Nature has given us a cornucopia of foods to nourish, strengthen, and balance us during times of stress. Foods that are highly valued for their exceptional nutritive and healing properties are known as superfoods. In part one we covered goji berries, spirulina and bee pollen. Now we will look at a few more superfoods that can help us attain optimum health.
There are few plants in history that have been as widely used and coveted as the hemp plant. As a member of the mulberry family, hemp originated in Central Asia but has been cultivated across the globe for a multitude of uses. Hemp can grow from 3 to 15 feet in height. It is a hardy plant that can thrive without any herbicides or pesticides making it perhaps the most sustainable of all crops. Its fast growth and large canopy naturally suppress weeds and few pests affect it.
Hemp may very well be the oldest industry in the world dating back over 10,000 years in ancient Asia, Sumeria, Mesopotamia, Egypt, Persia, India, Europe, and the Americas. The ancients recognized hempseed as an important food source capable of sustaining life. Buddha was known to eat hempseeds during his fast of enlightenment. Hemp fibers were woven into fabric for clothing and rope which ultimately made sailing possible. Approximately 2,000 years ago the Chinese made the world’s first paper from hemp fibers. It wasn’t until the late 1800s that wood pulp began to replace hemp in the paper industry, even though hemp yields four times the fiber content as wood. This unfortunate choice led to the deforestation of our natural resources. History has shown that hemp paper is preserved for hundreds of years, while wood paper lasts only 25 to 80 years. Hemp paper can be recycled 10 times, while wood pulp paper can only be recycled twice.
The cotton industry is largely responsible for the demise of hemp in textile/fabric production. Hemp fibers are three times stronger, four times warmer, and twice as water absorbent as cotton. Cotton crops use 50% of all pesticides, 35% of which are absorbed through the skin when we perspire. Hemp has also been used to produce building materials, auto parts, and fuel, however due to political pressure, the petroleum and chemical corporations have dominated these industries.
Though all parts of the hemp plant are useful, as a food it is the hempseed that is most valued. Hempseed is actually an achene, a dry fruit with a hard shell that is removed to reveal the edible soft center. The hempseed we know as food is one of hundreds of species of the cannibus sativia plant. The other more famous variety of hemp plant is marijuana which has a much higher THC content than the food variety giving it hallucinogenic properties. Hempseeds can be eaten whole, ground into a powder, or turned into oil, butter, milk, or flour. Raw hempseeds are easily digestible. Due to their low phytate content, they do not contain enzyme inhibitors like other nuts and seeds and do not need to be soaked prior to eating.
Hempseed is considered to be one of the most nutritious foods on the planet, comprised of 35% complete protein, 47% fat, and 12% carbohydrate. It contains 18 amino acids, including all the essential amino acids and essential fatty acids required to maintain health. It is the only known food to have the ideal ratios of omega 3 (ALA), omega 6 (linoleic and GLA) and omega 9 fatty acids. These essential fatty acids nourish the brain and eyes, help to detoxify the body, have anti-inflammatory properties, and lubricate the skin and cardiovascular system. Hempseed is rich in vitamin E and lecithin which nourishes the brain and liver. It is also one of the few seeds that contain chlorophyll which is a source of magnesium, an important mineral for bone growth and nerve health. Hempseed is also a natural source of phosphorous, calcium, potassium, sulfur, iron, zinc, magnesium, manganese, iodine, silicon, and other trace minerals.
Hempseed is a superior source of vegetarian protein, containing 65% edestin, higher than any other plant. Edestin is the most edible and easily digested protein in the food chain. It is also hypoallergenic, unlike whey or soy protein. Edestin is a plant globulin or protein complex which is an important component of enzymes, antibodies, hemoglobin, and fibrin which is essential for blood clotting and wound healing.
Shelled hempseeds can be eaten as a snack, sprinkled on salads, added to smoothies, or made into milk. Hempseed oil is great in salad dressing. Hempseed protein powder provides a higher protein content than the whole seeds with much of the oil removed and can be added to smoothies and soups.
One of the most popular of all foods is the superfood cacao, better known as cocoa or chocolate. Nutritionist David Wolfe devoted an entire book to this sexy superfood entitled “Naked Chocolate” and a chapter in his book “Superfoods.” The cacao bean is the nut (seed) of the fruit of a tree that grows in the jungles of Central and South America where it is always in season. The ancient Mayans and Aztecs prized cacao so highly that they used it as currency instead of gold. After conquering the Aztec empire, Cortez brought cacao back to the Spanish royal court where its popularity quickly spread across Europe. 18th century Swiss scientist, Carl Linnaeus, named the genus and species of the tree theobroma cacao, translated to “Cacao, the food of the gods”.
While native cultures preferred the natural bitter taste of cacao, Europeans added refined cane sugar to chocolate which can cause blood sugar imbalances, mineral depletion and even addiction. Heating further depletes cacao’s vital enzymes and beneficial nutrients. In the 1800s Dutch chemist Coenraad Johannes Van Houten patented a process for making cocoa powder, and Swiss chemist Henri Nestle and Swiss chocolate manufacturer Daniel Peter created the first milk chocolate bar, making chocolate more affordable and available to the masses.
Cacao is one of the planet’s most powerful longevity foods. The oldest human recorded to have ever lived was Jeanne Louise Calment of France who consumed 2.5 pounds of dark chocolate a week until she died at 122 years of age. The third documented oldest person to have lived was American Sarah Knauss who regularly ate chocolate until her death at age 119.
Raw unprocessed cacao has the highest antioxidant content of any food on Earth containing polyphenols, catechins, epicatechins, resveratrol and procyanidins, in amounts ten times more than red wine, blueberries, acai, pomegranates and goji berries combined. The comprehensive phytochemical anaylsis of cacao makes chocolate one of the most complex foods on Earth, however, many of cacao’s super nutrients are destroyed by heat and may be present only in the raw state.
According to a 2012 study, regular consumption of cacao can reduce risk of cardiovascular disease by 37% and stroke risk by 29%. The Aztecs called cacao “yollotl eztli” which means heart blood. Cacao’s high antioxidant content has been proven to dissolve arterial plaque, improve blood flow and lower blood pressure. Research shows that cacao flavanols help to increase blood flow to the brain and enhance cognitive function in older adults. Cacao contains sitosterol which decreases harmful LDL cholesterol, and coumarin, a natural blood thinner that also helps to suppress tumor growth. The ergosterol in cacao is an important precursor to vitamin D production. Cacao is also anti-inflammatory.
Cacao has the highest magnesium content of any food which relaxes the heart, muscles, cardiovascular system, and mind. Sufficient magnesium can prevent strokes and heart attack and, ingested after these events, can aid recovery. Magnesium also increases peristalsis to help move the bowels, relaxes menstrual cramping, increases flexibility, builds strong bones, and increases alkalinity. Considering that approximately 80% of the U.S. population is deficient in this major mineral, chocolate can surely be of help to many.
An ounce of raw cacao contains 21% of the RDA for vitamin C, an unusually high amount for a nut. Vitamin C in whole food form strengthens blood vessels and enhances immunity. Roasted or heated cacao has lost much of its vitamin, mineral and phytonutrient content. Chocolate with added refined sugar, hydrogenated oils and pasteurized milk transforms cacao from a healing superfood to a toxic product which negates much of cacao’s beneficial properties.
Cacao contains 314% per ounce of the RDA for iron which is essential for the production of hemoglobin that carries oxygen in the blood. It also contains manganese which assists iron in this process. Cacao is one of the highest food sources of chromium which helps to balance blood sugar, and zinc which is essential for a strong immune system, production of sexual fluids, and all enzymatic reactions in the body. The copper in cacao helps create strong blood vessels and enhances immunity.
Chocoholics everywhere would agree that chocolate is a feel-good food. Cacao is the only plant found to contain anandamide, known as the bliss chemical, which is an endorphin that produces the feeling of euphoria after exercise. Cacao also contains an abundance of phenylethylamines (PEAs) which is class of biochemicals that our body produces when we fall in love. Perhaps this is why chocolate is associated with romance and Valentine’s Day. PEAs also help to increase mental focus and, along with magnesium, act as an appetite suppressant. Pure raw cacao has no sugar and a low fat content compared to other nuts. It helps to reduce insulin resistance and can actually aid weight loss. Chocolate is a natural aphrodisiac as it increases levels of the amino acid tyrosine which in turn creates dopamine, the neurotransmitter released during orgasm. The tryptophan and tryptamine serotonin in cacao make it a natural anti-depressant.
Cacao is actually a weak source of caffeine and is not addictive, containing 1/20th the amount of caffeine as coffee, though adding sugar to chocolate can cause cravings. A 2008 study by Dr. Gabriel Cousins found that cacao does not elevate blood sugar unlike other caffeine foods. Cacao is a source of theobromine which is a relative of caffeine but is not a stimulant to the nervous system. Theobromine dilates the blood vessels easing stress on the heart. It also has antibacterial properties that can destroy streptococci mutans, the primary bacteria responsible for dental cavities. Cacao is also an excellent source of soluble fiber. The low oxalic acid content in unheated cacao is harmless. Ingesting 4 oz. of high quality raw cacao daily delivers optimum benefits.
Chocolate lovers can enjoy raw cacao in many forms. Raw cacao beans can be eaten alone with the skin or the skin can be removed. Cacao nibs are skinned beans that have been broken into pieces. Cacao powder can be used in smoothies, ice cream, and other beverages and desserts. Cacao butter and paste are also available. With so many benefits and a delicious taste, it’s easy to see why cacao is such a treasured food.
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Research on avian egg extract began in 1929 by Canadian Dr. John R. Davison who theorized that the extract could be helpful for cancer patients. When he died, his work was lost until Norwegian scientist Dr. Bjodne Eskeland continued the research 50 years later. Dr. Eskeland discovered that the 9 day old egg contained all of the nutrients needed to start new life, including the ideal combination of vitamins, minerals, amino acids, peptides, growth factors, hormones, and other components which could provide extraordinary health benefits to humans. Scientists added shark cartilage and other beneficial ingredients to the formula to create a synergistic compound that enhances physical, mental and emotional well being.
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