To get the maximum nutrition from any healthy whole food diet, keep mixing things up. I have talked a lot in previous posts about the importance of eating a wide variety of foods. It is just as important to have other kinds of variety in a long-term, sustainable diet.
One kind of variety many people don’t think about is cooked or raw. Include both kinds of food in any diet. Meat and fish are usually thought of as cooked food, but consider eating sushi, beef tartar or raw oyster and clams once in a while for added variety. The flavors and textures are very different and cooking can also change the nutrient profile of these whole foods. Cooking can release and make some nutrients more easily available or destroy some of the nutrients only available in raw foods. Cooking can also make foods more easily digestible, while raw foods offer our digestive systems more of a challenge.
Another way to mix it up is to include both raw and fermented foods in the diet. Fermentation can be thought of as either cooking or partial digestion by microbes. Fermented foods are often easier to digest, contain unique nutrients added by the microbes and can also add health-promoting living microbes to our digestive tracts. Some popular fermented foods are cheese, yogurt and kefir from milk, sauerkraut and kimchi from cabbage, tofu and tamari from soy beans and sourdough bread from wheat. An added benefit of fermentation is that many people allergic to the raw food can tolerate the fermented version.
Eat a mix of plant types as well. Think about the source of the food. A varied diet will include tree nuts and ground nuts, roots and leaves, fruits and vegetables, flowers and stems and seeds. Some plants, such as beets, turnips and carrots, offer an entire edible package from root to leaf tip. With other plants we must be more picky about what parts we eat.
Try to get a mix of different flavors during the day, week and month. Eat some bitter foods like dandelion greens and broccoli. Eat some sweet foods, perhaps pumpkin and pear. Add something sharp and spicy like horseradish, ginger root and chile pepper balanced by something refreshing like cucumber and apple.
Every healthy whole food diet should include the full palette of colors. Dark, deep greens and bright yellows, white and red, blue and purple, every color of the rainbow advertises its own unique nutritional qualities. Include as many different colors on your plates every day as possible for the widest range of nutrients.