Our daily lives are filled with chemicals, some we know off and others we don’t. We are well versed in the terms car emissions, greenhouse gases, BPA plastics, chlorinated water, processed food, genetically modified food and industrial cleaners ... pretty daunting! But lets take it back to basics. Lets start in our homes and make gentle changes that lower our toxic load and increase our well-being. Lets look at what we eat, the products we use and the plants we have.
Ever solution driven, what can we do to reduce our chemical load? Food, eat as organically and/or spray free as possible. The chemicals used in animal rearing (antibiotics, steroids and hormones) and food horticulture (pesticides, herbicides and fungicides) all need to be processed by the body. Specifically, the liver works very hard to break down and eliminate these toxins. Store your food in glass jars as vs. plastic containers. These look fabulous and there are no plastic compounds leaching into stored food as they expand and contract with the temperature.
In the 1950s there was no such term ‘chemical load’. For my grandmother, her cleaning products were hot water, baking soda, vinegar, lemon juice and scrunched up newspaper. Within 30 years, my mother’s approach was very different, a spray bottle for every room in the house, from furniture polish to air freshener. This trend has continued today with people, often women, regularly ‘bleaching’ every surface in their kitchens and bathrooms. BUT some people have opted out of these cleaning products and we are looking to our Granny’s housekeeping notes to change the chemical balance in our homes. Household cleaners are a quick win - chose ‘green’ options. Either make your own or buy brands that are plant based and stick to what they say on the label – ‘no chemicals’. Trust that hot water and ‘old fashioned’ ingredients can do the same job at a fraction of the cost with the same outcome. Using the correct essential oils can also increase their effectiveness and gives your space an aromatic smell that is not chemically manufactured.
Use houseplants to freshener your home. These marvellous works or nature give out oxygen and water vapour and take in carbon monoxide – photosynthesis! Plants also process benzene, formaldehyde and trichloroethylene, these are commonly found in furniture, carpeting, manufactured flooring and building materials, also glues, nail polish removers, rubbers and detergents. The best varieties of plant for this are rubber plants, the bamboo palm, peace lilies, spider plants and ferns. Plants (like pets) also create a sense of calm and peace, a mindfulness state. Fill your garden, balcony or terrace with plants to continue the same sense of joy. Outdoors, the best toxic beating plants (besides a mature tree!) are English ivy, golden pathos, philodendrons, chrysanthemums and gerberas, but every plant has a part to play.
Join the Botanical Pharmacist, Fawz Farhan and myself, Nutritionist, Paula Sharp on Saturday 7 July, 10 to 1pm to learn how to make your own household cleaners. A must for every household looking to reduce its chemical load!
I work closely with people who are looking to change their lives for their better. Recently I’ve been asked a lot about weight and loosing weight. As Spring approaches we’re all galvanised towards better health, more energy and the body shape we want.
But what if I was to tell you that dieting or a diet doesn’t just influence your weight, it influences your HEALTH? By eating a diet natural to you, you can enhance your body shape, feel more energetic and have better immunity?
From my experience, 95% of what you eat is about your body shape, whilst 5% is about exercise. In this, I am not talking about what we have been genetically gifted. We are tall or short, broad or narrow shouldered etc. Here I am discussing optimal size and weight for you. More importantly, how your diet impacts on your weight and therefore your health. With improved health I see people starting new hobbies or sports or going back to activities that make them happy, a joy of exercise being one of these.
Growing up, I taught to be a ‘plate clearer’. I also ate exactly what I was given. As a ‘good child’ and a ‘good eater’, this was a lot of white bread, biscuits, dried pasta and cereal, filling food. I had a bloated belly, a sedentary approach to life AND I was eight years old. What was going on? My mum was feeding me exactly what she was being told to at that time. Food marketing to children had kicked up to a new level on television (eg. must have chocolate breakfast cereals and ‘quick snacks’ loaded with sugar) and new medical information said ‘fat makes you fat’, advocating ‘low fat options’. Not a lot was said about sugar when I was growing up in the 80’s …
But what about the sugar?
Today, sugar has been completely exposed as the number one health risk to humanity. From the 1960’s fat was blamed for weight gain, but as we dropped our quality fats (butter, lard and cold pressed oils) and replaced them with low fat options (margarine, heat-treated vegetable oil and hydrogenated oils (in fried foods and packaged pastries and baked goods) the nations weight continued to increase and health declined. At this time, sugar and all its derivatives became more prevalent in our food – ‘hidden’ in cereals, cooking sauces, condiments, diary products, ready meals, crisps, snack bars, biscuits, pastries, cakes and drinks.
But why was so much sugar introduced into our food by our Food Providers?
Because sugar stimulates the appetite. The more we have, the more we want. Sugar is an addiction. We know this now, and the Food Producers have known this for a long time.
What else was added?
As sugar increased, so did the preservatives. Our food industry uses a lot of chemicals to keep our food ‘looking better, tasting better and lasting longer’, perfect, until we realise that every chemical that we ingest needs to be broken down and processed by the body. Some are eliminated naturally (or are expressed in skin irritations, IBS symptoms, bad breath and other digestive issues) and some not at all. Some stay in the body to influence cell change and mutation. Preservatives that keep bread fresh for weeks, that make deserts look glossy and meat last longer do nothing for our physiology. But our brains respond to the LOOK of these foods – they look delicious. Likewise fruit and vegetables that are beautiful and ideal LOOK to be fresher and therefore perceived to be healthier. But, if they have been chemically enhanced or genetically modified, what is the final benefit to us?
A part of the solution is to eat seasonally – a wise teacher described this as a part of “dancing with the rhythms of life”. Most of us are no longer in the fields or foraging for our edibles. Instead we have cart blanche of the world’s foods in our supermarkets. However, we are evolved to eat seasonally, to eat in rotation the food that is available and that feels right for that time of year. The seasons (not the supermarkets) communicate to us what to eat. Winter in the UK is all about root crops, cabbages and the aromatic alliums (onions and leeks). We also want more protein (red & white meats, eggs, lentils, chickpeas and other legumes). Feel what your body really wants and eat enough of the good stuff – the fruit, the vegetables and the unprocessed foods.
This article just touches the tip of the ‘health and food’ iceberg. Join me for a consultation to understand your eating patterns, what makes you eat as you do and tailor your food to fit your body and improve your health.
Know what sugar and chemical load your food carries. Eat what our seasons provide and eat food that tastes like it should.
We are well and truly into January with its wealth of cold weather, sometimes blue skies and often rainy days. Heating is high and air temperatures are low, heralding the cold and flu season.
But what is the difference between a cold and the flu and what can we do to avoid them and care for ourselves? When I was growing up, there was NO difference - everything was flu to my mum! But today it’s clearer - below I’ve compiled a table to show the general symptoms of each virus.
Table: Cold & Flu Symptoms
A cold usually affects the upper respiratory tract leaving us with runny or blocked noses, sore throats and congested airways. These symptoms along with (some or a combination of) a fever, headache, earache and tiredness can develop over 10 to 14 days. Whereas flu is severe and immediate. Flu comes on quickly and brings with it muscle aches, a high temperature and sometimes shivering, sweating and often pure exhaustion.
Although there is no ‘cure’ for the cold or flu there is a lot that we can do to prevent them. Remember, food can be your medicine. Follow the rule of F.R.E.S.H.
Fruit & Vegetables – choose a variety of colours.
Rest – have the right amount of sleep (6 to 8 hours for an adult).
Energy – notice your energy levels and respond to them.
Seasonal – eat with the seasons, follow Nature’s rhymes.
Hydration – fundamental to the body’s mechanics.
F is for Fruit and Vegetables.
Keep eating seasonally and colourfully. All fresh fruit and vegetables physically offer us a package of vitamins and minerals that the body knows how to utilize. By this, I mean - to breakdown, absorb and distribute to organs, muscles, blood, bones and all the cells throughout the body.
In the winter months squash and pumpkins are grown locally. They are high in antioxidants (Vitamin C), are anti-inflammatory and have insulin-regulating properties. These qualities are key to staying healthy at this time of year. Other Winter favourites are kale, Brussels’ sprouts, cabbages, cauliflower and broccoli. These cruciferous vegetables are high in vitamin C, A & K, soluble fibre and contain magnesium and potassium. The deep red of beetroot indicates it’s nutrient punch. High in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory, it also has a good amount of manganese and folate (a form of Vitamin B). Don’t forget your leeks, garlic and onions. All contain antioxidants, which specifically target viruses and bacteria. Perfect for wound healing, but also in supporting the body through a cold or the flu. Like the vegetables above, they are also anti-inflammatory helping with congestion.
R is for Rest.
If you are sick give yourself time and space to rest and recover. Often people rush back into their routines when their bodies are asking for ‘more down time’. Preventatively, get more sleep.
E is for Energy
Listen to your body and respond to your energy levels. Winter is a time for ‘hibernation’. To be close to home, enjoying close family and friends. It is the natural time of physical contraction and regeneration.
S is for Seasonal.
Keep food as local and seasonal as possible. This is Natures way of providing the right foods for its indigenous people. (NB. With global farming and traditional crops no longer being grown in home countries, this can be tricky. Practicalities need to fit too).
H is for Hydration.
Hydration is key! I can’t stress this more for wellness and avoiding illness. The body uses more fluids when it is under stress; so as January deadlines loom and different emotional, physical and mental pressures show themselves, drink water. If you do catch a cold or the flu, keep your clear fluids up – water, easy broths, herbal teas and lemon and honey drinks.
And lastly, reduce alcohol, cigarettes and processed food.
Detox in the Spring and nurture in the Winter.
It’s the time of year, where we can use all the help we can get from the food around us. I wanted to explore three of the easiest and most common herbs and there benefits –Parsley, Rosemary and Thyme. Remember, herbs can be used culinary, as teas and tinctures and also topically. Ask me any questions that come to mind.
Parsley, curly or flat leaf, packs an antioxidant punch! Antioxidants are used by the body to reduce inflammation, to fight infection and combat free radical damage. The most obvious impact is associated with the ageing process, specifically age related diseases, physical decline and soreness. Parsley is a natural diuretic and helps with water retention and bloating, it sits nicely with kidney health as this helps to flush the kidneys. Because of this, parsley can be useful to ease bladder discomfort and that associated to kidney stones and kidney inflammation. I love the use of parsley as a breath freshener. Used as a digestive aid, starting in the mouth (for its antibacterial and antiseptic oil qualities) right down to supporting bile production for better absorption through the gut. Parsley contains Vitamins A, C and K.
Rosemary is one of my family’s firm favourites. It is a herb rich in antioxidants, anti-inflammatory and anti-carcinogenic qualities. This combination supports and boosts the immune system. As an antibacterial herb it can be used to treat bacterial infections and is commonly used for gut and bowel health – constipation, diarrhoea, bloating and even stomach ulcers. Research is currently underway in the use of Rosemary as a memory stimulant. It is already considered a mood-enhancing herb. To increase memory function and to extend this into treating dementia and Alzheimer’s patients has great potential.
Thyme contains thymol (used in shop bought mouthwashes and vapour rubs); this antiseptic oil tackles sore throats and other oral bacteria in the mouth and throat. Traditionally, it has been used as a treatment for bronchitis. Thyme is an antispasmodic, which means it can relax the respiratory muscles. Today the German government endorses this. Before antibacterial creams, thyme oil was used on bandages as a preventive to infection. Thyme, like Rosemary is certainly a mood enhancer.
Storing fresh herbs is easy - keep them cold. Stand fresh herbs, bouquet style in a glass of water with a plastic bag loosely over the top and refrigerate. If you are tight on fridge space, roll them in damp paper towel and store them in a container in the vegetable drawer. (NB: Basil should be kept at room temperature). Alternatively you can dry herbs on a paper towel in an airing cupboard or in the summer try a sunny windowsill.
It is difficult to consume a lot of herbs, however to use them in cooking (as a tea, an inhalation, or a cream) is important. Not just for flavour and scent, but for what they bring us medicinally.
I was a child raised to ‘clear my plate’ - there was no leaving the table until everything was eaten. My mum was a part of the baby boom generation who grew up in a post war world of food austerity and poverty. Therefore, her mark (and my Nana’s) of a healthy baby was a fat baby! A happy toddler was a chubby toddler, a good child had a good appetite BUT … a fat adult needed to go on a diet. Many people I meet have the same story to tell.
So, how to approach food and meals in a different way?
Eat until you’re 80% full and then pause. This is often enough for now. Intuitively listen to your body. We should be aiming to eat to ‘80% full’, this alleviates stomach discomfort and bloating. It also gives the body time to process and use the food effectively. The Japanese have a proverb which illustrates this perfectly “eight parts of a full stomach sustain the man; the other two sustain the doctor”.
Our stomachs are resilient. The stomach is very elastic in quality and stretches to accommodate food, as this passes lower into the digestive tract the stomach returns to its former size. This is its job. In fact the stomach can comfortably hold 2 cups of food or about one litre of liquid. However, by constantly overeating, the stomach muscles can stretch making this the ‘new normal’. A stretched stomach means we can consume more food (and therefore again over-consume), to continue stretching the muscle. A very slippery slope that leads to other health complications, the most obvious is weight.
By eating to 80% full, we give our digestive system the space to work. It is not over burdened by food quantity. From mouth to stomach to small intestine, the average time varies, from 6 to 8 hours. From mouth to anus it is 12 to 24 hours. These timings differ person to person, by gender, exercise, metabolism and diet. A meal heavy in meat and / or processed carbohydrates takes longer than a plant based dish.
Change how you eat in 4 easy steps
1. Are you actually thirsty?
Hydration is key to daily life. However, the body’s thirst mechanisms are so subtle that most of us miss them if we’re not in the habit of drinking water. The brain therefore registers ‘hunger’ when actually we need a drink.
2. Are you hungry?
A crazy question, but is this habitual / emotional / stress / boredom / reward eating or are you hungry? When you’re hungry, eat mindfully, it is a pleasure and for many a luxury time with family, friends or alone.
3. Serve less food.
Reduce your portion sizes. For family meals, I have extra available, but I start with an 80% portion. If there’s a pudding, sometimes less than 80%, so everyone gets to enjoy the desert.
4. Eat organic.
Where you can, eat organic. If the quality of your food is higher you need less quantity. Organic food is easier on the digestive system (no pesticides, antibiotics etc for the liver and gastrointestinal tract to process) and it is a richer source of protein, minerals and vitamins than non-organic.
By changing my eating style to 80% full, I’ve been rewarded with more energy. Instead of a lot of energy being internalised to process and digest food, I’m harnessing it externally in my day. There’s a bounce in my step.
We have danced through a summer of children’s holidays, evenings with friends, festivals, beaches and BBQ-ing through the weekends. Now the season changes again with Autumn crisply in the air. The Autumn Equinox falls on the 22nd of September this year and offers us a great potential for change. To harness this Equinox we must stay focused and connected with what our bodies are telling us … this is often ‘go more gently’ after the summer. The energy of Autumn is grounding and contracting as the land around us prepares itself for winter. The Equinox’s energetic change also heralds a change in health. As a Nutritional Therapist, at this time of year I see a rise in cold and flu symptoms, tummy upsets and rashes. This can be the body naturally detox-ing the lymphatic system. Allowing elimination out through the skin, the bowels and mucus membranes and just making us stop and slow down in our busy lives. A bad cold or flu should put us to bed to rest and recover.
How best to support ourselves in this time?
Hydration is key! This is not only drinking water, but also the way the body absorbs and uses hydration, right down to its movement in and out of the cells. Broths and herbal teas are extremely useful to support hydration, while caffeine and alcohol are not.
Match your eating to the season. Eat locally produced vegetables and immediately reconnect with the season you’re in. The Autumn Harvest is rich with the last of the vine vegetables, an abundance of root vegetables and the more bitter of the leafy greens. As our digestive systems slow down in the cooler months, tomato soup, cooked carrots, squashes, onions, garlic and potatoes are easy on the gut to absorb. Kale, chard and leeks encourage the digestive enzymes into action.
What is the quality of your food? Look at the levels of preservatives, sugar, salt, transfats and pesticides that maybe hidden (or quite transparent) in your meals. By reducing these and swapping to organic fresh produce, we remove a stress from gut and a chemical load that has to be processed elsewhere.
And of course, to just slow down and enjoy our moments. Keep the balance of family life, work, exercise and personal space. Breathe out the ‘hard stuff’ and breathe in the calm and the fun.
The Autumn Equinox can be a physical and emotional challenge or it can be a time to refresh, restock and rearrange ourselves for the colder months. The potential is always ours to fulfill.
Incredibly, mushrooms constitute approximately 14,000 different plant species. This beneficial fungus is high in selenium, copper and vitamin B, so important in treating and managing stress, exhaustion and chronic fatigue. But mushrooms (shitake, reishi and others) have been used medicinally in Asia for centuries to support the liver, to boost immunity and for their anti-inflammatory properties. More commonly known in the West, the button, white, chestnut and Portobello mushrooms also have health benefits.
Shitake, otherwise known as the ‘king of medicinal mushrooms’, is truly versatile. It is widely acknowledged in hepatic health as supporting liver function and protecting the liver. The liver processes and filters all the body’s blood. It works hard to detoxify. This impacts on inflammation (and its movement as vs. being stored in joints) throughout the body. It is now being used in the treatment of arthritis, gout and rheumatism. Given its impact on inflammation its not surprising that it also supports vascular health and circulation. It is high in vitamin B, so important to adrenal function and a healthy metabolism. As mentioned above, vitamin B is also used to treat exhaustion, chronic fatigue and stress related illnesses.
Does it get any better? Yes it does. The Reishi mushroom is beautifully named ‘the mushroom of eternal life’. This is primarily because it regenerates and detoxifies the liver. Consequently, a healthy liver produces well-filtered blood, which is re-circulated through the system. The Reishi supports immune health and is particularly affective against viral infections such as herpes. Used in Asian and Western societies as an anti-inflammatory, it inhibits histamine production and is used in the treatment of mucosal and skin allergies. Benefits have also been seen in cases of fibromyalgia.
While shitake and reishi mushrooms need to be sourced from specialty shops (sometimes dried or in powdered/capsule forms), the mushrooms that we are most familiar with - button, white, oyster, chestnut and Portobello, also come with their health benefits. Like their Asian counterparts they are high in vitamin B, used in stress and exhaustion, as well as adrenal and thyroid health. They have a balanced and equal amount of copper and selenium and a good amount of potassium per 100 gram serving. They are a good protein source (particularly for vegetarians and vegans) and are high in dietary fibre, always great for bowel health. Oyster mushrooms are anti-inflammatory and reduce joint pain and muscle fatigue. They are high in iron and useful in cases of anemia. Button mushrooms are proving effective with hormonal rebalancing and may prevent hormone-influenced cancers as estrogen blockers.
Mushrooms of all fungal types absorb ultra violet light from the sun and store it as vitamin D, specifically vitamin D2, D3 (best used by us) and D4. Consumed, we can then utilize this vitamin D helping with mood balance, bone density loss and lower the risk of heart disease. Put your mushrooms on a sunny windowsill before eating them.
Mushrooms have been used to treat cancer in China for centuries and are becoming more acceptable here for the same use. Used in conjunction with cancer treatments, as preventative cancer medicine or as a stand-alone option, mushrooms are considered an ‘anti-cancer food’. This means certain mushrooms can inhibit tumour formation, protect DNA and stop cell mutation. For more information, please consult a practitioner.
The mushroom IS a beneficial fungus; it tastes great and can act as preventative medicine and natural medicine to secure our optimal health. It’s an easy fungal win/win.
Do you remember the children’s rainbow acronym, ‘ROY G. BIV’? Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Indigo, and Violet – the seven colours of the rainbow, the seven-chakra points of the body and the seven different colour’s of our food. I love it when Nature’s voice is heard so clearly.
Like a rainbow, colours are considered by many as 'frequencies of light and energy' and as such hold individual vibrations. As energetic beings we respond to colours, some more positively than others, during different seasons and different times of our lives. This is beautifully outlined by the Indian chakra system (Hinduism, Jainism and Buddhism). Scientifically, colour influences our moods and emotions via the hypothalamus, which in turn affects the pituitary gland and therefore the whole endocrine (hormonal) system. For example, visually we can feel better wearing one colour more than another - I love wearing pink, red and orange. We can also, consciously and/or unconsciously choose food based on colour. Green and red colours are the most popular food choices and the most abundantly found in nature. However, less naturally occurring are blue and purple foods.
Young children are excellent at expressing their food choices through colour – “I want to eat … red”. Hearing this out of the ‘blue’ can mean anything to an adult from tomatoes to cherries, but to a small child it has an intuitive connection to how they’re feeling or want to feel. RED produce is packed with potassium, magnesium, sodium and vitamins A & C. A snack of red pepper, cherry tomatoes, red apple slices and strawberries and you’ve met their request AND given them a bowl full of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Beetroot, the richest of red colours is great for the blood and evidence suggests useful for heart health. Red is the colour of the root chakra and symbolizes safety, grounding and nourishment, a lovely connection to the blood running through our veins, moving and removing products as necessary. It is considered to be very earthy, by name (root chakra) and nature. Red colour is also an appetite stimulant to the brain, Christmas over indulgence springs to mind.
For me, rich ORANGE brings connotations of sweet potato and turmeric soup, a bowl of liquid sunset. Both warming and nourishing in the colder weather, and easy on the digestive system. Orange is the colour of the sacral chakra, which is positioned over the abdomen. It is associated with creativity and emotions. We have so many sayings associated with this area – “my gut instinct” or “gut wrenching”, with deep sadness. Orange vegetables, carrots, squash, pumpkin and all the orange citrus fruits, are full of vitamins B and C, for immune health, beta-carotene (and therefore vitamin A) and antioxidants. The squash and pumpkin family also have good levels of Omega 3 and 6 important to the cell membrane and reparation. As the whole vegetable and fruit they are also fibrous, all of the above supports the digestive tract of which the second chakra sits.
YELLOW is a happy colour and immediately the joy of buttery corn on the cob comes to mind. Yellow citrus (lemons and grapefruit), yellow peppers and corgettes have a high quota of a vitamin C. The solar plexus, under the rib cage and over the stomach, resonates yellow. It is connected to intellect, mental activity and will power – “I can/can’t stomach it” comes to mind in a difficult situation. Lemons are also alkalizers for the body and nowhere are more acidic than the stomach.
The heart chakra is GREEN and harmonizes with love, relating, integrating and compassion. Magnesium, potassium, calcium, manganese, vitamin A, B, C, K and iron rich GREEN leafy vegetables are available all year round. We associate green produce with being fresh, healthy and good for us. It is the most abundant colour of vegetables and fruit available and they are high in soluble and insoluble fibre ‘green means GO’ for most people – energetically and digestively. The alkalizing ability of green vegetables helps to balance pH levels within the body and therefore moves toxins out through proper elimination routes. Generally slightly bitter or tangy, green fruit (kiwi fruit, granny smith apples and green grapes) and vegetables support the digestive process from mouth salivation through to alkalizing stomach acid and encouraging a healthy gut and ‘exit’.
Interestingly, BLUE and INDIGO vegetables are rare. Seaweeds with their blue shades are high in iodine for thyroid support. The throat chakra is positioned above the thyroid and is connected to the colour blue. The throat chakra holds the meanings of communication and self-expression. The third eye or sixth chakra is INDIGO meaning intuition and extra perception. Fruit that I would classify as indigo coloured are far more available than vegetables. Blueberries, plums, black grapes and blackberries are rich in antioxidants and vitamins C and K and manganese. (NB: Human perception, and often rightly, is quick to associate food that is blue or black as having spoilt or gone off).
VIOLET/WHITE foods are high in flavonoids and antioxidants like aubergines, purple carrots, purple broccoli, onions, garlic and cauliflower. The seventh chakra or the crown chakra connects us with the concepts of spirituality and consciousness. While a lot of violet foods are newer to our food group, white fruit and vegetables are not. - the old and the new coming together to feed us.
This is a brief touch on colour and foods connecting both to chakra points. Gripping to me is how the microcosm can be connected to the macrocosm. We are part of a bigger picture and yet are the bigger picture. We know to eat a rainbow of foods; can we eat seven different colours a day? Colours are highly emotive on many levels and are integrated with our senses and sense of self. Take note of the food colours you choose and why – how do they make you feel? Light, nourished, grounded, energized? Colour Therapy recognizes that each colour has a vibration, a musical note, a chakra point and a healing quality. Imagine mindfully consuming food for its colour AND it’s antioxidants, minerals, vitamins and fibre? Give it ago there is healthy gold at the end of this rainbow.
A huge volume of micro-minerals and vitamins stored by the plant!
I love the synergy of vegetables and fruit. By this, I mean the skin, seeds, flesh and all. The pumpkin and squash family show this beautifully. Roasted pumpkin in its skin is tasty and full of textures. Roasted pumpkin seeds added as a snack or on a salad are delicious and BINGO the whole vegetable has been consumed with all of its nutritional benefits – zinc, beta-carotene and omega 6.
Seeds can be likened to a power pack! Singularly, a seed has produced a plant, a flower, a specific vegetable and therefore more seeds (for the next generation of plant or our consumption). The flesh is fibrous, flavoursome and nutritious. And the skin, this is where we see Clever Food - just under the skin a majority of nutrients and photo-chemicals are stored.
Potatoes and their skins are another great example of how consuming the entire vegetable can give us so much more (and reduce household waste). The skin (and just under it) is rich in zinc, soluble fibre, vitamin C, potassium, iron and zinc. A quick nutritional win is to roast, mash, stuff, chip or wedge your potatoes with skins and eat. The same can be said about eating the stalk of the broccoli as well as the florets. The leafy surrounds of the cauliflower and carrot stalks. Chopped finely these last two can be mashed or added to a curry, soup or casserole etc.
As we can see, Nature has provided us with food that harnesses the nutrients from the soil, the weather and the water it is fed – The slogan, ‘Food is what It eats’ springs to mind. If we grow produce in an organic, magnesium rich soil we will produce organic, magnesium rich food. And the opposite is also correct. If we harvest fruit and vegetables from a soil conditioned with commercial fertilizers and pesticides they too will be rich with these chemicals.
There is some common sense to this for example, grated citrus rind is fabulous for flavouring but difficult to consume otherwise.
So, how best to eat our produce.
If it’s organic, eat it all (or as much as possible).
If its not organic, peel it (by removing the skin, we also remove some of the stored chemicals).
If its soft fruit or vegetables like strawberries, blueberries, grapes, stone-fruit and mushrooms, eat organic.
Nature provides whole food, it depends what we do with it as to whether we eat whole food.
With the onset of Spring, our spirits lift and things ‘seem a little brighter’ and they really are. In September, I wrote about the Autumn Equinox and the energetic changes most people feel - a contraction of energy and the need to hibernate and to be snug at home. With the Spring Equinox on Monday, the (20th March 2017), this energy has changed direction! It’s started moving up the chest and over the head and shoulders and down the back giving us the feeling of expansion (and often relief that winter has passed). This shift welcomes a feeling of POTENTIAL in daily life and optimism as our days are longer and we are full of new ideas – lets take up a hobby, start an evening class or sport, catch up with friends, possibly move house or change job, book that adventure destination – that fabulous Spring feeling.
Spring (the Chinese Wood Element) is associated with green colour and resonates with sour and tangy foods. These cleanse the palate and are readily available. Spring brings a bounty of vegetables, which are light in texture, grown above ground (thus harnessing the energy of the sun), full of chlorophyll and a rainbow of colours. Instead of our heavier and nourishing winter casseroles and soups our bodies and taste buds opt for lighter food such as leafy salads, vegetable croudites, spirilized corgettie and quick stir-fries. To nourish seasonally reconnects us to the rhythms of the earth. Despite busy lives and long working days, this is a simple way to regroup and feel better in ourselves.
The adage, ‘a spring clean’ doesn’t just refer to the house, but also ourselves. Many people come into Spring and quickly catch a cold or have a cough that will not budge. Skin complaints can flare up or feelings of sluggishness and being unhappy can be difficult to move. This is all associated with the body undertaking a natural detoxification. Moving out sluggish winter mucus and stagnant lymph via the lungs, the skin and the gastro-intestinal tract. The organs associated with Spring are the liver and gall bladder and after a winter of contracted energy, these can be overloaded causing health and emotional flare-ups in unexpected parts of the body and feelings. If these sound familiar seek advice from a Nutritional Therapist.
Great spring and early summer vegetables to watch out for and there benefits are;
Asparagus contains more folic acid than any other vegetable. It’s a good source of fibre, potassium, vitamins A and C and glutathione.
Beetroot loves the liver and kidneys. It is high in manganese, potassium and vitamin C. A great supporting food to ward of the colds and coughs of Spring while also supporting the liver and kidneys while it naturally detoxs.
Broccoli is flavonoid rich and has anti-inflammatory properties. It is high in vitamins C, A and K. Unsurprisingly it also helps the body to detox with a specific combination of phytonutrients. It is a super food of the first order!
Purple sprouting broccoli contains vitamins C and A and is a source of caretenoids, iron, folic acid, calcium and fibre. The photochemical sulphoraphane is thought key in cancer prevention and a resistance to heart disease, osteoporosis and diabetes.
Fennel aids digestion and is high in iron, manganese, magnesium, calcium, zinc and Vitamin K. A great immune boaster and good for bone health.
New potatoes are sources and vitamin C.
Radishes are considered to be another cancer deterrent and have significant levels of vitamin C.
Spinach is full of vitamins A and C and folic acid. It’s also high in iron and calcium.
Spring onions are high in flavonoids (another cancer and heart disease preventative), also vitamins B and C.
Use your food to nourish your body and harness the Spring energy. Use the Spring energy to detoxify and move on from the Winter.
Paula is an avid writer and enjoys working with food and words.