Welcome to Part III of Take a peek inside a nutritionist's pantry! At Bauman College of Holistic Nutrition, we categorize "booster foods" as foods that deliver a punch of nutrition values--especially micronutrients and phytonutrients-- even when consumed in small quantities. The list below is by no means the only booster foods! Spices (cayenne pepper, mineral salt, black pepper, turmeric, ginger, garlic, etc), herbs (basil, oregano, thyme, rosemary, sage, dill, etc), nutritional yeast, and bone broths are all under the category of "booster foods." The ones below are some of my favorites!
Pronounced chee-ya (like cheetah without the t), chia seeds are native to Central and South America. It is a good source of plant-based omega-3 fatty acids, is high in fiber, and a mere ounce serving of these little seeds pack 18% of recommended daily intake of calcium and 30% recommended daily intake of manganese. Moreover, these little seeds are fun and versatile to eat—sprinkle them over yogurt, oatmeal, or salad, stir them into your juices or smoothies for mock tapioca balls (make sure to let the chia seeds sit for about 10 minutes), or, my favorite one yet, make a chia seed pudding! Simply mix 2 tablespoons of chia seeds with half cup each of milk (of your choice) and plain yogurt. I also like to add a few drops of vanilla extract, a sprinkle of ground cinnamon, some chopped nuts/seeds, and fruits, but feel free to let your creativity flow! Let the mixture sit for at least 10-15 minutes until the mixture thickens. Add more fluids if need be. I usually make a big batch of chia seed pudding and store them in the fridge as a quick breakfast or go-to snack!
Apple Cider Vinegar
If you know me or have been reading my blog, I always boast about apple cider vinegar. I’d recommend it to anyone who has any digestive issues. Apple cider vinegar is made in a two-step fermentation process starting with crushed apples (or apple cider). Some organic, unfiltered apple cider vinegar contains the “mother,” which are lumped strands of proteins, enzymes, and friendly bacteria that you can see floating at the bottom (you see this in Kombucha as well). These enzymes and bacteria help keep the digestive tract healthy and running smoothly. Having some apple cider vinegar 15 to 20 minutes before a meal is a great way to stimulate appetite since the sour taste of apple cider vinegar triggers the digestive organs to start secreting digestive juices. Furthermore, Studies have shown that apple cider vinegar helps improves insulin sensitivity (1, 2), which is very suitable for those with diabetes or are pre-diabetic. I usually have 1 teaspoon of apple cider vinegar diluted with 10 oz of warm water in the morning upon waking to serve as a gentle awakening for my digestive tract. Adding just a touch of honey to the diluted apple cider vinegar is also delicious, especially if you are not used to its sour taste. Apple cider vinegar also makes a great component for salad dressing! Just drizzle along with some olive oil, salt, and pepper for a quick dressing.
Lemon is another common and inexpensive food item that packs a lot of nutrient wonders. I sometimes alternate between having warm water with lemon juice or warm water with apple cider vinegar in the mornings. If apple cider vinegar is not really your thing, warm lemon water is another great “wake-up drink” to rehydrate the body, get your bowels moving, and get your dose of vitamin C. On hot days I love myself some homemade electrolyte lemonade (better than gatorade!).
Who'd have guessed that seaweed pack the broadest range of minerals in the most concentrated forms? Not only would you find a significant amount of calcium, copper, iodine, iron, magnesium, manganese, molybdenum, phosphorous, potassium, selenium, vanadium, and zinc, sea vegetables are also excellent sources of vitamin C and vitamin B2 (3). They are also a very good source of vitamin A, and a good source of protein, pantothenic acid, vitamin B6, niacin, and vitamin B1 (3). In my last post I mentioned the prevalence of iodine deficiency in our culture, but that can be remedied by seaweed! One gram of brown seaweed contains between 5-50 times the recommended daily intake of iodine (3)! Some of my favorite ways to use seaweed are using nori (the type that you use to make sushi) to make roasted seaweed sheets, or adding a small piece of dried kombu to soup for flavor and mineral profile. Kombu can also be added into the water when cooking bean as it can help improve legumes’ digestibility. You can make your own nourishing seaweed salad by combining 1/2 cup soaked hijiki or wakame, 1/2 cup shredded carrots, 1/2 cup shredded zucchini, 1 block crumbled fermented tofu or tempeh, 1/4 cup toasted sesame oil, 2 tablespoons tamari, 1 tablespoon rice vinegar, and a good sprinkle of sesame seeds.
Of all the caffeinated teas and coffees, green tea has the least amount of caffeine at 25-45 mg per cup (compared to 80-90mg in black teas, and 100-200 mg in a cup of coffee). A little caffeine is good! Caffeine has been shown to improve mental alertness, memory, mood, and might even decrease risk of Alzheimer's and Parkinson's (4, 5, 6). Since green tea has only a small fraction of caffeine than that of coffee, it delivers the same benefits without the jittery sensations. Furthermore, green tea is loaded with antioxidants to help reduce free radical formation, lessen DNA damage, and hence slow down aging of the cells (7). One of the polyphenol antioxidants found in green tea is EGCG (epigallocatechin gallate), which is currently under the spotlight as potential anti-cancer agent (8). Cheers to that!