Tuesday, April 23, 2013

4 Ways to Get More Out of Your Food, Without Spending More Money


Chew It 

When food enters our mouth saliva plays an important role in breaking it down.  This is the first stage of digestion.  When we chew our food down to a very mushy texture we get the benefits of...

    Taking a bite
    Photo by Gary Scott
  • Some bacteria (that could be harmful to the rest of our body) being killed by our saliva.
  • "Taste buds located on your tongue send signals to your brain about the flavors you are tasting. The brain then sends signals to your stomach about the type of food you digested. The stomach then secretes certain chemicals and enzymes that will help digest that particular food type. This means nutrients in the food are released and assimilated into the body faster. Foods that are thoroughly chewed are also better digested.  The stomach has to make less digestive juices to digest a small piece of food than a larger one." (source- emphasis mine)
  • It takes your stomach about 20 minutes to tell your brain that it's getting food.  Eating slower helps you to keep from over eating.  I've heard that many in the Japanese culture commonly eat until they feel almost (or about 90%) full, and so they don't over eat.
  •  "The longer you chew your foods, the more the food will be exposed to saliva, and as a result more nutrients will be absorbed. This is especially true for nuts and seeds as well as fruits and vegetables, as they contain hard cellulose fibers which cannot be broken down anywhere but in the mouth. This is why when you eat nuts, corn or other vegetables they just seem to pass through your system if they are not properly chewed."  (source- emphasis mine)
  • Releases more saliva which contains hydrogen carbonate, which helps neutralize plaque build up on teeth.
  • "Carbohydrates are mainly digested in the mouth by the alpha amylase enzyme that is found in saliva. The digestion of fat is also started in the mouth by the lingual lipase enzymes, which are produced by the salivary glands located underneath the tongue.  Food that is not properly chewed is not exposed to these enzymes properly, but instead is passed along into the colon in chunks where it feeds harmful bacteria. This can result in gas, bloating, abdominal cramping, constipation and other symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome." (source- emphasis mine)
  • Heart burn can at times be prevented by properly chewing food.



Sprout It

If you can take 4 tablespoons of dried beans, place them in a jar, and rinse them with water 2 times a day, then you can sprout your food!

Sunflower 1 week oldSo why would you do that?  A very good question.

Soaking the item, such as beans, releases a whole new level of nutrients from the food that you wouldn't get other wise.  Water soluble vitamins like vitamin C and B complex are created.  Carbohydrates and fats are converted into simple sugars, which make for much easier digestion.

"Through the miracle of germination, thiamin increases five-fold and niacin content doubles. Vitamin C, E and carotene increase."  (source- emphasis mine)

Putting the sprouts into the sunlight as they grow, allows them to produce chlorophyll and vitamin C.  

For more information on sprouting here is a great article, and here is a list of what foods can be sprouted.




Soak it

Beans, legumes, seeds, nuts, and grains can all be soaked.

Soaking is just putting the item (I commonly do oatmeal) into pure water till it's covered by about an inch or two, then adding a base item (like 2 Tbls. of yogurt), putting it in a warm spot on a counter top, and letting it sit for 12-24 hours.  Other options for the base, besides the yogurt, are buttermilk and kefir.

soaking beansThe other item I commonly soak is dried beans, which you can add a little baking soda or vinegar to instead of the yogurt.  I've noticed that we seem to never have issues with gas after eating the beans soaked, and they're way cheaper and healthier than buying canned.

The "why" of soaking is much the same as sprouting.  There is an antinutrient called phytic acid that binds up minerals and prevents them from being absorbed by our bodies.  The soaking process removes the phytic acid and releases the minerals to be absorbed by our bodies.

Different foods benefit from different amounts of soaking time.  Beans are at their best when they've been soaked for 1-2 days, and have had the water changed frequently (2-3 times a day) to prevent fermentation.

For more on soaking your food Jenny at Nourished Kitchen is an excellent reference.  She also explains why if you have cancer you may want to consider whether soaking is right for you.  Click here for more on that.

Here's an article I wrote to show how to cook dried beans.  I have since tried cooking them in a crock pot on low and that was a success.  If you want to crock pot cook them I suggest being home at least the first time or two because every crock pot cooks at a little different speed and probably temperature too.


Culture It

Cultured Radishes, Aren't they pretty?  :)
Culturing food, much like soaking and sprouting, has been around for centuries.  It's the act of allowing an item to ferment in such a way that it produces beneficial bacteria and begins the digestion process of the food item.  This makes the food easier to digest, and allows for more nutrients to be readily absorbed from the food.

To culture a food (usually a vegetable) you only need salt, water, and a container such as a canning jar.  For the 6 easy steps to culturing check out this great post by wizzley.com (go half way down the page for the directions).  She shares how to make your own sauerkraut and your own pickles!  Mmmm pickles!!!

Culturing increases the amount of good bacteria that can replenish the very necessary good bacteria in our guts.  About 70% of our immune system is based on the health of these gut bacteria, so you're going to want to have a decent amount of them.

Another great resource for starting culturing is Cultures For Health.com.  They have starter cultures that can give your food an even greater amount and variety of bacteria, in a good way.  They are also a great reference for any questions you might have.

Vegetables aren't the only items that are cultured and good for you.  Milk kefir, water kefir, and raw milk products are a few that are good.  I like making water kefir and buying raw milk cheese.  Cultures For Health has info on those as well.

All things in moderation also applies to cultured foods.  Eating some is great and eating a lot is not recommended.  I remember one doctor recommending 1/4 cup of fermented vegetables a day, to give you some idea.



Chewing, soaking, sprouting, and culturing foods, are all ways that you can get more for your money out of your food.  Enjoy experimenting and having fun with some new ideas!  Let me know if you have any questions I can help you with.

Enjoy eating healthy!



Sources:
http://www.livestrong.com/article/450220-what-are-the-benefits-of-chewing-food-properly/
http://www.3fatchicks.com/5-benefits-of-properly-chewing-food/
http://www.freedomyou.com/how_to_grow_your_own_sprouts__freedomyou.aspx
http://www.freedomyou.com/what_can_i_sprout_freedomyou.aspx
http://nourishedkitchen.com/soaking-grains-nuts-legumes/

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