What is Holistic, Nutrient Dense Cooking?
Updated: Feb 7
I often switch between the terminology holistic and nutrient dense when referring to the foods I cook. I am a certified natural foods chef, and functional nutritional therapy practitioner which commonly I call myself a holistic chef and a holistic nutritionist. I often have to explain what a holistic chef is and what a holistic nutritionist is. The term holistic is a natural way of approaching health and healing with consideration of the whole person which takes into account: mental, chemical, physical, emotional, spiritual, and environmental. As a certified natural chef, we are trained to cook foods in their natural state, nothing processed, healthy stable fats, soaking and sprouting techniques to retain nutrients and digest foods well, harvesting right from the farm and to the table, we focus on what is in season, what is local and organic. The meats we use are pasture raised, grass-fed and of the best quality one can afford. In both my natural chef program and my nutritional therapy program properly prepared, nutrient dense whole foods is an important center piece of holistic eating.
In order to retain nutrients in food, absorb vitamins and digest foods they must be prepared properly. There is more than just eating well to a healthy diet, the way you cook food is equally important to what you cook. I follow these basic foundations of holistic cooking. These foundations teach you how and why things should be prepared properly and how they benefit the body. These foundations are what helped me build a healthy diet.
Some Basic Foundations of Nutrient Dense Cooking
Wet Foods, slow cooked broths, soups and stews are highly digestible, mineral dense, and overall very nourishing. Bone broths made from animal bones offer healing in the lining of the digestive tract. Collagen which is extracted from the bones is great for the skin, and for healing for connective tissue within the body. Slow cooked broths are absolutely essential in the human diet and must be consumed on a regular basis for good health, chicken soup is always the go to when people get sick because it is nutrient dense and loaded with healing properties so why not keep your immune system boosted and add broths and soups on a regular basis.
Cooking with herbs and spices using spices, herbs add therapeutic nutrient dense properties to foods, such as turmeric and ginger which are anti-inflammatory, parsley—starts digestive juices flowing—cilantro is known to clear the body of heavy metals. Cinnamon is highly anti-inflammatory, very good for menstrual cramps and cardiovascular health. There are many health benefits to herbs and spices above all they make food taste great.
Soaked and Sprouted Grains, Legumes, Seeds and Nuts When we consume ungerminated plant foods in the form of grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds, we are also consuming anti-nutrients. Some studies indicate that anti-nutrients may have some beneficial properties in the human body, the overall impacts are negative because of the frequency and quantity in which these foods are present in the modern diet. Phytic acid (anti-nutrient) binds to the phosphorus, calcium, magnesium, copper, iron, and zinc in the intestinal tract, which prevents their absorption and can contribute to mineral deficiencies, bone loss, IBS and even neurological damage. Phytic acid also acts as an enzyme inhibitor blocking the production of amylase, trypsin and pepsin, which are necessary for proper breakdown and digestion of starch and protein. This leads to undo stress on the pancreas, damage of the intestinal lining and bacterial overgrowth. Soaking or sprouting in advance before cooking them will enhance nutrients and also promotes digestibility, and lessen the phytic acid intake. We must properly prepare grains, legumes, seeds and nuts just the way our ancestors taught us. Stay tuned I will go into depth on how to soak and sprout!
Cultured and Fermented Foods and Beverages a Must! If tolerated we need lacto-ferment foods, they loaded with enzymes. Lacto-fermented foods eaten with cooked foods add more enzymes to food and help to digest cooked food. Lacto-fermented foods are super foods. Lacto-fermented foods also provide lactic acid and good bacteria, which survive the digestive process helping to populate the gut with good bacteria. As far as beverages go there are probiotic beverages everywhere these days I would advise to research the brand and watch the sugar content these can sometimes have added sugar.
High Quality Traditional Fats Traditional fats are not low in fat. Traditionally our ancestors ate fat, they ate that was not made in a lab, but occurred naturally in nature. Fat is needed in the body and responsible for a number of metabolic functions. Fat is needed for muscles to contract such as the heart, fat is also needed in the assimilation of fat soluble vitamins into the body. Using the rights kind of fat is essential to good health. Grass-fed butter, grass-fed ghee, extra virgin coconut oil and extra virgin olive oil are healthy stable fats. When cooking with high temperature it is best to use fats that remain stable at high temperatures to avoid free radicals some of those fats are duck fat, goose fat, palm oil, lard, and coconut oil. Hydrogenated fats and trans fats should be avoided they are not made for human consumption. Canola oil and vegetable oils are to be avoided!
Season with Sea Salt Unrefined sea salt is loaded with trace minerals that the body absolutely needs. YES, salt is healthy in the right form and we need it! It is safest to stick to salts that have color such as grey, pink or beige these salts have not been processed the way regular white table salt is and contributes to important functions within the body. Throw that regular white table salt away ASAP! Table salt has aluminum added to it which is harmful to the body. Processed foods contain refined salt so it is best to avoid all processed foods and read all labels and ingredients. We need salt for protein digestion, carbohydrate digestion, adrenal function, cellular metabolism and brain development and more. Unrefined salt provides us with many trace minerals.
Natural Sweetener Refined sugar creates major imbalances in the body it also creates inflammation and robs the body of minerals, it is making people sick, all refined sugar should be avoided. It is safe and more useful if we use natural sweeteners such as raw honey, maple syrup, dates, and raisins to name a few. Sugar from fruit will contain some nutrients and be better assimilated by the body. One major cause of weight gain is sugar because sugar causes inflammation and the body causing the body to be inflamed and hold onto extra weight. Try mainly to get your sugar from fruit and if you like a little sweetener in your morning beverage try honey, or maple syrup or even a small amount of molasses if your body handles sugar well.
When advising on how and where to start cooking in a holistic nutrient dense way I start with these basic foundations that are a great starting point towards healthful diet. These foundations can help lay a baseline of cooking and eating in a nutrient dense way and hopefully clear up some confusion on how to eat. Stay tuned I will go into detail on specific recipes and how they support the body and how to properly prepare them.