I think it’s safe to say that we know what we should be eating and how we should be eating it. We are bombarded with this information time and time again. We still wish there was a miracle metabolism booster. And we want sugar (because it does indeed come from a plant) to be a “pure” ingredient and therefore beneficial to our well-being. But it’s time to simply take what we do know and turn it into tasty, hearty and comforting foods that we can enjoy while doing something good for our bodies and our souls. That’s why Act Two is in the kitchen cooking up a storm with culinary and nutrition professionals from across the country—and feeling good about it.
Let’s talk about superfoods, much touted and nutrient-packed with health experts constantly encouraging people—especially us Baby Boomers—to incorporate them into our diets. We’re eating blueberries for the flavonoids that help preserve memory function; sardines and salmon to get heart-healthy omega-3 fats into our system; pistachio nuts to lower total and LDL (“bad”) cholesterol levels; and dark chocolate for those antioxidants that have been shown to lower blood pressure, improve blood flow and boost overall heart health.
Another such super-duper superfood as of late is kale.
“Kale tops the scale of nutrient density, which means more bang for your buck than any other food on the planet,” explained Dr. Drew Ramsey, co-author of 50 Shades of Kale, in an interview with Act Two. “Along with an incredible number of nutrients like vitamins C, A, K, and minerals like iron and magnesium, by eating kale you also gets a great dose of phytonutrients, molecules in plants that improve our health and immune system.”
So how do you best work this power-packed member of the cabbage family into your diet? No worries, Dr. Ramsey has something hearty in mind, packed with flavor and texture.
Now we’re going to spice things up a bit. Much of what we crave and what our bodies tell us that we need stems from bold flavors that have a lingering effect. We know that we are likely to stray away from healthier foods if there’s no “wow” factor involved. That’s where herbs, spices and even cooking methods come into play. Herbs and spices most often come from the seeds, berries, bark or roots of plants. These seasonings, such as cinnamon, often lead lists of commonly eaten foods with the highest levels of measured antioxidant activity and can curb inflammation in the body, which may give rise to heart disease and cancer. More good-for-ya flavor boosters include chili peppers, turmeric, garlic, oregano, basil, thyme and rosemary.
Chef George Duran, author of Take This Dish and Twist It and the host of the Food Network’s Ham on the Street, recently teamed up with IMUSA ’s® new “Global Kitchen” cookware line to create recipes that speak to his Venezuelan roots. Chef Duran’s dishes are high in flavor due to rich spices and slow cooking methods, therefore concentrating the flavors of all of the ingredients, from animal protein and vegetables, to cooking liquids and spices. Who knew chicken and rice could be such an indulgent treat?
In order to truly eat well we must fulfill all of our senses and satisfy our hunger. A hunger not just for fuel, but for texture, flavor and complexity. Cooking Light’s latest cookbook, Mad Delicious: The Science of Making Healthy Food Taste Amazing by Chef Keith Schroeder, takes us through the methods and thought processes of preparing exciting foods that taste amazing, satisfy our insatiable appetite, quench our senses and keep it healthy.
Chef Keith’s fearless, sometimes crazy “mad” approach shows readers how to maximize flavors and texture. He also provides insight on the nature of ingredients and a fresh perspective on the science of cooking so that home cooks can learn how to harness flavors without extra fat and salt.
“I think many consumers are feeling duped and failed by ‘Generation Diet’ (which I would say spans the late 1970s until last week),” Schroeder told Act Two. “It’s arguable that the various ideologies surrounding how we eat have made us both crazy and overweight. Food is there so that we can be healthy. It seems so weird to me that foods have been vilified.
Do manufacturers try to cost optimize and pack their products with progressively more and more junk and fillers? Sure. But there’s a simple answer to that: buy simple ingredients—less processed—fresher. That move alone would improve the health of millions.”
Schroeder’s hope is that folks can learn to enjoy shopping, cooking, and “ritualizing” mealtime so that all of this talk of healthy eating can just go away, and we’ll just simply eat well and be healthier. A favorite dish to satisfy our hunger, feed the senses and warm us up is Chef Keith’s Farro and Mushroom Meat Loaf.
“Made with ground turkey, you are starting with a leaner protein, and instead of traditional rice you are using farro which is a great way to incorporate a whole grain but also adds an earthiness and nuttiness to the dish.”
Food is not a one-size-fits-all phenomenon, and eating healthy means different things to different people. There are also dietary restrictions due to medical issues, weight challenges and even personal beliefs and practices. While such food limitations may be challenging, they don’t have to be lackluster.
Chef Richard Arnold, the Executive Chef and Culinary Instructor for the Hallelujah Diet Health Retreat & Culinary Academy in Lake Lure, NC, embraces a vegan lifestyle and has created plant based recipes that are meant to nourish and cleanse your body, promote disease resistance, increase energy, strengthen the immune system, help support the body in maintaining healthy blood sugar levels and encourage weight loss.
“Nearly any recipe that grandma made can be quickly adapted to a healthier and just as flavorful version,” Arnold said after sitting down with Act Two. “We still enjoy pizza, stir fry, tacos, chili and burgers with a side of fries. Our burgers may be black bean or carrot burger and our fries may be sweet potato or jicama fries, but the warmth and the flavors are still prevalent and plentiful.”
Let us eat cake! Or, can we? Dr. Keith Kantor, a leading nutritionist and author of The Green Box League of Nutritious Justice, encourages satisfying a healthy sweet tooth when done right. Act Two took some time to talk to Kantor and discuss his theories on eating and health, especially as they relate to Baby Boomers:
“After the age of 50 the likelihood of developing chronic diseases like type 2 diabetes, thyroid disease, heart disease and Alzheimer’s disease increases and those lifelong poor habits catch up with our body. At this point in life some individuals follow very restrictive diets recommended by their doctor, in fear that if they do not they will become sick with age and lifestyle related diseases.”
Dr. Kantor goes on to explain that desserts tend to be first to go on a diet plan. But desserts do not need to be eliminated from the diet completely, just revised with healthy high quality natural ingredients that eliminate traditional processed ingredients. Desserts can be a rich source of healthy fats and fiber, both of which help manage weight, blood sugars, reduce inflammation and prevent heart disease.
All desserts can use an unprocessed sugar like honey, unsweetened applesauce or stevia, which will not spike blood sugars as much as traditional granulated sugars.
We’ve heard all about the “eat for your blood type” diet. Let’s talk about eating for your age. According to The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the core principles of a healthy diet remain the same at 25 or 65; we Baby Boomers need a balance of different nourishing foods to enable us to look and feel our best. However, our bodies do require specific nutrients as we go through different life stages. For the 50+ lifestyle it’s about watching our fat levels since health problems, such as raised cholesterol, high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes are more common in this age group. A low-fat, low-GI diet that includes plenty of fruit and vegetables is the best way to prevent and treat these problems.
Vitamins are also vital as we grow older, as various physiological and psychological changes occur and have a direct effect on nutritional requirements. The body becomes less efficient at absorbing and using many vitamins and minerals. Long-term use of prescription drugs can reduce the absorption of certain nutrients. At the same time, many people find that as they get older their appetite decreases. Since the need for vitamins and minerals stays the same, or in some cases increases, it becomes even more important that the food we eat is healthy and nutritious. And to further support our emotional need within this healthy lifestyle—let’s make it taste good. Fear not, Baby Boomers – superfoods are here!
Grow some these ingredients in your own home garden. To learn how to build your home garden, go to http://acttwomagazine.com/guide-building-home-garden
By Linda Kavanaugh