Here at Evenstar Wellbeing I’m all about energy, and food is the energy that we consciously and deliberately put into our bodies. It is literally fuel for living, for every aspect of our lives. So, if you enjoy living a good life, or you’d like to live a better one, the number one action that you can take is to pay attention to what you are fuelling your body, and your life, with. It’s a sad fact that many people in the modern western world treat their motor vehicles better than they do their human vehicles!
The simplest thing to keep in mind when deciding to focus on your food energy is to eat food. Yep, simply eat food. Don’t put things into your body that are in fact ‘food-like’ substances (ie. highly processed, packaged products) that we’ve been conditioned over the last few decades to think of as food. Your body actually doesn’t know what to do with a fuel source that it doesn’t recognise. How do you know if something you’re putting in your mouth is food? Ask yourself, is it something that your ancestors, even as little time ago as your grandparents, would recognise as food?
A whole food is something that is grown on planet earth – either plant or animal - and you could walk into a farm and touch it with your very own hands. Whole foods are nutrient dense and have no artificial additives. Something that comes in a plastic packet and has dozens of ingredients listed is not a whole food!
There are colourings, flavourings, preservatives, enhancers, synthetic antioxidants … the list goes on. None of these are things that the human body was designed to process and none of them provide any nutrients. So why are they there? Because additives can make food products,
- taste better to the modern day palate
- cheaper to produce and
- last a lot longer.
Just think about preservatives for a moment. It’s really not logical to eat a food that is laced with a chemical that is designed to make it last longer. What is that food going to do in your gut? How is your body going to process a chemical that designed as a protective armour for the molecules of the food? The answer is that it can’t, and instead it will oftentimes be stored as the toxin that it is and interfere with other essential processes in the body.
I am convinced that the consumption of all of these chemicals is contributing to the growing number of chronic, and often serious, illnesses and a general lack of wellbeing amongst the greater population in western society.
How to Avoid Additives
Your best weapon in avoiding additives is to carefully read labels! The first rule of thumb is to go for products with the shortest list of ingredients possible (some in the nutrition world say 5 should be the maximum). If there is an ingredient that you don’t recognise, chances are it’s not food. Another easy trick to remember when you’re shopping is firstly that smaller businesses and especially organic shops will often have products with far fewer (if any) additives – so check out the tomato sauce that the butcher sells or the dips at the greengrocer. Inevitably you’ll have to go into a large supermarket at some point though and the tip here is to stay around the edges of the shop – in every supermarket in the world you’ll find the whole foods around the sides and the packaged stuff in the middle!
To get the most up to date list of the dangerous additives that you should completely avoid go to the Fed Up website. Don’t forget that a flavouring or colouring can be called “Natural” even if it only has a tiny percentage of the natural substance in it so you should avoid them too.
To read up on exactly what chemicals are contained in the food additives you are seeing on a label, Chemical Maze is a fabulous resource.
Eat the Rainbow
Once you start getting into more whole foods you’ll realise that there is such a wide variety of delicious plants – vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, grains - around. Eating more plant based foods is (for the majority of humans) a good idea. Our ancestors evolved in this way because they didn’t have to catch plants in order to eat them! To get all the essential vitamins, minerals, fibre and other micro nutrients that are required for your body to run optimally it is important to select a broad range from the variety of plant foods available. An easy way to ensure that you are doing this is to think about the colours of the rainbow and mentally check them off each day to ensure that you have eaten a plant based food from each colour that day. Dr Rangan Chatterjee even has a chart you can download and put on your fridge to help you do this
As a rough guide ensure that half of your plate is coloured vegetables, a quarter protein (plant – tofu, legumes - or animal) and the other quarter a low GI carbohydrate (red rice, red potato, whole grain pasta). Or as Alexx Stuart from Low Tox Life says, double your veg and halve everything else!!
I’m sure you’ve begun to realise that if you’re buying more whole foods and less processed, packaged stuff that means that you’re also going to be doing more cooking from scratch! Yes, great observation, and what a thing to celebrate!
Get the whole household involved - it doesn’t need to be arduous or complicated. There are so many sources of easy, delicious recipes and ways of cooking available. The beautiful thing about cooking your own meals from whole food ingredients is that you know exactly what is in them and how they were prepared – no guessing, no reading labels and no asking a zillion questions of wait-staff! Also preparing our own meals with whole foods allows us a wonderful opportunity to immerse all of our senses in the process – the sound of the knife slicing through different varieties of vegetables, the look of the beautiful colours together, the texture of each component of the meal, the different smells that diffuse into your kitchen as each new ingredient is added and of course the taste of the end result. It also allows us to re-connect with mother earth, the source of all life, and feel and express gratitude for how lucky we are to be alive right now. You might like to create a gratitude practice to verbalise this before you eat. Saying ‘grace’ may sound old fashioned but it has a lot of meaning, and gratitude is so good for your wellbeing. Then as you eat, mindfully take each bite, digesting again with all your senses and slowing the process down, ensuring you chew each mouthful a minimum of 10 times.
To get you started here are a couple of my favourite recipes!
I would also highly recommend the recipes on the Low Tox Life website.
To get you started you might like to take a few online cooking classes with the wonderful Camilla at CB Wellness Therapy.
In the Surroundings aspect of Evenstar 5 Star Wellbeing, I like to bring awareness to the multitude of toxins in our immediate environment and unfortunately, this does also apply to our Food. We’ve covered off a little of this above, talking about additives in processed food-like substances.
The other key toxins in food come from farming practices, so this is where it is important to consider organic food.
In order to provide the huge quantities of food required to supply manufacturers and supermarkets within tight timeframes, primary growers generally use copious amounts of chemicals in the process. They use pesticides, fungicides, genetically modified components and artificial fertilisers. As with substances added to food in manufacturing, the human body is not designed to process chemicals that are added to foods when they are being grown. One example of a problem here is the phthalates that are found in pesticides. This group of chemicals interferes with the activity of hormones, which basically drive all chemical processes in the body. Phthalates have been associated with fertility issues in women and men, asthma and allergies, breast cancer and bone density issues.
So what are organic products in Australia? If you buy something that is Certified Organic then you know that it has been produced without the use of artificial chemicals, irradiation and fumigants. It does not necessarily mean that the product is totally chemical free as it may have been produced on land that was previously treated with chemicals and retains traces of this. Also, certain naturally occurring pesticides, including pyrethrins, light oils, copper and sulphur and some other biological substances are permitted for use in organic farming. Organically farmed animals may have been vaccinated but will not have been given hormones, steroids or antibiotics and are generally farmed in a more humane manner.
Naturally, (pun intended!) organic farming is also better for the environment as it reduces the decline in soil fertility caused by excessive chemical usage, as well as the run off of these chemicals into waterways. To obtain organic certification is a very expensive and time consuming process and many small producers simply can’t justify this but you may find them at farmer’s markets and the like selling their spray-free produce, which is amazing! When buying in a store be aware that organic labelling is not regulated so a manufacturer can say that a product is organic without it being certified.
I would encourage you to buy organic products from organic grocers because unfortunately in mainstream stores organic products are usually excessively packaged so as to make it clear at the check out that you need to be charged the organic price! This packaging then probably detracts a huge amount of the environmental benefit of buying organic! Yes, organic produce is more expensive but the organic food market in Australia is growing all the time, with consumer demand increasing by more than 30% each year and this will accordingly lead to an eventual reduction in the pricing differential. If, like many of us, you simply can’t afford to buy everything organic then become aware of which fruit and vegetables are the most susceptible to retaining chemicals and try to at least buy those ones organic. There is a very useful list called The Dirty Dozen and The Clean Fifteen which is produced in the USA but is still applicable in Australia (however luckily pesticide residue is regulated here).
My other tip with going organic is to start with the (say top 3) things that are consumed in the greatest quantities in your household and buy them organic because you won’t make much of an impact on your chemical residue intake if you for example ensure you only buy organic tomatoes, but you only eat one tomato a week. If you eat oats for brekkie every day, get the organic ones next time!
If for whatever reason, buying organic produce is not possible for you, you can wash your fruit and veggies to remove the chemicals. You can buy produce washes from brands such as Abode or Dr Bronner through Biome or The Well Store. Or you can make your own with vinegar – either 1 part white vinegar to 4 parts water, or 1 tbls of apple cider vinegar per cup of water.
The other way that toxins enter the food chain is via storage methods. The main culprit is plastic. The issue is that many plastics are quite unstable chemical compounds and when food is stored in them their chemical constituents and micro plastics (microscopic particles of plastic) leach into the food.
What is the problem with plastics? Well I wrote a whole Blog about this so feel free to check it out: Plastics. Could they be impacting your health? Importantly this Blog also makes suggestions about what to use instead of plastic for food storage, and also how to help yourself detoxify from all the plastics you’ve been using up until now, so it really is essential reading!!
When you sleep well, your brain functions optimally and you have the motivation to eat the right foods. If you don’t eat nutrient dense foods you tend not to sleep well! Lack of sleep means that the body remains in fight or flight mode and the brain sends messages to your cells to hold onto fat because it doesn’t know when it might need that fat to survive – making weight loss much more difficult. So, prioritise sleep and your relationship with Food will also improve – it’s a beautiful cycle.
Importantly, eating too close to bed time will detract from sleep quality because your digestive system will be using energy to process your meal instead of that energy being available to clean and repair cells, which occurs in deep sleep. Try to finish eating a few hours before you want to fall asleep.
Just like the interrelationship between Food and Sleep, the interrelationship between Food and Movement is bi-directional. Eat well and you have the energy and motivation to move your body, eat not so well and the opposite results. I recently wrote a Blog called the Magic of Movement that goes into all the detail about why moving our bodies is essential. In my upcoming interview with nutritionist Holly Niles, she is really clear on the fact that a steady source of nutrient dense food sources is the best way to have the energy to do what you need to do throughout the whole day, which is especially important if you prefer to exercise at the end of the day. However, my personal recommendation is that you do some Movement first thing in the morning – that way your brain and body have been thoroughly fired up, plus, it’s done! You don’t have to find the motivation to get in a run or a fitness class after a long day at work.
As I’ve placed such an emphasis here on whole foods, it’s worth mentioning as well that you might like to think about growing your own! Gardening is a wonderful form of Movement. It is one that humans have done for eternity and has so many benefits including being in direct contact with the earth and the ion balancing effects of plants, as well as of course you’ll have the freshest possible source of produce!
If you’d like to explore your own relationship with Food and amazing ways it can prevent health issues, be used as medicine, and nourish you on all levels feel free to check out my Nourish & Heal the Whole You service offerings.
You may also like to consider these online self-paced courses, both of which I recommend:
Real Food Rockstars from Low Tox Life
Whole Detox from Dr Deanna Minich (NB I will run an interactive version of Whole Detox in October 2020 and also February 2021 if you would like to undertake this with support and guidance from myself and a tribe of like-minded others).