the plants created are super.
Below you will see links for some good information on the elemental nutritional breakdown of some
common fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds. Check out the nutrient charts on some common and not so common ones. This gives you a rough idea of your nutrient intake. Though I would make a very controversial point to not limit your nutrition to what the experts say, we have shifted our focus over the past 30 years from food to nutrients. It seems lately, the actual food holds no value unless we get the biochemist, nutritionists, and other scientists to dissect the food we are about to eat. It seems the antioxidants and fiber, protein and whole spectrum of macro and micro nutrients has the upper hand and it’s becoming quite confusing, not to mention expensive and unsustainable. We but have to view the landscape: we have more food scientists, experts, gurus than ever before. We have the most sophisticated instruments, the fastest way to send and receive information, yet we have the ever-soaring expenditure on health and our collective health on all areas (mental, spiritual, physical, emotional, connective). I propose to you, I dare you, to be in ¨the know¨. Be informed without being too extreme and crunching numbers before your meals. Refocus on all food being superfoods and the magnificence of nature and its gifts.
Check out these other related blogs on superfoods here:
For reference on the bio and culinary diversity of the ancient cultures where most actual ¨superfoods¨ originate please visit the following links:
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¨
In this day and age, we have been exposed to numerous foreign words and phrases describing products which are marketed as the new cure for what ails you. It seems that the more obscure, difficult to obtain and exotic a food may be, the better it serves certain groups in the marketplace. Superfoods like Noni, Goji Berry, Açai, and a whole list of other super tonics that assist us in everything from giving us more energy, to preventing cancer are oftentimes portrayed in a light which creates an illusive expectation and subsequent disappointment. Though I would make a case for and validate all of these products and their benefits, they are not the issue here. For thousands of years they have served as food, medicine and a means of survival in times of war, famine or natural disasters. The empirical evidence to support their reason to be is great. I’m not out to crucify any product or company, rather to provide unbiased information and stir the imagination and conscience of those reading these articles to make personal, common sense decisions to include or exclude these products into one’s lifestyle.
However, I do feel these gifts from nature serve a purpose higher than we are led to believe. I will go into more detail eventually in future posts. For now, let’s return to the superfood at hand, Sacha Inchi Oil.
Plukenetia Volubilis is the Latin scientific name of the species. Don’t panic, you won’t be quizzed on any of these names… This is a perennial plant from the spurge family that includes other plants like manioc and castor oil. Native to the Peruvian Amazon jungles, it grows close to the rivers and in some cases up to 1700 meters in altitude, as the Incas had to find refuge in the jungle during the last decades of struggle against the Spaniards. They grew this crop wherever they settled. Previously, the crop was cultivated by local indigenous communities and it is probable the great Incas of the time received it as some sort of taxation or collateral. What is certain, is that they consumed this crop heavily during their stay in the jungles, hence the name Sacha Inchi, which roughly translates to Sacha Peanut, Mountain Peanut or Inca Peanut. Contrary to what the common name might lead you to believe, it is not a peanut and not related to one, rather Sacha Inchi is a shrub standing up to 6 feet tall.
Like many other commercial, pseudo-ethno botanical examples of the importance of certain crops to local indigenous groups, Sacha inchi was a vital crop, but taking into consideration the extreme diversity of foods available in the Amazon, I don’t believe it was the most important.
So, why is sacha inchi oil important to us and why should you care?
First of all, there is a peculiarity of this nut that stands out as it is extremely high in concentration of Omega-3 (40-50% of the total oil content that makes up 35-60% of the nut volume, oddly enough, with only 5-7% of these oils being saturated… way below most of the nuts and seeds used for human consumption). Contrary to what you might be led to believe through altered information, the omega-3 found in vegetable sources is not the same as those found in animal sources. Those found in vegetable sources come in the form of alpha linoleic acid (ALA), different from the EPA and DHA you are used to associating to when hearing omega-3. The difference here is that DHA and EPA come from marine fish or crustacean. The occurrence here is quite obvious, as these creatures synthesized from simpler substrates. To create the DHA-EPA in their bodies for their metabolic uses, in contrast the ALA is a shorter 18-carbon chain, which once ingested the human body is able to convert to DHA(22-carbon chain)-EPA(20-carbon chain) given that the correct conditions are available (enzymes, nutrients, co-enzymes etc.). Most important worth mentioning here is the imperative necessity for the correct balance of the other omegas to be present in order for there to be a harmonious metabolic environment. Too much omega-3, too little omega-6, too much omega-9 etc. and you are headed to lipid imbalanceville. I will discuss in more detail the differences between fish omega-3 and vegetable sources in future articles, for now don´t panic if you are taking marine sources, just be sure to be taking a high quality, trusted source, supplement. Ask questions, call the company if necessary, and make sure they are transparent and willing to provide you with information, especially on their sourcing and processing.
So why do we want fat? All through out the 70′s, 80′s and into the 90′s, fat was demonized as the culprit for all of our ailments, or most of them. We were forced to succumb to the mass media, ¨professional opinions¨ and ¨scientific data¨ that fat was not your friend and you should eradicate it from your diet at all cost. The new millennium came around and the medical field started to rethink their previous statements. Correlations were made between fatty acids and joint lubrication, cholesterol, hypertension, blood clotting, sexual reproduction, endocrine system health, nervous system health, muscle tone, brain function and the list goes on. Then all of the sudden, fat was not our enemy and a new paradigm on fat was created. Still, much has to be done to erase 30 years of infamy, but we are making headway. I still remember the most loyal friends/customers who would frequent the Vitamin Barn were the omega friends. I remember clearly the day this gentle old man, who looked like he came out of a story book, came up to me with a puzzled look and asked about omega essential oils. His doctor had requested he take it and a smile made its way to my face, knowing change was on the way. He continued purchasing his omega source, every month like clockwork. This was the common pattern for people who began taking omega source supplements, not wonder pills, magic or new discoveries. Any medical, scientific or biochemical book will tell you lipids are essential nutrients for optimum human health. It makes sense that when you reintroduce them to your body, or balance the amount of them ingested you will start noticing a ¨change.”
So now that we are a bit more clear on fats, let’s go back to Sacha Inchi. It is important to notice the proper balance of all of the omegas (40-48% Ω-3 (ALA), 30-36% Ω-6 (Linoleic), 3-10% Ω-9 (Oleic). Saturated fats 4-7% (Estearic & palmitic) found in Sacha Inchi. This provides the correct percentages which allow the body to metabolize correctly. Combine this with the high amount of the lipid-soluble vitamins A and E, which act as natural antioxidants that also inhibit rancidity, and is common in most oils.
Besides acing the lipid sector, Sacha Inchi is a powerhouse of minerals and complete protein (25-35% by volume). Higher than all seeds and most nuts, its amino acid profile proves it’s benefits in protein quality in comparison to other available sources.
As far as mineral composition, it is a great source of Calcium, Copper, Zinc, Phosphorus, Potassium and Iodine. Given this valuable nutritional component, some countries are actually looking into this crop as a means of fighting malnutrition. (Colombia is seriously considering plans to start it´s cultivation with this objective)
So, is Sacha Inchi the next greatest superfood? I never recommend depending on a just a few foods for your nutrition, especially when it grows halfway around the world. I always recommend using discernment with hype. Each human body is different, so what might work for one, might not work for another. If you are interested, go to your local health food store and request more information on Sacha Inchi. It is still a pretty new product, so it may not be easy to find. If you assess that it may be valuable for you, start with a small bottle of the oil. You will not get a quick fix, results could occur in a week to two months. Be patient and give it at least 2 months. You should allow the same amount of time with fish oil. Call the company who provides the oil or product to make sure they are transparent and you can have access to information on the processing and be able to identify the source of the raw material.
Is it worth purchasing the oils and buying these products? If you are a vegan or vegetarian, yes. If you are not, it would still be well worth it to add a high nutrient profile (lipids, protein, fiber, minerals, and vitamins) to your diet.
Sacha Inchi comes in 3 base presentations; oil (this oil is to be used raw, not for cooking), gel caps (no burping fishy taste), and meal (obtained from the press cake left after the oil is extracted). A side note to take into account here is that polyunsaturated oils for the most part, are not meant to be exposed to heat since this alters their whole constitutional biochemistry, rendering them pathogenic. Oxidation leads to rancidity . Much research has been done on behalf of polyunsaturated exposed to oxidants, one of the main dietary reasons for much of the health perils affecting the core of society as a whole. To understand the nature of fatty acids and know how they present themselves in structures around the environment where they are found, is key. In hot, humid, tropical to sub tropical regions, the fatty acids are generally saturated in nature. Some examples are; Coconut, Palm, Avocado, Cacao and Cottonseed. While in contrast, most of the high polyunsaturated oils are found in the colder climate crops like cereals, such as; sunflower, safflower, linseed, rapeseed and soy. This is due to the fact that in warmer climates, polyunsaturated oils tend to oxidize more easily, while in the colder climates this process is reduced. Another factor is structure, as saturated fats would benefit the whole plant (especially the fruit or seed) in their composition structure giving it stiffness to the cell walls and not succumbing to premature oxidation.
I always recommend giving it a chance, and making your own conclusions. If you suffer from a terminal or chronic disease, it is wise to verify with your MD before adding any new supplement to your diet. Better yet to check with a competent nutritionist, since most MD’s are not well schooled in nutrition. Be proactive as well in thinking of the direct and indirect environmental impact. Though most of these ¨superfoods¨ are true blessings, while a blessing for some might be a curse on others. Think of the carbon footprint it generates due to the distance covered to offer it to you, the processing of the product, warehousing, packaging, along with the human factor. How does it affect the local inhabitants? The fauna? Are native forest being deforested to make room for this crop or is it sustainable? Are they mono-cropping? These are all good questions to take into consideration, where the simple fact of being organic certified and even fair trade does not really clarify much.
Further more, I never recommend diving in and going for broke with any one product no matter how convincing it sounds. Sacha Inchi is a product to respect as any other product from the earth and it shows a higher than normal nutrient profile (especially alpha linolenic acid from the omega-3 family) than other whole foods. Yet engage Sacha Inchi as a potential health supplement and nothing more. It might save someones life, and greatly benefit many others and it may not. Incorporate it as you best see it fit into YOUR life style, take into consideration that the body does need EFA´s, but only in small amounts in comparison with the pre-assumed whole intake of calories in any given day. As stated by Dr. Mary G. Enig, “Around 4% of your caloric intake should come from the presumed omega-3´s (polyunsaturated)”. Naturally, companies will lead you to believe this percentage to be much higher, because of the imbalance between the extremely high amounts of omega-6 to 3´s which is rampant in most of the industrial countries today. The idea here is to return to a more earth/body-conscious way of eating rather than a number crunching diet. Whether it is 4% or 40% some metabolic type or blood type diet enthusiast might argue the percentage offered by Dr. Enig. I like to propose to those reading this, to examine their current diet and state of being. A good indicator would be how you feel most of the time. If your answer is lousy, bad, lethargic, moody, etc. a modification is needed. If ok, decent, so-so, is the answer, why not good? Excellent? Vibrant? Lucid? Fats are a piece of the puzzle and nutrition as a whole, if only a part of overall health, but it makes sense to become self-directed and self-actualized to attain the best possible version of oneself.
For further information on the benefits of oil (lipids), I highly recommend visiting Dr. Udo´s website http://www.udoerasmus.com/firstscreen.htm . This is a man who has dedicated his life to re-educating the world on the importance of lipids. He is a true visionary and revolutionist of his field. Also, Dr. Mary G. Enig , another world authority and in her own words, ¨at the fringe of current nutrition and views of health from the orthodox point of view¨. The insight offered in her books is highly recommended as a must in any health/nutrition interested bookshelf. Though Dr. Enig and Dr. Udo are experts in their field, not all they present or believe is concrete, so still, follow your instincts. Generally what is true makes sense.
Further links…NOTE – given the small exposure of Sacha Inchi, most of the information is still in Spanish. You can copy and paste to a free translator online.
Lasserre, M, et al, Lipids, 1985, 20:4:227
Enjoy Sacha Inchi Oil!
This is my first post for Darin’s Naturals and I am delighted to be able to share, engage, and learn in a such a forum. I cannot begin to thank the many people who have contributed to my ever-expanding and interesting journey. The most meaningful guidance I have found has been in the simple words of strangers – unknown characters whose ideas have awakened something within me and sent me curiously down a path that perhaps I was already looking towards subconsciously. This reminds me of my first day of class nearly ten years ago. My classmates and I were introduced to a man I admire greatly, Dr. John Christopher, via one of his videotapes. Although I never met Dr. Christopher I have come to know him through the legacy he has left behind in his books, audios, and videos. His words have resonated with me throughout my studies. I will paraphrase a particularly powerful statement from my first encounter with Dr. Christopher’s work: ¨Ten percent of what you learn in class will serve you in your practices, ninety percent you will learn through divine inspiration, observation, and through the people you encounter in your practice.¨
For my first blog post I would like to talk about Quality Health. The following will include my personal views and not what one might define as universal truth. That being said, I openly welcome feedback from you, the reader to assist me. Your thoughts and input may redirect me in the event I fail to notice the flower by the side of the road, due to a preoccupation with staring at the moon above.
Take a moment to ask yourself, “What is health?”. What does health mean to you when you remove the clutter of all you have been told? Take away the education and instruction of what health is and what it is not. Ask yourself simply, allowing yourself to sense and receive an answer without judgment. It is common to be indoctrinated into a particular mode of thinking, acting, or even feeling. Without assessing such matters for ourselves we will always maintain a limited view.
Is health the state of being disease-free? Is health happiness? Is it the absence of stress? Is health comfort or being in good spirits?
Let us consult the dictionary for the generally-accepted answer to my question.
Health as defined by www.thefreedictionary.com:
1. The overall condition of an organism at a given time.
2. Soundness, especially of body or mind; freedom from disease or abnormality.
3. A condition of optimal well-being: concerned about the ecological health of the area.
4. A wish for someone’s good health, often expressed as a toast.
Personally, my understanding of health is not a finite definition, but a dynamic concept that changes as I encounter new people and new circumstances. In the past, when I believed I had discovered the true meaning of health, the idea or definition I developed would inevitably be disproved at the earliest opportunity. The only pattern I noticed was that the meaning of health appeared to have no pattern at all. Health fits in no particular mold and the experience of health is not general, despite humankind’s collective, sometimes misinformed or incomplete journey towards a desired state of being. I have come to understand health as a the sum of many parts, comprised of various moments, decisions, feelings, views, beliefs, actions and reactions. This became more clear when I understood the etymology of the word health. The term is actually a Proto-Indo-European derivative from the word kailo which means “whole, uninjured, of good omen.” Thus, I like to think of health as wholeness, which helps me shift the common paradigm of isolation which is often reductive and unhelpful, to one of integration and completeness which is both expressive and expansive.
It is no secret that today we face great challenges as a species, health being one of the most critical. We observe the younger generations suffering from ailments early in their lives which previous generations suffered from much later in life. Despite access to more health professionals and higher budgets than ever before, those suffering from constant, chronic pain have no realistic mainstream source for cure or hope in sight. Yet one of the least-tapped resources for curing, or at least diminishing chronic pain and discomfort is the local bookstore! There are a wealth of books addressing the many common and uncommon illnesses from all angles, often providing valid solutions. It was this extreme diversity that assisted me in deducing the main principle in our pursuit for health. I realized that within this growing diversity of theories, practices, experts, hypotheses, etc., we find a hidden yearning for transcendence, change, integration, empowerment, and self-responsibility.
“Quality Health is the natural state when you are in a healthy situation and environment. “
Oddly enough, today health is more of an elusive phenomenon than a consistent state. It shows up spontaneously for a few blissful moments here and there only to be lost. This brings us back to the frustrating and expensive search for what we believed we had already found. There is no doubt in my mind that health is a natural state of being, which like many states of being, may be disturbed and imbalanced by humankind until he genuinely seeks to restore it again.
My intention is not to point fingers or create conflict. Rather, I’d like to remind us all to feel once again. This feeling I refer to is not sensory stimulation from external circumstances. I challenge each of you to return to the self. Where wisdom, sense, and YOU exist.
In closing, I will quote the most comprehensive and rational definition for health I have found:
¨Health is not the total absence of ailment, rather the best possible equilibrium that an INDIVIDUAL can achieve in an active relationship with his/her environment, in any determinate moment of his/her life, within a country, culture, and historical period, health is a right that involves all of society.¨ Pichon Riviere
Enjoy Quality Health!
Optimum Health Nutrition
Darin’s Naturals has been all over the world finding some of the most exciting new and sustainable superfoods! Through the Darin’s Naturals website, we will now also be sharing our unique insights and information regarding optimum health nutrition, superfoods, herbs, sustainable practices and more.
We are continuing to design formulations with many dynamic companies, bringing in new ingredients and forging new territories in deliverable nutrition to bring optimum health nutrition to as many people as possible. We are finding more and more applications for our work all the time. Join the party…be on the cutting edge with us!
About Darin’s Naturals and Optimum Health
Darin’s Naturals was started in 2005 by Darin Olien with the intention of creating the greatest superfood and herbal formulas and sharing the world of optimum health with others. Darin was in the process of evolving his marketable formulas when he was approached by Carl and Isabelle Daikeler, the owners of Beachbody. They wished to combine forces and create the now popular Original Shakeology. Darin’s Naturals has become the leading formulator in the Ultimate Food Brand of Beachbody and is involved in everything from directly sourcing ingredients from countries of origin to being a representative for marketing the cutting-edge whole food products in videos and blogs and educating the consumer through proper messaging.
In addition to Original Shakeology, new products emerging in 2012 include:
Vegan Shakeology (Strawberry-Tropical and Chocolate)
Ultimate Reset Cleanse (A nutritional and supplement support)
Darin’s Naturals mission is to source, formulate, create and educate regarding optimal nutritional and health products. While traveling the Earth and working directly and synergistically with indigenous people, it aims to bring the most ideal bio-nutrition to the consumer, without compromising any step in the process of obtaining the greatest quality superfoods in the world.
Enjoy Optimum Health Nutrition!