We really are what we eat! The food we consume provides the materials we need to grow, carry out healthy functions and repair damage. Every day we need to be making dietary choices based on sound nutritional reasoning.
Unfortunately, the UK has recently been called the “sick man of Europe” and parts of Manchester have been identified as “health blackspots”. High national rates of obesity, diabetes and cancer are linked to a low intake of fruit and vegetables. To maintain good health we should be an absolute minimum of 5 portions of fresh fruit and vegetables every day: recent statistics indicate that less than 10% of Britons manage this… while 12% eat no fresh fruit or veg at all!
Vegetarianism immediately cuts out a lot of problem food, and veganism will almost eliminate saturated fat and cholesterol from your diet (pesky palm oil). For more detailed information see any human nutrition book e.g. ‘Becoming Vegan‘ by B Davis & V. Meline, (2000).
Carbohydrates (> 40% of a healthy diet)
Eat complex, starchy carbs such as wholegrains (rice, oats, buckwheat, millet, quinoa), potatoes, carrots, wholewheat pasta & bread, and carb-rich legumes such as chick-peas and butter beans.
Avoid refined, sugary (‘white’) carbs which cause mid-afternoon ‘slumps’ and the sensation of feeling tired when you’ve just woken up. In common with meat and dairy, white bread & pasta clog up the digestive system. Refined white sucrose (‘sugar’) is an anti-nutrient which strips your body of other minerals: instead eat foods sweetened with dates, maple syrup, molasses, fructose or agave syryp.
Fresh fruit & vegetables (> 40% of a healthy diet)
A wide selection will easily provide our required intake of fibre, vitamins & minerals. Fibre is essential for cleaning our system of waste, and we need to do this at least once a day to maintain a healthy intestinal tract. Eat mostly raw (or lightly steamed) to preserve digestion-aiding enzymes and choose organic as much as possible, to avoid eating toxins and chemical preservatives. Avoid vitamin pills and most nutritional supplements unless they have been prescribed by a medical expert.
Proteins (< 20% of a healthy diet)
Eat nuts, tofu, soya beans in moderate quantities, larger amounts of seeds (e.g. sesame), spinach, peas and broccoli; fresh sprouts (alfalfa) are the most all-round beneficial way to eat protein, full of living protein and nutritive matter. Avoid very processed soya foods e.g. many ‘meat substitutes’; also rice, nut or oat milk is less processed and more easily digested than soya milk.
Fats (< 10% of a healthy diet)
We need dietary fat, and the right kind won’t make you fat! Eat moderate amounts of avocados, cashews, pumpkin seeds, olives, cold-pressed oils; avoid palm oil, hydrogenated fat, deep-fried food… and all ready meals.
Drink 6-8 glasses of water and/or herbal tea each day; all other beverages (coffee, tea, pop, alcohol) should be treated with caution – really, even concentrated fruit juice plays havoc with your blood sugar and your teeth!
We digest different foods at different speeds:
- <1 hour: fruit smoothies, melons;
- 1-2 hours: most fruit, vegetables;
- 2-3 hours: whole grains;
- >3 hours: dairy, meat.
- Eat fruit on its own at least half an hour before or after other food; if you want to avoid wind never eat fresh fruit as dessert after a large meal;
- Avoid eating soya (tofu, soya beans) with carbohydrates (bread, pasta, rice)… perhaps easier said than done!
5-a-day: what constitutes a portion?
- 1 medium Apple;
- 1 medium Banana;
- 14 fresh Cherries;
- 1 Orange;
- 2 small Tangerines;
- 2 handfuls Beansprouts;
- 3 heaped tablespoons Chick peas;
- 2 spears Broccoli;
- 1 medium Carrot;
- 3 sticks Celery;
- Half a fresh Pepper;
- 1 cereal bowl fresh Spinach;
- 1 medium fresh or 7 cherry Tomatoes.
“Hi, I’m a coffee plant, native to the hills of Ethiopia but now widely planted in tropical lands. I fool innocent humans into thinking that a decoction of my beans will improve their concentration and performance. What it actually does is cause insomnia, jitteriness and heart problems! Ha! I’ll turn everyone into a coffee zombie and the world will be mine…”