Maximizing nutrient absorption from foods

Don’t know about you, but I really dislike most salads and cooked greens. I ate vegetarian for a couple of years when I was living in a Buddhist household in Milwaukee. I don’t recall problems cooking or eating, but I do remember we ate a whole lot of salads. Nutrition wasn’t something I thought about a whole lot.

At that time, I was going to the Milwaukee School of Engineering to get my bachelor’s in nursing and Eric (Ric) and I were separated. Corey (Corinna, our daughter) was away in her first year at The Citadel. I was attending class, full-time, all day and then I worked the overnight shift (7 pm to 7 am) at a local hospital on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday nights.

But enough background for right now. I figured out that the only way I was going to eat enough greens to satisfy my recovering body’s need for good nutrition was to do smoothies in my old  Vitamix blender. I bought it in 1995 when I had severe TMJ and whiplash and could open my mouth only far enough to slip through a straw. Everything I ate for several weeks was thrown into the V-M and whirled to become liquid.

Diet and nutrition are proven to reverse diseases

Another important aside: Were you aware there are proven diets to reverse heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, and hypertension (high blood pressure)? Unfortunately, doctors get only a tiny bit of nutrition education in medical school and often do not know about the importance of diet/nutrition in keeping us healthy. So instead of encouraging us to eat a sensible, whole food diet, we are given pills that suppress the symptoms but never touch the cause. Nurse Practitioner education is not much better. I’ve never looked at a syllabus for Physician Assistant education, but I bet it has very little on nutrition, too.

A huge part of our nation’s growing problem with obesity and diabetes is that people who begin to investigate about nutrition and diet run into a deluge of conflicting and confusing advice. What to do? When I want evidence-based information about nutrition I go to two sources.

The first is Nutrition Facts.  This site is a non-commercial, science-based public service provided by Dr. Michael Greger that relies on individual donors to keep the site alive. There are more than a thousand videos on nearly every aspect of healthy eating, with new videos and articles uploaded every day. Best of all everything is free of charge and evidence-based.

The second site I use is called GreenMedInfo. Sayer Ji, the site’s founder, has a robust natural medicine database with over 10,000 health topics. Searching for ME/CFS brings up 30 entries with the first one being the book Plague, about the retrovirus controversy from five years ago. Querying with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome brings up 45 abstracts of published papers, 19 substances (adaptogens, curcumin) that are used for treatment, six “problem” substances (breast implants, aluminum hydroxide), six therapeutic modalities (yoga, acupuncture) and two problematic actions–vaccinations in general and Hepatitis B vaccine in particular. There is a monthly/annual fee for accessing the database, but there is an informative, free newsletter.

Maximizing nutrients

Back to maximizing nutrition.  Phytonutrients, like beta-carotene and lycopene, can exist as microscopic crystals trapped inside the cell walls of fruits and vegetables. They’re only released when the cells are disrupted, which is why my mother was right–we have to chew our food really well.  Food particle size ideally would be reduced to smaller than the width of individual plant cells. Most vegetable particles end up greater than two millimeters when you chew them, but when we break open all the cells in a blender (especially Vitamix and Blendtec), we release much more nutrition.

kale in store
Green vegetables, like kale, are very healthy and good nutrition.

So, my veggie and fruit smoothies are the perfect way to get all your nutrients without eating all those yucky greens. Here’s a basic recipe with the products I use as links:

  • 1 frozen banana (take the peel off before freezing)
  • 2 raw pastured eggs (because of concerns for salmonella, do not use raw eggs unless you have visited the farm or they are labeled salmonella-free)
  • 1 cup blueberries (I pick my own and freeze them)
  • 1 cup frozen organic strawberries (strawberries are on the Dirty Dozen list so must be organic)
  • 1 serving broccoli or kale (optional)
  • 1 heaping scoop of Green Superfood
  • 1 heaping tablespoon of brewer’s yeast (also called nutritional yeast–not what is used to make bread) for all the B vitamins that are needed for adrenal health
  • 1 heaping tablespoon of unsweetened cocoa powder (not Dutch process) for antioxidants
  • enough kefir, kombucha, coconut water, or filtered water to come up to the top of the ingredients in the container, usually 8-10 oz.

You’ll want to mix this very well so there are no remaining lumps from frozen berries. With my old VM, I have to stop every now and then to pound the container on the counter to let the thick mixture settle into the air pockets introduced by blending. You can add more liquid if this occurs, but I prefer my smoothie to be almost the consistency of soft serve ice cream.

Absorption of nutrients is the next step in maximizing our nutritional intake from real foods. Real food is anything that does not come in a box, is a single entity (a potato), contains no refined grains, such as enriched white flour or any type of white rice, and no added sugar–real or sugar substitutes, like high fructose corn syrup or Splenda(R). More about nutrition and cooking later.

Other posts related to this one:

How I Conquered Low-Energy and Digestive Chronic Conditions

Sugar is soooo bad for you and so is the sugar industry

My Recovery Started With Buddhism and My Cells