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- Boost immunity
- Reduce inflammation
- Restore and maintain gut health
- Encourage mental focus and mood balance
- Support gentle detox
by Sachin Patel, DC
When looking for the keys to better health, many of us head to the doctor’s office in search of a magic fix. But health is so much more than just optimizing biochemistry and physiology. It’s the balancing of body, mind, and spirit that creates true holistic health.
I work in the field of functional medicine, a progressive approach to health that looks at lifestyle as the key to healing. Food plays a huge role, along with emotional, environmental, and psychological factors. Before I found functional medicine, I thought I had my dream job in a busy practice working with world-class athletes. One day, a local TV station interviewed me about a case of severe pain that we were able to alleviate in a short time. Soon, our office was flooded with people who had many different types of chronic illnesses and complaints. I thought about referring these patients out, but many told me they had already been to other specialists, and the conventional medicine route had left them with no results. To address their issues, we had to look deeper.
This is when I discovered functional medicine. It looks at the root cause of illness, rather than just the symptoms. This resonated deeply with me. I immediately enrolled in a training program. During that time, I started to apply the principles on myself, realizing I had to clean up some of my own health practices. I had considered my own health issues to be “normal,” since I thought my state was “just the way it is.” Following the functional medicine route helped me to improve my health greatly by including foods, herbs, and mindfulness practices.
Traditional medicine views the body as hardware that can’t be changed. In that view, DNA and genes are just part of your makeup, disease is an unavoidable part of your future based on the cards you were dealt, and food is just fuel to provide you with basic energy. In my view, food is the “software” that can override how your hardware works. This can create very different outcomes if you are using the right high-quality software, mainly functional foods—plant ingredients, superfoods, and healing herbs such as the ones in these recipes. Now, as the founder of the Living Proof Institute, serving hundreds of patients a year, I always turn to food, plants, and herbs for answers. We pair the right health-balancing foods with practices that support emotional health, the patient’s goals, and purity of environment.
I practice one of the core principles of alchemy—the synergy between body, mind, and spirit—in a modern way. The effect of emotional health and mind-set on the body has long been ignored in Western medicine. These areas play a big role in how healthy and happy you are, and even how you make your food choices. One of my mantras is “Feel better, heal better.” This is true not only for the emotional quality of your life, but also for biological reasons. By triggering stress hormones and blocking relaxation cues, low moods, stress, anger, and fear can offset how well your nervous system and gut work. The body heals best when it’s in a state of parasympathetic balance. Being emotionally balanced with low stress levels means you’re in that mode more often.
I have seen the power of synergies and connection in healing my patients’ body, soul, and mind. I believe we can use cosmic intelligence—healing foods, seasonal eating, and getting out in nature, paired with testing, clinical goals, and improving mind-set—to reach a state of health we all long for, whether we’re dealing with particular health concerns or looking to reach a higher level. With awesome plant-based dishes and meditation practices, The Superfood Alchemy Cookbook is the perfect how-to manual.
As a veteran health writer/self-help junkie, chef, and yoga teacher, I have seen it all when it comes to health programs: countless books, diets, and gurus promising everything from weight loss to earning more money and increasing self-esteem. Before I started working with alchemy, I was trying to juggle my mind/body/soul practices separately, following some of these programs, and driving myself a bit crazy in the process—not finding quite what I was looking for and feeling like a hamster in the wheel of life. Eventually I went through a health “plateau” where even my yoga and meditation practice became stagnant and worn out. To an outside observer, I was living a dream life: I had a loving marriage, a stable income, and a fulfilling career. Yet I still felt something was missing. I felt that I still “hadn’t made it” and was constantly feeling overwhelmed and frazzled, not a very healthy place to be mentally and emotionally. At the time, I chalked it up to being in my forties. Plus, I had to acknowledge that my career was exhaustingly action-packed—years of working long, intense hours in the New York City fine dining scene; leaving the restaurant business to become a writer and penning more than twenty books; and continuing my education from yoga teacher to certified holistic-health coach, Reiki healer, and more. No wonder I was tired, right?
I was very discouraged and beginning to feel stuck, but still maintained an intense love of food and cooking. I knew there must be something out there that could help me break through to the next level. Then one day, I saw an old alchemy drawing, an obscure engraving from the 1700s called the Tabula Smaragdina (which translates to “Emerald Tablet”). It’s a pictorial representation of the alchemy formula that teaches you the path to “deepest transformation,” how to become more evolved in mind, body, and soul—in other words, to achieve a more healthy, vibrant, enriching life. Alchemy teaches us that healthy living practices must be universally integrated to be truly transformational. When I saw the engraving of the path to deepest transformation, I realized that my love of cooking could lead me to the answer I had been looking for all along, to overcome that mental and emotional plateau.
Alchemy and the Path to “Deepest Transformation”
Alchemy is an ancient practice with a secretive, mysterious reputation. In part, alchemy was a forerunner of chemistry, and it’s commonly associated with ancient alchemists’ efforts to transform base metals into gold. But the goals of alchemy went much deeper than that. The processes of alchemical transformation—calcination, dissolution, separation, conjunction, fermentation, distillation, and coagulation—were symbols of steps on the path to personal and spiritual transformation, as well. Today, the potential power of alchemy is still expansive, and it is available for us to harness.
When most people think about health, they think about their body, their physiology, about seeing the doctor and about how well various organs are performing. Most people don’t see that emotional balance and intellectual stimulation are just as important as a clean bill of physical health. They also think that changing their diet is the key to changing their health, and can’t understand why they can’t stick to their new healthy eating plans after revamping what they eat. But the big picture of health is more like a puzzle, with many interlocking pieces, and changing your eating habits is just part of the healing equation.
Through my practice of alchemy, I discovered that optimal health is about seeing the connections among the puzzle pieces, and nourishing those pieces so they can fit together quickly, in turn strengthening the pieces of your life, in a natural way that flows. Optimal health is only achieved when these core components are properly balanced in relationship to one another, and food and cooking provide the perfect gateway into this practice.
As I started to practice what I learned from alchemy, some amazing things happened. I totally revamped the way I meditate based on alchemy theory, explored different styles of mediation, and even practiced meditation in nonconventional ways (for example, while standing in line at the grocery store). At the time, I had been feeling physically tired on a regular basis. I’d had a health checkup, but my blood work was normal. I was hoping that meditation would help me to accept that I was just getting older, and that the tiredness was part of it. But one day during a deep meditation, the idea that I should go gluten-free to feel better came to me very strongly—I practically heard it. I followed the urge without question, even though I had already tested negative for both celiac disease and gluten sensitivity. Three weeks later, after removing glutinous foods, I saw a huge improvement in my energy, my skin, and even my waistline.
Shortly afterward, I spoke with Dr. Tom O’Bryan, a well-known gastroenterologist who is also a functional medicinal guru and discovered that my “meditation message” may have been very much on track. As it turns out, standard gluten tests check for only one of the eight proteins people can be sensitive to—not to mention, he said, that anyone with any kind of digestive disorder like mine (IBS) should eliminate gluten permanently. But it was more than a simple question of diet: At the same time I removed gluten from my diet, I had also cultivated a sensual connection with food, using my meal preparation as a healing ritual, and started adding more healing herbs and spices to my meals (even my morning coffee!).
Continuing this integrated practice led me to the approach I now use in my own life and with my health coaching clients. It is impossible to address physical symptoms without also addressing the emotional and spiritual aspects of our health struggles. Physics tells us that all humans (and all things) are made up of energy, and we have to mold and shape this energy. The human “energy engine” is made of seven cylinders (sometimes called chakras), which are important energy centers starting at the top of the head and going down to the base of the spine. These cylinders house all our important glands and organs, from our brain and heart to our stomach and reproductive organs. These centers also correlate to emotions (soul) and our connection to the divine creator force (spirit). Throughout history, most spiritual traditions have talked about the human trinity of body, soul, and spirit and the seven cylinders (yes, even Christianity; Jesus calls them the “seven candles”), but they approach them in different ways. Some have seen certain parts of the trinity or seven cylinders as sinful, or things we should ignore. Alchemists take a totally different approach. For your body to function properly, physically and emotionally, to be “driving” at 100 percent capacity, you must have an even flow of energy to all cylinders, on all three levels. Superfood alchemy is your tool to support your health using this holistic, balanced approach.
Superfood Alchemy: The Transformational Power of Plant Foods
Foods, especially plant foods, are the ideal starting point to grasping the powerful alchemical concept of healing on three levels. Food can be a path to healing in every way: providing basic fuel for the body, supporting mental functioning, and sometimes even appealing to our emotional self with comfort, sensual delight, or a reconnection with nature. In terms of healing, plant foods can go even deeper. They are natural sources of vitamins, minerals, fiber, and fats, and certain plant ingredients contain compounds that work as potent medicine in our body and mind. There is an overwhelming amount of research that plant-based eating can prevent and even reverse disease, and that simply by following a plant-based diet we can address a variety of chronic conditions, such as cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and more. Hippocrates’s famous edict, “Let food be thy medicine,” is sage advice today! However, to optimize the healing process, certain foods are stronger medicine than others. My goal is to teach you to cook like an alchemist: the recipes in this book incorporate superfoods, medicinal plants, and adaptogens that are known to support healing. By combining and cooking them in specific ways, you can amp up the healing properties of the dish.
Before we get any further into the book, there’s a lot of misunderstanding about what constitutes a superfood, and you may have never heard of adaptogens, so here’s a brief explanation. Superfoods are natural foods, many of them plants, which are packed with nutrients. Compared to other natural foods, they deliver far more powerful doses of the vitamins and minerals you need to maintain energy, heal, and keep feeling good. (For example, 1 cup of kale can provide more than 70% of your RDA for vitamins A, C, and K, plus good levels of fifteen other nutrients, while 1 cup of celery only provides less than 2% to 0% of any one of these nutrients.) Superfoods also contain special plant fibers, pigments, and other protective antioxidants that detoxify various organ systems.
Plants that fall into the category of medicinal plants, such as chamomile, mugwort, and aloe vera, are often not used in a culinary fashion but have been traditionally administered through teas and tinctures by folk healers and alchemists alike. They have been prized for centuries for active chemical compounds that can bring about changes in the body or in certain organ systems, or just to improve immunity. These compounds are produced by plants as defense against natural enemies, including insects, fungi, and herbivorous animals, heat, wind, and other environmental factors. Adaptogens, meanwhile, are the rock stars of the medicinal plant world. They contain special compounds that are unique to each plant. Adaptogens encourage full-body homeostasis (balance) because they are immunity-modulating, meaning they can calm stress or provide more energy, whichever is needed at that time. Such adaptogens as turmeric, reishi mushroom, and rhodiola not only boost brain performance (that’s why these herbs are used prevalently by bio-hackers), but they are beneficial for the neuroendocrine system (how your nervous system communicates with your glands). In helping balance two very important stress hormones, adrenaline and cortisol, adaptogens provide a key to keeping calm, a healthy metabolism, a proper sleep cycle, and countless other functions.
If all of this sounds too medicinal, fear not: In addition to health coaching, I’m a chef and cookbook author, remember? Although these recipes incorporate superfoods and healing plants, they are also delicious, and intended to offer you a tasty, easy way to get these superstar ingredients into your daily routine.
Each chapter focuses on one of the seven energy centers in the body and one of the seven operations that are part of the alchemical transformation process. What makes alchemy unique from other mind-body practices is the way in which alchemists approach working with the vital energy centers of the body. Alchemists called their mind-body practice the “Great Work” (which is working on yourself!) and the ways they work on these energy centers are called “operations” (which are also in the titles of the chapters of this book). This book progresses from the first energy center in Chapter 1, Calcination (here), where your colon is located, up to your head and brain where the pineal gland is located in Chapter 7, Solidification (here). Alchemists are the ultimate holistic healing multitaskers since they believe that nothing is separate and everything is part of a whole. Imbedded in the name of each operation are instructions on how to boost healing or strengthen each energy center-—not only on organ/gland level, but also on the soulful and spiritual level as well. If you ever seek out old alchemy texts, you may see laboratory and chemistry-like terminology, since ancient alchemists used coded language in their writing to protect themselves from persecution. Some of them were in fact early chemists or metallurgists, but when they used these laboratory terms, they had double meanings that described work on the self. To alchemists, you are your very own laboratory to experiment on to achieve vibrant health and greater purpose in your life. Even if you don’t consider yourself a full-blown alchemist, taking some practices from alchemy and incorporating them into your routine can offer a path to better health, clearer thinking, increased energy, and a deeper sense of well-being.
As you work with these recipes, you can as also think of your home, or a combo of your kitchen and living area, as your own “Superfood Alchemy laboratory,” where you can enjoy your work with soulful meals, essential oil preparations, and meditation practice. Worried that this will turn into a juggling act? Don’t! You have most of the tools for transformation already at your fingertips; it’s just about bringing a little more awareness into the equation and following the chapters as your guide to help you along the way.
HOW TO USE THIS BOOK
You can work your way through the chapters in this book in the order they are presented, or you can jump around according to your own needs. If you were a coaching client, we’d work on your weakest energy center first to give you a more stable base on your journey toward a healthier you. How do you know which energy center needs healing without having me diagnose you in person? Looking at your physical ailments as a guide for the best place to start. Having tummy troubles? Definitely check out Chapter 3, Separation, to first make sure your digestion is on track. Is your thyroid sluggish? Then Chapter 5, Fermentation, is the ticket. Or perhaps you are feeling brain fog; hop over to Chapter 6. As you nosh your way to a more plant-based, nutrient-rich diet, also begin to incorporate the soulful essential oil therapies for that energy center and support the healing process with meditation work feature at the end of each chapter.
You can certainly thumb through the pages of this book and pick out recipes that strike your fancy or dabble with the meditations, but this book is a manual, intended to fast-track your health holistically through alchemical cooking and living. The more you focus in on specific energy centers to remedy particular imbalances in the threefold body, soul, and spirit way, the stronger the effects will be. So, as you delve into one chapter’s delicious food recipe, set an intention to also try the essential oil preparations and the meditations presented in that same chapter. They echo the teaching lessons and give you additional ways to heal in that area. While you may not be able to practice them all in tandem every day, follow the suggestions on how to sneak these practices into even the busiest lifestyle, as I do.
Once you work on the energy center that needs more TLC, you’ll want work your way through other chapters, not only to enjoy the delicious recipes and feel good about eating well, but also as a way to strengthen other energy centers and give yourself a broader, more complete nutritional base and culinary variety, while cleaning up your beauty routine, and finding more comfort with your meditation practice.
For a more complete alchemy diagnosis, take the online superfood alchemy quiz at www.superfoodalchemy.com/quiz.
Basics of Nutrition
The recipes in this book are based on the healing power of plants. The introduction to each chapter describes how superfoods, healing herbs, and oils carry compounds that can boost healing for a particular energy center. The recipes are plant-based, and most have easy substitutions to customize to your preferred way of eating, whether that’s vegetarian, vegan, pescatarian, flexitarian, or Paleo. While the recipes themselves contain no animal proteins, many of them would pair well with grass-fed meats or organic pasture-raised poultry. If you do eat animal protein, sourcing it from a farm that has grass-fed meat is not only better for you (since animals that are grass-fed contain far more omega-3s just as with their dairy), but these farms also tend to treat their animals with more care and respect.
If you are vegetarian who eats dairy, grass-fed sources of dairy are best, as they contain far more omega-3s compared to grain-fed counterparts. Grass-fed dairy can be difficult to find, but if you are fortunate to live within a few hours radius of any grass-fed farm, many of them deliver or may also be part of a CSA (community supported agriculture) service that delivers fresh seasonal produce weekly or monthly. Grass-fed butter is easier to find and is listed throughout the recipes; often, you can swap it for a plant oil if you prefer. You can feel good about using grass-fed butter, though, since it’s not only high in omega-3s and carries a lot of flavor, but is also rich in vitamin D.
If you include eggs in your diet, they are one of the most nutritious foods around and are very beneficial for brain health. Try to find organic, pasture-raised eggs, since hens who lay these eggs are fed differently—making their eggs more nutritious as well as humane.
If you are flexitarian, make vegetables the base of every meal (at least 2 cups or more per meal) without eating high quantities of breads and grains.
For Paleo-style eating, simply omit the grains in the recipes and opt for the vegetable noodles or cauliflower rice for any dish that calls for rice or gluten-free pasta. Beans can be substituted with half the amount of nuts or seeds.
Fat counts in these recipes will seem higher to people who are used to the old, low-fat, high-carb eating model, which we now know is very harmful for the brain and other organ systems. Good-quality fats, such as avocado and olive oil, are incredibly healing for your brain and skin, and help keep hunger and snacking in check since they are so filling. Most nutritionists will also cite 50 to 60 grams of healthy fat per day as acceptable, even with older nutritional models. While this book does not follow a low-carb or ketogenic diet, you’ll find more of a balance between healthy fats and better-quality carbs found in vegetables and whole unprocessed grains, which makes the recipes filling while being more moderate in calories.
The recipes were created to be 100 percent gluten-free—although if you can eat gluten, feel free to swap in organic glutinous versions of the pastas and grain products referenced. Recent studies have shown that gluten is extremely problematic for some and moderately problematic for many. If you do decide to eat gluten, go organic whenever possible, since wheat is one of the largest crops in the United States and sprayed with Roundup that contains glyphosate, which is detrimental for gut health and for the gut flora that rule your immune system. There is also a correlation between glyphosate, used in conventional farming, and the massive increase in celiac disease.
Nuts and seeds are included in this book, since they are incredibly healing for your nervous system, brain, and other organs in the body. If you have allergies or an autoimmune condition that precludes consuming nuts or seeds, your doctor may recommend an AIP (autoimmune protocol) diet, which could allow you to reintroduce them later. Alternatively, you can swap out nuts and some seeds in favor of chickpeas. For example, in the roasted nuts with coffee recipe, you can easily use drained, canned chickpeas in place of the mixed nuts. Sesame seeds can be replaced by sunflower seeds or even cooked quinoa.
Nightshade plants, which include tomatoes, potatoes, eggplant, and peppers, are used in the book as well. Like nuts and seeds, these can be problematic for those with an autoimmune illness, in particular psoriasis and rheumatoid arthritis. I suggest working with an integrative or functional medicine physician who is knowledgeable about nutrition and diet to recommend the appropriate plan for you. Enjoy the many recipes in the book that don’t contain nightshades.
Soulful Preparations with Essential Oils
Each chapter contains recipes for nonedible products using that chapter’s key essential oils. These recipes can be the basis for soulful practices and rituals, including ways to pamper, maintain, boost, and protect your body using essential oil preparations. Soulful practices are meant for relaxation and reconnecting with your body in a soulful yet mindless way, to “just be.” Use the practices as a way to empty your mind and feel comfortable in your own skin, the ideal prep to calm yourself before meditation. They will also help detoxify your beauty care regimen and replace general toiletries that can be high in toxic ingredients.
Essential oils are featured heavily in this book since they are considered the soul of the plant, capturing the compounds that carry the health benefits and the scent or “personality.” Ancient alchemists knew that scents have the power to boost emotions, which could help their patients heal faster. Now, we know that essential oils contain antibacterial, antifungal compounds and are generally a safe way to boost immunity. Modern MDs are catching on to the healing benefits of essential oils used both topically and internally, and almost all integrated physicians prescribe essential oils as a therapy to be combined with other healing modalities, such as food and exercise.
Since each essential oil has a distinct odor and character, they also resonate more strongly with specific energy centers, just like the superfoods featured, which is why they are assigned to specific chapters. However, many of these oils can be used in tandem with each other regardless of their assigned chapter and you may find that they have multiple benefits (just like the super-foods) to bring healing and enjoyment.
Essential Oil Basics
Essential oils vary greatly in quality. Typically, the higher the quality, the higher the price and the more aromatic the oil. Essential oils can be pricey since it takes pounds of plant materials, including flowers, stems, leaves, and roots, to produce the oils. If you’re on a tight budget, you can still indulge in some essential oils, such as lemon, orange, lime, basil, rosemary, oregano, and black pepper; those plants are cheaper and more prevalently grown, so their oils can be found for a lower price.
- On Sale
- Apr 9, 2019
- Page Count
- 272 pages
- Da Capo Lifelong Books