Plants are a kingdom which is vast in its diversity, powerful in its medicine, and plentiful in its gifts.
I don’t think anyone would argue about the benefits of plants. After all, one of our cultural gold standards is to “eat more fruits and vegetables”. Yet we often overlook, underestimate or don’t fully acknowledge or appreciate the true power of plants and the diversity and therefore nutrition and healing this kingdom has to offer.
What are the benefits of consuming plant foods?
If could sum it up in a sentence it would be that plants are nourishing, cleansing & healing.
They are truly both food and medicine.
It is these ‘phytonutrients’, phyto meaning plant, that is behind the magic of their nourishment and health-enhancing abilities…
Plants as food offer us valuable and unique compounds that can help nourish, heal and cleanse us including:
Protein, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, chlorophyll, alkaloids, sterols, essential oils, polyphenols, anti-inflammatory compounds, neurotransmitters, and perhaps most unique and different than any other food group, fiber.
Of course there are far more nutrients we know of, and I would wager there are still more nutrients and properties that we don’t know of and have yet to discover. Recent research has pointed to the fact that plants contain RNA.
In the human body, this has the power and potential to turn on/off specific genes – think epigenetics. Which in essence means the more plant “intelligence” we can consume, the better our health.
So how can you connect and go deeper into this food group for greater benefit?
Here are 5 Easy Ways To Get The Most Out Of Plants For Your Health.
#5 Increase Culinary Diversity
Over the last 100 or so years the industrialization of our food system has brought an abundant but limited variety of low quality of food which has led to poor health.
We need to explore and begin incorporating some of the vastness of the plant kingdom that exists outside regular health food and grocery stores, for true culinary diversity and therefore nourishment into our diet.
To me the most practical, fun and accessible way to do this, is upgrade your diet with superfoods.
Superfoods from our local bio-region and around the world, contain exceptionally high amounts of nutrients as well as a variety of unique compounds that most conventional foods do not. Don’t wait for the system to change, continue to take action in this way yourself.
#4 Eat the Rainbow
We know our diet shouldn’t be just white and that vibrant colours equal nutrition and vibrant health.
Green is chlorophyll, Orange are carotenoids, Blue is phycocyanin, etc… and the plant kingdom is where the colours are at!
Select a variety of colourful, deeply pigmented foods all the way from ROYGBIV to blacks, browns, and natural white’s, and you know you will be benefiting from the full spectrum of nourishment the plant kingdom has to offer.
#3 Consider Source
Not only how it was grown and handled but also the plant genetics like choosing wild & heirloom varieties that have not been industrially bred and processed.
The research that I have seen has almost always shown that foods closer to their wild-counterpart which are more naturally-grown, are higher in nutrition.
You can even experience this by the smell and taste as well as a more pronounced feel of the benefits these foods provide which is a result of a richer, more complex chemistry and greater nutrient density.
In explaining this idea, I often use the example of an organic, wild or heirloom strawberry, tomato or lettuce, compared to those foods average counterpart found in the supermarket and most people can relate.
So look deeper beyond price, to the source and quality of your plant foods as it does make a difference.
#2 Intelligently Process your Plant Foods
As humans, though we can eat some plant material as is and in its raw state, most of it we need to process to help with the break down, digestion and absorption of the nutrients.
When we intelligently process plants we can help break down the cellulose, unlock nutrients and getting rid of many of the plants protective mechanisms like alkaloids, tannins, phytic acid and other anti-nutrients.
I believe ancestral and cultural food wisdom offers more valuable advice on how to prepare and consume our foods than does modern industry.
So look to traditional methods of soaking, sprouting, drying, cooking, and fermenting of plants to optimize their nutrition and our ability to digest them.
#1 Incorporate Herbs
I bet you’re like me and the biggest area to learn, grow and benefit from the plant food kingdom would be by exploring the realm of herbalism.
I see herbs as a sub-food group within the broader food group of plants, and one that is essential for supporting our body and vital organ systems. Every traditional culture, around the world and throughout time, has a history of using plants as not only food, but also medicine.
Herbalism has always been the people’s medicine, the ‘folk’ medicine and used daily as a tonic, as well as preventative and even first-line of defense in emergencies and illnesses.
As it explains in the text, History of Herbal Medicine (2010), “archeologists and anthropologists have never found a society, no matter how remote or seemingly ‘primitive’, that did not use plants in healing and/or ritualistic ways.”
There is so much power in embracing this path, and not with the goal to replace our modern health care system, but to add to it and expand our wisdom and choices as we have done with nutrition.
I teach many classes at Light Cellar including one on Elixir Crafting which is specifically designed to help you bring the best of modern nutrition together with ancient herbal wisdom.
It is a great course for those of us who want to learn about herbs, incorporate them daily and begin getting their benefits but perhaps don’t want to make an intensive, formal study of herbs.
The good news is you can be your own herbalist and start using them for your families health, and elixirs are an excellent, convenient and delicious way to do this.
Check out lightcellar.ca for the current class calendar and find a date to register.
I would love to see you there.
Thank you for taking the time to explore the plant kingdom as a food group.
Though obvious on the surface, there is much depth you are now further along understanding how to truly get the benefits of this food group.
Share this with someone else you know who could use the same.
In the next blog post we will explore a food group and kingdom where there is far more misunderstanding and controversy, but equally as vital: Animal foods…
However, by tuning in you’ll be able to cut through the dogma, discern what are the appropriate and necessary animal foods you need to consume so you and your family can enjoy vibrant health.
Malcolm “Eat a Diversity of Plants” Saunders
CEOCreative and Visionary of Light Cellar Superfoods.