“I have spent a lot of time working in the drugless healing arts over the years, but I must say, there are no treatments that are worthwhile or complete without the use of nutrition. The housewife and cook are more important than doctors and specialists in the building of health, and in the cure of disease.” Bernard Jensen, PhD, foreword to Forever Young Living
How to Eat
You will find these basic principles of eating in the holistic literature. Healing with Whole Foods by Paul Pitchford provides some of the most thorough treatment on eating in agreement with the laws of nature. Here’s a slimmed-down sum-up from all my studies:
1. Chew. Only after turning 40 did my husband try not inhaling his food. Magic. A few days into his experiment, even after serving himself generously off a buffet, Peter didn’t suffer that uncomfortable plug along the gut. The masticating regulated him, too. Chewing is what kicks off the digestive process and stimulates certain pancreatic enzymes. I find myself going beyond 100 times per mouthful because pieces still need crushing. Applesauce consistency before swallowing is ideal.
32x Better than nothing. Good start.
50x There you go. But wouldn’t you like more bang for your buck each bite?
80x You feel good. But it’s been said the good is the enemy of the best. Come on, just fifteen more seconds.
100x Peptic power! Efficient utilization of nutrients, ready waste disposal. Who wouldn’t want this?
2. Drink between meals. A lot of liquid, whether water or broth drunk along with your food, dilutes digestive juices and hampers digestion. Under half a cup is okay. Space drinks from food by at least 45 minutes. This practice will help control gas, too.
3. Minimize cold foods. They can weaken you in a number of ways. Foods cold in temperature essentially shock your stomach, its digestive energy then spent largely on first warming the food. Foods that are cooling, like raw fruits and vegetables, can weaken digestion over time when consumed in excess, especially in people who are usually themselves cold. Of course juicing and preparing smoothies offer many benefits. But we don’t want to overdo anything when it comes to food. A daily raw juiced breakfast can be too cooling, especially for children whose digestive system is in development; alternating days of the week and time of day, and easing up in the cooler seasons will help balance the body. Kids tend to be given milk straight out of the fridge. My son has gone many seasons dairy-free. When he does do his occasional goat milk, I warm it lightly on the stovetop first.
When you drink large amounts (more than 4 oz) of liquid food, try holding the gulps in your mouth for a bit to mix with the salivary juices so they can trigger breakdown enzymes.
4. Watch the high heat. It’s not what we eat so much as how we prepare it that determines health. High heat will kill the nutrients and enzymes in the most beneficent of food, especially grains, legumes, vegetables, fruits, and oils. Common sense. Take anything living and boil it out the wazoo, and see how much vitality it’s got left. Oils are notoriously cooked on high. The smoke point is a term of wonderful face value: the temperature at which the oil starts smoking. The oil’s gone bad by then. But even before it’s reached this point, it is going carcinogenic. I cook on low heat – longer than I otherwise would – as much as possible. Check the smoke point of your oils. Rice bran and coconut oils have a high threshold. Olive oil does not take the intense blaze of grills well, contrary to the recommendation of many chefs. Since seeds and nuts go rancid easily in heat, I cook or roast them on low heat the rare times I don’t use them raw as oils.
5. Keep it fresh. Try to buy vegetables whole. Prechopped veggies offer diminished nutritional power. Produce begins to lose vitality the moment it’s cut. Isn’t nature fascinating? How great do you feel when you get a cut? “Did you know that a stalk of celery or a serving of fresh salad greens has more vitamins and minerals than a box of synthetic vitamin tablets?” Henry Beiler, M.D. Food is Your Best Medicine. As to storage: when people wonder how long leftovers are good, they’re asking how long they can avoid a funny smell or color. But food is living. That’s precisely why it provides health. How brimming with life can you feel boxed up, sealed in plastic, sitting on a shelf? Macrobiotic eaters are keen on the energy in the food they consume. A broad recommendation is to finish leftovers within 24 hours – legumes and grains 48 – before they lose vitality and healing energy. I know this final word will be hard to swallow but freezing alters the molecular structure of food, as does microwaving. And it should be of no surprise that the intense cold kills vitality. In this regard, produce survives freezing least well. If I’m up against a wall, I sometimes freeze meat – and even less often – grain products.
6. Don’t mix fruit & vegetables. As most recipes for juicing suggest to make the drink palatable. Healing with Whole Foods provides the most extensive explanation on food combinations I have come across. Lettuce and celery remain the exceptions that pair well with fruit.
7. Have fruit by itself. Fruit ferments in the gut when eaten with other foods. But cooking fruit into something else is less an issue as they mix, like one food. Sometimes I mash fruit and cook it into our gluten-free oatmeal.
8. Milk is best taken by itself. It is not a drink but a complete protein. It does not digest well with other foods.
9. One protein at a time. My six-year-old now reminds his dad. More than one protein in a sitting burdens the liver. A viable exception is tofu and meat together. Yin, yang. Cooling, warming balance.
Chicken parmesan = Chicken + cow
Meatball mixture of ground pork and beef = Pig + cow
A steak dinner with a glass of milk (Yowzers, good luck digesting that.)
Muffin made of nuts and egg: Nuts are harder to digest than meat. Egg white loves to glue itself to the liver.
10. Aim for three to six vegetables a day. It helps to be conscious about this, and the effort will support the ongoing rich biochemical processes that keep us well.
11. Balance your meal. Which doesn’t actually mean a protein, starch, and veggies each time. Taking in a variety of color and texture keeps us centered. No random whim of Nature, color itself is medicine. White foods nourish the lungs, red the heart. Beautiful, yes? The purple that protects the grape from the harmful effects of the sun is what fights cancer. Food is alive, and each texture offers its own energy. Don’t forget to add sea vegetables like seaweed, especially in the hot seasons, to help you cool.
12. Rotate your food. Different grains build different tissue. Each protein and carbohydrate nourishes its own system in the body. Keeping your grocery list to a favorite few also predisposes you to addiction, the flip side of allergies.
13. Keep it simple. What’s simple are the laws of nature: the more ingredients coming down the pike, the harder the liver will have to work. I try to pare down the number of ingredients in my cooking, and one of the things that determines whether a product (like tomato sauce) makes it into my shopping cart is the length of the ingredient list. I shudder at the laundry list on packages of “organic” baby and kids’ snacks. In Amber Waves of Grain, Alex Jack makes a very interesting observation about Abe Lincoln who, as president, declined the rich stately fare his political dignitaries enjoyed on their visits. The author believes that the bowls of Something Simple Lincoln often satisfied himself with helped him think clearly to navigate the nation through its time of crisis.
14. A word on meat. The research overwhelmingly supports a plant-based diet for those wishing to thrive into longevity. At the same time, no one diet or food fits all. Every part of nature’s bounteous offering has its healing profile, can alter our body for better and worse – depending on its preparation and frequency of use. The majority of people I’ve met who seek a nutritional makeover will benefit from easing up on the meat. I happen to be in the minority that needs some. Meat is warming, builds tissue, strengthens.
15. A word on sugar: chemical not found in nature, it weakens the immune system like nothing.
16. Enjoy! It took years for me to understand how emotional well-being at the table feeds the physical. Ever lose your appetite when upset? The body is incredibly wise. It shuts down in such times, starting with the stomach, knowing the liver won’t be able to handle the food properly. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, the liver literally stores grief and anger. Giving thanks for the bounty of fellowship and food, slowing to enjoy the taste of the meal, will go a long way to nourish you.
How to Select Leafy Greens
The secret is to inspect the underside. Half the time, that is where you will discover tiny rawfoodist critters or dark splotches that blow the cover on the freshness factor. Of course you want crisp, clean leaves both front and back.
How to Clean Vegetables Efficiently
Soaking is more than half the work. The bath dislodges sediments a lot better than running water does by itself. You’ll find at the bottom of your bowl the dirt and microthings you’ll be glad to have loosened. Add a touch of grapefruit seed extract or quality vinegar to the soak water for 30 minutes or as long as you can if you’re short on time. White distilled vinegar is not food. It’s a fabulous cleaner but will suck the minerals from your bones. Go over vegetables well with fingers or a brush under final running rinse.
How to Cook Beans
See this post.
How to Cook Whole Grain
See this post.