QUESTION: Okay, I’d like to be healthier, wealthier and wiser. What foods might I try in this New Year to help me keep my resolve to do better?

ANSWER: Ah, time for New Year’s resolutions. Time to hunker down and wrap hands around bowls of warming soup, to think about how we’d like to feel, how we’d like to grown older gracefully, without illness, pain or suffering.

Here are some of my favorite foods for keeping healthy, wealthy and wise. Each New Year I ask myself if I’m making them a part of life. If I’m not, I try to work them into my weekly diet.

1. Almonds. An Australian study found men with normal cholesterol who ate 3 ounces of almonds a day for three weeks cut total cholesterol by 7% and bad/LDL cholesterol by 10%. Cancer clinics around the world recommend 10 almonds per day. One fifth an almond’s weight is protein and almonds are rich in absorbable calcium and antioxidant vitamin E. Have you ever tried tamari-roasted almonds? Yumm.

2. Bee pollen and royal jelly. Bee products are a complete protein because they have all the amino acids. Athletes count on bee food for endurance and stamina. Bee food contains hydroxydescanoic acid which kills e coli and salmonella bacteria. They exert a radioprotective effect and are used to help heal wounds and minimize wrinkles. My favorite way to get bee food is in honey which contains royal jelly and bee pollen (available at natural food stores). When I get up in the morning, I drink a glass of water (with liquid chlorophyl – but we can go into that another time) then have my spoonful of honey with royal jelly and bee pollen and propolis (another bee product). It’s a thick, sweet treat, and I love scraping the spoon off with my teeth.

3. Blackstrap molasses. A half a cup contains 733 mg of usable calcium and mucho iron in a form that won’t constipate you or make you sick to your stomach! Try a tablespoon daily to cure what ails you. Make sure you use blackstrap molasses since barbados molasses, which is milder in taste, has had most of the minerals removed.

4. Green tea. Contains polyphenol catechins, an antioxidant which protects against the effects of radiation. Drinking green tea is said to lower cholesterol, reduce blood pressure and reduce blood platelet stickiness, thus inhibiting atherosclerosis. As an anti-viral agent, green tea extract is being used to fight HIV. Try green tea to help fight the flu! Is green tea truly an antioxidant (prevents our cells from premature oxidation – oxidation is when a cut apple turns brown, when a piece of iron gets wet and rusts)? I conducted my own home experiment. I brewed a pot of herbal tea and a pot of green tea (two separate pots). I left them out in the kitchen. After several days, the herbal tea fermented. The green tea did not. Voila. Antioxidant.

5. Hot peppers contain capsaicin which prevents carcinogens from binding to DNA. Raw oysters and clams are always offered with hot sauce perhaps because hot peppers kill harmful bacteria. Putting hot sauce on food speeds up metabolism and improves digestion. Peppers don’t hurt the stomach or promote ulcers. If you suffer from cold hands or feet, try eating hot peppers, because they also get the circulation going.

6. Kale. Center for Science in the Public Interest rated kale number one among vegetables in terms of total nutrients. Kale is called “king of calcium” and like other members of cruciferous family helps prevents cancer. It contains phytonutrients which help regulate estrogen. I’ve gotten to love kale. Just chop -- stem and all, steam in a little water for 5 minutes, dress with olive oil and lemon juice. Add ginger or garlic. Kale works well in soups and is a wonderful accompaniment to pasta.

7. Garlic was used in ancient Egypt to build strength. Today we know it not only wards off vampires, lowers serum cholesterol, blood pressure, and helps prevent heart attacks and strokes. It appears to lift mood and is a good cold medication. What’s a pasta sauce or salad dressing without lots and lots of garlic?

8. Seaweed like kelp and dulse are all nutrient rich, yet low in calories. They are rich in iodine and high in protein. Researchers have found that sea vegetables remove radiation from the body and act as decontaminators. They are used in Japan to fight against leukemia and breast cancer. Kelp kills herpes virus. Dulse contains all 43 trace minerals. All sea vegetables are important for skin and hair. Toss into soups, stews and casseroles. Chewing on a piece of dulse or kelp can satisfy the urge for something salty.

9. Shiitake mushrooms are rated number one on an ancient Chinese list of superior medicines. Touted as a substance to give eternal youth and longevity, shiitakes contain a virus that produces interferon, which fights cancer. They are used to treat hepatitis B and cirrhosis and work well at healing the liver. I love the American dried shiitakes, which I keep in my freezer at home. For company, I soak dried shiitakes, squeeze out excess liquid (warm liquid and drink as tea or put into soups), saute with olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper. Serve alongside the entrée or as a special appetizer.

10. Soy foods. Breast and prostate cancer are low among Japanese, and studies say soy products are the reason. Tests show soy products also lower blood cholesterol and seem to deter and help dissolve kidney stones. Several servings of soy a week are indicated and if you have cancer, two servings daily is said to help. The following are some ways to get your servings of soy: A serving is ½ cup cooked soybeans or 2 tbsp miso or ¼ cup soy flour or 1 cup soymilk or ¼ cup soy nuts or 1 oz soy protein isolate or ½ cup tempeh or ½ cup texturized vegetable protein (TVP) or ½ cup tofu. Lots of choices. And heck, adding 2 tbsp of miso to a bowl of soup is easy, as is a handful of soy nuts in the afternoon.

11. Sweet potatoes and yams. “If you want a good jolt of beta carotene, the substance that seems to protect against heart disease and cancer, simply eat sweet potatoes,” says Jean Carper. They are number two on Center for Science in the Public Interest’s “best veggie” list. Lots of fiber, easy for the body to digest when you’re stressed. Try a couple of baked sweets for breakfast with some tahini.

12. Tahini and sesame butter (just like peanut butter but from sesame) and sesame seeds. Sesame products are eaten in some cultures in place of dairy products because of their high calcium content (calcium from sesame seeds is more easily used by our bodies than calcium from milk and a higher percentage of the calcium contained actually works for us). Eaten for thousands of years, sesame seeds were believed to possess magical properties, and they contain sesamol, which fights rancidity. Another quick easy breakfast is apple slices dipped into tahini or tahini with banana or tahini on toast. Use tahini to replace peanut butter in cookies.

DEBRA STARK
Concord