Diet is such an important part of overall health. I'm past the days of striving for absolute dietary perfection, however I also try to make sure that my family eats superfoods on a regular basis. What are superfoods? These are foods that are abundant in nutrition, foods that will help support and improve our health in the long-term. Here are the top 6 superfoods we eat, and what makes them so good for us.
Cod Liver Oil
Cod liver oil is an outstanding superfood. This nutritional powerhouse provides Vitamins A and D, plus Omega 3's, DHA, and EPA. Weston A. Price's studies showed that the diets of traditional people contained ten times the amounts of Vitamin A and D present in modern diets, and this higher nutrient-content led to people with robust health and virtually no cavities.
In working to improve the dental health of children, Weston Price used cod liver oil as an important supplement to a nutritious once-per-day meal being given to children who had rampant tooth decay. With just one healthy daily meal plus cod liver oil, Weston Price "completely controlled the dental caries [cavities] of each member of the group." Additionally, two different school teachers reported that one of their pupils (who was undergoing Weston Price's nutritional protocol) had changed "from one of the poorest in the class in capacity to learn to one of the best."
In my own family, Rosita's extra-virgin cod liver oil (EVCLO) is the cod liver oil that has worked best for us. The kids and I take it straight off a spoon, but my husband prefers to take his EVCLO in capsules. EVCLO's mild flavor and superb nutrition have made it a win-win. Rosita's cod liver oil is superior to all others because their ancient-Viking harvesting process uses no heat, pressure, or chemicals. We don't take extra-virgin cod liver oil daily, or even year-round. Rather, we take it in the winter months when our sun exposure is lower and we start to feel a craving for it. My kids and I tend to crave a dose of EVCLO about 2-3x/week in the winter months.
Butter is one of our most prized, health-promoting foods. It is a great source of fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K2 (referred to as Activator X by Weston Price). In the article The Skinny on Fats, Mary Enig and Sally Fallon describe that butter is a great source of "true vitamin A or retinol, vitamin D, vitamin K and vitamin E as well as all their naturally occurring cofactors needed to obtain maximum effect...Vitamins A and D are essential for growth, for healthy bones, for proper development of the brain and nervous systems and for normal sexual development."
Weston Price found that cod liver oil worked synergistically with high-vitamin butter. Price wrote of controlling and preventing cavities through the following:
"The program that I have found most efficient has been one which includes the use of small quantities of very high vitamin butter mixed in equal parts with a very high vitamin cod liver oil... When this butter oil is mixed in equal parts with a very high-vitamin cod liver oil, it produces a product that is more efficient than either alone...The quantity of the mixture of butter oil and cod liver oil required is quite small, half a teaspoonful three times a day with meals is sufficient to control wide-spread tooth decay when used with a diet that is low in sugar and starches and high in foods providing the minerals, particularly phosphorus. A teaspoonful a day divided between two or three meals is usually adequate to prevent dental caries [cavities] and maintain a high immunity; it will also maintain freedom from colds and a high level of health in general."
It is clear that, to get the most benefit from taking cod liver oil, the nutrients in high-vitamin butter should be consumed alongside cod liver oil.
To make sure that we are getting the most nutrition from our butter, I make sure to buy nutrient-dense butter. The best butter is from cows that have been grazing on their natural diet of grass, rather than grains. The easy way to tell if butter is nutrient-dense is to look at the color.
While conventional butter looks almost white, nutrient-dense butter has a beautiful yellow color. This color indicates the presence of nutrients, especially carotene and vitamin A. In Weston Price's studies, he found that Activator X (now known as Vitamin K2) "was only present when the animals were eating rapidly growing green grass. In most regions, this occurred in the spring and early fall." In addition to having more nutrients, grassfed butter also has superior flavor.
Raw milk is loaded with nutrition and nutritionally superior to conventional pasteurized milk. Raw milk is one of the easiest superfoods to consume because it tastes delicious. Pasteurization of milk only came about because of bad sanitation combined with cows that were so unhealthy that they could pass on illness to people through their milk. So long as the cows are healthy and grassfed, there is no reason to pasteurize milk. According to the Campaign for Real Milk,
"Pasteurization destroys enzymes, diminishes vitamin content, denatures fragile milk proteins, destroys vitamins C, B12 and B6, kills beneficial bacteria, promotes pathogens and is associated with allergies, increased tooth decay, colic in infants, growth problems in children, osteoporosis, arthritis, heart disease and cancer...
"Studies show that children fed raw milk have more resistance to TB than children fed pasteurized milk (Lancet, p 1142, 5/8/37); that raw milk is very effective in preventing scurvy and protecting against flu, diphtheria and pneumonia (Am J Dis Child, Nov 1917); that raw milk prevents tooth decay, even in children who eat a lot of sugar (Lancet, p 1142, 5/8/37); that raw milk is better than pasteurized milk in promoting growth and calcium absorption (Ohio Agricultural Experiment Station Bulletin 518, p 8, 1/33); that a substance present in raw cream (but not in pasteurized cream) prevents joint stiffness and the pain of arthritis (Annual Review of Biochemistry, 18:435, 1944); and that children who drink raw milk have fewer allergic skin problems and far less asthma than children who drink pasteurized milk (Lancet 2001 358(9288):1129-33). "
What about lactose intolerance? It turns out that raw milk naturally includes the lactase enzymes needed for digestion of lactose. The act of pasteurizing milk kills the lactase enzymes. Problems digesting lactose occur when people are drinking pasteurized milk, not raw milk!
My "lactose-intolerant" husband is able to consume moderate amounts of raw milk with no problems. Additionally, consuming the lactase enzymes in raw milk helps re-populate the gut with lactase enzymes, because my husband can eat moderate amounts of pasteurized cheese, yogurt, and even ice cream with no problems so long as he consumes raw milk regularly. There is more info about the health benefits of raw milk here.
Raw Milk Kefir
Raw milk kefir is even better than raw milk. Because kefir is a fermented food, it is a fantastic source of probiotics. Kefir is far superior to yogurt and probiotic pills for re-colonizing the gut because it contains more-aggressive strains of beneficial bacteria. Kefir contains more strains of beneficial bacteria than yogurt does, and the aggressive strains of beneficial bacteria in kefir will even kill bad bacteria in the gut.
Raw milk kefir is the easiest ferment to make! All it requires is putting the kefir grain in milk and letting it sit out on the counter for a day or two until it is done. A batch of kefir can be easily made every 1-2 days, so it is easy to keep up a constant supply. There is a full tutorial for how to make milk kefir here.
In my family, most of us drink raw milk kefir almost daily. Kefir has a tart taste that my husband, my son, and I generally prefer over raw milk, and our bodies just keep asking for more kefir. My daughter, however, prefers the sweeter taste of raw milk, and she loves to drink raw milk with every meal of the day. One easy way for my daughter to consume kefir regularly is through homemade ranch dressing.
An excellent source of high-quality protein
Nature’s most concentrated source of vitamin A
All the B vitamins in abundance, particularly vitamin B12
One of our best sources of folic acid
A highly usable form of iron
Trace elements such as copper, zinc and chromium; liver is our best source of copper
An unidentified anti-fatigue factor
CoQ10, a nutrient that is especially important for cardio-vascular function
A good source of purines, nitrogen-containing compounds that serve as precursors for DNA and RNA."
Liver's exceptional nutrient-profile is the reason it was one of the very few supplements I took during both of my pregnancies.
When liver is unadorned, many people find its flavor to be overpowering and unpleasant. However, with the right preparation techniques, liver can still be a welcome addition to our diets. Pate is a great way to consume liver because it has fantastic flavor. I like to make beef liver and mushroom pate, and there are some excellent pates available in stores nowadays, such as Alexian Duck Liver Mousse.
For those who just cannot get over the flavor of liver, there are excellent dried liver pills available. I took these daily during my pregnancies to ensure that there were abundant nutrients available for growing a baby.
Bone broth is a wonderful superfood that was a critical part of many traditional diets. In Nourishing Broth: An Old-Fashioned Remedy for the Modern World, Kaayla Daniel and Sally Fallon write that,
"The body's ability to repair connective tissue such as bone, tendon, ligament, cartilage, skin, hair, and nails diminishes with age and ill health. Bone broth, with its rich dissolves of collagen, cartilage, bone, and marrow, gives the body 'the right stuff' to rebuild and rejuvenate... bone broth supports heart health through strong and supply arteries, our vision with healthy corneas, digestion through gut healing, and overall disease prevention via immune system modulation."
Bone broth is easy and inexpensive to make at home. I make sure we always have chicken bone broth in the freezer, and use it liberally in cooking. Besides using broth for soups, I also incorporate it into many recipes such as hash brown and beef hot dish, nutrient-dense white rice, and caramelized green beans. In the winter months, a nice mug of salted broth makes a nutritious, warming drink.
These are the top superfoods we consume regularly. What are your favorite superfoods?
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