Turned on to better foods

By Ellen Ashton-Haiste

Boomer foodies are an ‘awakened’ market, continuously searching for more healthy foods like sprouted grains, legumes and pods to keep them young.

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The quest for the fountain of youth has never been stronger, as baby boomers push the envelope of longevity and active aging. But, unlike 16th-century explorers searching for a mythical spring with magical rejuvenative powers, the 21st-century quest is focused on health and wellness.

Boomers today are looking for a fountain of youth trifecta – maintaining a high level of physical energy and vitality; preserving topnotch cognitive function; and slowing the aging process — to keep them forever young as long as possible, says Shasha Shaun Navazesh.

A Toronto chef and food chemistry researcher, with a background in microbiology, who’s continuously investigating techniques to produce natural and health-enhancing products through his artisan bakery, ShaSha Co., Navazesh says boomers who pay close attention to what they put into their bodies account for more than half of his customers. He calls them an “awakened clientele.”

“You have to change your lifestyle as you age,” he says. “And food is a cornerstone of that movement.”

A member of the boomer generation, at 66, he uses himself as an example.

“I know what kind of food I have to eat,” he says. “I eat food that is non-processed, whole and a good combination of all those, berries and other beautiful grains and things that have healing properties, so that I can one-stone three birds.”

Boomers, at mid-life, do need to think differently about their eating habits, agrees Liz Pearson, dietitian, author and speaker.

“As we get older, we need less calories, even if we are physically active,” Pearson says. “Nutrient dense” foods like whole grains and legumes are important and processed foods, often with little nutritional value, are to be avoided.

“When you eat food that’s as close as possible to its whole, or natural, state, it’s most protective to your health,” she says. Thus, the part of the plant that protects it – the outer bran on whole grains or the skin on fruits and vegetables – offer some of the greatest health protection benefits.

In refined grains, like white bread or pasta, the bran and the germ have been discarded and, along with that, 80 per cent of the antioxidants and plant compounds that protect health, she explains.

Beans are one of the most nutritionally dense foods that boomers can look to, Pearson notes.

“They are an amazing food. It’s been said that beans are the near-perfect food. They’re loaded with nutrition – B vitamins, protein, fibre, antioxidants – and linked to a significantly lower risk of many diseases. I think your body says ‘thank you’ every time you eat beans.”

She says a stumbling block to capitalizing on this superfood is that consumers often don’t know how to create taste-tempting recipes, but there are myriad ways to enjoy it.

“I make chili on a regular basis and I make black-bean quesadillas and often have bean salad,” she says. “And roasted chickpeas – I toss them with a little extra-virgin olive oil and rosemary and roast them in the oven. I would put roasted chickpeas up against any other snack!”

Taste is important, Navazesh agrees. “Something might be very good for me but if it doesn’t taste good, I’m not going to eat it.”

He calls on his training as a chef and pastry chef plus knowledge of cultural cuisines, gleaned from travels through 52 countries on three continents, to infuse his products with taste as well as nutrition.

Recently, he launched some unique offerings that meet this criteria.

His Bio-buds are sprouted grains and legumes, which he says are “totally new, totally cutting edge.” It’s a technology he’s worked with for 14 years, putting sprouted grain into ShaSha breads.

Then he decided to offer them to the public.

Organic sprouted grains, legumes and pods are a “nutrient powerhouse,” he says, with three to four times the benefits of their unsprouted counterparts. They aid digestion, boost immunity, are bio-available and contain fewer allergens.

“We looked at different grains, legumes and pods for their attributes,” he says. Currently available for sale are Bio-bud adzuki beans, mung beans, lentils and brown rice, although he uses 11 different sprouted grains in his breads.

They’re prepared like regular lentils but Navazesh says the soaking time is less and the cooking time half.

“You can soak them and eat them raw because they are germinated,” he says. “Store them in the fridge and every day put them on your salad, your sandwich, in your soup.”

And he says they taste great. “They are much sweeter than non-sprouted. The minute you sprout, because you’re converting some of the starch to digestive sugars, they become sweeter.”

He’s also introduced Buckwheat Snack, ShaSha’s first gluten-free product, one that’s “going crazy” in the marketplace.

With organic ingredients, including buckwheat groats, sunflower seeds, dried cranberry and apple, Sultana raisins, almonds, black current, cinnamon and ground ginger, it’s delicious and also raw, vegan, pro- and pre-biotic and a source of soluble fibre.

And buckwheat, Navazesh says, is “10 times more nutritious than wheat. I love wheat. It’s god’s gift to mankind. But buckwheat is 10 times better.”