We are living beings that require fuel our body recognises as food, so yes, consuming living foods will ensure we maintain life in our body.
In our world of highly processed and convenience foods, the diets of most are distinctly lacking in living foods. In summer it gets a little easier with the abundance of delicious fruits and addition of salads to our meals, but in winter when our bodies are craving warm foods, the idea of a salad can be a hard sell.
You’ve probably heard loads of hype around a raw food diet and while I certainly agree on its benefits, if your digestive system has been damaged or compromised over the years, your ability to properly digest raw foods may also be compromised.
I had over ten years of severe digestive challenges and in my quest to heal, I’ve studied so many theories, put many in practice, completed multiple fasts; both juice and water, cleansed my colon, eaten raw for periods, and now follow a whole food, mostly plant based diet.
What I can assure you is it takes time to repair a lifetime of damage. It also takes patience, compassion, balance and a conscious connection to your body.
Although my fasts resulted in significant improvements in my digestion, I had many years of taking antacids which had lowered my digestive enzymes and made it really difficult for my body to digest raw foods - in Chinese medicine and Ayurveda they call it low digestive fire or Qi. What I’ve found works the best for my body is a combination of cooked and easy to digest raw foods.
Two of my favourite ways to add the living are sprouts and fresh herbs, in this article I will focus on fresh herbs.
How many of you have herbs growing in the garden or in a pot that you never use? What if you could add a handful to every meal?
Not only will a handful of herbs increase the flavour and vibrancy of your meal, they tick the box for the living component. They each contain a healthy nutritional profile with antiseptic and antibacterial qualities, so you’ll be giving yourself a good dose of antioxidants with many of them being especially good for digestion and digestive irritability. Like green leafy vegetables, they are high in vitamins A, C, and K with many also containing polyphenols which create antioxidant and anti-inflammatory capabilities.
If you’re not accustomed to using fresh herbs, the idea of knowing which to use for what dish may seem a little daunting at first, but I encourage you to experiment. You’ll receive the greatest benefit from fresh herbs if added in the final minute of the cooking process, or sprinkled on top when served.
Parsley is one of the easiest to start with and in my opinion, there are very few meals that would taste bad with the addition of it. Interesting to note that Parsley was used medicinally long before it was used as a food. It’s great for indigestion and ailments of the lungs, liver and spleen, and may also help to fight infections in the kidney, bladder and urinary tract. High in chlorophyll, it’s a useful breath freshener and works a treat to reduce strong garlic breath.
Basil is another great one, especially if you love Mediterranean style meals as it marries beautifully with tomato. It contains particular flavonoids that are potent antioxidants that strengthen the immune system and protect cellular DNA. It’s worth noting that these disappear during the drying process so it’s always best to use fresh basil.
Chives are another one that can be used in most dishes, and although they’re often eaten in very small amounts, even a tablespoon will provide an excellent dose of Vitamins K, C & A. Reputed benefits include, improved sleep, skin and hair quality, as well as aiding in vision and digestion.
Coriander is fantastic with asian dishes, curries and a must have in Laksa for me. Unfortunately people seem to love it or hate it….if you are one of the latter I encourage you to try small amounts to develop your palate for it because of the outstanding health benefits. Considered to have strong anti-inflammatory properties, it’s fantastic for digestion and skin disorders but the number one benefit in my opinion, is its ability to draw heavy metals from the body, especially Mercury and Aluminium
Dill can be a little more tricky to work with but it’s fantastic for soothing the digestion so worth experimenting with. Traditionally it goes well with seafood and great with eggs, but I love it with all vegetables.
Mint is another powerhouse for the digestive system and often used to help relieve nausea and vomiting. Interesting to note, when you are making it as a tea, you should cover the cup to prevent the loss of the volatile oils. Mint is great in many sweet dishes and I love to add it to a salad to provide a little pop of flavour here and there
Thyme is also great for the digestion and considered to have strong anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties and therefore great for intestinal parasites. I love Thyme with mushrooms or potatoes but it can be a lovely addition to any mediterranean style dish
Oregano is considered to score the highest when it comes to antioxidants and also very good for digestion. I find it doesn’t have the same potency in flavour when it’s fresh and I prefer the flavour of dried oregano but if the aim is to increase the fresh and living in your meal, a light handful is perfect.
Although it is not technically a herb, given we’re aiming for added nutrients and the living component to your meals, I can’t leave out Baby Spinach. While it may not add much in terms of flavour, it’s fantastic for our blood and often a specific remedy for nose bleeds, diuretic and laxative. Stir it in at the last minute or lay a bed of it on your plate before loading it up - the warmth of your food will just soften it.
Some of the ways I use more fresh herbs:
- try adding a combination of herbs to a salad, torn up and tossed through gives you the occasional pop of flavour making a salad taste more interesting
- Finely chopped through mash, cooked or roasted veggies - parsley is great but chives or dill are awesome too
- add a handful of herbs on top of soup, stews or curries
- add some herbs to your sandwich, with or instead of lettuce
- blitz excess herbs with salt, pepper, lemon juice and olive oil for a delicious homemade pesto
- make your own dressing and add finely chopped herbs of choice
Seriously, the options are endless but I want to leave you with a final thought.
You don’t have to be eating a home cooked meal to use fresh herbs. Imagine if every time you had takeaway, you added a handful of fresh herbs?
Now I’m not suggesting it will negate anything ‘bad’ in your meal but it sure can’t hurt right?
Every bit helps, so I encourage you to get creative and find ways to eat more living for life.