Enter Flavor with benefits.
There is something beautiful about functional foods. The idea that there are ingredients which make our food taste better and directly improve our health is what keeps me fascinated about culinary nutrition. Research consistently shows that the taste is the primary driver behind food choices.
Good taste is something that you develop. You can surely agree with me that our taste buds naturally evolve and adapt. Chances are there are foods that you love now that you hated as a kid. But how many foods do you still avoid just because you think you don’t like them? Young palates struggle with things like mustard, onions, and asparagus and instead prefer blander, less intense flavors. But as adults we sometimes cling to these preferences without ever stopping to question the value or meaning of our opinions. There is no benefit to disliking a food, liking a food is more enjoyable. It’s always more fun to like things. Most of the time we decide what we like before we bother to experience it. This is a comfort zone.
We always have a choice
We either choose ingredients that support our health and promote energy or we choose foods and ingredients that promote stress and drain our energy.
Think about the last time you had a milkshake or dessert from your favorite restaurant. How did you feel 30 mins after? Most people want to lay down. Now compare that to a nutrient dense green smoothie with fruits, vegetables and a vanilla protein – The nutrient density leaves you charged up and is light on the digestive process.
It’s time to raise our standards
Food should be enjoyed. It is easy and lazy in some cases to use an inferior ingredient. Yes it works to use refined sugar, salt, msg, along with low quality vegetable and seed oils. Information is out there, we know that 90% of degenerative diseases share a relationship with food and stress on our bodies. We need to aggressively reduce the amount of food that promotes the destruction of our health. This is not designed to be a scare tactic but lets take a look at inflammation..
Inflammation – In short, it’s the body’s response to outside threats like stress, infection, or toxic chemicals. When the immune system senses one of these dangers, it responds by activating proteins meant to protect cells and tissues. “In a healthy situation, inflammation serves as a good friend to our body.
Inflammation controls our lives. Have you or a loved one dealt with pain, obesity, ADD/ADHD, peripheral neuropathy, diabetes, heart disease, stroke, migraines, thyroid issues, dental issues, or cancer?
If you answered yes to any of these disorders you are dealing with inflammation. Inflammation turns on genes in your body
Sugar promotes inflammation – chronic inflammation promotes almost every disease there is. Food sugar initiates a systemic inflammatory response – short term, no big deal. Overtime, continuous consumption of sugars and refined grains create this response. Industrial seed oils also promote this.
On top of this sugar keeps your blood sugar high and basically locks in your stored body fat – preventing it from being burned off
Essentially, The less sugar we digest – the longer and healthier that we will live. (see more here)
Brainwash yourself into eating better
To say that I enjoy the taste of turmeric in my foods would be a lie. Knowing that turmeric contains the active ingredient curcumin, which has been shown in numerous studies to improve mental function, inflammation, immune function, blood sugar health and so much more becomes a motivating factor for consumption. To allow my taste-buds to be more lenient based on the net gain of the ingredient is the virtue. The same goes for cauliflower; does cauliflower have more benefits than rice? That is hard to deny… Can I make cauliflower rice in minutes with a simple tool like a food processor? The two taste close enough but the benefits of the cauliflower outweigh the rice significantly from a nutrient perspective. The purpose is consuming more nutrients that will eliminate nutrient deficiencies. A nutrient is a substance that provides nourishment essential for growth and the maintenance of life. Many of us, without knowing are consuming food that makes us less healthy.
For too long, I have shared recipes full of these “unknown” ingredients. Since my world revolves around health, I often neglect to remember that most people don’t share my obsession with nutrition and superfoods. The following are some of my favorites but overall a better example of how certain ingredients are worth including.
Nutrient = a substance that provides nourishment essential for growth and the maintenance of life.
Use more nutrients to flavor your food. Why wouldn’t you?
Increase the odds of health in your favor. With flavor!
The following are my favorite staples for making Healthy Taste Good:
None of these are necessary (if not available, you can find alternatives or order online) I have found over the last 10 years that the following have helped me keep this fun.
I understand that all of the ingredients that I use are not cheap and not always easy to find. This is my passion and some have a passion for drinking exotic alcohols or other past times. If you can’t justify spending a few extra dollars on something that supports your health, that is your prerogative. BUT I do hope to challenge your way of thinking and spark some inspiration of course. Be open minded, try them out and they may help your performance and experience!
Reluctant to try something new? The definition of ignorance is contempt prior to investigation. So set aside what might be pre-conceived notions. Conduct your own experiment and give these foods a try. Pay attention – maybe even document — how you feel both during and after your workouts. Then let me know what you find.
Many common sweeteners like Agave (more fructose than high fructose cornsyrup) do more harm than good. The price for a little instant gratification is not worth it in the long run. When I have the opportunity, I will swap out honey, agave, maple syrup, sugar and all other chemical versions (aspartame, sucralose, etc..) for sweeteners that will not spike blood sugar and raise insulin. I will still use dates in some of my snacks and desserts because of how well they compliment chocolate, depending if I want to replenish the energy in my body. Choose what you want but the following have been shown to do more good than harm:
Stevia – The leaves of Stevia are a source of natural zero-calorie sweetener which is considered sweeter than sugar. I prefer organic liquid stevia in vanilla, caramel, and chocolate.
How I use: Works great to sweeten up teas, smoothies, sauces, coffee, and desserts. Typically use a full squirt in flavored stevia. Tastes much better than traditional stevia in my opinion.
Xylitol (from birch) xylitol is a natural sweetener, extracted from plants. The tiny crystals look and taste like sugar—but xylitol plays nice with your metabolism.
How I use: Xylitol is just as sweet as sugar. It measures just like sugar, too, so you can substitute it in recipes. But too much can cause digestive upset, so just use a tiny smidgen here and there—a quarter-teaspoon to sweeten a smoothie or a half-teaspoon to pump up homemade salad dressing.
Lucuma is an orange-yellow fleshed fruit which hails from South America. It’s commonly known as the “Gold of the Incas” as they were apparently huge fans of the stuff.is sold in a powdered form, perfect for adding to smoothies or baking recipes. It has a caramel-maple-vanilla like taste and is very low-glycemic.
How I use: It works great to add tsp-tbsp to smoothies, chia pudding, ice cream and frozen coffee drinks.
Mesquite – From the mesquite plant that grows in South American and the southwest, helps to balance blood sugar levels. The powder is ground from the entire pod, including the seed, its high in protein, dietary fiber and rich in minerals, calcium, magnesium, potassium, iron and zinc.
How I use: Add to smoothie and desserts for a thickener with a chocolate/cinnamon like taste. Compliments chocolate very well.
Cacao – (Raw Chocolate) cacao beans contain possibly the world’s most concentrated source of antioxidants found in any food. They also extremely high in magnesium which has been found to be the most common deficient major mineral even following a balanced diet.
How I use: Cacao has a bitter unsweetened taste, so I’ll add it in to a smoothie, drink, or ice cream dessert with stevia, coconut or another sweetener to bring out its sweetness.
Tea – Herbal, superfoods, green, black, rooibos, and so many more. Not only does it aid with weight loss, it’s also helps fight various cancers and heart disease. The antioxidant in green tea, epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), helps to speed up the recovery of heart cells and minimizes cell death after a heart attack. I use caffeine free teas that are like more concentrated versions of spices with super powers.
How I use: I always have a liter or more chilled in the fridge to use for cooking to neutralize heat or as a base for smoothies. Checkout: Get burning, turmeric tea, matcha maker, and sportea to name a few of my favorites.
Boosters & “Add-ins” for making “whats tastes good” even more healthy
Many of these boosters are herbs that carry with them benefits worth consuming to enhance the immune system, combat inflammation, or improve energy. Some may consider “superfoods” folk medicine but i respond to this by adding that they carry way less potential side-effects (almost none) compared to the pharmaceutical bandaids that our generation is addicted to.
Fantastic Funghi (magic mushrooms) – Chaga, cordyceps, reishi are a few of my favorites
Chaga – often referred to as the “king of medicinal mushrooms.” This unusual looking variety is one of the most powerful adaptogens and superfoods on the planet, exhibiting immune supporting complex polysaccharides that are considerably more potent than most any other medicinal mushroom. Been said to help with inflamamtion, skin, immune function, stress and more.
How I use: I’ll add 1/2 to 1 tsp to tea, coffee, or smoothies
Reishi – is a medicinal mushroom variety commonly used today in the form of a tea or a powdered hot water extract. Reishi has been used for thousands of years in Asian cultures and is classified as major Chinese tonic herb useful for calming and rejuvenating the nervous system as well as providing a good nights sleep. Reishi is known to improve the functions of the liver, increase oxygen utilization and can be very helpful for a variety of autoimmune disorders.
How I use: Works best with heat, and can be nice as a tea to calm down or promote restful sleep.
Cordyceps – cordyceps were first used by Chinese track and field athletes, who experienced significant improvements with daily use. Known to boost the immune system, increase lung capacity by enhancing oxygen uptake, improve stamina and combat the onset of exercise-induced fatigue.
How I use: I’ve been using in smoothie pre and post for a boost in endurance.
Greens – microalgae varieties such as: Spirulina & Chlorella Algae Taken in the form of powders, liquid solutions, tablets or capsules, edible algaes are wonderful nutrient-dense, chlorophyll-rich foods for detoxifying heavy metals, increasing physical energy as well as improving brain and nervous system function.
How I use: I add to smoothies in the morning for a nutrient boost. Chocolate or vanilla will over power the flavors and the energy return is worth it.
Tocotrienols derived from organic California rice and is a super concentrated source of vitamins E, D, and antioxidants. This luxurious and creamy powder has tissue regenerating, inflammation taming, immunity, muscle boosting, and toxin removing powers that directly reach the brain, liver, heart, lungs and kidneys.
How I use: Add tbsp to smoothies and ice cream like mixes – Helps with consistency
Maca – Often referred to as “Peruvian ginseng” for its energizing effects as a natural stimulant, the root is also known to increase sexual libido, normalize hormonal activity, improve fertility rate, regulate immune response as well as build muscle and strong bones. Many claim that it can help with adrenal glands that have been over-stimulated.
How I use: The powder can be added to shakes or hot tea elixirs. The Maca has a malt-like taste that goes well with vanilla and chocolate.
The Fab Fats
Fats are what make food satisfying. Fats also play a major role in hormone health and nutrient absorption. The following fab fats assist with consistency, texture, and regulating blood sugar to name a few benefits. I like coconut because it has a neutral taste and helps with texture, consistency, and satiety. Coconut butter and avocado are both common fats that I will add into a smoothie or ice cream mix to make it more like an ice cream like consistency without the sugar from a banana.
Tip for juicing: Add any 1-2 Tablespoons of coconut butter or coconut meat with ice to a Vegetable juice and blend up to improve taste and absorb more nutrients since the vitamins are mostly “fat-soluble”. Adding cinnamon or vanilla stevia is a nice touch as well.
Coconut -The fats in coconut oil are medium chain fatty acids, or MCFAs. Because they are shorter they do not need to be digested by the liver and gall bladder. When you consume coconut oil, then, you get a much faster source of energy than compared to other fatty foods. Coconut has been shown to be antimicrobial, antibacterial, and soooo much more.
How I use: Coconut milk is a great substitute for regular milk in your smoothies. You will get an intense and creamy flavor without the lactose that is tough to digest for some people. Coconut water from young Thai coconuts is also a great liquid to use in your smoothies and full of electrolytes.
Coconut oil (liquid form is more concentrated in MCT’s and more ideal for liquid beverages.)
How I use: Teas, coffee, ice cream, etc..
Coconut oil (solid form is great for cooking but will go solid when above 76 degrees) – I also use to make MCT Thin mints (try these out!)
How I use: Cooking because of high smoke point, provides easily accessible energy
Coconut butter Coconut butter is the coconut version of peanut buttter, made from coconut meat or shredded coconut mixed together. It gives you the benefits of coconut oil with extra fiber. I think that it has a slight vanilla flavor.
How I use: At room temperature it is solid, it needs to be heated up in microwave or stove top for 30 seconds – Use it like a frosting or for stir-fry, ice cream, etc..
Coconut meat (I often keep chunks of this frozen like coconut ice cubes) I’m referring to the meat from a thai or young coconut. It’s fresh and loaded with all of the good stuff.
How I use: This is great to mix into smoothies, it gives you the consistency of bananas without the sugar. This is huge for creating a “thick ice cream” like consistency.
Coconut Aminos (more on the savory side) – is a bi-product of coconut sap and is commonly used as a lower salt and soy alternative. I prefer Coconut Aminos and the garlic version by “Coconut Secrets” in many recipes. The Aminos provide a savory flavor that can replace salt, soy, or that teriyaki flavor.
How I use: A little goes a long way in sauces, soups, stir-fry or salad dressings. – Most common with vegetables.
So take a deeper look at the next green smoothie recipe that gives you the benefit of necessary protein along with detoxifying micronutrients and a healthy dose of extra fiber. Adding in more protein at breakfast or spreading your protein intake throughout the day is also a great strategy for weight loss.
While most nutrient-dense green smoothies can promote healing in the body, you can add supercharged healing ingredients into a simple green smoothie recipe that can help reduce stress, boost energy, and encourage healing in many parts of the body.
Many honorable mentions with some of my favorite recipes:
Free download of my BLENDS WITH BENEFITS smoothie recipes with ingredients
Next will be on savory and spicy foods… Sauces, dressings, oils, glazes, marinades and more.