It is a truth that no one can deny; food can harm and food can heal. Food can create health and food can create disease. Everyone knows the saying from Hippocrates, “Let thy food be thy medicine and thy medicine be thy food.” The quote offers no explanation or evidence for the suggestion, yet we still quote him over one thousand years later. You see, our bodies are built from what we absorb through our intestinal wall, and that means that every cell in our body is composed of recomposed molecules derived from the food we put into our mouths. Every person knows this in the deepest part of themselves, which is why no one ever questions Hippocrates’ famous saying. “Let thy food be thy medicine and thy medicine be thy food.”
1. Eat More Leafy Green Vegetables
Yes, I’m going to tell you to eat your greens! But I’m not talking about broccoli or green beans. I’m talking about the mother of all greens, the pungent, dark, bitter, and powerfully nutritious leafy greens! These are just a few: kale, parsley, sorrel, cilantro, mustard greens, chard, collards, romaine, spinach, arugula, watercress, mint, basil, beet greens, turnip greens, and dandelion greens. If you haven’t heard of half of these, get yourself to a grocery store and start perusing the produce aisle! Then, get yourself to a farm market, for goodness sake! There are so many delicious salads and green juices to be made from these greens. One of my favorite is a combination of spinach, basil and mint with honey mustard dressing. If you need some inspiration and some tasty dressings to get the greens down, see the recipe section. Just for the sake of brainstorming, on a daily basis you could get greens into your diet through green juice, salads, green smoothies, steamed or sautéed with a little sea salt and butter, or added to soups. Enjoy!
2. Consume More Raw Probiotic Foods
Probiotic foods are referred to by a few different names, like cultured vegetables, lacto-fermented beverages, fermented foods, and include such tasty treats as sauerkraut, kim chee, kefir, yogurt, kombucha, amasai and kvass. Each one of these foods has a long history of use by traditional cultures all over the world. Probiotic foods are beneficial for three main reasons: the fermentation process gives them a long shelf life, so they were used as a source of nutrition in the long winter months, they provide beneficial bacteria and yeast to aid with digestion and immunity and due to the fermentation process they contain more nutrition than their unfermented counterparts.
Sauerkraut is a traditional European fermented food made by shredding, salting and packing cabbage into a ceramic crock and letting it sit in a cold space for weeks and up to a few months. In her book Nourishing Traditions, Sally Fallon explains that “salt inhibits putrefying bacteria for several days while enough lactic acid is produced [by lactobacilli varieties] to preserve the vegetables for several months.” The process of fermentation creates b vitamins and various organic acids that keep the ph of the gut in balance. Sauerkraut has a long shelf life and because cabbage contains vitamin c, it was considered a food staple on long voyages across the ocean to prevent scurvy when fresh fruits would be unavailable.
Sally Fallon muses in Nourishing Traditions, “Could it be that in abandoning the ancient practice of lacto-fermentation and in our insistence on a diet in which everything has been pasteurized, we have compromised the health of our intestinal flora and made ourselves vulnerable to legions of pathogenic microorganisms?” Thankfully, fermented foods are becoming more widely available in health food stores and through farm coops. For more information on making them yourself, check out these helpful books: The Full Moon Feast by Jessica Prentice, Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon and Wild Fermentation by Sandor Katz.
3. Don’t Fear the Fat
We all know that we should be eating the “healthy fats” for more energy, weight loss and heart health. However, I believe that we all still have a deep seated fear of fat instilled in us from a lifetime of input from misguided news media, physicians and weight loss programs. First of all, let me give my definition of a healthy fat. A healthy fat is one that has a long (more than a few thousand years) history of use in the human diet. Unrefined coconut, olive and sesame oils are the most familiar oils in our modern diet that have ancient historical uses.
Coconut oil has been used by tropical cultures for centuries and is composed of medium chain fatty acids, which have the same molecular structure as the fatty acids found in human breast milk. This kind of fat feeds our metabolism and immune system efficiently and effectively. According to Wikipedia, “the first recorded olive oil extraction is known from the Hebrew Bible and took place during the Exodus from Egypt, during the 13th century BC.” Sesame oil is a seed oil and seed oils typically don’t hold up to time and oxygen very well however, “the high vitamin E and antioxidant content in sesame seed oil makes it resistant to rancidity,” according to Sally Fallon Morell in her book Nourishing Traditions.
Newer oils like vegetable oils blends, soy, sunflower, safflower, grapeseed and canola as well as refined versions of the healthy oils, like refined coconut oil are said to be rancid and oxidized by the time they hit the grocery store shelf because they do not hold up well to oxidation during the extraction process. There is a reason that we as humans did not try to extract these oils back when health was more important than money!
Ghee, butter and (gasp!) lard are the other fats that have a long standing place in the human diet. Traditional cultures would collect butter fat from cows or goats in the summer to eat during the winter months. Now we know that this was a source of vitamin d for them when the sun was scarce.
It seems to me that the very diseases that are blamed on these traditional fats, like heart disease, have only increased to alarming levels in the past century. This increase in disease coincides with the decrease in consumption of some of these fats including lard and butter and the increase in consumption of oils like canola, soy, grapeseed, sunflower and safflower. We need fat for many essential biological processes in the body including but not limited to: cell membrane function and cell membrane structural integrity, feeding the brain and the body for long-lasting energy and providing building blocks for immune cells, hormones and a healthy functioning nervous system.
May you be blessed with good food and good health always! Bon Appétit!
Robin Shirley is a health enthusiast, entrepreneur and the founder of the International Health Coach Association and the Take Back Your Health Conference. Her mission is to bring together people and health information in an inspirational atmosphere so that healthy lifestyles will spread like wildfire. Robin grew up with Systemic Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis and Chronic Infection and has spent almost 10 years on her own studying and experimenting with nutrition, herbs, movement and various alternative therapies. Robin has personally experienced the power of holistic nutrition and lifestyle adjustments on reducing pain and inflammation and increasing joy and pleasure, which is her inspiration to serve and support others with health challenges. She is a Certified Holistic Health Coach and a member of the American Board of Drugless Practitioners. Her formal training was at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition through SUNY Purchase College.
Please visit her website for more information: www.robinshirley.com