With March being National Nutrition Month, the logical self-health habit to encourage this month is to try a nutrient-dense food you’ve never tried before. (Now, keep in mind that it can take some time to acquire a taste for new foods. So, don’t let the first bite determine a new food’s fate on your future plate.)
You don’t have to be an adventurous eater to make this habit happen. There are plenty of common foods filled with healthful nutrients that you probably steer clear of. After all, we tend to get into routines where we eat the same things over and over, right? Don’t feel obligated to research the latest “superfood” or anything. Keeping it simple is the road to success.
Let’s discuss some ideas by looking at each of the three main nutrient classifications: protein, carbohydrates, and fat. But what about those vitamins and minerals, you ask? When you eat the nutrient-dense foods we’ll be talking about, you’ll get them. Trust me.
Protein is a critical nutrient for your health—working at a cellular level. It’s responsible for things like building and repairing tissue, helping chemical reactions happen for processes such as proper digestion, maintaining a desirable pH balance, and ensuring adequate strength and structure for connective tissue. Consider trying either of these budget-friendly options this month:
- Liver is so jam-packed with nutrition it’s silly not to be eating it in some form—vitamins out the wazoo, minerals aplenty, and even essential fatty acids. You don’t have to stick with your grandmother’s liver-and-onions recipe. Try liverwurst on a slice of sprouted grains toast. Or, keep one in your freezer, and when you’re making anything with ground meat in it, grab your microplane to shave some liver into it for a richness that will knock your socks off. You can keep this a secret ingredient, and no one will know, but everyone’s body will be grateful.
- Sardines are another protein packed with all sorts of nutritional goodness that gets a bad rap. With its Omega-3s, bioavailable calcium, vitamin D, and selenium, you’ll be providing your body with all sorts of delicious, health-giving nutrition in a clever little package. You don’t have to pick one up by the tail and slide it into your mouth to reap the benefits, either. Try chopping them up with some mayonnaise like tuna salad. They’re a perfect topping for a traditional Caesar salad. Or, just laid out on a slice of crusty bread and drizzled with olive oil.
Carbohydrates have a controversial role in the nutrition scene these days. Are they necessary or not? In Why Your Doctor Offers Nutritional Supplements, Stephanie Anderson points to Dr. Weston Price’s research on indigenous people. These people lived in perfect health by eating only protein and fats as their energy sources. This is possible because our bodies are capable of producing glucose for energy through protein and fats alone. Of course, there are many brilliant carbohydrates out there that can be beneficial when you choose the complex and unrefined variety. How about trying one of these?
- Cranberries are a fruit that most people don’t even think about until November, when Thanksgiving rolls around. But the cranberry’s vivid red color is a big indicator that it houses some valuable nutrition—fiber; vitamins C, E, and K; and manganese. A little tidbit you may not have known: When cranberries aren’t available in the fresh produce area, you can typically find them frozen. I know, you didn’t even think about it, did you? Anyway, making an unsweetened cranberry sauce (add a little inositol powder for sweetness without the sugar) that you can use as a condiment for your turkey or ham sandwich all year ’round is an easy way to make cranberries part of your regular menu. But you can also throw them in a smoothie or top a salad with a handful. The tart flavor can be a refreshing change of pace.
- Dark, leafy greens – If you’re new to dark, leafy greens, try something mild, like baby spinach. It offers vitamins A, C, E, and K, calcium, iron, and magnesium (to name just a few) in a very palatable manner. If you’ve been a fan of greens for years, it’s more than likely time to change it up. Is baby spinach your favorite? Ease into some baby kale. Change things up with some broccoli or another deep green veggie that you’ve been avoiding.
Lastly, we come to fats. Please tell me you aren’t still on the low- or no-fat bandwagon. That wagon had its wheels fall off long ago, but many people still avoid these important nutrients. Healthy fat is crucial for everything—your brain, every cell in your body, your immune system, and even your hair. With a proper amount of fat in your diet, you’ll tend to eat less as well, since it makes you feel full sooner and longer. Opt for extra virgin olive or avocado oils, rather than vegetable or safflower (super-refined oils do not do the body good). Also, be sure to use real butter (grass-fed if you can get it), instead of fake margarine. Next, try one of these delicious fat choices:
- Tallow from the fat of beef, sheep, or pigs will add a flavor profile to your meals that you haven’t tasted in a long time. When you’re mindful of your tallow coming from pasture-raised animals, it will be rich in all sorts of B vitamins (as well as K, potassium, iron, riboflavin, and conjugated linoleic acid). Maria Atwood, CNHP—always willing to teach us about traditional foods—shares the simple method she uses to make her own tallow to have at the ready. You’ll be using it to make a flaky pie crust before you know it.
- Raw milk, if you can get your hands on some, is filled with not only healthy fat, but also calcium, B vitamins, and vitamins A and C. Pasteurization changes all of that. I was lucky enough to be raised on the stuff, and I can tell you that my siblings and I are pretty hardy, healthy people. This one will be a little trickier to try, since raw milk is illegal in most states, but it’s worth the effort. Even in states where you aren’t able to buy raw milk at your local market, some offer ways to get around it, like buying a share at your local raw milk dairy farm. Once you get your hands on a jar of this stuff, pour yourself a glass to sip on while you check out Phyllis Quinn’s Udderly Cultured: The Art of Milk Fermentation. She shows you how simple it is to make your own raw milk cheese, butter, and even ice cream.
So, I challenge you to switch things up with your menu planning and make your grocery list just a little different this month—and beyond, if you’re willing. Trying new foods can be a whole lotta healthy fun!