By Kim Dannies
“Healthy” and “good health” are cherished words, but what do they really mean? I had the opportunity to attend Kripalu’s Healthy Living Detox Retreat with Dr. John Bagnulo in Pittsfield, Mass., recently. Dr. Bagnulo was expert at translating nutrition science from the lab to the kitchen, and I peppered him with cook’s questions.
We learned that our gut is where the action is. Because our digestive system is the boss of bodily functions and disease prevention, it is the key to optimal health. Our belly demands respect from the foods we eat, or nasty consequences occur—heartburn, flatulence and much worse. Did you know that most chronic and acute diseases are complicated by poor gut health?
“On a spectrum, gluten–sensitivity affects everyone. This is not a fad, but an evolving reality,” Dr. Bagnulo said. “Due to food processing and GMOs (genetically modified organisms) what used to be 23 percent gluten in our food is now 66 percent, and our digestive system simply cannot handle the daily overload. Rid toxic grains such as wheat, rye, barley, oats, spelt and kamut from your diet.”
Instead, choose easily digested, organic and local foods that are nutrient dense. Your plate should be 25 percent protein, 55 percent vegetable and 20 percent fruit. Full fats like butter from grass–fed cows and olive and coconut oils are vital for better brain function. Super foods like wild–caught fish, leafy greens, free–range eggs, blueberries, seaweed, cacao and garlic are good choices. If you choose grains, amaranth, buckwheat, quinoa and millet are okay—in moderation—along with pinto and cannellini beans, sprouted lentils and brown rice. Eating gluten–free products is healthier only if the delivery is nutrient–dense: think poached eggs on buttered GF toast, not GF cupcakes.
The best book I have found that summarizes Dr. Bagnulo’s message is “Practical Paleo” by Diane Sanfilippo. The book is less about caveman eating than it is about cultivating healthy habits. It has scientific explanations and practical suggestions for gut health, organ function and product choices as it relates to actual eating. The book is filled with excellent charts, colorful illustrations and recipes that make learning about optimal health a gut.
Optimal organic green smoothie
In a Vita mixer combine the following organic foods: half an avocado; half an unpeeled lemon; 1 cup frozen strawberries; 1 chunk cucumber; 1 fistfull of spinach and kale each; 2 stalks celery; 2 ounces ginger; 1 tablespoon flaxseed; 6 ice cubes; water if needed. Drink 16 ounces every morning.
Kim Dannies is a graduate of La Varenne Cooking School in France. She lives in Williston with her husband, Jeff; they have three twenty–something daughters who come and go. For archived Everyday Gourmet columns go to kimdannies.com.