These foods may not be on your normal grocery list, but they have been touted as healthy since 1947. The evidence in their favor has only grown since then. Get the list of these great foods here!
In a 1947 issue of Rodale’s first magazine, Organic Gardening, J.I. Rodale outlined “The Rodale Diet,” a simple recommendation of easily accessible healthy foods, grown without the use of toxic chemicals that, if followed 20 to 30 percent of the time would “give disease a smart punch in the solar plexus.” And 65 years of nutrition science have proved him right. All of the foods he recommended back in the ’40s, studies are finding, contain the highest amounts of disease-fighting antioxidants, essential fatty acids, and other vital nutrients that are deficient in the modern American diet. If you want to follow “The Rodale Diet,” here’s what you need to get started.
J.I.’s take: ”Here is an animal that, unlike cattle, does not eat food raised with chemical fertilizers. It feeds in waters rich with minerals, prominent among which is the most valuable element, iodine.”
Why it’s healthy: Saltwater fish, to which Rodale was referring, are the most commonly consumed, and one of the healthiest, sources of protein consumed worldwide. Even today, saltwater fish still don’t eat food raised with chemical fertilizers, but the problem is, they’re becoming harder and harder to find. Overfishing has ballooned since J.I. Rodale’s day, and the list of saltwater fish that have managed to continue to exist in healthy amounts is getting shorter by the day.
How to get it: Go with the safest fish to eat, namely wild fish living in sustainably managed fisheries, such as wild Alaskan salmon and wild-caught Pacific sardines. There are a number of farmed fish that are raised without damage to their surrounding environment, but some, such as farmed tilapia and catfish, are fed corn that may be have been genetically modified and grown with pesticides.
J.I.’s take: ”Kelp is rich in potassium. It is believed that the reason there is a complete absence of hay-fever cases in the Orient is the fact that the Japanese and Chinese eat liberally of this product.”
Why it’s healthy: An edible form of brown algae, kelp contains more than just potassium. It’s rich in iodine, protein, magnesium, and other minerals at levels higher than most land vegetables. It’s also rich in the omega-3 fatty acid EPA.
How to get it: ”Overall, kelp harvesting is a sustainable practice that can have low impact on the marine environment if done right,” says Matthew Huelsenbeck, marine scientist with the conservation organization Oceana. However, he adds, some kelp farmers have started introducing genetically modified varieties, which can escape and contaminate the surrounding environment, and kelp grown in waters near polluting industries could be contaminated with heavy metals. “About 80 to 90 percent of kelp on the market comes from China — a species called Japanese kelp,” he adds. Because the name is confusing, it can be hard to know where your kelp is coming from. So stick with domestically raised kelp: Maine Coast Sea Vegetables sells kelp raised in the Gulf of Maine.
J.I.’s take: Grown in beds of rich organic matter, mushrooms were grown without the use of any pesticides, he said, “because it would kill out the very spores which are needed to develop into mushrooms.” Not only that, but they’re rich in iron and protein.
Why they’re healthy: Mushrooms are not just healthy, they’re vital in boosting your immune system and preventing infections, and they’re becoming increasingly valuable tools in medicine, where research is finding that mushroom compounds can fight diseases such as breast cancer. But nowadays, commercial mushroom producers do use heavy amounts of insecticides, says Thomas Wiandt, an organic mushroom farmer in Ohio and owner of Killbuck Valley Mushrooms. “Common practice is to grow them in caves, or cavelike structures,” he says. Those areas provide optimal breeding grounds for insects, so the crops are often misted with insecticides (which are different types of pesticides than fungicides, which aren’t used because they would kill of the spores mushroom need to grow). U.S. Department of Agriculture tests have detected 14 insecticide residues on mushroom crops. “Not only that, a mushroom has a highly absorbent surface,” Wiandt says.
How to get them: Get the health benefits without the toxic chemicals — go organic.
J.I.’s take: ”A good source of fats and carbohydrates,” coconuts also “provide excellent exercise for the teeth.” Coconut palms also didn’t require heavy doses of synthetic, petroleum-based fertilizers.
Why it’s healthy: Though high in saturated fat, coconut products, particularly coconut oil, are proving to be exceptionally healthy. Studies on populations that consume high quantities of coconut oil have found lower rates of heart disease, and coconut oil is one of very few sources of lauric acid, which helps your immune system fight bacterial and viral infections.
How to get it: Every part of the coconut is valuable — even the shells are being used as water filters in some areas. In J.I. Rodale’s day, coconuts were probably harvested wild, but now, coconut palm plantations have taken over Southeast Asia, where most of the world’s coconuts are grown. Plantations deplete the soil of nutrients and increase pest problems — increasing the need for synthetic fertilizers and pesticides. But it might be hard to find certified-organic whole coconuts, so opt instead for organic coconut products, such as Dr. Bronner’s certified-organic and Fair Trade coconut oil or Body Ecology organic Coconut Water.
J.I.’s take: ”Watercress is never grown with chemical fertilizers. It grows along brooks and other running waters and … it contains more iron than spinach.”
Why it’s healthy: It’s not just an iron powerhouse. Scientists have also found that the antioxidants in watercress can battle breast and lung cancers, and a study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that eating just three ounces a day boosts your levels of certain antioxidants by 100 percent.
How to get it: You probably won’t find much wild watercress in grocery stores, but hydroponic watercress (grown directly in water) is the most commonly available type. The benefit: Few pesticides are needed in hydroponic operations, and the plants are still grown without synthetic fertilizers.
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