Food for thought: Balancing Act

One of the enduring ideas about how to achieve and maintain good health is the acid-alkaline balance theory. Nutrition researchers have lots to say about that balance, and I must add, when you look at where so many of our common foods fall on their scale, it makes sense.

Briefly, the typical American diet is too acidic. Alkaline is what we’re looking for. “Acidosis” is blamed for inflammation, arthritis, and everything from fatigue to immune dysfunction.

Take it for what it’s worth, but as you might suspect, villains include refined carbs and sugar, alcohol, and most highly processed foods. Likewise foods high in protein, including meat and dairy … while a thumbs-up goes to fresh fruits and veggies, of course. Surprisingly, things like rice, beans, and chicken and fish – which I think of as innocuous, at least – are also deemed mildly acid forming.

So what to do? In general (as everyone’s been telling us), eat more fresh produce. Grains, not so much, though quinoa gets high marks. Beans are just so-so, ditto white rice, but brown rice is better, wild rice very good, and lentils are highly recommended. So are beets (not a fave for me), including borscht.

Nutritionist Susan E. Brown (THE ACID-ALKALINE FOOD GUIDE) offers these tips:

  • Start the day with juice of a half lemon or lime in 8 oz. water.
  • Make lentils, winter squash, and root crops including sweet potatoes into staples.
  • Eat a cup of greens daily. Endive and crucifers (all cabbage family members including kale, mustard greens, collards and turnip greens) are good.
  • Add miso and seaweeds judiciously to soups and stews.
  • Best grains are quinoa, wild rice, and organic oats.
  • Fresh-squeezed fruit and veggie juices are good; ditto spring water and mineral waters.
  • Eat high-protein foods sparingly.

Fave recipe:

Rice-Lentil salad

This can be a main dish, served with a baked winter squash and a simple green salad.

2 c. cooked lentils (cook with several peppercorns, chopped garlic; add 1 T. tamari near end of cooking)

2 c. cooked rice (look in the supermarket for a mix of wild, brown, red and white rice)

½ medium carrot, julienned

¼ c. chopped green and red peppers

¼ c, chopped onion if desired

¼ c. chopped walnuts or pecans

¼ c. olive oil

2 T. balsamic vinegar

Pinch cayenne if desired

Tamari to taste if needed

Allow rice and lentils to cool to room temperature after cooking. Combine ingredients. Makes 4-6 servings.

NOTE: I bake an acorn or butternut squash whole at 350 degrees, after puncturing the skin to release steam, for about a half hour. Then split and clean it, brush with butter or oil, dust with cinnamon, and put it under the broiler for five minutes.

Salad: Mix up the greens, including kale or shredded cabbage with lettuce or mesclun. Include spinach, radicchio, endive, escarole, whatever suits you. Sprinkle with dried cranberries and roasted sesame seed if desired, but keep it simple. Just plain greens are fine. Dress with good quality olive oil, and lemon juice.

FOR ALL DISHES, add salt or tamari sparingly to taste. Ditto pepper.

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