THE BLOG
06/21/2010 02:14 pm ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

Energy Drain To Energy Gain in One Bite: Month #6 of the 'Total Energy' Makeover

Sadly, so much of our food today is grown in ways that drain it of its energy potential, even prior to arriving on our plates. Pesticides, hormones, antibiotics and other chemicals used in food production to help ensure a "safe" or "consistent" supply of food often do work for the plant or animal other than its body was meant to do.

The end result includes less of potent phytochemicals, also called antioxidants, that protect the body from accumulation of free radicals. Succinctly put, free radicals can cause radical damage within the body by attaching to compounds inside and outside of cells. A reduction of phytochemicals can lead to less "fighting" energy within our body and at the same time, the need for more. In addition, there's some evidence that certain pesticides and toxins interfere with our metabolic pathways, again causing energy challenges. And finally, we know that antibiotics, while helpful to removing harmful bacteria from the body, also remove good bacteria. Thus, we need to replete our stores if we take an antibiotic.

But what if we are passively getting antibiotics from our water and our food, and aren't aware of its toll on our bacterial balance? I recently had a healthy adult male who I advised to take a probiotic (good bacteria) after his dental surgery tell me that he's never felt such good energy and, he asked, did I think there was a link to his taking the probiotic because he hadn't changed anything else? Well, I think he answered his own question.

Anyway, what's all this got to do with the Huffington Post Living's "Total Energy" Makeover with Ashley Koff, RD and how Marissa is doing this month? This month, Marissa got in touch with the energy potential of her food. When I first met Marissa, in addition to energy zappers cleverly packaged as energy gainers (i.e. Energy Drinks and Energy Bars), she was ordering the bulk of her food from local diners and restaurants. Despite a move to a new apartment with a "great kitchen all set up for me to cook," Marissa wasn't taking advantage of her new (kitchen) digs. Sure, the removal of her energy drainers and replacement with energy gainers like organic greens, hemp protein, and nut butter were making big changes for her in terms of energy and overall health. But what about her food delivery choices for lunches and dinners each day -- especially when she changed to her new job that sent her further uptown with long hours and a commute that meant less time for her yoga, less time for meals at home, and even more time on the road?

Enter a cooking lesson. And not just a lesson in cooking, but a lesson in the energy potential of whole foods ... whole plant foods, that is. Whether or not Marissa chooses to "be a vegan" as her original health efforts had her thinking was the way she wanted to eat, I'm working with her to become a "Qualitarian" as a key part of her energy makeover. And that means, it isn't enough to order a vegetarian or vegan dish from the local diner -- it should be organic food for optimal energy. It was important that Marissa learn whether she makes it herself, orders in or goes out to eat it, she needed to pay attention to the taste, look, and overall energy of organic plant foods. And where better to learn than at Candle 79 and Candle Cafe on NYC's Upper East Side (there's also the Candle Cafe cookbook for those that aren't in NYC)?

I was thrilled when owners Joy and Bart said they would take on helping Marissa explore the world of cooking, since their food is so delicious that one doesn't even know they are eating uber-nutritious food -- until you notice how good you feel and look (as Marissa noted to me "everyone in there is glowing"). However, I also told Joy that Marissa is a) a cooking novice, b) short on time, but c) and adventurous eater. I asked her to focus on my style of cooking for which I've borrowed the IKEA mantra "Some Assembly Required." It would be great for Marissa to learn to assemble ingredients -- like their amazing salads (which she already loves), quesadillas, grain-seed medleys etc. And so she did -- and had a blast. The videos are up here in the Huffington Post Living section for you to see firsthand.

And speaking of fun, energy, and socializing ... check in next month when Marissa shows us how teaming up with Pooja of Mindful21 is making a positive difference in her energy.

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