04 July 2013
Like many women, I love feeling full of vitality, strength, and energy for the many projects that I am called to. When I was in my early twenties, achieving this level of vitality was not easy. Eventually, after discovering I was deficient in minerals, I found one of the keys to restoring my health and energy lay in building a foundation of nutrition through nourishing traditional foods and wild plants.
In order for our bodies to function optimally, we must ingest a broad spectrum of minerals that nourish our nervous, immune, and hormonal systems. Many of us don't get the amount of minerals we need, leading to a deficiency in our bodies. Large-scale, industrial farming has stripped the soils and washed the minerals out to sea, so much so that even our organic foods has less mineral content than the food of our ancestors.
To get essential minerals, it is common practice for people to turn to supplements. However, our bodies did not evolve with minerals in this form, and it is difficult for us to digest or absorb our nutrients from pills. Our foremothers evolved by building strong bones and health through nourishing foods, including wild plants.
Today, research is showing that these wild plants provide an abundance of minerals and other nutrients -- for example, a recent New York Times article marveled that dandelion greens have at least seven times the phytonutrients of spinach. Often growing in our yards or nearby, wild plants such as dandelion, nettles, chickweed, violet and yellow dock provide not only macro elements - calcium, phosphate, potassium, magnesium and others - but also micro elements known as trace minerals - iron, zinc, copper, manganese, selenium, iodine and others. When we eat wild plants we receive optimal nourishment in a form that our bodies can readily utilize. I have found that increasing my mineral intake with wild plants is easiest with infusions and soups.
Infusions: an excellent source of minerals because of the long brewing time and large quantity of plant material used. A regular cup of tea brewed ten minutes with a teabag will have nowhere near the mineral impact of an infusion.
Soups: long cooking times for soups helps break down the plant's tough cell walls, which makes the minerals more available to our bodies. Aren't some vitamins in the wild greens are destroyed by heat? Yes, so snack on some fresh wild greens out in the garden, or enjoy a wild salad with your soup! And when you do cook your greens, allow them to stew for 20-30 minutes or more.
Women often lose minerals through pregnancy, menopause and menstruation. While it is easiest to build bone mass in our 30's, we can do it anytime, even during or after menopause. It is true that the common methods of hormone replacement therapy and calcium supplements are generally not successful in building bone mass after menopause. Eating mineral rich wild plants and other nourishing foods such as yogurt, seaweed, and bone broth, along with adding weight bearing exercise into our daily lives, can support us in our efforts to remain vital and healthy long into our elder years.