The old adage, you are what you eat, may sound trite, but as with all adages there is truth. As a competitive body builder in the over 50 category, Maxine Johnson, learned the power of food to create a desired result. Intrigued by her experience and with a hunger to help others, Maxine became a Nutritional Therapist and founded TempleFit.
According to Maxine the key to overall well-being begins in the gut. The digestive system plays an intrinsic role in a person’s overall health including brain health. In other words, show your gut a bit of love by eating gut healthy foods, and you may find your mood improves too.
The best foods to fuel the microbiome that is your gut are fermented foods. “Fermented Foods reseed the gut with good flora,” explains Maxine. “In nutritional therapy we don’t kill anything, we just promote the good, which subdues the bad.”
Fermented foods include yogurt, sauerkraut, fermented turmeric, kombucha, and pickled vegetables that have been pickled properly.
Maxine makes her own yogurt, a relatively easy food to culture at home. Yogurt contains live active cultures that promote good gut flora. For the best yogurt, it is important to use raw or low-heat pasteurized milk. Pasteurization is meant to kill bad germs and bacteria from milk, making it safe to drink. However, in the process of ultra-pasteurization, all of the good flora is cooked out as well creating a longer shelf life for the milk. Using pasteurized milk does not result in quality yogurt. Maxine’s Yogurt recipe is available on her website.
Another interesting food Maxine has been experimenting with recently is fermented turmeric. Turmeric is a spice that has gained fame for its anti-inflammatory properties. “Turmeric, most commonly found in its powdered form,” says Maxine, “is not very digestible unless you mix it with fat and pepper and once you do that it’s not palatable. But Turmeric root that is sliced or shredded and fermented is better absorbed because it is predigested.”
Kombucha is fun to make, and creates a light fizzy beverage. But like other fizzy beverages it can pop it’s top and also needs to be made in very clean conditions. Kombucha contains a symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast (SCOBY) Maxine describes a SCOBY as a living mushroom pancake type thing. To make Kombucha, you brew black or green tea with sugar and but it in a jar with the SCOBY. Let it sit for 10 to 14 days. Full instructions can be found here.
Sauerkraut is another food that has gone through the culture process. When selecting a sauerkraut it is important to avoid pasteurized cooked versions because they became too hot in the processing to have anything live in them. Raw sauerkraut can be found in the refrigerator section (usually next to the beers and cheeses) in stores like the Olympia Food Co-op. Maxine recommends Bubbies, OlyKraut, and Firefly Kitchens (the owner of which is a fellow nutritional therapist). A good ‘kraut is made with a salt brine and contains no vinegar. Cabbage also contains vitamin U, which helps heal the gut, plus in its fermented form it’s predigested and helps reseed the gut with good flora.
“You can drink the brine itself,” adds Maxine, “and is quite delicious and healthy. I noticed that OlyKraut has bottled the brine and you can buy that by itself.”
Another food that is more digestible is sprouted foods. These include grains, nuts and seed sprouts. Generally, Maxine recommends staying away from grains, with the exception of sprouted grains. Bread brands that Maxine recommends are Ezekiel Bread and sprouted Dave’s Killer Bread.
Nuts are the same and are better sprouted. Maxine shared her recipe for a sprouted trail mix. She takes almonds, walnuts, and pecans and covers them with water, soaking overnight. Set the oven to the lowest temp 150-175 degrees. Pat the nuts dry and place them on a greased pan spreading them out. Slow roast for a day or two. These can be flavored to taste with cinnamon and chili powder. To make it more festive add raisins or dried cranberries.
“Everything that comes from the ground is from God, from Mother Nature,” says Maxine. “There is no bad food, it’s just what we do to it. There is bad processing.”
In a society where manufactured food is a staple, Maxine suggests when shopping it is always best to shop the perimeter of the store and to avoid the central aisles as much as possible.
“All foods are good, but all foods are not beneficial for everyone.” Maxine goes on to explain, “It’s important to understand the food that is appropriate for you. It depends on the individual. I wouldn’t say to a diabetic, ‘grapes are fine.’ I might steer you away from high sugar fruits for a time. I had a client who was diabetic who concentrated on vegetables and high fat and high protein foods, and she was able to keep her blood sugar under control that way.
Meats are great too as long as they are properly, sustainably grown. Cows that are out in a pasture, pigs that can roam, chickens that are allowed to eat bugs are always better. Animals that are allowed to live a normal life produce healthy meat and produce.
To learn more about the food that best fuels your individual needs, visit the TempleFit website or call 360-338-0481.
605 11th Ave S.E. Suite 202, Olympia