"Sit down and feed, and welcome to our table." -William Shakespeare

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Let Food Be Your Medicine

"Let food be your medicine, and let medicine be your food."
-Hippocrates

I should start by saying that I have nothing against vitamins. Too many people have too great of results for me to discount synthetically produced vitamins (your vitamins are synthetically produced unless the bottle specifically says 'whole food' or 'natural extract' or something like that) as a modern evil. I know I feel better when I can take my vitamins.

But I am having a very frustrating and unique problem with this pregnancy. I cannot tolerate pills of any sort. They come back up, along with any food I have laboriously force-fed myself in the last 6 hours.

Defeating the purpose of the extra nourishment they ought to provide.

I've tried whole foods vitamins, vitamin powder, iron-free formulations, and all. Even my probiotic, a very good one, won't stay down. So what's a mom to do?

Eat the vitamins. Drink the vitamins. And avoid like the plague any food that will rob the body of those carefully gotten substances.

After lots and lots of reading, I do agree with the logic that the body needs lower levels of vitamins and minerals when they come from real, whole foods. So while I will never get, say, 5,000 IUs of true Vitamin A AND 5,000 IUs of Beta Carotene in one day, I'm no longer convinced my body needs these levels of Vitamin A to function well. Though, again, nor do I think it hurts the body to have those levels available through a high-quality vitamin supplement.

In any case, it's a moot point for me these days. Here are some of my tricks for getting the vitamins in, without the vitamins.

Carrots:
1 cup of carrot juice, freshly squeezed and not from a can, contains enough Beta Carotene for your body for a whole week. I got a 25 lb bag of organic carrots yesterday. So, juicing once or twice a week, plus eating a raw or cooked carrot or 2 every day seems like a decent plan. Not to mention the other yellow and orange veggies and fruits- peaches, squash, sweet potatoes, cantalope...

Teas:
Raspberry leaf tea doesn't just tone your uterus. It does that, too, but it provides significant levels of iron in a particularly absorbable and gentle form, not to mention calcium, magnesium, Vitamin A, and Vitamin C. Plus it tastes good.
Red Rooibos (pronounced roy-boss) is an herbal tea from Africa. It brews up a beautiful shade of red and tastes very sweet. It is supposed to help achieve deep sleep. Maybe because it contains high levels of calcium and magnesium? It also contains iron, copper, and zinc. (Copper and zinc balance each other in the body.)
Information on the vitamin and mineral content of herbs is readily available online. You can easily mix herbs that you find tasty and benefit from their nourishment. Traditional Medicinals is a brand of tea bags that I highly recommend for the lazy tea drinkers out there. They have a number of delicious blends that pack in a lot of nutrients.

Carob:
Carob is a powder with a cocoa-like taste, but without stimulants. It contains appreciable amounts of the B vitamins, plus calcium and numerous trace minerals. Makes a great hot cocoa-like drink. My kids like a peanut-butter-banana-"chocolate" shake made with carob powder.

Sea vegetables:
Kombu, wakame, dulse, nori. These weeds from the sea supply minerals and vitamins in mind-boggling amounts. They can be eaten raw, fried or roasted, or used to make a soup or broth base. I add them to cooking water in beans and soups. They release their magic into the water and whatever food is cooked in the water absorbs their vital nutrients. At the end of cooking, they can be discarded, or chopped and added back into the dish, as you like.

Salt:
I avoid refined salt like the plague. It is full of chemicals and is an incomplete food. That means your body can't process it properly because it is missing parts... Use a whole sea salt instead. Tip: if it's white, it's not a whole salt. Salt will be grey, pink, or speckled. I alternate between Pink Himalayan salt and the brand Real Salt (mined in Utah). There are other salts- Dead Sea Salt, Celtic Grey Sea Salt, but these are quite expensive.

Sweeteners:
White sugar is an incomplete food, too. Your body has to use vitamins you ingest to bind to the white sugar molecules in order to process and eliminate them. That means instead of absorbing all the vitamins and minerals you eat, your body uses them just to get rid of the sugar. Thus, sugar can create vitamin deficiencies even when the diet is adequate. The same is true of white flour. Your body robs itself of precious B Vitamins to bind to white flour (thus completing it) in order to digest it. Instead, rely on a chemical-free, pure stevia extract, raw honey, real maple syrup, dates, raisins, brown rice syrup, and such to satisfy your sweet tooth. Even so, fresh fruit should be a pregnant woman's 1st sweet choice. Save the honey and maple syrup for really special occasions. And make ALL your grains whole grains!

Probiotics:
If you are lucky enough to tolerate milk products, finding the highest-quality yogurt or kefir these days is easy. I am not lucky! Soy and coconut yogurts are usually high in sugar and i have a hard time making enough to keep up a daily supply. Luckily, a dear friend of mine has made made me fermented lemonade, a type of probiotic drink, and another friend is bringing me some water kefir starter this week. We also keep a supply of Bubbie's pickles on hand. These amazing pickles are fermented and cultured like yogurt, but with a salt process. After the pickles are gone, I drink the good-bacteria-rich salt water. Weird? Yes. Yummy? Totally.

The need for a rainbow of fruits and vegetables every day can't be over-emphasized. Whether you take a vitamin or not! It's a lot of work, no kidding. But it's worth it.


"Drinking a daily cup of tea will surely starve the apothecary."
~Chinese Proverb

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