As I’ve been telling my story these past few years about how I developed an anti-aging cookbook based on the food-is-medicine principle, I’ve expanded my method for creating delicious, comforting recipes designed to keep you young and healthy. It’s a lot easier than I imagined. I start with classic dishes, many of which I learned how to make from my mother, and I amp up their nutrient value with anti-aging super foods, some of them quite exotic but easy to obtain. I research new ingredients constantly, always learning about antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables from all over the world. I have a list of my favorite spices and grains. And I work with nutritionists to decide on the best possible proteins and sweeteners to use in my cooking. Now that I’m comfortable with how simple it is to incorporate FoodTrients into our daily meals, it’s time to share this method with you.
Taking time-tested recipes that I love—maybe it’s tapioca pudding, or prime rib roast, or chicken stew—I examine the recipe to make sure that it doesn’t have too much saturated fat, refined sugar, and simple carbohydrates.
Saturated fat: If the classic recipe calls for chicken, I’ll try to use skinless chicken. If it calls for chicken plus beef plus tofu, I’ll pick just one of those proteins. I use lean beef or pork, and I make sure that I buy meat from farms that treat their animals well by not injecting them with hormones or feeding them too many antibiotics. I prefer using grass-fed beef over corn-fed beef because cows were created to eat grass, not corn. The meat from animals that graze grass—cows, lambs, or even buffalo—contains more of the good-for-you omega-3 fatty acids and less of the bad-for-you omega-6s.
Refined sugar: The reason I avoid refined sugar is because it causes inflammation. Inflammation is the enemy of anti-aging medicine. Also, many people have bad reactions to white sugar and high-fructose corn syrup. Other sweeteners like honey, agave nectar, and coconut sugar have vitamins and nutrients that white sugar has been stripped of. I’ve fallen in love with the natural sweetener xylitol because it has almost no calories and it kills bacteria in the mouth, which cause cavities and gingivitis. And the artificial sweetener, aspartame, found in single-serve packets under the brands NutraSweet and Equal, contains phenylalanine which helps your brain produce dopamine—a feel-good neurotransmitter.
Simple Carbohydrates: I’m very sensitive to food allergies and food intolerances. Many people don’t tolerate wheat gluten very well either, myself included, so I try to avoid refined white flour as much as possible. There are plenty of alternative grains to wheat that you can use that taste great like corn, brown rice, wild rice, quinoa, millet, flax, oats, amaranth, teff, and sorghum. Ancient grains that do contain gluten, like emmer wheat, einkorn, spelt, farro, barley, rye, semolina, buckweat, bulgur wheat, kamut, and triticale are far more nutrient-dense than modern American high-yield wheat and so are better substitutes.
Once I’ve stripped the bad stuff from my classic recipe, I add my FoodTrients Favorites: foods and spices that are rich in antioxidants and other anti-aging nutrients. I like to focus on vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients that specifically help to promote beautiful skin, lustrous hair, strong bones, free-flowing arteries, a healthy immune system, and a vibrant mind. I also gravitate toward foods that help fight cancer and other diseases. I’ve broken my FoodTrients Favorites down into six categories:
I’ll describe these categories in greater detail in future blog posts.
After I’ve added nutrient-dense, anti-aging ingredients, it’s time to test and re-test the recipe until it has the perfect balance of flavors, textures, and colors. I think it’s important for food to look good, have an interesting texture, whether smooth or crunchy or a combination thereof, and be balanced in acidity and spice. I like to have a mix of recipes that, when served together in one meal, tingle all of the taste categories: sweet, sour, salty, bitter, and umami (an unctuous, earthy flavor).
A FoodTrients recipe has to be so good that I want to eat it again and again. If I don’t want to eat it often, it can’t be included in my cookbook. I’m a tough critic who’s been cooking and creating world-renowned recipes for many years. Yes, food should make you younger with every bite. But it can’t do that unless it tastes fabulous.
And that’s my FoodTrients Formula.