Great question this week: What are your 10 top foods in YOUR diet? Answer: This is a very fun question in that it helps me to reflect on what I love to eat each day plus it helps me to notice where I've come from and where I'm headed. Here's the list in the order of importance as it is to me presently. Please note that this list will probably change as I do. This list also is very different than the list of my top 10 must haves when I first started on this raw/living food journey. For example, raw nuts and flax seeds would have been first on the list in the beginning along with avocados. Raw nuts and seeds are #10 now and I almost didn't even include them although there are some good ones that I like to eat each day. The myth that people have (I think because I used to have it) is that you have to eat lots of nuts/seeds to survive and thrive as a raw vegan and that's not true. In fact, I think it's the sure fire way to get yourself fat and unhealthy if you kept eating lots of nuts/seeds each day. The myth is also that you have to find a way to exchange all that animal protein you once ate with vegan protein alternatives and while that is probably true in the beginning, it's not the way you'll be eating 10+ years from now for sure. 1) Greens, greens and more greens. This means green sprouts, kale, collards, spinach, lettuce leaves, wild greens (in the spring and summer), chard, etc. Anything green so this also means broccoli, celery, cucumber, too, to name a few. For me now, a meal doesn't feel like a meal unless I have greens in it. I have greens with every meal. The idea is to vary your greens each day, each week but if you can't then use a rotation of every week or two to incorporate different greens in your diet. Remember: variety is the spice of life and that includes greens! Eating loads of greens is what has helped me release around 50 lbs and got me back to walking/exercising after 7 years of pain and inflammation. I eat a LOT of greens. The entire plate at dinner is packed with greens and then I add other things on top of it. I'm serious when I say that if I eat something that doesn't include greens, it's not a meal to me - it is considered a snack. :-) 2) Seaweeds. Otherwise known as sea vegetables. This includes: irish moss, spirulina, blue green algae, dulse, nori, kelp, kelp noodles, kombu, alaria, arame, hijiki, wakame, sea lettuce, VM Green, etc. One or two meals per day contain some form of seaweed. I make crunchy, delicious nori snacks, I have blue green algae and other seaweeds in my morning smoothie, I make desserts with irish moss, I'll add dulse to meals, and so on. I don't do a lot of seaweeds but I do include a little bit of them each day. Seaweeds help my thyroid, help to get the junk out of my body, helps to give me iodine and other minerals such as calcium, iron, magnesium and other good stuff (including Vit C and Vit K!) 3) Cultured Veggies/Fermented Foods: The list contains: kombucha, coconut kefir water, kefir puddings/yogurts (non-dairy), miso, sauer krauts and kim chis. (I'd add tempeh to the list but they are all pasteurized unless you make them yourself. Same for miso. Best thing to do is MAKE YOUR OWN CULTURED VEGGIES AND FERMENTED FOODS!) My morning smoothie contains some kind of fermented drink: when I make/have coconut kefir water, I use that in my smoothie each morning. If I don't have that, I use a bit of kombucha in my smoothie. I have some kind of cultured veggies in my meals each day. Lunch and dinner will have some kim chi in it. I learned how to make kim chi a few years ago and have been so overjoyed to make so much of it that I now sell it and use it in my cafe. Cultured veggies help to give me not only probiotics for healthy gut flora, but also to provide me with a slew of B and C vitamins and other things to help me digest all my food well. Each meal must have some natural probiotic food in it for me to call it a meal. 4) Fruits. Fruits are the cleansers and greens are the healers. That's what I learned and while I'm much more inclined to eat more greens than fruits, fruits are so freaking delicious, beautiful to eat and definitely part of the top 5 list. My smoothie contains fresh and frozen fruit each day. I can't tell you how amazing a big, crisp, crunchy apple tastes or a perfectly ripened pear. Gorgeous mangos and avocados and dates are proof that there is divinity in and all around us. I love dried fruits, too, but tend not to have a lot of them in a day or week. Fresh ripened fruits are where it's at. 5) Water Though technically not a food, it has to be in the top 5 for me. When I first started eating raw foods around 10 years ago, I noticed that I didn't need to drink my gallon or so of water each day because so much of the food I was eating was so hydrating. It was actually difficult for me to drink water because I wasn't ever thirsty (amazing to note because when I was eating my local/organic/cooked/whole foods about 10+years ago, I was always SOOOO thirsty.) I drink now at least 64 ounces of water a day plus my smoothie in the morning is 32 ounces and I use water in my smoothie vs. other types of liquid. I drink more water when I am exercising more. We have great water here but if you don't, it would be good to invest in a good water filter. 6) Bee Pollen & Coconut Oil: I add bee pollen to my morning smoothie each day. It is a perfect food, an excellent traveling food and so super nutritious. I'm grateful to the bees for attracting the stuff to their legs and bodies and for the safe way to get it off them so we can have some to eat. I found that when I ate bee pollen by itself, it is rather intense nutrition. I think that that's why it makes great travel food. A tablespoon eaten a day is a great pick me up. When I add it to my smoothie, it feels like I'm taking a multi-vitamin. Coconut oil is something that I find myself eating a little bit each day of, too. I take about 1 TBSP and add to my morning smoothie. Fats help to make things taste better and typically it's good to have fats from their whole foods vs. eating refined fats (meaning fats pressed out of the whole foods.) Coconut oil is a pressed oil so it is not a whole food fat as a nut, olive or avocado would be and yet I eat it and love it just about every day. Coconut oil helps me feed my brain and I also use it as a moisturizer every day to feed my skin both internally and externally. When I make a smoothie and forget the coconut oil, I can taste the difference. The smoothie goes from being good to f*ing incredible. (Pardon my language but it really does make a difference.) P.S. I should say that I love young coconuts: I love the water and the meat from them, however I don't live in a place where they are readily available to so I eat the coconut oil until I am able to get fresh (so I can make coconut kefir pudding and water. YUM!) 7) Green, Veggie Rainbow Juices. I am being honest when I say that I go in and out of the habit of making juices each and every day. When I am doing great, I am having a big satisfying smoothie in the morning and a juice in the afternoon. Of course the juice has a boat load of greens in it, a beet, a couple carrots and some ginger. Green & veggie juices are so nutritious. Whenever I drink them, I feel as if I have just had instant nutrition into my brain, body and blood stream. I don't think it could get any better unless I could some how have the green juices go in intraveniously! LOL Why do I get out of the habit? I don't know, to tell you the truth. I love my "rainbow" juices and yet I love smoothies more. I'm more apt to make an afternoon smoothie to drink than a juice. I'm working on it though. I want to have at least one 12-16 juice per day as my life long habit... and then I'll go from there. I can tell you that when I have one juice per day, I'm feeling so vital so it makes my top 10 list even if I might go a week or two without a juice. 8) Cooked Grains/Beans. About 3 or so years ago, I started incorporating some cooked grains and beans back into my diet and it was a super great inclusion to make. My meals became much more varied and satisfying. I was able to drop nuts/seeds from my dinner and that felt very good for weight maintenance. For those that are worried about the protein myths that abound in US culture, eating cooked (or sprouted) grains and cooked beans are jam-packed with protein. They also have good fiber in them and thus a little goes a long way to filling you up. I started adding 1/2 - 1 cup cooked grains in my dinner (wild rice, brown rice, quinoa, etc.) and 1/2 cup of cooked beans (black beans, chick peas, cannelini beans, hummus, etc.) I don't eat anything cooked before dinner. Right now that's what works for me. There are some nights when I eat all raw but I enjoy having a choice of adding some cooked things. Plus this also ensures that my kids and I will eat the same things at the dinner table and I don't have to make meals just for myself and meals just for them. I never imagined them being 100% raw, particularly as they are growing. 9) Cooked Veggies. There are a few vegetables that I enjoy and so I eat them. This includes sweet potatoes and broccoli and other potatoes too. I know how to make raw versions of everything cooked so I will marinate veggies to resemble a stir-fry and it is satisfying and delicious. However, I do NOT enjoy eating lots of raw broccoli, sweet potatoes or regular potatoes (and same goes for squash like butternut squash or acorn squash.) I don't mind a few nibbles of raw broccoli or raw sweet potato but I don't like a meal of them. I've tried many ways of doing them and it just doesn't suit my taste buds. SO, I will cook the broccoli and add it to my greens on the plate. I will bake a sweet potato and add it to my greens on the plate. I will bake some squash and other root veggies for a change and add it to my plate piled high with greens. These things don't make up the majority of my meal. Remember, my meal is mostly greens and a little of these added things go along way. I also don't do a cooked grain with a cooked root veggie together in the same meal. That's something I learned from Dr Fuhrman and it works for me. One 1/2 cup to 1 cup serving of a grain —OR— a cooked root veggie a day. Notice I didn't say in a meal! :-) Grains and cooked roots don't make up the majority of my daily intake. They are small sides to ONE meal and for me, that's dinner. 10) Nuts and Seeds. Like I wrote above, I almost didn't include nuts/seeds to the top 10 list however there are some seeds that I love to eat every day. The love list is hemp seeds and chia seeds. I will have 1 TBSP of either hemp seeds or chia seeds each day because they provide for me the omega fatty acids that are sooooo key for a woman my age. They are essential for everyone (hence the name: essential fatty acids!) I also include 1 tbsp of nut butter in my morning smoothie, particularly in the winter time. I make a lot of items in the cafe that have nuts/seeds in them. They are fun to make and they are very versatile. Nuts give texture and flavor to foods and they are brilliant and beautiful. Cashews contain Vit E, walnuts are good for the brain, almonds give you good magnesium, to name a few. So nuts/seeds are good to eat, but eat them sparingly. Make yourself a grand nut pate, dessert and share it with others or freeze into small portions to eat later.