Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.
Over the past decade, the term ‘superfood’ has entered our collective vocabulary and become synonymous with promoting enhanced antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits. Touted as potent, nutritionally dense foods, the term ‘super’ has entered commercial parlance to describe foods that promise to amplify the nutritional density of our meals. Riding the wave of the modern ‘healthy food revolution’, the influx of exotic superfoods from abroad have overtaken local whole foods in popularity. Whether packaged in convenient dietary supplements or found on the shelves of luxury supermarkets, the health-boosting promises of exotic superfoods have enjoyed widespread appeal to the current wellness savvy generation.
As part of a team that have been cooking with plant proteins for over twenty years, Chef Nina, Executive Chef from The Ranch Malibu, reminds us that there is no substitute for a diet that respects the integrity of its ingredients. In this article, she discusses the concept of a ‘superfood’ diet and how, when prepared using the right techniques, a whole, plant-based diet can deliver the optimal nutritional content. We have also included a few simple recipes and cooking techniques from The Ranch that can be incorporated to one’s diet so food becomes a source of enjoyment, sustenance and healing.
WORKING WITH NATURE
CHEF NINA, THE RANCH MALIBU
Food is very vibrational. To get the maximum nutritional benefits, you must be attuned to the connection with the earth.
Using ingredients sourced from its abundant, organically-certified garden or the local farm, The Ranch exercises strong commitment to working holistically with nature. The luxury wellness retreat believes that real superfoods are plant-based foods. By consuming a diverse range of nutrient groups, our food is ‘supersized’ with a range of vitamins, minerals and more concentrated in potency. In collaboration with the Master Gardener, Chef Nina’s menus incorporate vegetables from their garden that are shaped by the yield of their organic garden and the potency of its plants.
Chef Nina stresses that conscious sourcing and preparation are the key to unlocking the nutritional benefits of whole foods. By eating with the seasons we cultivate a more bountiful diet that connects us with the earth. It is a practice that attunes us with our environment and encourages a more local-centric way of eating that reaps the maximum nutritional density.
THE ENERGETIC PROPERTIES OF FOOD
How our food is grown, stored, transported, processed and cooked can have a profound impact on its nutrient value. Travelling across continents to reach our cupboards can deplete the nutrient density in fruit and vegetables through simple denaturing. Chef Nina’s experience also draws from different schools of thought that consider the energetic vibrations within food. Guided by the principles of balance, Ayurvedic practice teaches that all living things are ruled by an essential energy, or prāṇa (प्राण). Eating locally ensures that the vital energy in our fruit and vegetables is at its peak. This restores and revitalises the energy in our system. Following this teaching, it is encouraged that to get the maximum nutritional benefit you choose fresh, locally-grown produce
FOOD PREPARATION TECHNIQUES
The way we prepare our food is essential in preserving its nutritional content and balancing taste. Whilst cooking helps to break apart cell walls and release nutrient-rich compounds, it is important to retain the majority of the natural enzymes. This is where alternative cooking techniques come in; choosing steaming over boiling and baking over frying. Many foods are also more nutritious when eaten raw so it is encouraged to work them into your diet. We have included a guide below that outlines the benefits of these techniques in more detail.
Whilst no food is complete in itself, consuming a rich combination of plant-based foods naturally supports and nourish the body. Chef Nina outlined the five groups of bioavailable, ‘super’ foods she enjoys cooking with at The Ranch. Rich in antioxidants and phytonutrients, some of these foods have been proven to surpass nutrient potency of the exotic superfoods we have become familiar with. Not only are these foods within our reach, they are also cost effective and reduce the tax on the environment.
The brassica family (kale, sprouts, chard and broccolini) are particularly rich in vitamin A, carotenoids, vitamin C, folic acid, and fiber. They are also a rich source of the organic sulphur compound MSM. This compound is vital to our bodily functions, helping to reduce inflammation, improve gut health and boost collagen production for our eyes, hair, teeth and ligaments.
Chef’s tip: When cooked properly brassicas are rich with complex umami flavors and a subtle sweet-bitter contrast. To avoid overcooking and loosing nutrient value we recommend steaming until fork-tender.
Blackberries, blueberries, boysenberries, raspberries, strawberries, cranberries, when in season, all rank high. The darker the berry (blue, black, purple), the sweeter the juice. These berries contain anthocyanins which give them their pigment and anthocyanins have been found to fight cancer cell activity. Berries are low GI and sugar and high in vitamin C. Naturally detoxifying, these antioxidant-rich fruits help assist the the lymphatic system in cleansing the body of toxins and waste.
Flaxseeds are widely hailed by health professionals for its high concentration of omega-3 fatty acids, and studies have shown that flax is exceptional in helping to reduce the risk of coronary heart disease, lower bad cholesterol, and decrease inflammation throughout the body. It doesn’t hurt that the essential fatty acids in contained promote smooth skin and lustrous hair. The high fiber and mucilage content of flaxseeds help to stabilize insulin and blood sugar levels.
Chia seeds provide complete protein, dietary fiber and is known as one of the best plant sources of omega 3’s. Rich in calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium and antioxidants, such as anti-inflammatory quercetin, chia seeds are also metabolism boosting and help in weight loss. The chia seeds will help your body retain more hydration from the water for longer periods of time.
Chef’s Tip: Flax egg replacement for cooking and baking: 1 tablespoon ground flax to 3 tablespoons water. Mix together and let sit for 5 minutes. Add to your baking recipe to replace 1 egg called for in a recipe.
Including onions, garlic, mushrooms, chives and shallots, alliums are another powerful food group to include in our diet. An excellent source of vitamin D, these foods help to build our immunity and lower cholesterol . This family of foods contain flavonoids that stimulate the production of glutathione (the liver’s most potent antioxidant), enhancing elimination of toxins and carcinogens.
Chef’s tip: Uncooked alliums have a wonderfully sharp, savoury note that works well in summer salads. Try braising or roasting them to bring out the sweetness.
The abundance of micronutrients found in sea vegetables is known to so many of the healthiest cultures around the world. The nutrient profile of sea vegetables far surpasses that of any land grown vegetable. There are red, brown and green varieties of these plants and the darkest ones offer a rich variety of macro vitamins; B vitamins, which boosts the metabolism and vitamin K, needed for blood clotting, liver function and energy production. Sea Vegetables are also rich in antioxidants, essential amino acids (proteins) and essential fatty acids, which are strongly beneficial for brain health. Seaweeds are also known for their antiviral, antibacterial, and antibiotic protection.
Recipes from The Ranch
The Ranch Malibu is a premier results-oriented fitness and wellness retreat located in California. Set against the rolling mountains of Santa Monica, and three-miles above the Pacific Ocean, this retreat provides the perfect setting to calm the mind and return to nature. The immersive experience at The Ranch is designed to improve overall well-being and health through guided fitness and nutritional programs. Guests can enjoy an invigorating daily schedule of mountain hiking, restorative yoga coupled with informative cooking classes that encourage healthy habits upon departure.