AcademyHealingNutrition’s “Longevity Diet,” which aims to build strong, intelligent and adaptable immunity against illness and aging, has benefits that enhance beauty, stamina, pain reduction and emotional balance. The fall session in New York starts in October and Registration is Open.

Over forty years that Roger Green has lead the Academy Healing Nutrition, the basic time-tested diet of nutritional sprouted grains, vegetables, animal proteins, seaweeds, nuts and oils has remained much the same though he and his teachers have adapted supplements to suit our changing needs. Roger covers a full range of the most up-to-date highly refined and concentrated nutritional supplements and energy boosters. I also describe a number of super foods unknown to the typical Western diet. Some are potent sources of collagen an important structural building block for the body.

Collagen

When you mention collagen to women over forty their eyes glaze over thinking of the happy days when they had no thought of wrinkles, joint aches, and muscle fatigue, the days without sunscreen, collagen creams, overpriced collagen-enhanced beverage and visits to the orthopedic clinic and plastic surgeon. Collagen is a protein. Our body makes it from amino acids in our foods and vitamin C, zinc and copper. Most Americans get amino acids from eating protein-rich foods, like beef, chicken, fish, beans, eggs and dairy products. The process of making our collagen also requires vitamin C from citrus fruits, red and green peppers, tomatoes, broccoli and greens–all delicious and nutritious in many ways.

Popular Asian Sources of Collagen

The Chinese, Japanese, Australians, African, South American and Nordic countries think our collagen sources is too slow. Instead, they add foods super-charged with collagen. They fish for it, climb cliffs and caves for it and go as far north as the Arctic to gather non-polluted fish maw. What is that you ask? This blog introduces popular collagen sources you have never heard of. We begin with specialty foods that can be quite expensive and end with a simple, inexpensive home recipe using ingredients you know from childhood.

1. Bird’s Nest 燕窩 Yànwō

         Bird’s nest is a traditional precious natural tonic that has been consumed in China since the Ming Dynasty. It has traditionally been an effective tonic for emperors and nobles. Bird’s nest is mainly produced in Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam, Malaysia and other places. Singapore has relatively high consumption of this Chinese delicacy. The bird’s nest is formed by condensing saliva from the mouth of the swiftlet sparrow or the same genus found in coastal caves of SE Asia. The bird’s nest is high in protein, with a delicate fragrance and a slight stickiness when chewed. Since ancient times, bird’s nest soup has been regarded as a fine food and precious product for nourishing yin body fluids and beauty. Ideally, it should be consumed before meals to allow the body to better absorb its nutrients.

Nutrition

Birds nest is rich in glycoproteins that can bring cells and collagen together giving them strength and support. From a biological standpoint, Bird’s Nest contains proteins namely 70% collagen, amino acids and minerals that are essential for healthy development. By improving the yin function of the lungs and kidneys, Bird’s Nest helps boost the body’s immune system and increase resistance to external environmental factors. Research shows that bird’s nest contains an Epidermal Growth Factor (EGF), which is able to promote the reproduction and regeneration of cells which are responsible for healthy skin and tissue repair. Some experts advise that elderly people, especially those who have battled illnesses, tend to be weak in yin and qi can benefit from eating bird’s nest. It would help to resolve prolonged ailments like chronic cough, but is not intended to treat acute cough.

Preparation

         Depending upon the form you buy, the birds nest may require soaking overnight. There are refined products and liquid extracts that make preparation easy. Here is a tasty attractive recipe from The Omnivores Cook Book https://omnivorescookbook.com/chinese-bird-nest/

Possible Allergy

Though the soup and liquid extracts enhance tissue growth and regeneration, and can inhibit influenza infections, not everyone reacts well to them. Bird’s nests are known to cause anaphylaxis, a life-threatening allergic reaction, for some people. Symptoms may include a skin rash, itching, swollen eyes or mouth, vomiting, difficulty breathing, and shock.

Where to buy

Chinese bird nest, or yàn wō), is one of the most expensive foods in the world, with a price of up to $2000 per kilogram because it is rare and the price is often government regulated. But you can find inexpensive cans containing bland, neutral tasting bird’s nest extract made with rock sugar on Chinese grocery store shelves. It is frequently sold online.

2. Sea Cucumber 海參 Hǎishēn

         Sea Cucumber, one of the earth’s oldest living creatures (it has existed for over 500 million years), the slug of the sea has developed an extraordinary immune system–one that, surprisingly, resembles that of humans. The dish is a prized seafood delicacy throughout south Asia, the Philippines, Japan, Australia, the Pacific, the Caribbean, France (beche de mer) and Portugal. The preparation takes several days of soaking, cleaning and cooking and its nutritional value is exceptional. Sea Cucumber is often prepared in elaborate Chinese New Year soups.

Nutrition

Sea cucumbers are rich in protein, collagen, niacin, and riboflavin and contain substances that influence human health, including:

  • Chondroitin sulfate (found in human cartilage)
  • Coelomic fluid (which functions similarly to human white blood cells)
  • Palmitic, stearic, and linoleic acid (fatty acids with potent antioxidant effects)
  • Squalene (a compound that acts as the precursor to steroids)
  • Triterpenoids (a class of compounds thought to slow cancer growth

Alternative practitioners prevent and treat a wide range of health disorders with sea cucumber, including arthritis, cardiovascular disease, constipation, erectile dysfunction, periodontitis gum disease and certain types of cancers. Sea cucumber fights inflammation, promotes wound healing, and slows the aging process.

Preparation

Soak it and soak it and soak it, clean it out and cook it for hours if you get it in the rough. Or easier, buy it frozen because some else has already soaked it and cleaned it for you. If frozen, thaw it, boil with ginger for 30 minutes, then add it to soups or stir fry with dried scallops, ginger, garlic, oil, dark and light soy sauce, a pinch of brown sugar, and raw scallion. Cook until it is soft and gelatinous or rubbery and tasteless.

Cautions:

Sea cucumber has blood thinning effects (It reduces harmful cholesterol) It should be avoided by persons who have shellfish allergies. Avoid it or use under the direction of a doctor during pregnancy and breastfeeding.

Where to buy:

Look in the frozen foods section of Chinese supermarkets or buy the very expensive dried form originating from China, Mexico, Australia or other parts of Asia. Sea Cucumber capsules sold by Swanson are a reasonable price and available from Amazon.com.

3. Fish Maw 魚肚 Yúdù

Fish maw is the dried form of fresh, high quality air bladders of fish, which are rich in gelatin. The air bladders are taken from large fishes and is graded according to sex: male bladders are considered better than female ones. Among them, there are shark’s tripe, Pollock maw and premium fish maw. Fish maw (aka swim bladder, gas bladder, or air bladder) is an internal gas-filled organ that contributes to the ability of many bony fish (but not cartilaginous fish) to float, i.e., control their buoyancy, and thus to stay at their current water depth without having to waste energy in swimming.

Although Fish maw comes from south America, Africa, China and throughout Asia my preferred source is Iceland. Icelandic pure wild cod (Arctic Cod) because only a few fish can thrive in the cold Arctic waters like Arctic cod. The blood of Arctic cod contains a kind of anti-freeze protein, allowing them to live in this harsh environment. The growth environment of Atlantic cod is quite strict requiring seawater temperature in the growing sea area to be below 5 degrees Celsius all year round, and the seawater must not have any chemical pollution. A high-quality growth environment creates a pollution-free, healthy deep-sea fish gelatin (aka fish maw.) According to one manufacturer:

Iceland wild cod fish maw has the advantages of being thin and meaty. It not only has the mouth-feel of ordinary fish belly, but also is firm, clean and has no smell. It is very suitable for most people who like to eat fish maw and can be used for any dishes related to fish maw. Iceland cod fish gelatin is light yellow in color, translucent and bright without impurities, with many serrations on both sides, large head and pointed tail. It naturally exudes a fresh fragrance that other flower gums do not have.   

Nutrition

Fish maw is a delicacy served during special occasions like Chinese New Year. However its nutrition is valuable year round: Rich in collagen, fish maw is a Chinese beauty secret for youthful skin. Fish maw contains rich proteins and nutrients such as phosphor and calcium. It nourishes ‘yin’ which means it replenishes the tissue, moisture and fluids of lung, stomach, liver and kidney. It boosts stamina and helps prevent burnout. Furthermore, fish maw does not contain cholesterol and therefore it is a very valuable health enhancing ingredient suitable for long time consumption. It is gentle in nature and suitable for everyone.

Preparation:

         Fish maw can be sold dried to make a hard sheet, separate slices or cut in pieces. The hard yellow form needs to be soaked until soft. There is also a fried form that is white and fluffy and requires less soaking. After soaking add slices to soup or stir fry. Here is a simple recipe:

Creamy Fish Maw Soup, serves 2

Ingredients:

1-2 large pieces of Dried Fish Maw

2 chicken thighs

oil

2 cups broth

1 canned corn or kernels from 2 ears of corn

corn starch or other thickener

2 eggs, beaten

seasonings

scallions, chopped

Soak the fish maw in cold water for 30 minutes, then rinse, squeeze out the water, and cut into small strips for later use

Stir fry the chicken in oil. (optional: clean the pan with a little dry white wine) Add the broth. After the broth is boiled and chicken is cooked. Keep in or remove the chicken pieces from the soup as you wish. Season with salt, add sweet corn kernels and cook until the raw corn kernels are cooked. (About 15 minutes)

Add the processed fish maw to the soup, simmer for 10 minutes, sprinkle a little white pepper. Then thicken the starch with water and add it to the soup. After turning off the heat, immediately beat the eggs and pour them into the soup, and stir quickly with chopsticks. (If the temperature of the soup is very high, quickly stir the egg liquid to cook the eggs, and to make the eggs fine and even) Sprinkle with chopped green onion and enjoy immediately.

Allergies

No known allergies are specifically attributed to fish maw. Though the white muscle tissue of certain fish such as carp contain a known allergen paralbumin a protein that causes common fish allergies, fish maw is more like fish tripe. Not all forms of paralbumin are harmful. It has been found to be beneficial for Parkinson’s.

Where to buy:

In Chinatown groceries look for hanging plastic bags of inexpensive large white fried fish maw near the dried mushrooms and other dried specialty foods. The dried beige colored slices may be in the section selling dried fish or herbs. Or buy it online which is more expensive.

4. Tremella 銀耳 Yín’ěr

         White fungus (aka Snow fungus) The beautiful fluffy white snow fungus, silver ear fungus, white jelly mushroom grows in the tropics on broad leaf trees. It is neutral in quality (neither cooling nor heating) and tasteless but pleasantly crunchy after being soaked and steamed or jello-like when cooked a long time.

Nutrition

It is nutritiously rich in collagen and is sometimes called “poor man’s bird nest.” It is high in polysaccharides, proteins and fiber in addition to various vitamins and minerals. Tremella’s polysaccharides have proven to have positive effects, including but not limited to anti-tumor, anti-inflammatory, memory reparation, cancer-therapy side-effect modulation and anti-aging. Anti-oxidant protection is essential to prevent cell damage and tremella protects against cell death from skin disease and aging. Drinking teas and soups with tremella means that skin damage may be reduced and complexion protected. A bright moist youthful complexion is a treasure.

Preparation

See my video “How to Cook Tremella”  for soaking directions. White fungus is often an ingredient in a Chinese tong sui – a cold sweet dessert soup. It usually contains 杞子Wolfberry Fruit (aka goji berry), 元肉Dried Longan, 红枣Jujube red date, and 雪耳Snow fungus.

The traditional method for preparing an herbal medicine is “六碗水煎至二碗 : Boil six bowls of water to two.” However this tong sui soup may be enjoyed as a light refreshing snack or summer dessert. Soak the herbs in water for 15 minutes, rinse the herbs and simmer them in water for up to 20 minutes. Enjoy it warm or cold anytime. It can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. It can be frozen into ice cubes for summer drinks. No sweetener is needed. However if you prefer a sweeter taste you might add lo han guo, (aka monk fruit) which is very sweet and safe for diabetes. Crack a lo han quo pod into 4 pieces and add one piece while cooking the herbs.

Allergy

People with mushroom allergies rarely have an allergy to fungi because they are different, not having a cup on top and stem on bottom. They may grow out of trees not on the ground.

Where to buy

Look for white fungus in Chinese food shops, sold on street herb shops and online. Easy to find and not expensive. Online you may pay more. Health Concerns in California makes Tremella American Ginseng pills sold to practitioners and online shops.

  1. Gelatin

         After an informal tour including some of the most rare and expensive foods you’d find in a Chinese restaurant, you will appreciate a simple at home daily recipe to help improve skin quality and supply a form of collagen that we all know. Jello is a dessert Moms have given to their kids for generations when they wanted something simple and harmless. The unflavored Knox gelatine has some of the same healing properties as collagen.

Nutrition

Gelatin is simply the cooked form of collagen, and it’s one of the best and most convenient ways to ingest the important amino acids in collagen. Collagen hydrolysate (sometimes called hydrolyzed collagen) is gelatin that’s been processed more intensively to break up the proteins into smaller bits. Gelatin is a protein product derived from collagen. It has important health benefits due to its unique combination of amino acids. Gelatin has been shown to play a role in joint health and brain function, and may improve the appearance of skin and hair. Some important points to remember:

  • Collagen is the most abundant protein in the body and gives structure to your skin, bones, muscles, and all other connective tissue.
  • Both collagen and gelatin can improve skin texture and quality, joints, sleep, and help heal your gut lining.
  • Always take your collagen and gelatin with vitamin C.

Preparation

         Here is a cup of gelatin flavored with anti-inflammatory turmeric and nutritious bee pollen. Prepare this at bedtime, not during the day when coffee or tea may wash out the benefits of the gelatin.

Bedtime Gelatine

Ingredients:

1 packet of unflavored Knox Gelatine

¼ tsp. turmeric powder

½ tsp. raw bee pollen (if no allergy)

Put one packet of dry gelatine into a tea cup, add a little cool water to mix it. Wait one minute then add boiling water to completely dissolve the gelatine. Add the turmeric and mix well. Allow the liquid to cool then add the bee pollen which supplies sweetness and a rich source of amino acids. Your night time beauty treatment for skin and joints.

Gelatin may provide a number of health benefits.

  • Healthy body tissues. A 240-gram (g) provides 0.82 g of protein. …
  • Skin care. Collagen gives skin its healthy and youthful appearance. .
  • Digestion, soothes acid indigestion. Gelatin contains glutamic acid, a substance that promotes a healthy mucosal lining in the stomach. It may also help digestion by stimulating the production of gastric juices. Gelatin also binds to water, which might help food move through the digestive system.
  • Easing joint pain. Gelatin contains lysine, which helps strengthen the bones. It also helps the body absorb calcium, which helps keep the bones strong and prevents bone loss.
  • Some people consume gelatin to reduce the risk of osteoporosis, which causes bones to become weak or brittle.
  • Managing blood sugar.
  • Sleep quality, Gelatin contains glycine. In a study published in 2006, people who took 3 grams (g) of glycine around bedtime reported sleeping better and feeling more lively and clear headed in the morning.
  • Weight loss. Gelatin is high protein and low calorie.

It is too hot these days to cook our trusty bone broth to ensure bone health and collagen. So have fun and make some home made jello using your favorite fruit or vegetable juice and unflavored Gelatine. Let us know your recipes.