So much food, so little nutrients
Have you heard the phrase, “Overfed but undernourished?” Unfortunately, it accurately describes a large percentage of the Western population. We face skyrocketing levels of obesity, yet the foods we consume are stripped of crucial nutrients, such as fat-soluble vitamins and minerals.
Some of the staple foods we consume as a nation, such as white flour and bread, are enriched with vitamins. However, these synthetic vitamins are poorly absorbed and lack the naturally-occurring cofactosrs needed for assimilation. Americans chronically lack nutrient-dense foods.
Fake nutrients vs. real nutrients
Many doctors, dieticians and pediatricians recognize some of the signs of nutrient deficiency. They frequently recommend products such as Boost, Ensure, and Pediasure shakes. However, this can compound the problem of nutrient deficiency since these beverages contain not only poorly-absorbed synthetic vitamins but also a host of unsavory ingredients.
For example, the ingredients in vanilla-flavored Pediasure are:
Water, Sugar, Corn Maltodextrin, High Oleic Safflower Oil, Milk Protein Concentrate, Canola Oil, Soy Protein Isolate, Pea Protein Concentrate. Less than 0.5% of the Following: Short-Chain Fructooligosaccharides, Natural & Artificial Flavor, Cellulose Gel, Potassium Chloride, Magnesium Phosphate, Potassium Citrate, Calcium Phosphate, Calcium Carbonate, Tuna Oil, Potassium Phosphate, Cellulose Gum, Choline Chloride, Ascorbic Acid, Soy Lecithin, Monoglycerides, Salt, Potassium Hydroxide, m-Inositol, Carrageenan, Taurine, Ferrous Sulfate, dl-Alpha-Tocopheryl Acetate, L-Carnitine, Zinc Sulfate, Calcium Pantothenate, Niacinamide, Manganese Sulfate, Thiamine Chloride Hydrochloride, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Riboflavin, Lutein, Cupric Sulfate, Vitamin A Palmitate, Folic Acid, Chromium Chloride, Biotin, Potassium Iodide, Sodium Selenate, Sodium Molybdate, Phylloquinone, Vitamin D3, and Cyanocobalamin.
Holy cow, that’s a scary list!
The most important way to up your nutrient intake is focusing on unprocessed, real food. Most people will thrive on fresh fruits and vegetables, healthy fats, grassfed animal products, and starchy vegetables like sweet potatoes.
But sometimes you need a real food nutrient boost, especially when faced with certain health challenges. Increasing your nutrient intake can be a crucial part of:
- healing male and female infertility naturally
- addressing chronic disease, such as autoimmune disease
- supporting endocrine disorders, such as hormone imbalance and thyroid dysfunction
- supporting healthy growth and development of toddlers, children and teens
Here are 5 ways you can increase nutrition with a higher concentration of vitamins, minerals, and cofactors.
1. Homemade Bone Broth
Grandmothers throughout the centuries and across the globe all seemed to share one natural remedy: bone broth. “A good broth can raise the dead,” the saying goes, and it may have more truth in it than we expect.
Don’t confuse homemade bone broth with store bought stock, and certainly don’t confuse it with vegetable broth. Homemade bone broth is ideally cooked for 24 – 48 hours in order to leach the minerals into the broth.
Some of the unique benefits of bone broth include:
- Bone broth, when cooked over low heat for a significant amount of time (24 – 48 hours) provides a well-absorbed form of minerals. This prolonged cooking infuses the broth with calcium, magnesium, and trace minerals from the bones. Bone broth in an excellent way to get calcium for those who avoid dairy.
- Bone broth provides an excellent source of amino acids proline and glycine, which support healthy sleep and soothe the digestive tract (read more here).
- Bone broth is rich in gelatin, which can aid in hormone balance and digestion. You can read about the benefits of gelatin for hormone balance in my post here.
Here’s how to get the benefits of bone broth:
- Use your slow cooker to easily make a batch of nutrient-dense bone broth. I throw in a pastured chicken carcass or a couple of pounds of grassfed beef bones. Then I add a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar. The acidity helps leach the beneficial minerals from the bones into the broth. I cook on low for two whole days (yep!), strain, and store in the fridge.
- If you find it palatable, sip a mug of warm bone broth, seasoned with sea salt. My daily ritual with my cup of bone broth is nurturing, rejuvenating and peaceful.
- Reap the benefits of bone broth in homemade soup. I love making mixed vegetable soup with broth, then pureeing it with a immersion blender to create a creamy vegetable soup.
2. Pastured eggs
Eggs have been considered the perfect food for a reason. Packed with protein, healthy fats, vitamins and minerals, our ancestors intuitively knew that eggs where a healing food for children, the ill, and the elderly.
When it comes to both nutrients and human animal treatment, go the extra mile to source eggs from pastured hens.
Contrary to the belief of mainstream (or, as I say, mislead) nutrition, the yolks – not whites – are the most nutritious part of the egg. Take a look at the nutrition highlights of eggs:
- Minerals – Egg yolks are an excellent source of iodine and selenium.
- Fat-soluble vitamins – the egg yolk contains all of the fat-soluble vitamins in the egg, including A, D, E and K2.
- B Vitamins – B vitamins support blood sugar balance and energy levels. Egg yolks are particularly high in choline, which supports the detox pathways and hormone balance.
- Cholesterol – Cholesterol has been demonized by scientists with poor research habits, but it’s actually a crucial nutrient for wellbeing – especially mental health. I’ve already extensively discussed and de-mythed cholesterol here.
Here’s howto get the benefits of pastured eggs:
- Custards, enjoyed for dessert or even breakfast, offer a decadent way to reap the nutrition profile of egg yolks. Try this Blend and Bake Custard, made with eggs and coconut milk.
- Throw a couple of pastured egg yolks into your smoothie. Worried about salmonella? The risk of salmonella from pastured eggs is extraordinarily low – read why here.
- Try this Strawberry Mango Soft Serve, which is a dairy free “ice cream” enriched with fresh egg yolks.
- Stir an egg yolk or two into a bowl of hot soup to add nutrients and a silky texture.
- You can even add a fresh pastured egg yolk into your coffee! It doesn’t add much flavor, just richness.
3. Bone Marrow
What do our hunter-gatherer ancestors and wolves have in common? Both immediately feasted on the marrow inside the bones of their fresh prey. Marrow is primarily fatty acids, packed with the essential omega-3s required for healthy brain development and anti-inflammation.
Weston A. Price, a nutrition pioneer who studied the diets of traditional cultures, found a special emphasis on bone marrow in the Indians living in the Rocky Mountain Range. He wrote in his landmark book Nutrition and Physical Degeneration,
An important part of the nutrition of the children consisted in various preparations of bone marrow, both as a substitute for milk and as a special dietary ration.
In his practice, Dr. Price used marrow as an important nutritional supplement for undernourished children.
Here’s how to get the benefits of bone marrow:
- First, find marrow bones from grassfed cows. You can ask your local butcher or natural foods store – they will usually be able to set some aside for you.
- Cook the bones to extract the marrow. Here are directions for roasting marrow bones.
- Warm roasted marrow is delicious eating with a sprinkle of salt! It’s rich and silky. Store leftover marrow in the fridge for a few days.
- One of my favorite ways to enjoy bone marrow is in this Sweet Marrow Custard.
- I love to enrich soups with cooked marrow. I stir the marrow directly into the soup and it melts without leaving a discernible texture or flavor.
You’ve heard of chia seeds, goji berries and kombucha… but perhaps the superest of all superfoods is liver. Gram for gram, liver is the most nutrient-dense food on the planet.
- Liver provides the highest source of vitamin A, one of the most valuable vitamins to balance hormones and support healthy growth. Contrary to popular belief, we cannot obtain vitamin A from vegetables (here is why).
- Traditional cultures considered liver a sacred food and put great stock in it’s revitalizing properties. In particular, liver was used to promote fertility. It should be consumed on a regular basis by couples trying to conceive.
- Liver contains an unidentified “anti-fatigue factor.” In a famous animal study, liver consumption prevented rats from exhaustion, even after swimming for two straight hours (read more)
Here’s how to get the benefits of liver:
- The liver filters toxins, but doesn’t store toxins unless the animal is overburdened by a toxic lifestyle. As a result, source liver from the healthiest animals you can find. Ask your butcher or local farmer for grassfed beef liver or pastured chicken liver.
- Optimally, enjoy 2-4 servings of pastured liver each week.
- If you abhor the taste of liver, I recommend taking these grassfed desiccated liver capsules daily. 2-6 capsules per day is recommended.
- You can also make your own easy DIY Liver Pills!
- Add ground liver to your hamburgers, meatballs and meatloaf for a nutritional boost. Try this recipe for Kid-Approved Liver Bacon Meatballs.
5. Grassfed Butter and Ghee
I thought the best magazine cover of this year was the 2014 June cover of Time Magazine. It announced, “Eat butter. Scientists labeled fat the enemy. Why they were wrong.” Traditional cultures have long revered butter as a sacred, health-giving food. For example, in Ayurvedic medicine, ghee (clarified butter) is used medicinally, both internally and topically.
Here’s what you need to know about the health benefits of butter:
- Butter is not created equal. While conventional butter has a poor nutrient profile, butter from grass-grazing cows boasts fat-soluble vitamins. Look for grassfed butter from your local farmer or try Kerrygold butter, available in many grocery stores.
- Butter is low in lactose, and can be enjoyed by many who are dairy intolerant. Ghee is an even better choice, because it is both casein and lactose free. You can make your own ghee or purchase grassfed ghee here.
- Grassfed butter/ghee provide an excellent source of fat-soluble vitamin A… remember, that’s a vitamin you can’t get from plants.
- Grassfed butter/ghee contains vitamin K2, which works synergistically with calcium to strengthen bones. K2 is the “shuttle” that carries calcium into the bones.
- Grassfed butter/ghee is the highest source of conjugated linolenic acid (CLA), which is an elusive anti-cancer factor!
Here’s how to get the benefits of grassfed butter and ghee:
- Try a batch of my Healthy Buttermints! They are a healthy alternative to candy, packed with the goodness of grassfed butter, and they bust sugar cravings like nobody’s business.
- You can add a 1/2 – 1 teaspoon of High Vitamin Butter Oil, available here, to your smoothies if you have a high-powered blender to prevent clumping of the oil. Add the oil after all the ingredients are blended, then whip on high speed briefly to emulsify the oil.
- Stir a spoonful of butter or ghee into your coffee or tea.
- Use ghee for sauteing. Unlike many oils, ghee is heat-stable and perfect for cooking and baking.
Do you use any of these foods to increase your nutrition?