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About the Bulgarian super foods, in brief.

Article by Dr. Pashkulev for the readers of vitarama.eu

The “super food” notion spread lately to designate a markedly high nutritious or health enhancing role of a given foodstuff, with some including therein important herbal spices, vitamins, minerals, protein ingredients, essential fatty acids, antioxidants, etc. Right away we are to clarify that the “super food” does not ensure magical healing of severe diseases. It makes it possible, by consuming normal quantities of it, to achieve effects comparable to those derived from much larger amounts of other foods – such amounts for a number of reasons can be unassimilatable or yield undesirable side effects. Having in mind also the general depletion of contemporary foodstuffs with regard to physiologically beneficial nutrients, as well as non-nutrient molecules and phytochemicals with protective and curative significance – the super foods definitely deserve an increasingly careful study and ever more frequent usage in our everyday menu.

Although most of the foods have a significant concentration of particular beneficial ingredients, the criterion for super food is to include either manifold excess of the ordinary “satisfactory” concentrations of a given substance, greatly significant for the organism, or – which is more often the case – presence of several nutrients in such high quantities.

The question many Bulgarians ask themselves, especially those of limited financial capabilities, is whether the imported super foods are peerless or can well be substituted with Bulgarian products that are affordable, easy to grow or directly harvestable from nature.

With sporadic exceptions, the answer is in favor of the Bulgarian products. Since dozens of pages with useful content could be written on the topic, the space here allows me only to give several important examples.

1. Protein sources

Although the legumes and certain nuts, as well as many animal products, are for non-vegetarians good enough sources of protein, in case of certain diseases, given diminished assimilation or increased consumption by the organism, it could be reasonable to consider concentrated and easy to assimilate additional sources of these basic nutrients.

At home this is for example the bee pollen, which can partially be substituted by inclusion of blossoms of some plants in the menu - for example dandelion, acacia, mallow, chicory, calendula, evening primrose, etc. Blossoms provide also many other important components; same holds true for the beer yeast, as well as the algae, which are generally produced in this country, too; imported products are largely relied on, which makes the supply dearer.

It is important to know that although being partially interchangeable with regard to their protein content, these foods and supplements differ in their other ingredients and accordingly have a different action on the organism. For example, most of the algae tone, while the beer yeast tranquilizes the nervous system. As far as the usage of more wholesome foods, with regard to the aminoacids, than the wheat, maize and white rice, the choice is not limited to the exotic sorts of biorice, quinoa and einkorn wheat, but includes for instance the millet, buckwheat and oats - with the note that whole boiled or sprouting oat grains should be used and as a last resort wholemeal, not refined oat kernels should be used. The raw nuts and seeds are recommended for use, when their high fat content is unacceptable. These products can already be substituted in this country by affordable protein flours. For instance, taking the many valuable ingredients from the sesame seeds, it should be borne in mind that it contains about or above 60% fats; in the low fat flour, however, the fats are reduced to 10%, while the concentrations of the proteins, minerals, vitamins and other valuable nutrients are respectively at least doubled.

2. Oil ingredients

The essential fatty acids, the phospholipids and Vitamin E are contained in considerable amounts in the raw nuts, seeds and sprouts: for instance the walnuts and the hip seeds offer a relatively good balance between omega3 and 6 acids. If there is a need of more emphasis on the omega 3, freshly ground flax seeds can be used, although the imported chia and some algae have partial advantages in this respect for people that consume neither fish, nor yolks.

3. Fibers and pro- and prebiotics

The Indian plantain and other concentrated fibers usually offered as supplements are not irreplaceable. This is so, because the adequate consumption of raw and cooked unrefined products is sufficient for most people. The insulin products can well be substituted by the regular consumption of ground apple, which also has a number of other dietetic merits apart from aiding the normal intestinal flora. If it is normal, the probiotic bacteria, too, are rendered superfluous, while in case of deviations the natural yoghurt and some fermented plant products can be considered.

4. Vitamins

The fresher a fruit or a vegetable, the richer it is in Vitamin C. Therefore a main issue here, apart from the emphasis on the foods inherently rich in this ingredient, is also their quality. But even when more of this vitamin is taken, it is assimilated in complex with bioflavonoids and other ingredients, found in the whole foods, and therefore it can only supplement them, but not substitute them!

The hips, red peppers plus the green leaves species, cultivated or wild in this country, are in many respects a better source than the imported citruses and the products with acerola, camu-camu, etc. The kiwi, as a complex fruit with much more merits than the Vitamin C content, deserves a wider cultivation, where possible in Bulgaria.

As far as the group B vitamins are concerned – again the Bulgarian whole products have a sufficient content. If nevertheless supplements are needed, the imported foods cannot provide such very high quantities either.

Vitamin A is widely spread as carotene and we need more orange and green foods. As its end form as a vitamin and also Vitamin D, they are contained in the pure milk butter. However, a main source of Vitamin D is the sun.

Vitamin K is found predominantly in the green and some fermented foods. By repeating “green”, we do not necessarily mean green algae and imported powders of green cereals. The usual cultivated “greeneries” or those gathered from nature will do.

5. Minerals

Since there is an alarming, in degree and pace, depletion of even the unrefined fresh products with regard to certain minerals in today’s state of the world economy, it could sometimes be pertinent to consume mineral supplements – internally or for some through the skin – intradermally. And yet, it is an additional point that cannot substitute the careful overall balancing of the menu. And at that it is not enough to consume sources of the respective minerals. For example:

At the same time it is necessary to exclude or reduce to a minimum “the robbers” of minerals, represented by the refined sugars and flours, the highly processed other products, alcoholic and most of the alcohol-free beverages. Some trace elements are needed in tiny quantities, but due to their rare presence in the soils they might be deficient in our menu – from instance selenium, iodine, chrome and lithium. They can be compensated through improvement of the variety of our spread by including sea food, various nuts, sometimes also imported ones such as the Brazilian nuts, as well as mixes of herbal spices. Specialized supplements in this case are to be eaten at best after consulting a specialist.

6. Beneficial plant dyes.

The proanthocyanidins, so important for the immune and cardiovascular system, as well as for the vision, are contained not only in the wild berries, which, though found in this country, are expensive. They abound also in the chokeberry, brambles, sloes and other violet fruits and also in the red beet and purslane.

Luetin and zeaxanthin, prescribed mainly for the eyes, are found abundantly in the red peppers and the yellow vegetative colours. Lycopene, apart from tomatoes, is also found in the apricots, water-melons, hips and other red coloured products.

7. Other photochemicals.

A number of protective molecules, including anticancer ones, are found in the foods akin to cabbage. Some of them, though not traditional for Bulgaria, develop without cultivation here – for instance rucola and kale. Actually, also wild representatives of this food family grow, with analogous properties – shepherd’s purse, garlic grass, natal grass, etc. Of course, their consumption is recommended in smaller amounts.

Phytoncides are vegetative antimicrobial agents, found primarily in the pungent foods and spices – garlic, onions, leeks, horse-radish, kohlrabi, hot pepperlets, juniper berries and a number of others. The etheric oils are a broader group of volatile aromatic ingredients, where there can be a variety of beneficial effects – for instance on the nervous and endocrine systems, digestion, airways, joints, skin, etc. They are contained a lot in the majority of the herbal spices.

Finally, the variety of cultivated and wild phytoproducts in this country IS ENOUGH to cover at least 90% of the needs of our organisms. Given special knowledge and measures for its implementation this percentage can reach the cherished 100%.

Nevertheless, there is no reason to exclude all imported products, nor strike through the food supplements completely. In a number of cases, if there is a competent appraisal, which of them indeed are individually necessary, they can also be helpful to us. However, their indiscriminate and excessive use is not recommended, while underestimating the foods, spices and herbs already available in Bulgaria. Some of them are already more widely available, too, while others deserve larger-scale cultivation and gathering from the wild. For the latter, of course, the respective knowledge is necessary, which, in addition to literature and internet, can be had from specialists with medical and botanical competences.

It’s time something got done on the matter: too many people underestimate our local dietary and therapeutic resources, wrongly supposing that solely through very expensive imported products they