Your life – your food!
Eat better – live better (and longer and happier). Many people eat loads of junk food and they live a long time.
Does it really matter what we eat?
How important is protein – milk, meat, eggs and fish?
Wheat is nearly all sugar – true or false?
I’ll talk about ‘diet’ – but I am not talking here about a diet to lose weight – though you may do so. This kind of diet is a diet to get healthy and to keep healthy.
Have you heard the expression “Rubbish in – rubbish out” ?
It means – if you eat poor quality food – such as junk food – then you can’t expect your body to use it to make good quality cells, bones, muscles and organs.
Cola and fast food do not make good body parts. The human body can cope with fast food – as long as it’s only occasional. But you know this really, don’t you.
Doesn’t it make sense?
I’m talking mainly to those of you who KNOW you should do something about your diet – but:
Don’t quite know where to start…. or can’t quite be bothered…. or are too busy….
Do you know what I mean? Is this you??….
The good news is – you can improve your good health potential very quickly – by changing your diet for the better now.
What is good health potential? The better your health habits are, the higher is your good health potential. One health habit you can easily work on every day is improving your diet.
If you have a high good health potential this is fantastic for your general health. It means that:
- If you are unwell, you will tend to get better quicker
- If you have various symptoms you’d rather be without, you should get rid of them faster and more easily
- If you are feeling fine, you will continue feeling fine for longer
The six rules for a health giving diet
- Load your diet with fruits and non-starchy vegetables.
- Buy a wide variety of fruits and vegetables.
- Eat as much raw food – for example, salads – as possible. Have a side-salad with every meal.
- Cut right down on dairy foods and red meat.
- Eat organic wherever possible.
- Get your digestion working well.
These rules are not universal – but nearly so; for most people they will improve good health quickly.
If raw food really doesn’t suit you because it is too cold, then have more cooked vegetables. If fruit does not suit you, for example because you have candida, then do what you need to do for that condition.
Apart from such exceptions as these, the six rules will give your health a well-needed boost.
Three things to avoid in your diet
Most manufactured foods have chemicals added to them during their processing; it has been calculated that the average person eats several pounds of these chemicals every year – colourings, flavourings, preservatives, artificial vitamins, and so on.
This situation is improving – but there are still plenty of chemicals out there in food. Avoid them as much as possible.
Nearly all breakfast cereals, baked beans, many fruit drinks, and most other processed foods have significant amounts of sugar added during production.
Eating sugar reduces consumption of foods which would be more nourishing; malnutrition then occurs because white and most brown sugars contain little nourishment. These sugars are nearly 100% carbohydrate, containing virtually no vitamins, minerals, or trace elements which are essential to proper body functioning.
Other problems which sugar may cause are:
- Mood changes
- Tooth decay
The idea promoted by many advertisers of sweets that ‘sugar = energy’ is misleading; all carbohydrates – bread, flour, biscuits, as well as those which are present in beans and pulses, grains, and vegetables – consist of 100% sugar! This type of sugar is slowly released by the body during the process of
digestion, and any excess is stored for later use; so eating a natural, healthy diet will supply all the sugar the body could possibly need.
If you want a sweetener – try molasses or muscavado sugars. These have more taste than white or demerara sugars, but you will probably get to prefer them after a short time. Honestly – try it. Molasses is full of valuable minerals. After using molasses sugar for a month, white sugar tastes very concentrated and unpleasant.
It is widely accepted by researchers that average salt consumption in the western world is much too high for good health. The main problem that such high consumption causes is high blood pressure, which in turn leads to higher risk of strokes, and heart attacks.
High consumption of salt has come about largely because of the hidden salt present in most processed foods. Salt deadens the taste buds, so that unsalted food appears tasteless; hence many people add even more salt to increase flavour! The way out of this vicious circle is to cut down on salt, or cut it out altogether, until the taste buds have become ‘re-educated’; this will normally take only a few weeks. After this time, the natural salt present in food – especially vegetables – can be tasted, and extra salt will rarely be needed.
If you feel you must have salt, use one of the salt substitutes available in health food shops. These consist of a balance of sodium, potassium, and other salts, and so are less damaging to health.
A balanced diet should include protein, carbohydrates, fats and fibre, as well as vitamins and minerals in correct proportion.
We need less protein than many people imagine. This false impression dates back to when protein was discovered. Many national governments encouraged their populations to ‘boost their health’ by encouraging them to eat lots of protein. They thought – “If a little keeps you alive – a lot must be better” Wrong!
We operate better on a little protein.
Two or three ounces a day is all the average person needs. This small amount can easily be obtained from vegetables and fruits. Grains such as wheat, pulses, nuts and seeds also contain protein.
Nutritionally, many naturopaths believe there is just no need in the diet for milk, cheese, meat or fish. In an individual case, it may be found that fish, for example, improves health. But for most people high-protein foods such as these are not at all necessary for good health. Excess protein simply gives the body a lot of work to do breaking it down, then dealing with the resulting nitrogen – which, otherwise, combines with three hydrogen ions in the body to make ammonia – a deadly poison.
Protein is broken down by the body into its component “amino acids”. As far as the body is concerned, as long as it gets its eight “essential” amino acids, it can function fine.
All vegetables contain some of these eight essential amino acids. (Fruits contain aminos too – but not as many as vegetables.) Eat a reasonable variety of vegetables – and you are easily getting all 8 of the essentials. Also, beans and pulses – such as lentils – contain most of the 8 essential amino acids.
So called ‘whole protein’ – meat, eggs, cheese, milk, fish – contain all eight essential amino acids. This is why governments used to tell us how essential meat and fish were for health – it seemed like good sense at the time.
But as I said above, we only need 2-3 ounces a day for good functioning. And this is easily obtained if you eat a reasonable variety of vegetables and fruit, preferably together with some beans and pulses. So don’t worry about having to have “whole protein” to keep you alive. It’s not true. I’ve not heard of
anyone in the West dying from protein deficiency, have you?
If you really want whole protein – go for soya beans (or tofu, which is made from soya) – or “go nuts”! – nuts are ‘whole protein’.
All starchy foods consist mainly of carbohydrate.
These include bread, wheat, oats, barley (these also contain protein), and all sweet foods – sugar is nearly all carbohydrate. In addition all fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds contain varying amounts of carbohydrates.
A certain amount of carbohydrate is beneficial as it provides energy for the body to function. However, acids are produced during the digestion of carbohydrates, which make it undesirable to eat large amounts, as these acids are harmful to health. They lead to overproduction of mucous in the body, tension in the nervous system, and tend to encourage disease processes in general.
It is preferable if carbohydrate comprises only a small proportion of the diet. A diet in which vegetables and fruit make up 70-80% of the food eaten, and beans, pulses and grains, the remaining 20-30% will help to avoid excessive acids collecting in the body – and, being high in natural fibre, will also benefit
the bowel in a natural way.
An exception to this general rule, is if you are working manually, or are an athlete – then you will need extra carbohydrate for endurance. The best type of carbohydrate for you is complex carbohydrate – bread and rice; rather than simple carbohydrate – sugar, sweets, etc.
By the way, all carbohydrates – for example bread, rice, oats – consist predominantly of… sugar! Hard to believe – but don’t be fooled by the fact that these grains don’t taste very sweet. The sugar molecules in carbohydrates combine with each other so that the sweet taste is absent. Once inside the body, these
‘complex’ sugars are broken down and used by the body for energy in the same way as ‘simple sugars’ – such as refined sugar, raw sugar, or honey. As they have to be broken down, complex sugars release their energy in a slow, healthy way. Simple sugars, on the other hand, boost the amount of sugar in the blood rapidly, only to send it plummeting again a short time later. This see-saw effect, many naturopaths agree, contributes to diabetes – a very unpleasant disease of the pancreas.
Fats and oils
Fatty acids from fats and oils are essential for the body – not least for the contribution they make to keeping the nerves healthy. The equivalent of 1-2 dessertspoons of a good cold-pressed oil should normally be enough to supply the essential fatty acids required by the body each day.
A characteristic of fat is that it keeps you feeling satisfied for quite a long time. So, a packet of crisps or a similar greasy snack sees off the pangs of hunger quite efficiently. The only trouble is – it’s not healthy fat. Not surprising really, is it?
Manufacturers used to load food with cheap fats to make them feel satisfying to the consumer. Now that fat has fallen into disrepute – ‘low fat’ is the rage. But manufacturers are still up to their tricks! The main one is that the fat content may be low – but the sugar content is raised to compensate. So you are
swapping one unhealthy ingredient for another!
Or, even worse, it’s low fat – and artificially sweetened. I say go for sugar rather than sweeteners; there are too many question marks over these chemicals.
Read the ingredients of what you buy. Supermarkets tend to hop on the band wagon when they see a trend, bless ’em. Don’t trust them to look after your health. Do read the ingredients.
Even better – a general rule is – avoid manufactured foods as much as possible. Natural foods – especially fruit and vegetables present their components in a balanced way. Eat a variety of fruit and vegetables, and let them predominate your diet. Add a little protein and carbohydrate, and you will find it hard to
have an unhealthy diet.
The basic rule of fats is; keep them to a minimum. Opinions among researchers are virtually unanimous that low fat intake correlates with a low incidence of heart and arterial disease.
Studies of societies in which heart disease is almost unknown show that their population all consume only small amounts of fats.
A certain amount of fat is required in the diet; but this should be of the ‘unsaturated’ type, which is best produced by a method called cold-pressing.
In fact, preferably, cook your own food! Find ten meals which are nutritious and easy to make, and rotate them. That way, you are sure you have minimal dodgy additives – and you can control the fat content yourself.
One exception to the ‘low fat’ ideal is suggested by what is going on in Mediterranean countries, where the fat content of the diet is quite high, but heart disease is fairly moderate. This has been attributed to the value of olive oil in the diet. This oil appears to have properties that no other oil has. In frying, for example, it does not quickly become saturated (saturated fat is hard for the body to digest) as do most oils.
So use olive oil when you do fry; and use it too in dressings for salad. It can also be stirred into home-made soups to make them satisfying. This is a healthier way to take oil, rather than frying the ingredients at the beginning of preparation – and it makes the soup more satisfying. Make sure you get ‘virgin’ olive oil, or ‘cold-pressed’. If your olive oil is yellow – this is a bad sign – it may well be extracted using heat, which is not good. Look for green olive oil.
Fibre moves the food eaten through the intestines at an efficient rate; this means not too quickly, so that all nutrients can be absorbed; and not too slowly, so food waste does not putrefy before passing out of the body.
The easiest way to eat sufficient fibre, is to eat a high proportion of vegetables and fruit (up to 80%) in the diet. This way, you do not have to worry about eating special breakfast cereals, bran, or other ‘high fibre’ products which are often surprisingly high in sugar and salt (again!) content, and which may damage the bowel through scratching it. In addition, you are getting extra vitamins, minerals, and enzymes, from the vegetables and fruit.
Most of the common drinks in this country are unhealthy in one way or another. Coffee contains caffeine (decaffeinated is little better, because of the chemical processing it usually undergoes); tea usually contains dye, in addition to caffeine; milk is mucous-forming, and for this reason it can be harmful to health; fizzy drinks are loaded with sugar or chemical sweeteners. Even fruit with no added sugar juices are usually packed in aluminium-lined containers, so
encouraging aluminium poisoning.
So what can one do? Aren’t the odds impossible? No – the answer must combine what is healthy, with what is practical.
If you drink a high proportion of the drinks mentioned above, your initial approach should be to take positive steps to cut down on these by a significant amount – say by 50- 75%. You might like to cut down to a certain number (a small number!) of cups of tea a day; or perhaps only drink coffee when
having dinner out.
Methods such as these can be helpful in reducing your intake of harmful beverages.
Alcohol is best drunk only occasionally. It is a substance which is treated by the body as a poison and, in overdose, can overload the Liver in the same way as other poisons. Alcohol is also addictive, and regular use will create a desire for more. For these reasons, alcohol should be taken only occasionally, for example a glass or two of wine once or twice a week should do no harm. This said, if you are undergoing a course of therapy, it would be better if you could avoid intoxicating substances altogether.
Healthy alternative drinks
Pleasant tasting alternative drinks are available: here are some suggestions which many people have found helpful.
Herbal teas are available from health stores in great variety, and you should have no difficulty in finding a few of these which are to your taste. The teas are available in tea bags for convenience, and some are available by the ounce, which is a more economical way of buying them. By sampling several different types, you will establish your own particular tastes.
Many people enjoy fruit juices, either hot or cold. Those in bottles are preferable, so avoiding aluminium contamination from the linings of fruit juice cartons.
A convenient way to have a hot fruit drink is to buy concentrated apple juice, which can be bought in a syrup form from health food shops. Put a little in a cup and fill with boiling water. For extra flavour, you can add half a cinnamon stick and leave for a few minutes to infuse.
Water is one of the best drinks available. If you do not have a filter, or are not at home, bottled water is fine. It is usually just tap water filtered with a carbon filter. (Don’t believe the picture on the bottle in most cases…)
It is certainly beneficial for most people to drink 1-2 litres of water a day.
Don’t forget the number one dietary health recommendation for your body is eat lots of vegetables and fruit
This is the food your body loves. This may not feel right to you at first – because you are not yet in the habit. Try it for a month, though – and you will feel different.
If you are having trouble – try this – have a mixed side-salad with every meal. This is not difficult, and it makes a huge difference. Whenever you have a sandwich, have salad on whatever filling you have. (Tricky if you like peanut butter and banana – but hey – you might start a trend!)
Bit by bit or all at once
Many people find it easiest to change their diet gradually, week by week. In this way, the diet can be made much more healthy – and enjoyably so – over a period of some months. Others prefer to change all at once; it is a matter of personal taste.
Your family may disapprove. You just have to persist with your chosen diet – and the family will either have to join you, or learn to accept your new ways.
Most families can slowly be brought round to eating healthier food – apart from anything else, once they get used to it, it is much tastier than unhealthy food. Don’t preach though – let them come around in their own time.
If they don’t, then with a little bit of planning, you can eat part of the family meals, then add a mixed salad, with nuts, fruit, sprouts and so on for yourself. In this way, little extra effort should be involved.
The main thing in changing your diet is to change at your own pace, but keep at it. In this way, whether you go quickly or slowly, you will still get there in the end.
- Centre your diet around vegetables, salads, and fruit. Have more of these vital, healthy foods at every opportunity.
- Stick to fresh foods as much as possible. Reduce manufactured foods to a bare minimum – they are usually preserved either by boiling, or adding chemicals, or plenty of salt or sugar.
- You need less protein than you may think. The chances of you suffering from protein deficiency are remote to non-existent. Most people can cut down on their protein comsumption with only good effects.
- Reduce sugar and salt. Avoid artificial sweeteners altogether.
- Drink at least a litre of water a day – preferably chlorine-free. (Bottled is fine – a ‘GAC’ (granular activated carbon) water filter on the tap is much cheaper. A jug filter is cheaper than bottled water, but costs more per litre than a filter on the tap. But follow manufacturers’ instructions carefully to avoid bacterial growth; the filter must be changed, and not allowed to dry out.
NB Don’t play around with your health
If you have a recognised illness, and especially if taking pharmaceuticals, you definitely need assistance and advice from someone used to dealing with these situations. Seek the advice of a sympathetic doctor, and find an experienced naturopath to assist you to get well. Listen to the guidance and help offered, then make up your own mind what to do. Don’t be pushed into any decision you don’t really want to take. It’s the only way to learn about your health.
A few people experience ‘cleansing reactions’ as the body ‘throws off toxins’, when carrying out natural healthcare methods. Examples of these reactions include loose bowels, headaches and temporary tiredness. The general advice for such reactions is to ease off on the treatment until they calm down, then resume at a more gentle pace. If you are in good general health, you should cope easily with such reactions. Some people even feel good at this time – a sign that the body is happy to be getting rid of a burden.
However, it is always most helpful to have professionals on hand who you can turn to for support and advice when using natural healthcare methods. And, as mentioned above, if you have a recognised illness, it is essential for your safety and good health to have professionals – both in the alternative and regular medical fields – to whom you can turn for help.