Words By John Burchell – Naturopath @ The Medical Sanctuary
We are constantly bombarded with the do’s and don’ts of foods, the latest must follow diets, how food should look and taste, where we should buy foods and how much we should or shouldn’t eat.
The foods we eat, in fact any of the things we ingest, will have a large influence in the over all outcome of our health. By no means does healthy mean boring or uninspiring!
Food for life is defined as the intake of nutrients to provide all the vitamins, minerals, trace elements, starches, carbs, fats, proteins and enzymes etc that we need to keep our bodies going. The foods we choose to consume will have an influence on our health, mood, vitality and immune response.
Choice is the critical word here. Choosing to eat to obtain optimal health can be a very different choice to living to eat what you want. Understanding this is very important when it comes to dietary planning.
Coming into winter give rise to specific dietary needs. Depending on where you live will vary the requirements, but I m going to use cold and cosey as the mood and winter warming foods as the focus. Warming foods are important in autumn and winter to keep colds and flus etc at bay. Warm foods are nutritious and comforting and can be very enjoyable.
Open fires, Casseroles, red wine, stews, stout, Thai and Indian curries, beer, roasts, pies (savory or sweet), puddings and spirits. Minestrone soup using bone stock or veggie broth with all the traditional ingredients (just use a non wheat pasta!). Lasagna, Gnocchi and non wheat/vegetable pasta can all be enjoyed when we use unprocessed ingredients. Lots of hearty warming, fun, comforting indulgences! Are we bad?!
All of these foods can be sustaining and healthy or plain bogged down and stodgy. It all depends on the intent and the choices of ingredients.
Some rules for optimum health orientated cooking and consuming:
- It is always best to avoid processed foods.
- Processed foods are usually modified in some way by heat, standardisation, chemical modification, refining, hydrolyzing and preserving. Good examples are milk, which is pasturised, homogenised and standardized. Salami, bacon and ham. These can be highly processed so source produce that have the least processing and additives. Some salami contains nearly the same proportions of sugar wheat and emulsifiers as white bread, let alone the salt! Wheat flour is basically white powder void of anything nutritious unless it is specifically labeled as unprocessed organic whole grain. White sugar is, well let’s not go there!
- Always use the closest to organic garden fresh produce as you possibly can, if you haven t grown it, purchase it from someone you know that does. Failing that, source from the best provider that you can.
- Meats are best when they are from free grazing animals. True organic meat is sourced from unvaccinated animals that have not been on antibiotics, steroids or modified food diets. It is ok to include some fats. Trim the outer fat, but leave some fat on the meat. Good fats are necessary for hormone production, energy, inflammation control and keeping the gall bladder active. Olive oil, grape seed oil, sesame oil, ghee, unprocessed goat produce; even raw dairy produce can be included.
- Slow cooking casseroles or stews and the like are wonderful for winter. Combining meats, veggies and herbs with a boutique stout or red wine and cooking at low heat for several hours provides easily digestible high quality gourmet nutrition. Non meat proteins are found in beans, chic peas, lentils, and nuts, seeds such as pepitas, and tahini.
- Breads, cakes, pastries and pasta are often a source of culinary grief. Grains are a great food but due to growing and processing techniques to meet demand, wheat in particular has become a recurring culprit for poor health. I prefer to use unprocessed spelt, kamut or rye flours for making breads, pastries and casings. Almond flour is great for cakes, biscuits and slices. Tahini, puréed nuts, reduced beetroot and carob are tasty, a great source of protein, alkaline and good for digestion. Look for cheese cakes, choc-beetroot slices etc made with these.
- Winter foods have been subject to criticism and labeled as “fattening” and “unhealthy” in recent years, unfortunately with no attention to the detail of the ingredients and the way they are prepared.
- These types of foods have been the source of healthy sustainable nutrition for centuries. It is with the inclusion of produce from more recent practices of growing and processing techniques that we are seeing implications on health.
Go on, indulge, but make it the good stuff!