Off the Mat, On the Menu: Knife, Fork and Intuition

by Frances Sheridan Goulart

Are you powering your powerhouse with power foods or is it running on empty? If you are tapping into your innate intuition about your body’s likes, dislikes, limits and challenges (that your Pilates practice has helped you develop), it’s probably the former. “Not mind or body, but mind AND body,” Joseph Pilates once said. That mind-body-in-tandem principle applies to our life at the table as well as our life on the mat or apparatus.

Igniting our intuition (another Pilates principle) can have far-reaching results. It can save us from pain and disease, according to a new study. Researchers at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill found that regular consumption of fatty foods triggers dangerous inflammation in the body that sets the stage for type II diabetes. Other studies have pointed to inflammation as the key factor in chronic diseases such as heart disease, cancer and autoimmune diseases.

At the very least, the act of turning off your intuition and indulging in tasty (temporarily) but unhealthy foods will result in a Pilates body that is fat, not fit (sooner or later). It will also ruin your palate (sooner rather than later) for the very power foods that intuitively we know help to balance our moods, give us energy and boost long-term health.

So what are the power foods that a finely tuned intuition tell us should be in our pantries right now? Which foods prevent rather than provoke disease-triggering inflammation?

In the interests of full disclosure, I am biased (I don’t think coffee is the wonder food it has suddenly become in some quarters, and as an ethical vegetarian I admit that grass-fed beef and wild salmon, despite their nutritional virtues, don’t make my list), but my short list does includes plenty of garden variety foods that aren’t eaten nearly enough by most of us, even though intuitively we know they should be on our plates.

If you wouldn’t let a week go by without doing the Hundred a few times, you shouldn’t let a week go by without empowering your body by eating most (if not all) of these powerhouse foods:

  • Apples, berries, oranges and other citrus fruit
  • Walnuts and other nuts and seeds
  • Spinach and other leafy green vegetables
  • Soybean foods (tofu, miso, Tempeh)
  • Whole grains (rice, bulgur, quinoa)
  • Olives and olive oil
  • Broccoli and other cabbage family vegetables
  • Carrots, parsley and other salad bowl herbs
  • Green and black teas
  • Garlic, onions and legumes
  • Tomatoes and yogurt

What makes these specific foods valuable—or, rather, indispensable—to good health? They are all high in an assortment of substances that build and repair health (antioxidants, vitamins and minerals, trace elements) while relatively low in calories, fat and sodium.

For example, don’t turn your nose up at those carrot sticks sitting next to the cottage cheese. Carrots do more for your vision than almost any other vegetable because of their high beta-carotene content. And they deliver hard-to-get vitamin K for strong bones.

Twenty-calorie-a-stick carrots are also effective liver and intestinal tract cleaners and their high fiber helps keep LDL levels in check. Eat them, raw, eat them cooked or try as a salad dressing in the following recipe:

Carrot-Citrus and Ginger Salad Dribble
Yield: about 1 cup

Mix in the blender or food processor:
½ cup freshly juiced carrot or canned carrot juice
2 tablespoons fresh or from concentrate orange juice
2 teaspoons lemon juice
4 tablespoons sesame or flaxseed oil
1 tablespoon peeled and grated fresh ginger root
1 teaspoon honey
½ teaspoon lemon zest
½ teaspoon orange zest
½ teaspoon low-sodium soy sauce
Dash black pepper or kelp powder

  1. Toss with raw leafy greens, or spoon over steamed, dark leafy greens like collards, chard or spinach, or fold into cold whole-grain pasta.

See my book SUPER IMMUNITY FOODS for more information on powerhouse foods and the recipes that go with them.

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