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The Healing Power of Food: Healthy Eating Shapes Physical, Emotional Well-Being

Jun 26, 2017 02:26PM ● Published by Kevin

Gallery: The Healing Power of Food - July/August 2017 [5 Images] Click any image to expand.

Bee pollen chocolates are a popular item at Among the Flowers Cafe on Sanibel. Photo by Leah Biery.

What we choose to eat affects how we feel, and Sanibel Island offers plenty of good choices to maintain a healthy diet or to jumpstart your nutritional lifestyle.

Think of any culture in the world, and chances are it revolves, in many ways, around food. All humans gather at the table to celebrate, to mourn, to negotiate and to relax. Eating offers us an opportunity to connect with others, and what we choose to put into our bodies shapes our emotional and physical well-being. Science is teaching us that certain approaches to eating can optimize our overall health, and individual foods can indeed heal specific ailments – sometimes just as effectively as modern medicine.  

Our islands attract a community of active, open-minded residents and visitors who express a growing enthusiasm for the benefits of a healthy diet and lifestyle, and many are intrigued by the concept of alternative medicine. Entrepreneurs on Sanibel and Captiva have taken notice of this trend, and are sharing their skills, creativity, and expertise to meet the demand for innovative foods that nurture the mind, body and soul.  “It’s surprising how many people come into my shop out of curiosity, then end up staying for hours to talk about their food journeys and how dietary changes have affected their lives,” said Chelsee Joel, co-owner of Among the Flowers Café, a coffee and juice bar that also offers healthy vegan and vegetarian dishes. Joel has done extensive research on ingredients with healing powers.

“Right now, I am fascinated by the health benefits of mushrooms like chaga and reishi,” she said. “When I can source organic mushrooms, I like to make a medicinal broth for my customers.” Various species of mushrooms have been shown to improve sleep quality, immunity and brain function. Herbs, bee pollen and cacao are also on Joel’s list of superfoods. “Many herbs are adaptogens, which means they can reduce stress and help to stabilize the body’s processes,” she said. Bee pollen, the substance consumed by young bees can relieve skin irritation, boost energy and support the digestive and immune systems. Locally-sourced bee products are also linked to allergy relief. Joel’s handmade bee pollen chocolates, which contain organic cacao, are a favorite treat among her café patrons.  

Chelsee Joel, co-owner of Among the Flowers Cafe on Sanibel, uses nut mylk and medicinal spices such as tumeric and black pepper in her chai lattes. Photo by Leah Biery.

Although she is an enthusiastic proponent of the medicinal properties of specific ingredients, Joel emphasizes that there is no “magic cure” that can make up for a lifetime of poor health habits. “To maximize the benefits of delicious, natural foods in their purest forms, you really have to dedicate yourself to making good decisions about what you consume all the time,” she said. “One of my favorite things about owning a café is that it offers a platform for me to educate and support others when it comes to making that lifestyle shift.” Joel customizes juices, smoothies, and meals for clients struggling with specific health challenges.  

Perhaps the most effective way to move towards this healthier way of living at home is to plant a garden, which is Erica Klopf’s specialty. Klopf, founder and owner of Florida Edible Landscaping, designs, installs and maintains eco-friendly food forests for her clients based on permaculture principles. Permaculture is the practice of applying the patterns found in natural ecosystems to food production. It is better for the environment and results in more nutritious produce than industrial farming, which depletes the soil. In late 2016, Klopf and her team installed a Seed To Table garden on the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation’s property on Captiva. During a recent visit, she harvested carrots, kale, radishes, tomatoes, beans and tomatillos for the on-site chef. “The incredible thing about permaculture is that anyone can do it,” she said. “Virtually any non-edible, non-native plant in your yard can be easily replaced with something wildlife-friendly that you can eat or drink. When it was grown in your backyard, it’s the perfect inspiration to cook something fresh and delicious instead of resorting to less-healthy options.”  

Also a believer in the healing properties of foods, Klopf’s favorites include chamomile and calendula, both common ingredients in tea that can be successfully grown in our region. “Chamomile is very calming and great for treating insomnia,” she said. “Calendula is anti-inflammatory and can soothe a sunburn if you rub it on your skin.” Klopf encourages turmeric and moringa planting. Numerous studies have shown that turmeric is effective in slowing the progress of Alzheimer’s disease, relieving the symptoms of arthritis and treating cancer in animal studies. Nutrient-rich moringa is also anti-inflammatory and may prevent plaque formation in the arteries. It is known to support brain and liver health, speed up the healing of wounds and fight infections. “Moringa is a fascinating plant,” said Klopf. “If I had to recommend one way for people to boost their health by eating a single food, I would tell them to plant a moringa tree and eat one leaf every day.”

Fresh Taqueria on Sanibel brings authentic Mexican fare, meaning healthy ingredients. Photo by Leah Biery.

Fresh Taqueria, a whimsically-decorated space serving outstanding Mexican cuisine – often with a creative twist from chef Jerry Gonzalez – was also founded on the idea that restaurants should serve meals made from fresh ingredients.  “I want to serve our customers the kind of food I would feel comfortable serving my family,” said owner M.G. Whitaker. “Nothing on the table should come from a factory and nothing should contain chemicals, hormones or antibiotics. We will only serve meats that were raised humanely. It’s harder to run a business this way, but I believe it’s the right thing to do.”  

The entrance to Fresh Taqueria’s property makes it clear that Whitaker practices what she preaches. Papaya trees line the parking lot and yuccas, tomato plants, peppers and herbs grow in pots along the walkway. A passion fruit vine climbs over a trellis and up the side of the building. Ingredients are harvested daily and go directly into the tacos, supplemented by produce and sustainable meats and seafood sourced locally. Whitaker added, “When you’re getting your ingredients from nearby farms and your beer from local breweries, you’re not only serving your clients food that is good for them, you’re supporting and reviving your community. Why fund giant corporations when you can buy much better stuff from the guy next door?”  

The restaurant’s best-selling dishes include carnitas tacos made with free-range, acorn-fed pork, vegan tacos made with mushrooms, kale and seasonal squash, Mexican street corn and a pickle plate. “Every item on our pickle plate is made in-house,” said Whitaker. “I’m surprised by how popular it is. Some days we run out of pickles.  I never thought that would happen!” Pickling is a form of fermentation, and pickles contain probiotics, which are beneficial bacteria that enhance body function. Probiotics aid in digestive processes by supporting a healthy gut ecosystem and may reduce depression, aid in weight management, promote skin health and improve heart function. A healthy gut, full of helpful intestinal bacteria, is extremely important for overall health because it is the gateway to our other body systems.  

Kombucha, a type of fermented tea that originated in China, is also a probiotic, and offers a plethora of additional health benefits. “Tea by itself is medicinal, but when it is turned into kombucha it becomes even more therapeutic,” said Margarethe Thye-Miville, owner of Captiva Tea Company. Thye-Miville, who became interested in kombucha when a friend sipped it to reduce nausea and boost her energy while enduring chemotherapy, brews a variety of flavors from her own line of loose-leaf teas. She sells both at the Sanibel Sprout, a quaint vegan café and market that sells an array of alternative health products and at Ambu yoga on Captiva. “In addition to being full of probiotics and antioxidants, kombucha contains glucuronic acid, which helps detoxify the liver,” she said. “It’s also alkaline, so it balances the body’s pH and creates an inhospitable environment for illness, and it is said to alleviate joint pain and arthritis.” Kombucha is delicious, refreshing and restorative and certainly worth a taste if you have never tried it before.  

Individual ingredients may be powerful, but a significant lifestyle shift will improve the way you look and feel and will give you an energy boost that will allow you to enjoy our island paradise more than ever before.  

Information List

  1. Among the Flowers Café
    www.loveamongtheflowers.com
    (239) 312-4085
    2003 Periwinkle Way, Sanibel, FL 33957
  2. Captiva Tea Company
    www.capteaco.com
    (239) 233-5092
  3. Florida Edible Landscaping
    www.floridaediblelandscaping.com
    (239) 777-3814
  4. Fresh Taqueria
    www.freshtaqueria.com
    (239) 579-0114
    2411 Periwinkle Way, Sanibel, FL 33957
  5. The Sanibel Sprout
    www.sanibelsprout.com
    (239) 472-4499
    2463 Periwinkle Way, Sanibel, FL 33957
  6. Ambu Yoga
    www.ambuyoga.com
    (239) 314-9642
    5400 Plantation Rd., Chadwick Square, Captiva, FL 33924
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    03/01/2018
    03:00PM — 04:00PM

    We will take you through the steps of how we source our ingredients, cook, ferment, distill, in o...


  • Complete original art while enjoying friends, music and favorite beverages. Materials provided, o...


  • Manon Lescaut

    03/01/2018
    07:30PM

    Love at first sight strikes the Chevalier Des Grieux and the enchanting Manon Lescaut. They flee ...


  • Northside Hollow

    03/01/2018
    08:00PM

    Trapped underground after a deadly collapse, a coal miner finds his salvation in the arrival of a...


  • The environmental center is open to the public Monday-Saturday, from 8am-4pm, unless there is a p...


  • 81st annual Shell Festival

    03/02/2018
    09:00AM — 05:00PM

    The House flings wide its doors (and grounds) for the 81st annual Shell Festival on Thursday, Mar...


  • Open Painting at The Paint Escape

    03/02/2018
    10:00AM — 06:00PM

    Ceramic painting for children and adults, create a decorative item. Friday night offers ladie...


  • Seminole Shootout Battle Reenactments and a 5-Star Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA) ...


  • Seminole Shootout Battle Reenactments and a 5-Star Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA) ...


  • Friday Nine & Dine

    03/02/2018
    03:30PM

    Looking for a fun golf league at a TEE-rific value and the chance to make some new friends this w...


  • Ladies' Night at The Paint Escape

    03/02/2018
    06:00PM — 09:00PM

    Ceramic painting for children and adults, create a decorative item. Friday night offers ladie...


  • Staged Scenes from great works of Opera and Broadway with Steffanie Pearce, professional soloists...


  • Carmen

    03/02/2018
    07:30PM

    All-consuming, ill-fated passion rules the tumultuous love of a gypsy and a corporal. Carmen ...


  • Dreams of Nature

    03/02/2018
    07:30PM

    Opening the 2018 Spring Season, is Dreams of Nature, featuring Sir Frederick Ashton’s triumphant ...


  • Jonathan Edwards

    03/02/2018
    08:00PM

    In 1971, Jonathan Edwards released a song of protest and independence that began with the lyrics,...


  • Northside Hollow

    03/02/2018
    08:00PM

    Trapped underground after a deadly collapse, a coal miner finds his salvation in the arrival of a...


  • The environmental center is open to the public Monday-Saturday, from 8am-4pm, unless there is a p...


  • Downtown Farmers Market

    03/03/2018
    08:00AM — 01:00PM

    The Cape Coral Farmers’ Market is located in downtown Cape Coral at the intersection of S.E. 47th...


  • Bonita Springs Farmers Market

    03/03/2018
    08:00AM — 12:00PM

    Join us every Saturday from 8 a.m. to noon through April 28th on the west side of the parking lot...


  • 81st annual Shell Festival

    03/03/2018
    09:00AM — 05:00PM

    The House flings wide its doors (and grounds) for the 81st annual Shell Festival on Thursday, Mar...


  • The workshop is designed to give students a way to better understand how to draw the figure. W...


  • Open Painting at The Paint Escape

    03/03/2018
    10:00AM — 06:00PM

    Ceramic painting for children and adults, create a decorative item. Friday night offers ladie...


  • Our Top Rated Fine Art and Fine Craft Festivals are rated #2 in the Nation by sources ranking the...


  • Nature Hike

    03/03/2018
    10:00AM — 11:00AM

    Join a park naturalist for a walk on the Nature Trails of Koreshan State Historic Site. Learn som...


  • Join the community on Saturday, March 3 from 10am-3pm for a day of art in Rubicond Park at the Ca...


  • In this inventive and highly theatrical adaptation, join Peter and Lucy on their travels to Narni...


  • Seminole Shootout Battle Reenactments and a 5-Star Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA) ...


  • Seminole Shootout Battle Reenactments and a 5-Star Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA) ...


  • Songwriter Saturdays

    03/03/2018
    01:00PM — 05:00PM

    The hit sounds and hip artists of Nashville are coming to Captiva Island — as 'Tween Waters Islan...


  • Dreams of Nature

    03/03/2018
    02:00PM

    Opening the 2018 Spring Season, is Dreams of Nature, featuring Sir Frederick Ashton’s triumphant ...


  • Wicked Dolphin Distillery Tour

    03/03/2018
    03:00PM — 04:00PM

    We will take you through the steps of how we source our ingredients, cook, ferment, distill, in o...


  • Complete original art while enjoying friends, music and favorite beverages. Materials provided, o...


  • Norma

    03/03/2018
    07:30PM

    In Roman-occupied Gaul, a Druid priestess and a Roman official—Norma and Pollione—have fallen in ...


  • Dreams of Nature

    03/03/2018
    07:30PM

    Opening the 2018 Spring Season, is Dreams of Nature, featuring Sir Frederick Ashton’s triumphant ...


  • Improv Tonight!

    03/03/2018
    08:00PM

    Join us the first Saturday of every month for some of Southwest Florida’s best improvisational co...


  • Northside Hollow

    03/03/2018
    08:00PM

    Trapped underground after a deadly collapse, a coal miner finds his salvation in the arrival of a...


  • Sanibel Island Farmer's Market

    03/04/2018
    08:00AM — 01:00PM

    The Sanibel Island Farmers Market was established in 2008. It is a favorite outdoor activity for...


  • Our Top Rated Fine Art and Fine Craft Festivals are rated #2 in the Nation by sources ranking the...


  • Manon Lescaut

    03/04/2018
    01:30PM

    Love at first sight strikes the Chevalier Des Grieux and the enchanting Manon Lescaut. They flee ...


  • Northside Hollow

    03/04/2018
    02:00PM

    Trapped underground after a deadly collapse, a coal miner finds his salvation in the arrival of a...


  • The environmental center is open to the public Monday-Saturday, from 8am-4pm, unless there is a p...


  • Mondays with Marie

    03/05/2018
    09:00AM — 02:00PM

    Local artist, Marie Dyer, teaches a variety of workshops including landscape and silk painting fo...


  • Mondays with Marie

    03/05/2018
    09:00AM — 02:00PM

    Local artist, Marie Dyer, teaches a variety of workshops including landscape and silk painting fo...


  • Kid's Cooking Classes

    03/05/2018
    02:30PM — 05:30PM

    Must be at least 8 years old Explore Farm to table cooking Regional specialties & global flavo...


  • Complete original art while enjoying friends, music and favorite beverages. Materials provided, o...


  • Open Painting at The Paint Escape

    03/06/2018
    10:00AM — 06:00PM

    Ceramic painting for children and adults, create a decorative item. Friday night offers ladie...


  • Surfside Sunset Market

    03/06/2018
    01:00PM — 06:00PM

    The Surfside Sunset Market is located at The Shops at Surfside. From November through April, the ...


  • Wicked Dolphin Distillery Tour

    03/06/2018
    03:00PM — 04:00PM

    We will take you through the steps of how we source our ingredients, cook, ferment, distill, in o...


  • Complete original art while enjoying friends, music and favorite beverages. Materials provided, o...


  • Norma

    03/06/2018
    07:30PM

    In Roman-occupied Gaul, a Druid priestess and a Roman official—Norma and Pollione—have fallen in ...


  • Northside Hollow

    03/06/2018
    08:00PM

    Trapped underground after a deadly collapse, a coal miner finds his salvation in the arrival of a...


  • Rotary Club of Bonita Springs: Weekly Meeting

    03/07/2018
    07:00AM — 08:30AM

    Meetings are every Wednesday morning at the Bonita Bay Country Club. Breakfast begins at 7 a.m. a...


  • Open Painting at The Paint Escape

    03/07/2018
    10:00AM — 06:00PM

    Ceramic painting for children and adults, create a decorative item. Friday night offers ladie...


  • Complete original art while enjoying friends, music and favorite beverages. Materials provided, o...


  • Open Mic Night at The French Press

    03/07/2018
    06:30PM — 09:30PM

    Grab your instrument, warm up your voice, Wednesdays from 6:30- 9:30pm.


  • Audubon Society Speaker

    03/07/2018
    06:30PM

    CROW is honored to have the Executive Director of the Florida Audubon society as a special guest ...


  • Carmen

    03/07/2018
    07:30PM

    All-consuming, ill-fated passion rules the tumultuous love of a gypsy and a corporal. Carmen ...


  • Northside Hollow

    03/07/2018
    08:00PM

    Trapped underground after a deadly collapse, a coal miner finds his salvation in the arrival of a...


  • Birdwatching

    03/08/2018
    09:00AM — 10:30AM

    Each Thursday morning, we offer a walking tour to discover the birds of Sanibel Island's East End...


  • Open Painting at The Paint Escape

    03/08/2018
    10:00AM — 06:00PM

    Ceramic painting for children and adults, create a decorative item. Friday night offers ladie...


  • In partnership with the Frances Pew Hayes Center for Lifelong Learning, Hodges University is pres...


  • In partnership with the Frances Pew Hayes Center for Lifelong Learning, Hodges University is pres...


  • Wicked Dolphin Distillery Tour

    03/08/2018
    03:00PM — 04:00PM

    We will take you through the steps of how we source our ingredients, cook, ferment, distill, in o...


  • 14th Annual Magic Under the Mangroves

    03/08/2018
    05:30PM — 09:30PM

    The Conservancy of Southwest Florida will host the 14th annual Magic Under the Mangroves gala din...


  • Complete original art while enjoying friends, music and favorite beverages. Materials provided, o...


  • Shell Point Retirement Community’s 2017-2018 Concert Series welcomes Southwest Florida Symphony t...


  • Norma

    03/08/2018
    07:30PM

    In Roman-occupied Gaul, a Druid priestess and a Roman official—Norma and Pollione—have fallen in ...


  • Northside Hollow

    03/08/2018
    08:00PM

    Trapped underground after a deadly collapse, a coal miner finds his salvation in the arrival of a...


  • The environmental center is open to the public Monday-Saturday, from 8am-4pm, unless there is a p...


  • Open Painting at The Paint Escape

    03/09/2018
    10:00AM — 06:00PM

    Ceramic painting for children and adults, create a decorative item. Friday night offers ladie...


  • Friday Nine & Dine

    03/09/2018
    03:30PM

    Looking for a fun golf league at a TEE-rific value and the chance to make some new friends this w...


  • Ladies' Night at The Paint Escape

    03/09/2018
    06:00PM — 09:00PM

    Ceramic painting for children and adults, create a decorative item. Friday night offers ladie...


  • Cape Coral Star Gazing Party

    03/09/2018
    07:00PM — 10:00PM

    Friday, March 9th, 2018 7pm-10pm Free! No flashlights, please. Join the Southwest Florida ...


  • Carmen

    03/09/2018
    07:30PM

    All-consuming, ill-fated passion rules the tumultuous love of a gypsy and a corporal. Carmen ...


  • Northside Hollow

    03/09/2018
    08:00PM

    Trapped underground after a deadly collapse, a coal miner finds his salvation in the arrival of a...


  • The environmental center is open to the public Monday-Saturday, from 8am-4pm, unless there is a p...


  • Downtown Farmers Market

    03/10/2018
    08:00AM — 01:00PM

    The Cape Coral Farmers’ Market is located in downtown Cape Coral at the intersection of S.E. 47th...


  • Bonita Springs Farmers Market

    03/10/2018
    08:00AM — 12:00PM

    Join us every Saturday from 8 a.m. to noon through April 28th on the west side of the parking lot...


  • Community Beach Walk

    03/10/2018
    09:00AM

    Join us for a casual guided beach walk to explore what's washed ashore. Let's talk about some of ...


  • Open Painting at The Paint Escape

    03/10/2018
    10:00AM — 06:00PM

    Ceramic painting for children and adults, create a decorative item. Friday night offers ladie...


  • Nature Hike

    03/10/2018
    10:00AM — 11:00AM

    Join a park naturalist for a walk on the Nature Trails of Koreshan State Historic Site. Learn som...


  • Sun Splash Opening Day!

    03/10/2018
    10:00AM — 05:00PM

    Slide into the 2018 season with some fun in the sun March 10th from 10am - 5pm!☺️☀️ Enjoy 14-a...


  • In this inventive and highly theatrical adaptation, join Peter and Lucy on their travels to Narni...


  • Wicked Dolphin Distillery Tour

    03/10/2018
    03:00PM — 04:00PM

    We will take you through the steps of how we source our ingredients, cook, ferment, distill, in o...


  • The Black Party

    03/10/2018
    05:00PM

    Sarasota's most exciting all-black-attire event returns for it's third installment. On March 10, ...


  • Complete original art while enjoying friends, music and favorite beverages. Materials provided, o...


  • Tiefland

    03/10/2018
    07:30PM

    Marta is the unwilling mistress of a wealthy landowner, Sebastiano. To keep the poor girl near hi...


  • Northside Hollow

    03/10/2018
    08:00PM

    Trapped underground after a deadly collapse, a coal miner finds his salvation in the arrival of a...


  • Sanibel Island Farmer's Market

    03/11/2018
    08:00AM — 01:00PM

    The Sanibel Island Farmers Market was established in 2008. It is a favorite outdoor activity for...


  • Norma

    03/11/2018
    01:30PM

    In Roman-occupied Gaul, a Druid priestess and a Roman official—Norma and Pollione—have fallen in ...


  • Northside Hollow

    03/11/2018
    02:00PM

    Trapped underground after a deadly collapse, a coal miner finds his salvation in the arrival of a...


  • Bernstein At 100

    03/11/2018
    07:00PM — 09:00PM

    Fort Myers Symphonic Mastersingers Jeffrey Faux, Artistic Director A celebration of Leonard B...