Yard Chard and Other Superfoods

by Michael Braunstein

How have humans become so dumb? There are probably a lot of theories. What I know for certain is that it happened relatively recently because when I was younger, we didn’t need labels and analyses to tell us what to eat and the difference between healthful food and junk food.

Here’s how far from sensible we’ve gotten: We no longer even know what nutrition is all about. Case in point is a recent article I saw about the latest “fake food” that is marketed under the sobriquet “The Impossible Burger.” The article sought to “compare the nutrition of the synthetic meat to real beef.” The parameters that comprised “nutrition” for the study included calories, salt, cholesterol and fat. That is hardly nutrition. Those are components. Not surprisingly, most people think of calories first when it comes to important values for food. What we should be concerned about instead is the nutrition not the calories. Real food is more than salt, sugar and fat, calories. Consider real nutrients like Vitamins A, C, D, K, Thiamine, B12, Niacin and the like; Omega-3 and -6 fatty acids; CLAs (conjugated linoleic fatty acids); minerals like zinc, potassium, zinc, manganese, selenium. Nutrients and micronutrients that exist in real food.

Forget calories and cholesterol. Start thinking about nutrients and discover a whole genre of what we call “superfoods.” And you won’t find the “Impossible Burger” on that list. You’ll find some of these and many of them are as easy to grow as weeds.

Swiss chard. Chard is maybe the easiest to grow and most versatile superfood there is. Even before the last frost of the spring, you can rough up a little dirt in your yard, toss down some of the tiny seeds and in a short couple of weeks you’ll be harvesting nutrient-dense Swiss chard to build your salads, add to omelets, garnish sandwiches and enjoy as a green side dish with real butter and garlic. There are many vibrant varieties and it’s easy to grow. Colorful rainbow chard, Fordhook giant and others sprout up and both stalks and leaves are edible and highly nutritious. Once it starts growing you can harvest the small, tender leaves for salad, the larger ones steam up or sauté delightfully. Snip some of the leaves and a few days later, the plant is ready for a trimming again. I have harvested chard from early May to as late as Christmas to put fresh greens on my table. Its nutrient content is astounding. A couple dozen plants or so and you’ll have more than enough to deal with. Though it’s an annual, often it will sprout up anew in the following spring, reminding you to toss in some new seeds.

Kale This stuff is so easy to grow it should be in every yard garden, patio pot or window box. And it pretty much ranks as the Number One superfood of the leafy greens. Of course you don’t have to grow it yourself. It’s easily found at farmers markets and stores and usually at great prices. High in vitamins A, C and K, kale carries loads of anti-cancer anti-oxidants with only 30 calories per cup. Small leaves are great raw in a salad. To prepare larger leaves, rinse and strip the fibrous stalk and cut the leaves into strips. Steam lightly then butter and season. Or sauté lightly in olive oil with crushed garlic.

Bok choy According to a nutrition rating scale called ANDI, developed by Dr. Joel Fuhrman, bok choy ranks near the top. ANDI stands for “Aggregate Nutrient Density Index.” The ANDI score considers many nutrients, including calcium, carotenoids: beta carotene, alpha carotene, lutein, lycopene, fiber, folate, glucosinolates, iron, magnesium, niacin, selenium, vitamins B1, B2, B6, B12, C, E, Zinc, plus ORAC (Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity,) a method of measuring the antioxidant or radical scavenging capacity of foods. Also known as Chinese cabbage, bok choy is a local crop at area farmers markets and can be prepared in the same manner as kale. One farmer I know suggests basting with orange juice and grilling in a foil pouch.

Yams or Sweet Potatoes Look into it and you’ll find that in North America, yams and sweet potatoes are essentially the same food. By either name, they may be the most nutritious food you can eat. They are off the charts with Vitamins A and C, fulfilling 100 percent of the daily need in a good sized one. Trace minerals, antioxidants and fiber, pantothenic acid and Vitamin B6 are abundant in this tuber. The best way to cook them would be baking or steaming to preserve the nutrition.

Nori. Okay, I threw this one in for the next quiz. Nori is the Japanese word for edible seaweed. It’s a dark green, sleek paper-thin oddity when dried. But boy, does it ever pack nutrition! You likely won’t be growing it in your home garden but you can certainly pick some up at the store and scissor a few streamers across a baked potato, drop into a salad or soup. You’ll love it and you’ll get a ton of iodine and ten times more calcium than milk!

Your Information Source: As with all the foods listed here and any others you can think of, research at http://nutritiondata.self.com will inform. It’s an amazing website that tells you actually nutritional data you can use.

Be well.

Heartland Healing is a metaphysically based polemic describing alternatives to conventional methods of healing the body, mind and planet. It is provided as information and entertainment, certainly not medical advice. Important to remember and pass on to others: for a weekly dose of Heartland Healing, visit HeartlandHealing.com.

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