Healthy Eating

The food that we eat is a major fact in determining our health; a good wholesome diet tailored to the needs of the individual is one of the most effective forms of prevention of illness. Needless to say, herbal remedies (or any other health programmes) will have a more positive and longer lasting effect if the body ceases to be polluted with poor quality foods.

Perhaps the most important thing to consider about the food we eat is the quality of it. Much of the food available in mainstream supermarkets, shops, restaurants, cafes, canteens etc is polluted with dangerous chemicals and additives, is genetically modified and is so highly processed that it barely resembles the plant or animal from which it came. Whether we are meat eaters, vegetarians or vegans it makes sense to eat ORGANIC foods. Non organic foods have many chemicals added to them whilst growing to 'protect' them, after harvesting to preserve them for unnatural lengths of time and even before going onto the shelves to make them more cosmetically appealing.

ORGANIC foods have been grown on soil which is super healthy and contains only the nutrients that nature intended. The use of toxic chemicals is forbidden on the soil and of course the food grown on it. Eating organic produce ensures we take in as few harmful chemicals and as many health giving nutrients as possible –some researchers have shown that organically produced foods contain up to 75% more nutrients than non organic foods. Family and friends will benefit from the meals cooked for them, especially children and the sick whose metabolisms are more delicate. Eating organic is a major way in which to lay the foundations for good health. It also protects and promotes the delicate balance of nature.

BALANCE is a word we have all heard in relation to diet. This simply means that we need to select foods on a daily basis from the 3 main categories of food stuff i.e. Protein, Carbohydrates and Fat (Fibre is discussed later) in proportions which best suit the bodys needs. The body uses carbohydrates as fuel for all its metabollic processes and as such would ideally form the main part of the daily diet (between 70 & 75%). Protein is needed to build, maintain and repair structure and should form about 20% with fats and oils making up the remainder. Of course it would be difficult and impracticle to calculate what percentages of these catergories was being consumed at each meal. As discussed in the 'cast of characters' section it is also not entirely necessary as most foods contain at least two of the catergories whilst many contain all. For example millet is high in both carbohydrates and protein whereas hempseed contains fat, protein, carbohydrate and fibre – a handful of hempseeds is a small but very nutritious meal in it's own right!

In so called advanced countries such as ours health problems often develop as a result of a dependance on one or more of the above catergories e.g. coronary disease due to an overabundance of adulterated fats and oils, or diabetes resulting from excessive refined carbohydrate consumption. It is important to consider your lifestyle when trying to achieve this balance. For example a physically active person will use up and therefore need more carbohydrate than a generally inactive person and a growing child will need a higher proportional amount of body building protein in their diet than the average adult etc. The key is to think about your own body's needs and those of your family and feed accordingly.

When choosing the food you eat (whether it is for it's known carbohydrate, protein, fat, fibre, vitamin, or mineral content) it can be highly beneficial to select as wide a VARIETY as possible. For instance, instead of relying on oranges alone for their vitamin C content (e.g. to help a cold) include foods such as blackcurrants, rosehips, peas, broccoli, kale and watercress which contain the same or often much higher levels of the vitamin. Eating a wide range of foods ensures the body receives many other types of nutrient and magical plant chemistry as an added bonus. Each food has it’s own unique energetics, nutritional qualities, colour, shape, texture, taste and even cooking technique which helps to keep the body nourished on all levels – physically, mentally and spiritually. In the days when we were hunter gatherers the average human consumed over 100 different species of plant as a result of their non-agricultural or nomadic way of life. The human body is better equipped to deal with the myriad of natural foods still available to us than it is to being burdened by excessive wheat or potato consumption – and after all variety is the spice of life!

Once a good balance of a wide range of organic foods has been selected, we need to think about COOKING it. How we cook our foods is almost as important as the kind of food we are eating. On a physical level our life processes depend upon the functioning of Enzymes. The body manufactures enzymes for many purposes including immune responses, metabolism and the digestion and assimilation of food. Enzyme quantities within the body are known to be directly linked to our vitality and energy levels e.g. after long term illness enzyme levels are grossly depleted. Raw foods are positively bursting with enzymes which are specific for their efficient digestion and they start to work the moment we start chewing them mixing with our own salivary enzymes to break down their cell walls. As the food is already partially digested by the time it reaches the stomach, less of the bodys precious enzmes are required to complete the work and the plant enzymes themselves are assimilated , boosting the levels within the body giving added energy and vitality. Regular consumption of raw plant foods such as vegetables, fruit, sprouted seeds and beans will increase energy levels to such a degree that the whole being feels bursting with life force. Cooking food can not only destroy anything from 50% of vitamins ( especially water soluble C and B complex ) but also the enzyme content having a devitalizing effect in the long run. Cooked food also provokes an immune response as if the stomach were reacting to an invasion of pathogens. It appears that the longer the food is cooked and the higher the temperature it is cooked at the greater the immune response is. Over time this can weaken the natural immunity of an individual by over burdening the entire immune system. Interestingly, if cooked food is eaten alongside raw food this response by the body is reduced somewhat.

Obviously some foods such as grains and pulses do not taste good or are not practical to eat raw as they need to be softened by cooking or sprouting. Yet there are ‘healthier’ ways to cook ; light steaming preserves 30% more nutrients than prolonged boiling and slow cookers do not destroy the integrity of grains keeping them as ‘alive’ as possible. Steaming or par boiling, sauteeing, slow cooking and slow baking are the most vitality preserving methods of cooking. In warm weather we naturally want lighter, water rich foods so can eat more raw salads or lightly steamed foods served cool or at room temperature. In winter we need more warming and comforting foods so methods such as slow simmering, slow baking or slow cookers and sauteeing are more appropriate.

A highly beneficial and practical way of including plenty of raw food in the daily diet is to include fresh homemade JUICES. Investing in a cheap (under £30) and simple electric juicer opens up a whole world of vitalising and nutritious energy drinks. Fresh juices contain an array of vitamins, minerals, enzymes, some fibre, water and many other health promoting substances such as biofllavanoids and antioxidants to name a few. Juices give many nutritional benefits of several carrots, apples, celery sticks for example in one wholesome and filling drink. They give an almost instany energy boost and can rapidly help nurture a sick person back to good health. They are very easily digested as the enzymes remain intact and begin digestion in the mouth (for this reason linger over each mouthful to mix thoroughly with saliva). Once in the stomach digestion is quick and nutrients are rapidly absorbed into the body. Juices are also very cleansing to the body and are an excellent addition to any detoxification programme. Their high water content and plant acids help to remove toxins from the digestive tract. Additionally, fruit and veg have an alkalizing effect in the body which helps to neutralize over acidic blood caused by an excess of protein (generally due to overconsumption of animal products such as meat and dairy foods), refined carbohydrates, sugar and processed foods.

Virtually any fruit, vegetable or sprouted seed can be juiced though it is best to research into the properties of the ingredients ( read some good books! ) as some combinations such as vegetables with fruit can cause flatulence. Juices for first timers and children should always be diluted due to their concentrated nature. Ultimately, daily juices will eliminate the need for expensive vitamin, mineral and other supplements. Many of which are synthetic and take long periods of time to break down in the digestive tract or even pass through completely unabsorbed.

HERBAL TEAS are another excellent quick and easy way to include extra nutrients. Combinations of herbs can be used to provide the required nutrients e.g. a high calcium tea could contain nettle, red raspberry, boneset and oatstraw whereas an iron drink could consist of yellow dock root, red raspberry, parsley, nettle, chickweed and mullein. When combining herbal teas for daily use bear in mind that many herbs also have medicinal effects. All of those mentioned above have generally mild tonic or cleansing effects and could be drunk reasonably regularly – the safest being nettle which can be taken freely on a daily basis. The magical thing about herbs is that they can provide 'food' for a particular body system or specific organ. The following is a list of a few safe herbs which will both nourish and support different areas of the body:

  • CARDIOVASCULAR
    Hawthorn berries, Garlic, Cayenne pepper, Burdock root and Dandelion root. Also include foods that are bitter, rich in calcium and magnesium.
  • NERVOUS
    Algaes, Chamomile, Siberian ginseng ( Eleuthrococcus ), Oats, Lime blossom. Also include foods rich in calcium and B vitamins.
  • ADRENAL GLANDS
    Siberian ginseng, Parsley tea. Also use herbs and foods for the nervous system.
  • RESPIRATORY
    Usnea, Mullein, Plantain, Elder flowers. Also stop smoking and deep breathe.
  • DIGESTIVE
    Chamomile, Garlic, Cayenne, Slippery elm, Lemon juice, Dandelion root, Burdock root. Also include bitter foods, plenty of fibre and extra virgin Olive oil.
  • URINARY
    Dandelion leaf and root, Apples and homemade juice. Also include homemade Barley water and Potassium broth.
  • IMMUNE
    Siberian ginseng, Garlic, Elder flowers, Pau d'arco.
  • MUSCULOSKELETAL
    Nettle, Red raspberry, Carrot juice plus other foods and herbs rich in Calcium and Iron.
  •  Ideally the strictest eating regimes should be regarded as temporary, adhered to as part of a deep cleansing programme during chronic or acute disease states. The ultimate goal must surely be to achieve a broad, free and conscious way of eating using the best quality natural foods.

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