We have all heard about eating the right amount of proteins, carbohydrates and fats. This is important to maintain health. Every cell in our body needs the correct balance to function properly.
Unfortunately, the quality of foods some of us our consuming, leave a lot to be desired. We buy ham, with added nitrites, sulphites and sodium and now they add omega 3 from fish to supposedly make it healthy. Why not just eat fish?
Protein, carbohydrate and fat
The most common mistake we make is that we get our protein from animal sources. Of course meat is an excellent source of protein to help us grow, but some of us are growing too wide, too quickly. Often too, meat contains too much saturated fat and cancer causing nitrites. Excess meat consumption is linked to colon cancer, the second biggest killer. People are simply eating far too much meat.
Protein from grains and legumes however, provide all the protein without the bad fat and even contain essential fatty acids and plant sterols that lower cholesterol, and phytoestogens that lower certain cancer rates and are beneficial after menopause.
Healthy carbohydrates are not the type found in iron man food and chocolate drinks. Most processed cereals are rubbish. Some favourite cereals have got too much sugar, others have got too little fibre. Some cereals are no better than a chocolate bar. We tend not to spoon sugar into our kids at the start of the day so why then do we give kids sugar pops for their most important meal?
By healthy carbohydrates, I mean complex carbohydrates such as heavy, wholemeal breads, whole oat porridge, soup mixes, lentil dhal, chickpea curry, pea and ham broths, three bean salads...and the list goes on.
Good fats are definitely not eating margarine with added plant sterols. Please, just eat foods naturally high in plant sterols such as soy products and other grains if you want to lower cholesterol. Butter is better than margarine, in small amounts. Most fat in foods is hidden in dry biscuits, cakes, pastry, sweet biscuits and crisps. This fat is simply poisonous, with no benefit, whatsoever. The humble avocado on toast will lower your cholesterol and make your hair shiny too. Pure olive oil can be used instead of butter.
There are essential fatty acids in fish, nuts and seeds like almonds, pepitas, sunflower seeds and walnuts. These have protein to boot and also prevent cancer. They do this by inhibiting proteinases therefore oncogenes. An oncogene is a gene in a virus that makes cells become malignant.
Busy lifestyles often provide us with the excuse to make unhealthy choices. Some of us believe that it is OK to have chocolate or fast food every day. Families now, even celebrate fast food night. Children are being brought up with idea that junk food is a right and not a privilege. This attitude needs to change. It is time we realise that obesity is a huge and completely avoidable disease and that Australia is the only country where the childhood obesity rate has overtaken the adult obesity rate. Some of us need to develop more mature taste buds and set a good example at the dinner table. Remember, that it is only recent generations that have had access to convenience food.
It is a poor excuse though, to eat fast food because we are too busy. In times of stress we need to support our increased nutritional needs by eating healthy foods. If we don't do this we have a tendency to burn out. Fast food should actually be called slow food as, although they may provide a short-term increase in energy, the end result is a lethargic digestive system and sluggish bodily processes. Fried fatty foods and processed foods only rob our bodies of essential nutrients. The fats overload our liver and lead to free radical damage that causes aging. The excess calories lead to obesity. Salt is not something we do not need more of and sugar is feeding the Australian diabetes endemic.
There are plenty of nutritious meals that can be whipped up in a flash that will stimulate metabolism, increase absorption and use of nutrients, boost our immune systems, repair damaged tissue and detoxify the body. Food is the basis of hormones that affect our mood and energy, blood pressure and bone health. Did you know that the humble cabbage has not one but 4 different constituents that fight cancer? Imagine if there was drug that could do this! We really are what we eat, and if you love you, don't feed you junk.
Nutritious Fast food or nutrifast food
Rather than heading down to the local fast food outlet this Friday, head to the supermarket in stead. Spoil yourself with quality ingredients. Spend a little more on something special like a nice cut of meat, remember the palm rule. Here are some other ideas.
Gnocchi and putanesca
Buy a salad mix, come on, how hard is an olive oil and lemon juice dressing? Buy some fresh gnocchi and spoil your taste buds with a real tomato putanesca. This is simply 2 tins tomatoes, olives, capers, bay leave, thyme, basil, a jigger of red wine and some balsamic vinegar. And anchovies and chiili, I've been informed.
Pesto and salad
Pesto and salad is another great fast food. Pesto is high in calcium, magnesium, essential fatty acids and folic acid. Whip this up in your food processor. A bunch of basil, 4 cloves of garlic, ¼ cup olive oil, walnuts, sunflowers or pepitas and some rock salt. Kids love pesto if they are brought up with it.
Make your own pizza. Use a wholemeal flatbread; buy some artichokes, capsicum, onion, olives, fetta, spinach leaves, corn, pineapple, quality salami or prosciutto. Get the kids to top their own but be sure to have loads of ingredients for them to choose. There is more to our food though, than meets the eye. Not only is it necessary to balance proteins, carbohydrates and fats, there are other aspects of food that need to be considered to create a healthy diet.
Acid and Alkaline foods
Foods create either an acid or alkaline environment internally. This has to do with how foods affect tissues, not how it alters the blood pH. There is a mineral "ash" left after food has been digested. An imbalance of acid to alkaline in the body will contribute to acidic conditions such as arthritis, gout, kidney stones, hypertension, chronic inflammation and urinary tract infections.
Most acid foods
Meat, dairy, refined white flour and sugar products are acid forming foods. Meat breaks down to uric acid for example. These foods are high in phosphorus which, when eaten in excess, cause calcium loss. Calcium is an alkalising nutrient, hence its use in antacids. These foods are slightly acid forming; wholegrains, nuts, seeds and legumes.
Most alkaline foods
Fresh fruit and vegetables except tomatoes, cranberries, plums and prunes, which are acid forming, are alkalising. Most people know that tomatoes are acidic. It is the acidity of cranberries that kills the bacteria in bladder infections. The most alkaline grains are millet, buckwheat, corn, almonds and Brazil nuts. Some people may recognise millet as a popular bird food, however millet is a nutritious, alkalising grain that humans can benefit from too.
These foods provide a balance of acid and alkaline in the body. Grains and cereals, raw milk and soybeans and their products.
The following is a great recipe to alkalise the body;
Choose a combination of equal amounts of the following: Celery, green beans, zucchini, beet tops, spinach, silverbeet, parsley, carrot tops, onion and miso to flavour. Cut up onion, finely chop all other ingredients and add to a pot of boiling water. Return to boil then turn off. Voila! Add miso to taste in the bowl. Drink the soup; eat the vegetables if you want. This is a great soup for dieters in between meals.
When choosing healthy foods, it isn't rocket science. Buy fresh from your local grocer and butcher, stay away TV dinners and numbers and remember, nature has already provided us with perfect nutrition.
Another great alkalising food is the soybean. Soy contains phytoestrogens and isoflavones. Phytoestrogens protect the body from cancers that are dependant on oestrogen such breast and uterine cancer, the biggest killers of Australian women. The phytoestrogens fight to occupy the oestrogen receptors and increase elimination of oestrogen via the bowel. Isoflavones are pigments in plants that are anti-oxidant and protect vitamin C.
Other hormonal effects
Soy is a galactagogue. I love this word; it's so out of this world. This means it can stimulate milk in breastfeeding mothers. Soy can lengthen the menstrual cycle and alleviate menopausal symptoms. Be careful though, apparently in Indonesia, tofu is used to subdue the sexual desire of celibate monks! So the motto is, too much of anything is a bad thing.
High in zinc
Soybeans and their products have many therapeutic effects. Soy is high in zinc and is good to increase fertility, protect connective tissue, stimulate the immune system and promote detoxification in the liver. Soy is diuretic and alkalising and can be used to treat bladder infections.
Soy causes a decrease in thyroxine, a thyroid hormone that speeds metabolism, and can therefore be used to treat an overactive thyroid. Paradoxically however, it can also increase thyroxine and can be used for under active thyroid. In this way, natural medicine can seem to exert two different effects. This nature is called amphoteric. This is the genius of nature. By doing this, it actually regulates the thyroid. Also in regard to the thyroid, high dietary purines in red meat, shellfish, asparagus and alcohol can decrease thyroid function and slow metabolism. Seaweed, on the other hand, is high in iodine and increases thyroid function. But see a naturopath for qualified advice.
Most importantly, soy products are indicated for heart disease as they lower cholesterol and clear the blood vessels.
Soy products, such as soymilk (a popular brand is no good) and tofu, are an easy source of soy. Buy one that is made from a whole soybean and not soy protein isolate. Soy protein isolate is from harmful soil. Also, find one that is sweetened with malt. Tofu is available at every supermarket now and Asian grocers. It is great in a Thai green curry or Malaysian curry laksa. Soy shake A great milk shake is ¼ slab of tofu, soymilk, banana and wheat germ. This shake can lower your blood pressure, lower your cholesterol and protect you from cancer.
Properties of Food
Food also has other properties that need to be taken into consideration when prescribing a healthy and appropriate diet. It is important to consider all aspects of food, because certain foods can really aggravate symptoms. If you have a bright red face for example and suffer from headaches, rage and insomnia, then red meat, garlic and chilli are not good for you. The food properties I will discuss this week are;
- Expansive or contractive
- Warming or cooling i.e. Ginger is heating and mint is cooling
- Build-up or breakdown i.e. Anabolic or catabolic
Expansive or contractive
Foods can be described as either expansive or contractive.
Foods that are expansive in nature cause our vital energy to move upward and outward and are useful to get things moving and stimulate mental activity. Examples of foods that are expansive are garlic, onions, mint and green leafy vegetables and fast, tossed stir-fries. Too much expansive food can have one off floating in the clouds.
Foods that are contractive cause our vital energy to move inward. These types of foods are beneficial in winter when, just like the trees, our energy is directed internally. Contractive foods are good to ground our thought processes and conserve our energy stores and calm us down. Examples of contractive foods are all root vegetables, meat, dairy and slow cooked stews. Generally we eat too many contractive foods.
Warming or cooling foods
In winter we need warm and warming foods and in summer we need foods to clear summer heat. Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioners and good herbalists look at the tongue to tell whether a person is a hot person or a cold person.
A person with a hot constitution hates the heat, sweats easily and has a red face, dry stools and dark yellow urination. Other excess heat conditions are headaches that are better from a cold compress, high blood pressure, stroke and irritability that some describe as blowing your top. Discharges from anywhere that are yellow or green are hot.
Examples of heating foods are chillies, mustard, horseradish, garlic and ginger and red meat.
A person with a cold constitution hates the cold, loves the heat, has cold hands and feet, weak digestion, diarrhoea and lots of clear urination. Other cold conditions can be arthritis that is worse in the cold and asthma that is worse in winter. Of course asthma, can be hot or cold. Discharges that are clear and white are cold.
Examples of cold foods are foods from the fridge, watermelon, cucumber, green tea and milk. Ice-cold foods are no good for children with ice-cold colds or cold induced asthma.
Anabolic or Catabolic Diet
Anabolic and catabolic refer to the overall effect on the body to either build up or breakdown metabolism. An anabolic or build-up diet is suitable during pregnancy and lactation, nutrient deficiency, low vitality and immunity, for the elderly and chronically ill, as a basic dietary principal and for food supplement therapy.
Good anabolic foods and nutrients are molasses and wheat germ and vitamin B, iron, calcium, zinc, vitamin E. A catabolic diet is suitable to remove the accumulation of waste matter i.e. excess obese, stimulate metabolism, regulate appropriate responses, stimulate detoxification and, in a controlled diet for weight loss. These food elements encourage the body's self-healing mechanisms.
The following are classified as either anabolic or catabolic.Have a look at your diet. Are you getting your 5 veg and 2 fruit a day, or is it more like meat three times a day?
Anabolic Build up Proteins, carbohydrates, lipids, water, meat, poultry, nut and beans, milk and cheese and eggs.
Catabolic Break down Minerals, vitamins, fibre, water, vegetables, salads, fruit and sea vegetables ie seaweed.
Food combining helps achieve balance
Food combining is another thing to consider when choosing an appropriate diet. The idea behind food combining is quite simple. Proteins require an acid environment for digestion. Carbohydrates require an alkaline environment. When both protein and carbohydrates are eaten in the same meal, digestive secretions such as acidic-hydrochloric acid and alkaline-amylase from the pancreas, neutralise each other. When proteins are eaten, the pancreas secretes polypeptide hormone, which inhibits the pancreatic digestive enzymes, amylase, protease and lipase, preventing proper digestion of carbohydrates, proteins and fats respectively.
This diet is basically the opposite of the zone diet which suggests eating a ratio of protein: carbohydrates: fats of 40:30:30 in every meal. This diet is not appropriate for everyone. For example I don't subscribe to eating fruit alone as it is cooling, especially in winter. People who suffer from hypoglycaemia or low blood sugar, may also falter on a diet such as this. This diet is good for those with really weak digestion and very poor absorption of nutrients.
Food combining simply means avoiding mixing proteins and carbohydrates Examples of good food combining are a protein-based meal with a vegetable salad or a carbohydrate-based meal with vegetables, or vice versa. An example of bad food combining is meat and potatoes. Sorry! A fine example is shepherds pie or meat pie.
The very strict rules
1. Don't mix proteins and carbohydrates
2. Don't mix different proteins together (i.e. Christmas dinner when we eat five animals at once!)
3. Don't mix acids ie strawberries, tomatoes and carbohydrates
4. Don't mix proteins and fats. Fat inhibits stomach acid
5. Don't mix proteins and sugar
6. Don't mix carbohydrates and sugar
7. Have only 1 carbohydrate per meal
8. Always eat melons alone
9. Drink milk alone
10. Eat fruit alone, preferably before meals.
It really is as easy as fish and salad or chicken and salad, or a roast and vegetables minus the potatoes. Eat the potatoes on their own with baked beans, cheese and spring onions. I know that this may seem difficult to digest for some. I am from Irish stock and to the Irish, a meal isn't complete without spuds. I know that this type of attitude is common across other walks of life too. I guess it comes down to retraining. Just something to digest though.
Carina Harkin BHSc.Nat.BHSc.Hom.BHSc.Acu.
Cert IV TAE. ARCHTI mem.