When we wake up in the morning after a good nights sleep, our bodies have been digesting the previous days food overnight and we should be ready to evacuate around half of it on arising. This leaves our stomach and enough of our small intestine nice and clear and ready for the new days food intake. If you have breakfast, lunch and dinner planned with a couple of snacks in between plus maybe a daily juice and smoothie, sippers and gulpers aside, you have around 120 mouthfuls to play with (not including extra water and other fluids).
Everyone is slightly different and the same intelligence that digested your food and extracted helpful nutrients overnight for you while you were sleeping, also provided you with the correct-sized stomach and intestines to receive and process the right amount of food to keep you in good condition. Exactly what you need to put in there to function optimally is highly debated but fundamentally we require around eighty to one hundred different nutrients every day.
Mostly, we need minerals and trace minerals (which can not work without ample supply of vitamins A and D), the whole spectrum of vitamins (which can not work without minerals), amino acids (particularly the essential ones that we can not produce in the body), essential fatty acids (EFAs) and some form of dietary fibre.
Whenever I do a cooking course, we spend the entire first morning highlighting the foods that are readily available to us all now but we do not recommend including in the diet because they either provide insufficient nutrition, negatively effect the uptake of essential nutrients or they have other knock-on effects that can cause wellness issues.
These are; meats (particularly processed), fish and seafood, dairy produce, processed foods, wheat or its derivatives and refined sugars and syrups.
If you were on the board of a large food company, your sole objects would likely be to make as much profit as possible and stay on the right side of the law while appearing appealing to your potential customers. As a result, anything that you can imagine, has and is being done to food within the food industry to maximise profits, plus a whole lot more you can not imagine.
Meat, fish and seafood
Health concerns about consuming meat and fish are myriad and the practises the industries employ would be considered savage to most.
Areas for concern include; cruelty, cleanliness, low nutrition levels, toxin levels, high acid levels, poor-quality animal feed, pharmaceuticals, land and water pollution, wasteful use of natural resources (land, water, food and energy) and climate impact.
Many of these concerns also apply to the dairy food industry with the added problems of the pasteurisation and homogenisation processes. Pasteurisation destroys helpful enzymes, diminishes overall vitamin content (destroying C, B12 and B6), kills beneficial bacteria and denatures fragile proteins in milk, while homogenisation has been called “the worst thing that dairymen did to milk”.
The fat content oxidises during the homogenisation process and it also causes an unusual effect on protein hormones and steroids. They are made efficient in bypassing normal digestive processes and there has been much connection made with this problem and the onset and perpetuation of autoimmune diseases.
While all food is processed to some degree, the overly-processed foods that make up around 90% of the supermarket shelves can be a nightmare for the body to re-process. The food industry uses many processing techniques that are constantly changing to improve profit. They can be quite secretive about their processes, citing competition as the reason, but many suggest the real reason for the processed food industry’s lack of transparency is because if consumers knew exactly what had happened to their food to get it to their plate, there’s not a chance they would actually eat it!
In addition to the processes themselves, there are now thousands of additive chemicals used to colour, stabilize, emulsify, bleach, texturize and soften ingredients. There are chemical enhancers to increase the taste of devitalised ingredients, others that help hide bad odours and even more to disguise the taste of the additives that are included to improve either texture, shelf life or appearance.
Wheat, grains and their derivatives
“The gliadin protein of wheat and related proteins in other grains initiate the intestinal “leakiness” that begins the autoimmune process, an effect that occurs in over 90% of people who consume wheat and grains.” Cardiologist, Dr William Davis of “Wheat Belly” fame.
Modern wheat has its own set of problems which have been fiercely denied and covered up for years. Certainly modern wheat is not the same as the wheat of 50 years ago. Gluten levels, hybridization, dwarfing, gmo, phytic acid levels, gliadin and “dessication” are all areas of concern, along with the facts that wheat is also an addictive opiate and an appetite stimulant.
Refined sugars and their derivatives
“If only a small fraction of what is already known about the effects of sugar were to be revealed in relation to any other material used as a food additive, that material would promptly be banned.”
John Yudkin MD, Ph.D., F.R.C.P., F.R.S.C., F.I. Biol., Prof of Nutrition at London University
What the potential problem are with consuming excess sugars depends on your perspective and lifestyle. You could be worried that it over-acidifies the body, or that it leaches integral vitamins and minerals from the body to process it, or that it provides “empty calories” instead of nutrient-rich food. You may be anxious about liver or general toxicity from processing too much fructose or the excess fat distributed around the body as a result of this.
Whatever your concern might be, it would be justifiable. Sugar is addictive, in excess it can be lethal and has been linked to almost every main cause of human death.
As the first morning of my cooking courses move towards a healthy lunch, there is usually one person in the group, often the biggest guy, who can not contain his panic at the thought of removing all these items from his diet any longer and he stands up and blurts out, “if we can’t eat all these things, what the heck do we eat then?!”
And I always answer the same, “You eat exactly what you would eat if you lived in the wild”
Imagine back when we lived more naturally off the land. There were no convenience stores on the corner, no supermarkets in the suburbs and no-one delivered. Our diet consisted of; fruit, vegetables, nuts, seeds and meat or fish – if we could catch it.
We had the same size intestines, so we still ate no more than 120 mouthfuls a day but the difference was that each mouthful was packed with organic, unprocessed, high quality nutrients and we wasted no mouthfuls on “empty calories” or concoctions that cost us more energy and nutrients to process than they gave us. And “food” that lead to illness or death simply didn’t exist.
We live in difficult times and conditions are challenging to both our physical and mental wellbeing. Happiness and joy have everything to do with how we feel, which is governed by what we eat and diet-related illness has been increasing for decades.
To keep yourself healthy and happy, try not to waste any one of your 120 mouthfuls a day and try and avoid the list of food items above. Eat what you would eat in the wild (with a little bit of extra knowledge to optimize nutrient intake and a touch of modern finesse to include indulgence and avoid boredom). Eat fresh organic fruits and vegetables, which have more phytonutrients than the unconventional non-organic counterparts.
Locate your local “farmers market” as they often provide a level of organic quality not seen elsewhere. Grow your own if you can, or at least learn how to cultivate micro-greens and how to sprout legumes. These micro powerhouses go a long way towards keeping you away from the doctor.
“Learning to prepare healthy food is the greatest gift you can give yourself” Dr Shyam Singha
Most essentially, learn how to cook and prepare healthy ingredients in beautiful ways and you will discover or cultivate a love and joy for life-enhancing food that will overflow into your life and the lives of those around you.