5 Super Foods That Grow In My Garden: Why tradition respects the daily use of superfoods to complement a healthy diet.

Friday Jun 5, 2015 | BY |
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Superfood: Noni

Superfood: Noni

I get up early in the morning, face the rising sun, and stand quietly in my garden. It feels good. In the evening, I watch the sunset through a stand of Florida longleaf pines that provide dappled shade for a host of other plants, herbs, fruit trees, and superfood plants.

Plant leaves come in so many different shades of green that I get lost in the diversity. I am not willing to classify each one. That’s what taxonomists do, and I respect their work. They can tell you a plant’s name just from the shape of a leaf. I’m the same in my clinical work. I like the sound of the classification of diseases. Symptoms are a path leading to the patient’s condition. But when it comes to plants, I wax poetic. Give me green, green, green as wrote the Spanish poet Federico Garcia Lorca.

Besides beauty and poetry, stillness and quiet, I like what plants provide; especially those that help keep me healthy and promote longevity.

I lived for three decades in Southern California. It’s a desert. Cacti love it! Growing herbs and vegetables was challenging. They required lots and lots of water. But Californians used it all up. I don’t like brown. I left dry sepia colored California for the waterlands of Southwest Florida ten years ago. I’m still a Californian progressive at heart, but I like the semitropical warmth and lots of green plants.

In particular, I like health giving plants known as superfoods. These are plants that I shared my home and garden with. I have mango trees, star fruit, lychees, lime and other citrus trees, macadamia nuts, guava, dragon fruit, passion fruit, and sugarcane. I have mints of many species, lemon grass, basil, rosemary, and many other herbs. But, superfoods are my favorites.

Five Superfoods That Thrive In My Garden:

  1. Noni
  2. Coffee
  3. Sea Grape
  4. Acerola
  5. Pomegranate
Leaves of five superfood plants in my garden from left to right: Noni, Coffee, Sea Grape, Acerola, Pomegranite.

Leaves of five superfood plants in my garden from left to right: Noni, Coffee, Sea Grape, Acerola, Pomegranite.

Noni (Morinda citrifolia) is in the coffee family. It’s native to Southeast Asia but now grows abundantly in the Pacific Islands, the Caribbean, and in Central and South America. The entire plant is used medicinally, but it’s best known for the fruit. Noni fruit is a general health tonic that regulates all body systems. It has antioxidants and reduces low-grade inflammation. Noni contains a wide range of healing compounds including polysaccharides that boost immunity, scopoletin that lowers blood pressure, and is a good source of vitamin C. I blend ripe noni fruit with fresh aloe vera gel and a splash of citrus, and drink chilled as a morning tonic.

Coffee is from a family of small trees known as Coffea. The best-known species is Coffea Arabica. But a cup of coffee in the morning is much more than an energy boost. Research has found that coffee helps prevent diabetes, lowers the risk of liver disease, and may even reduce your risk for Parkinson’s. It’s also good for your heart. I like 100% pure organic Arabic coffee espresso roasted, without sugar or cream. When I have enough coffee beans from my own trees, I pan roast them until the aroma fills my garden. When dried well, I grind my own and enjoy pure healing coffee.

Sea Grapes (Coccoloba uvifera) belong to the buckwheat family. They are abundant in southern Florida and can live right on the beach in sandy soil. Though mostly used in landscaping, sea grapes are edible. In Cuba, children pick the dark purple “grapes” and eat them raw. Researchers found that sea grapes are rich in phytochemicals with powerful antioxidant activity. They contain lots of vitamin C, polyphenols, flavonoids, and anthocyanins, as well as pant enzymes.

Acerola (Malpighia emarginata), also called Barbados Cherry is not a cherry at all. And it’s not from Barbados. Acerola is originally from the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico, but now found all through the Caribbean, Mexico and Central America, and in South America. It also grows well in Florida and southern Texas. I have several Acerola bushes in my garden. Acerola is the original superfood. Its high vitamin C and polyphenol content make Acerola a powerful natural antioxidant. It helps lower cholesterol and glucose, and promotes healthy levels of HDL. It may prevent common oral cancers and restores gum tissue. When ripe in early spring, I eat them fresh from the tree.

Pomegranate (Punica granatum) is a small tree that’s at home in mild temperate regions and found throughout the Middle East and Mediterranean. It was brought to the new world and thrives in Latin American and the southern parts of the United States. It’s used in cooking, cocktails and infused liquors. It’s high in vitamin C, folate, vitamin K, and rich in polyphenols. Pomegranate juice helps prevent cardiovascular disease, including lowering blood pressure. I eat pomegranates fresh from the tree or blend the deep red, juicy seeds with water for a refreshing summer drink.

Why Fresh Superfoods?

Live superfoods are not new, but ancient. Traditional cultures discovered these life giving plants thousands of years ago. I believe that following traditional ways still benefit human health even in our modern urban times.

Humans and superfood plants have a unique relationship. It’s as if we belong together. Though originally wild, traditional cultures cultivated these plants for their life giving properties. Humans and plants have lived together for a long time.

The fruit and other parts of superfood plants play a protective role. Not only do they balance and supplement the human diet, they prevent disease.

The key is to be more like traditional people. Take it slow. Use small amounts. And, consume superfoods every day.

Most superfoods can be eaten raw from the tree when ripe. They can be dried, canned, or frozen. As an infusion, try steeping acerola, pomegranate seeds, and sea grapes in vodka! The alcohol extracts compounds that are not water-soluble. A teaspoon a day keeps the doctor away.

Superfoods As Medicine

Superfoods are not medicinal herbs. This is an important distinction: nature designed them to complement the daily diet, not to be used when you’re sick.

Can science turn these simple plants into disease fighting drugs? Research evidence indicates that extracts from these traditional plants have benefits for modern people just as the whole plant helped traditional people.

For example, pomegranate contains ellegic acid (as do raspberries and blackberries, and pecans), a cancer-fighting compound. Hundreds of studies confirm the cancer preventative benefits of pomegranate ellegic compounds, but researches haven’t found that taking large amounts of ellegic acid have a direct effect on shrinking tumors. It seems that superfoods are in a class of their own: they contain naturally occurring compounds that are best at preventing chronic disease.

And there is ample evidence that superfoods have the ability to ward off the chronic diseases of modern living and the ailments of aging. They are powerful preventives against cancer, cardiovascular disease, and hold off Alzheimer’s and beat back autoimmune diseases.

Despite a demanding writing schedule, clinical responsibilities, research, and managing a non-profit organization, I find time – mostly measured in minutes – to tend my garden. From time to time, I even post photos of my plants on Twitter and Facebook! I’m a traditionalist. I like to live with plants. I love conducting fieldwork in the rainforest.

Whether you take them as extracts or juice concentrates, or as infusion or elixirs, I recommend you take superfoods daily. As for me, I prefer my superfoods fresh from the tree.

Dr. J. E. Williams

J. E. WILLIAMS, OMD, FAAIM

Dr. Williams is a pioneer in integrative and functional medicine, the author of six books, and a practicing clinician with over 100,000 patient visits. His areas of interest include longevity and viral immunity. Formerly from San Diego, he now resides in Sarasota, Florida and practices at the Florida Integrative Medical Center. He teaches at NOVA Southeastern University and Emperor’s College of Oriental Medicine.

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  1. June Hanson says:

    These super foods fascinate me, realize, I, need them. Also love natural plants that grow here in Florida. Can see where super foods are so healing to the body. Very few people utilize them. Want to learn more about them. Yes, nothing beats fresh from the garden. You, are a great gardener. Helps make You, a greater Doctor, with all your experience in the rainforest.

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