Cretan Olive Oil – it doesn’t get any better than this!

Whilst on holiday in Crete, I was fortunate enough to visit an organic olive plantation. Here they produce beautiful rich, green cold-pressed #oliveoil. Some is flavoured with lemon peel and some with bitter orange peel (my favourite!)

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We had a short tour of the production plant. This is small compared to the big, non-organic olive oil plants. The plantation has been in one family for many generations and what they don’t know about olives isn’t worth knowing! The oil is produced with love – the olives are stone ground, cold pressed and quickly bottled to preserve nutrients. Even the remaining stones and skins are dried and used as fuel.

The olive trees are only sprayed with a mineral powder and water. This deters the main pest – a fly which pierces the skin of the olive and thus allowing oxygen in. Due to the oxidation, the acidity in resulting olive oil is increased.

There has been much written about whether olive oil spoils when heated. The definitive answer is NO. To clarify, some of the nutrients may be lost but it does not become rancid/harmful/changed to trans fats. Greeks (and people in other olive-growing countries) use it for everything and always have done. The benefits of olive oil are in USING it – raw and heated.

The Mediterranean diet is a healthy one (although fast-foods are available) and olive oil plays its part. They eat lots of dairy – in the form of Feta cheese (at every meal!) and yogurt. I wasn’t on the mainland or in a very touristy area and didn’t see any “low-fat” anything. Phew.

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Food for Homo Sapiens

So many times I see written, “Everyone’s needs are different,” regarding nutrition. I don’t get it! I am not saying that everyone else is wrong and I’m right, I’m saying – I don’t get it!

This is my understanding and my interpretation. Our evolution, (from what we have been told of our origins) has gone through many stages and almost certainly began in Africa. Homo Sapiens has walked the Earth for millennia. Many of the “Homo” subgroups died out, for various reasons, leaving modern humans to rule. This happened around 200,000 years ago.

WE ARE THIS SPECIES! Each and every one of us is the same. We have the same amount of bones, our eyes/nose/ears/nervous systems are formed in the same way.  We all have a sense of taste and smell and digestive juices and enzymes. If you think about why this is, you will come up with the answer that they are needed to detect what is good to eat and what is not. If it were not the case, evolution would not have bothered with these senses and we’d have died out because we ate the wrong things. After all, wild animals and birds just eat instinctively what nature intended – why should we be different?

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I should say at this point, that we almost certainly did not have a conscience about what we ate and other animals have always been on the menu. Animals/birds/fish (everything organic of course) were relatively easy to obtain and yielded tasty and satisfying food. Modern humans have always cooked their food. If meat is being roasted, the smell immediately starts the digestive process, getting all the necessary juices and enzymes on their starting blocks in readiness for the food about to be eaten. If any vegetable matter was eaten, it would have been from necessity, more than choice as they just do not smell as good as a roast wild pig! Fatty animals were preferred, as it is fat eaten with protein that brings about satiety. Without fat, the hunt for food would have been impossible and we would have been weak. There is a dangerous condition referred to as “rabbit starvation” -  the effect of consuming lean protein without fats.

The fact is that if every edible part of an animal is eaten, all known (and possibly unknown) nutrients for the life of humans are available. It is how it was and it is why we are here.

We in the UK settled as farmers about 10,000 years ago. According to the consensus, we are genetically identical to these ancient people. We have adapted to the temperate climate – our eye colour and skins have lightened, but our nutritional needs are unchanged. We still need protein (fish, meat, eggs) and fats along with the nutrients they supply. There are essential proteins and fats, meaning we must find them in our diet. There are no essential carbohydrates, meaning we can live very happily without them.

If we were still living this way, we would be eating what was available at that time. The problem is, we now have too much CHOICE! It’s easy to choose, when the choices are leaves, snails (yes we did!) or duck. Frankly, all would have been eaten at some point as it could be eat or die. But now – oh boy! We have almost limitless choices and we can refuse to eat something, knowing that we can have something we prefer. Luxury! We can eat “out of season” and cheaply, but this means consuming less nutrients, a helping of pesticides/herbicides and foods we are not digestively designed for. All this weakens us as individuals and as the species Homo Sapiens.

The correct diet for individuals depends upon where one lives in the world. Continents have differing animal species and vegetation so when it comes to meals, of course they will be different. But the nutrients must stay the same and in similar proportions.

So when a nutritionist says everyone is different in their needs, they can only be partly right. A healthy individual requires our ancestral diet and a few other more modern foods, such as raw dairy and properly prepared grains/legumes, to make life easy. A sick person needs advice on aspects of healthy living and only our ancestral diet, in order to obtain all nutrients for healing.

Most importantly, those nutrients will be in the correct balance for Homo Sapiens.

Me Jane – You Tarzan! Part 1

 

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What Life Needs for its Existence

Life on Earth as we know it, began due to four things; minerals, sunlight, water and oxygen. I’m no scientist, but I guess that minerals and the sun had to come first and the minerals gave rise to water and oxygen. No matter. The point is, without them, our world would not exist in the way it does.

If life is deprived of any of these elements, it will ultimately die – due to a direct or indirect lack. For example:

  • We die very quickly without oxygen.
  • Anaerobic organisms will die if their host is denied oxygen.
  • There is no life that can exist without minerals.
  • Sunlight creates energy in plants. It’s true that we can live quite happily without plants, but only if we eat the animals that do eat them. There is a finite amount of energy in the universe – it is only the form it takes that changes so in this case, we derive energy directly from plants, or indirectly from animals.
  • Water is needed to supply life with nutrients – no water, no life.

As I said, I am no scientist but hopefully you get my meaning. These elements are still the most vital contributors to life. Hundreds of millions of years ago, when life was advanced enough to leave the mineral-rich oceans, it had to take the sea with it in a complex network of tubes – which we call the circulatory system. These soluble minerals enable life. They literally allow the body to conduct all the processes that it needs. For example; contraction of muscles including heart muscle in animals, regulating fluid balance, producing enzymes for digestion and feeding the symbiotic microbes that inhabit all life.

 

Our Evolution – Me Jane, You Tarzan!

Humans have been evolving for around 2,500,000 years and nature has done a great job. Our omnivorous character was born from need – as our teeth tell us that we are primarily meat-eaters. If there was no meat, plants kept us alive until meat again became available. Fruit would have been eaten, but remember – the northern hemisphere only produces fruit during autumn. The carbohydrates from fruit are easily stored as fat, which would have been a welcome energy source over the approaching winters. We made the best of what was available.

Our genetics haven’t changed much in 40,000 years (which is the scientific consensus), during which time we have battled two ice ages. The last one finished around 10,000 years ago. During these cold times, there would have been little in the way of edible vegetation and what there was, we may not have had the digestive equipment for. Animals and fish sustained us. Nothing was wasted – if it was chewable, it was eaten. The liver, kidneys, heart, glands and brain were (and still are) very valuable sources of nutrients. There was no “organic” food, because food was just food – untainted. This food nourished us, sustained us and enabled procreation. And that is why we are here now.

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The next blog will cover what has happened since we started to live in communes, keep animals and grow food.

 

The Lost Skill – Cooking From Scratch

I have recently looked at some of my old blogs and I noticed a common thread in many of them. Whatever the topic I always end up saying “learn to cook” or “cook from scratch” or “acquire cookery skills”.

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We have really lost the plot with this. When I was at school, I learned “domestic science”. I think this is a perfect term for cookery because before it becomes an art, the science has to be learned. A rather strange analogy but it works – if you learn the rules of the card game bridge, you can play. BUT, to be good at it you have to have acquire the skills to play well – which comes with practice. So at school, I learned the science of cooking. I have been cooking ever since then and whilst I am no expert, more than forty years of practice means I can cook nutritious and (most of the time!) delicious food.

My children can cook. At school they learned very little about basic cookery and it always annoyed me that they often brought home cakes and biscuits but rarely soup or (if ever) bread. What does this teach children? That was twenty years ago and they have now learned a little more thank goodness, but I wonder what they are taught in schools now? We are a microwave society – food goes into the microwave in its packaging and is often eaten straight from this. Everything is for quickness and convenience and there is no thought for nutrition. This way of eating is just to fill stomachs and ultimately there will be health issues to contend with.
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Young people – even middle-aged people – may stay reasonably healthy eating like this, but it cannot last. The body need nutrients and if they are not supplied, it will age quickly and die – just like every other living organism.

Another problem is the notion that eating well is expensive. As a nutritionist my response is – so is illness and death – can you afford not to eat well? As a person who has always struggled with money (you don’t start nursing to get rich!), I try to temper my passion by saying – change something and one way to change is to learn cooking skills. The foods you will use are far superior to the ingredients of any packaged foods or ready-meals. These are made from the cheapest ingredients with lots of additives to make them palatable. Don’t take my word for it, just look at the ingredients list on the packaging.

Isabel Natrins at “Once Upon a Cook – Food Wisdom Better Living”, is a good friend who shares my passion for good healthy food and has all the skills I was talking of above, but she has the “art” in spades! Her journey started (as it should), whilst she was young – she had a mother who took pride in cooking. Later, Isabel attended the Ballymaloe Cookery School in Cork and today she owns her own company. Isabel runs workshops for people who want to learn new cookery skills – from baking bread, to probiotic foods, to what to do with a chicken! Here is Isabel showing you how to joint a chicken – and listen to what she has to say about quality.

Isabel jointing a chicken:

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What on Earth is a Superfood?

What on Earth is a superfood? Is it a Teenage Mutant Ninja Sausage? Or maybe a sandwich that leaps between buildings in a single bound? Silly I know, but so is the notion that any one food can be a “superfood”.

A while ago, I saw a headline stating that eating almonds every day can protect your heart against disease. I have seen that broccoli can fight cancer and I have seen any amount of health claims for kale and blueberries. Others include – goji berries, oily fish, cacao, maca, and beetroots – the list goes on. These are good foods to include in our diets and they contain antioxidants (but so do many other foods) but they are not “superfoods” because there are none! There are good and bad diets though. These “superfoods” are liberally and continually splashed over magazines and newspapers. What is the purpose of these articles – what are they trying to achieve?

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To be fair, some of these articles are just trying to get people to eat better but doing it this way is, in my opinion, a waste of time or falls on deaf ears. Why would adding blueberries to an otherwise poor diet contribute to good health? Most articles are featured by the media just to get you to buy their newspaper/magazine and some are to get you to buy a supplement – eg.beetroot juice.

Nutrition for us comes in the form of nutrients (sorry for being pedantic) contained in our diet. There are many known nutrients but there are also some unknowns. We keep discovering “new” nutrients in foods, but this being the case means that we must eat the foods in order to obtain them – ie. not from supplements. Another thing that is always conveniently glossed over, (I’m being kind here as I suspect that this is not as widely known as it should be), is that nutrients in plants are not always bio-available to us – we can’t utilize them. Bear in mind that our digestive systems are very different from the herbivores – they are uniquely equipped to digest vegetation. We have a digestive system similar to that of a carnivore, telling us that we can more readily absorb and utilize nutrients from meat. Of course, as we are evolving as omnivores, it is fine and possibly desirable to eat plants – there are nutrients in plants that we can use – I am not saying we shouldn’t be eating some of them.

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Let’s look at some of these “superfoods”.

Kale is a real buzzword at the moment. I am seeing countless recipes for raw kale in smoothies and salads.  It used to be just grown for fodder, but someone decided we should consume it too, so it became a great winter vegetable when there was little else (no doubt why there is a variety named “Hungry Gap”). No problem – it needs lots of cooking as it is quite tough and fibrous, but its strong earthy flavour is liked by many and there are some nutrients to be had – minerals especially. Raw? Not a chance – you try it! Your taste-buds tell you what your digestive system can cope with!

Beetroot is very popular at the moment. It is a historic food but not a pre-historic food. It is a relative of “sea-beet”, from which all other “beet” varieties stem. The leaves were eaten and used in medicine long before the root had a use. The root was probably not in general use until around the 14th century. Again, some nutrients are available but beetroot is sweet – and can contain up to 10% sugar! A few years ago, an article on beetroot juice told of heart health benefits. I know of someone who took himself off his heart medication and instead, drank a pint of beetroot juice daily. He made himself very ill indeed.

Goji berries are not native to Europe and are grown commercially in China – where they have become big business. Many minerals and vitamins can be present but aren’t always unless organic methods are used. They are a member of the solanaceae family – which also includes tomatoes, potatoes, peppers and all members of the nightshade family – including “deadly”! Whilst most of us can tolerate the food plants, the presence of toxic alkaloids are present in all these plants to a degree and they are poorly tolerated by people with certain chronic illnesses. Goji berries are highly susceptible to pests and will usually contain considerable amounts of pesticide residues. If you are going to use them, always buy organic.

Remember – the nutrients may be there but some may be useless to us. I am not suggesting that their inclusion in your diet is wrong but don’t rely on them to supply all that which your body requires – cos that ain’t happening! This is worth a read if you want to understand plant foods better and this if you want to learn the traditional methods of making plant foods more human-friendly.

Just by way of a comparison, organic pasture reared meat – offal and all – contains all nutrients needed for human health and they are in exactly the correct form that we can absorb and utilize them. Pesticide and drug-free to boot. And for those now wondering where the vitamin C is – organ meats contain vitamin C but please don’t overcook them.Spring Lambs

My advice – eat mostly foods that are native to your country of origin; eat vegetables and fruit in season; buy organically produced fruit and veg or grow your own; process foods in your kitchen according to tradition to increase their nutritional value; find a source of raw milk and dairy; eat animal fat; eat nuts and seeds in moderation and if you eat grain, treat it properly; meat and eggs should be from pasture raised animals. Eat small fish and shellfish. For other health measures, see my Healthy Life guidelines.

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The Essence of Nutrition

It would be difficult to have no idea at all about nutrition and diet. Newspapers, television programmes, magazines, posters – even supermarkets – are all ramming nutrition down our throats – pun intended! As with everything, these will have a different slant depending upon what they are selling – because they are selling.

Magazines and papers will sound-bite every diet related report as long as it sells papers, so the headlines have to be punchy. “Snacking Habits That Help You Lose Weight” and file000571098509Surprise superfoods: dieticians say popcorn and pork scratchings are bursting with nutrients – and could be GOOD for you.” You know the sort of thing. Television programmes are only marginally better as at least they have a bit longer to explain their specific point. Just looking at some of the programmes available, most are about weight-loss, reaffirming the myth that calorie counting is the way to go. Supermarkets and food manufacturers will just jump on any bandwagon that is conveniently passing at the time – low-fat, low sugar, no saturated fats, low salt and so on. But where are the nutrients? Confused? Then let me inject a note of sanity here.

“What is nutrition?”
Nutrition is supplying the body with all known and unknown nutrients required for the life and health of humans.

“How do we obtain that nutrition?”
We chew, swallow, digest, absorb and utilize the diet that nature intended. All stages of this process are necessary. We eat NATURAL foods, preferably organic.

Proteins are made up of amino acids of which there are many. Animal proteins are ideal for us as they contain all the essential amino acids that we need for the growth and repair of our bodies. Vegetarians can obtain a variety of amino acids from vegetables but as there are virtually none that contain all those needed for humans, care must be taken when menu planning.  We break down millions of cells every day and these must be replaced. Proteins are also needed for the formation of enzymes, hormones and other necessary substances in the body.
Animal protein sources: meat and offal, fish, eggs, dairy; vegetable protein sources: beans, lentils, nuts,seeds

Fats are a great source of energy. Animal fats and their essential fatty acids are needed for the formulation of hormones, the lining of cells, the metabolism of protein, the absorption of minerals and much more. They also contain the fat-soluble vitamins A, D3, and K2 – all of which work together, so rather fortunate that they are usually found together in animal fats.
Animal fats: lard, dripping, duck/goose fat, butter, cream, oily fish.
The vegetable fats that have benefits for our health are olive oil (for salads) and coconut oil (stir-fries and curries). These contain chemicals which don’t conveniently fall into the vitamins and minerals category but are good for us none-the-less.
Seed oils (rape, grape, corn, sunflower, peanut or anything loosely termed “vegetable” oil are all highly processed which makes them toxic and they have no place in a healthy diet. (Eating the seeds is fine though.) Will they harm once in a while? Not if your main diet contains lots of protective animal fats.
All fats contain saturated, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats – it’s just the ratio that changes. We need them all, but eating a natural diet will supply them in just the right ratio – nature’s good like that!

Carbohydrates. First and foremost, there are no essential carbohydrates. In other words, they are not necessary for life. If you never ate another slice of bread in your life – you wouldn’t die! The metabolism of concentrated carbohydrate foods (eg. sugar and grains), uses up our essential nutrients, increasing our need for them. The body can use carbohydrates (which it changes to glucose – a type of sugar) for energy. Most of the carbohydrate foods available today are highly processed – cakes, biscuits, sweets, cereals and they don’t have any benefits for us. Since we have evolved as omnivores, some carbohydrate foods can be included with little problem but currently there is an “epidemic” of gluten intolerance, so it may be prudent to cut back on grains containing gluten – mainly wheat. The best carbohydrate foods are from vegetables and some fruits where they also have a wealth of vitamins, minerals, fibre and other nutrients.

If you eat the diet indicated above, you don’t need to think of vitamins, minerals and other nutrients because these foods supply them! It’s not rocket science is it? There are lots of articles on the website to tell you what our diet should be to obtain these nutrients. The only thing for you to do now is cook from scratch using the best ingredients you can afford!

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Home Grown in a Few Days – For Pennies!

We have issues with the ground attached to our house. Since the house was built on an area that used to be a gravel pit – well, I expect you can understand our problem! I have, over many years tried to improve the soil, but it has made little difference. Perpetual spinach is it! Actually, for anyone wanting to start growing food in their gardens, this is an amazing crop. I start growing it during the summer and it gets going before winter sets in, when growing slows almost to a halt. However, it speeds up again and you just pick the leaves as needed and it keeps producing more. Even now, when it has gone to seed, there are some small leaves to use raw in salads. I will be sowing the next lot at the end of the month.

Thanks to Dr. Joseph Mercola, I now grow seed sprouts.He has written about the subject extensively. Lots of you may have done this – mustard and cress and maybe mung beans. However, there are lots of seeds that can be used for sprouting. I am currently growing sunflower and daikon radish seeds (see pictures) but others include, broccoli, red kale, alfalfa, fenugreek and leek. Watercress too – as long as the compost is kept moist.

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Seeds tend to have a fairly high carbohydrate content – grains are seeds so think of wheat and rice. They also have a fabulous nutritional content. They are tiny concentrated packages of nutrition which just want a comfortable moist bed in which to create another parent plant. Acorns to oaks! When they sprout, much of the carbohydrate content is used and proteins are formed – these are the building blocks for all life forms. Plants harness the sun and use its energy to create their own energy systems. Providing they have the sun, a regular supply of water and organic compost to grow in, they will become a very valuable source of vitamins, minerals and amino acids in a relatively digestible form.

I use half-trays as there only three of us at home. It’s also nice to have more than one variety on the go. To be honest, whilst still edible, when the proper leaves start to grow (as opposed to the initial cotyledonous leaves) the concentrated nutrients and flavour are not as good. Put a centimetre of organic compost into the seed tray and water it. Sprinkle the seeds thickly and sprinkle a little more compost to cover them. Lightly water the top. Leave on a windowsill and wait, watering daily (I use an old washing-up liquid bottle for this). In a day or two, the seeds will be up and once they are 3-4 cms high, cut with scissors and add to salads, sandwiches or smoothies. Don’t let them get too big – cut and store in the fridge for a day or two. I find that I need to assist the sunflower sprouts to shed the seed casings, but the others are fine.

There are a couple of other things you can do too, to make the pennies go further. I buy, during the spring/summer (it doesn’t work in the winter) a bag of “Majestic Basil” from Waitrose. Wash it thoroughly then chop off a tiny part of the stem and put the bunch into water – an old cup/glass is fine. Change the water daily, but after a few days, the stems will have roots! Plant 4-5 to a 15cm pot, in organic compost and they will live happily on your windowsill/in the greenhouse for several months. Pick leaves as you need but obviously leave some on the individual plants so they continue to grow. Not organic exactly but as only a few leaves are used for flavouring, I think it’s fine.

2014-07-05 14.00.07Lastly (for now anyway!), lettuces. Buy mixed leaf seeds and sow thinly into troughs or pots. As they emerge, thin them a little but only to around 1-2 cms apart. When about 8-10 cms tall, harvest a few leaves from each plant and let them continue growing.So easy and takes only a week or two at this time of year!

2014-07-05 13.57.29Use organic compost – it doesn’t cost much more than the usual stuff but it is better for you and the environment. Also, find organic sprouting seeds – there are loads on the web. Start with a small amount of seeds and then buy larger amounts when you know which you like the best. My favourite are sunflower seeds so I buy 200g each time. They have a “meatiness” about them and taste mildly of the seeds. Radish sprouts taste exactly like radishes. I think I have to try leeks soon – love that idea! Happy sprouting!

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Is Breakfast the Most Important Meal?

Well this is a turnaround isn’t it? Breakfast is now not the most important meal according to this study! For so many years we have been told that we must have breakfast before starting our day and we have even been told that studies show how breakfast can help us lose weight, concentrate and stabilize our blood sugar. I am as guilty as many other professionals – I haven’t actually read these studies, just accepted the evidence for the most part.

In my defence, although I do read research reports, I make up my own mind about what is right for us and this is founded upon both my observations as a nurse and nutritionist and my usual way of looking at our diet and lifestyle against the back-drop of our evolutionary diet and lifestyle. There has been much research and speculation into what is right and wrong, but the bottom line is – we should do as our ancestors did. The only problem with this is that everyone has a different view of what they actually did! I have written a bit about this before so I won’t go into detail here. Suffice to say that we ate primarily meat and some vegetation when it was available. This study shows precisely this point.

What on Earth is breakfast – or lunch, tea or dinner for that matter? These are labels we have given to eating times, for our convenience. These meal times are fitted in file6401342550312before, during and after we go to work/school/college, but they are actually convenient times when we must top up our nutrients. We need vast amounts of quality nutrients for every single bodily function you can think of – blinking your eyes and producing tears; making the enzymes needed for the digestion of food; maintaining the electrical activity needed to allow your heart to beat and your muscles to contract and so on. Everything your body does, it does not do by chance. You make it happen by eating foods that supply these minerals, vitamins, fats and more.

A while ago, I wrote a blog about hunger which you can find here. It is important that we stay in touch with our bodies and really hear the message. The first thing you should be reaching for in the morning is liquid, preferably water, tea or a herbal infusion. The body detoxifies itself over night and the toxins need washing away. This could be why some people are never hungry first thing – and some even feel queasy. Hunger kicks in when the detoxing has finished. Always drink about half an hour, before you eat “breakfast”. In fact staying hydrated is one way to prevent over-eating or eating for no good reason. Drink sufficient liquid to keep your urine pale yellow – not clear which means you are drinking too much, or amber which means you are not drinking enough.

What is breakfast for you? I can hear your thought processes –
cereal, toast, eggs, file1281259008488porridge..! But what I’m getting at is what is the meaning of the word? Its literal meaning is of course, breaking one’s fast and I believe that this is the point. Why should this meal be taken before going out if you are not hungry? This study suggests that breakfast could be skipped, but it too is assuming that “breakfast” is the meal you have before your day starts.

Breakfast is the meal that breaks your fast – whenever that is. Your body very cleverly prepares itself for a meal. Once you are adequately hydrated and your body has finished its clear-up, signalling can get underway and you consciously think about food. This prepares your digestive tract – you salivate and your stomach rumbles, both of which mean that the enzymes and other chemicals needed to digest food, are ready and waiting. Absolutely the worst time to eat is whilst stressed, because this preparation stage will be omitted and indigestion ensues.

file000374824743There will be some people who wake feeling hungry. These are the people who eat very early evening, stay hydrated and don’t drink alcohol in the evening. In other words, there is less detoxifying to do so hunger is felt earlier. I know an aerobics teacher who is ravenous in the mornings and this is undoubtedly due to rapid usage of nutrients as well as early nights.

Remember that whenever you are ready to break your fast, you should provides what your body needs – essential vitamins, minerals, proteins and fats.

Some would argue carbohydrates in addition but since there are no essential carbohydrates, I don’t agree. However, the first nutrients in the list are the ones that your body is asking for and is prepared for, so make sure you provide these.

Many people will argue the time factors involved. No time in the morning for more than a piece of toast or no time to eat at ten o’clock when hunger hits. I’ve heard all the excuses and my answer is always the same – be prepared! If you cannot eat a good breakfast file0002090572764before leaving home, be prepared, as you will get hungry and you will eat something – as surely as day follows night. I am constantly amazed that work-places are completely geared for this – the coffee and doughnuts trolley materialises! There are also bakeries, sweet-shops and burger bars within close proximity. If you have a canteen at work, go and get yourself bacon and eggs!

There should be no hard and fast rules about what you eat or when as long as nutrients are supplied. If you had roasted meat for dinner the previous evening – take cold leftovers with salad or even cold vegetables with a nice creamy dressing. If you fancy an avocado to break your fast, accompany it with a few cherry tomatoes and a lump of Brie. Eggs from hens on pasture are possibly the best nutrition and the most convenient. Why not boil half a dozen and take two or three with you? Great with avocado, salad or cold asparagus. Try making a big frittata and taking a slice with you or make banana bread and take some of that. All of these suggestions will supply the necessary nutrients.

There is quite a bit of evidence that lengthening the time between your last meal of the day and the meal that breaks your fast the following morning helps with weight control and insulin sensitivity. I think it is a good idea anyway as it must emulate the eating patterns of our ancestors. Food would not have been available for “breakfast”, “lunch” and “dinner”. There may have been only one or two meals of meat or fish, with gaps occasionally filled by a few berries or nuts (in the autumn anyway) or roots, eggs, leaves and seeds. There were undoubtedly times of hunger but generally there would have been plenty of food to go around. The beauty of eating foods that we are genetically programmed for is that when properly nourished, we are less hungry.

Stop thinking of breakfast as such and instead, think of your first meal of the day as the time to supply all those nutrients that your body has told you it needs.

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The Life-Giving Sun

Well summer does seem to be here doesn’t it? One day of sun and a thunderstorm! It’s all good – nature needs both and frankly, so do we. The sun gives us huge amounts of vitamin D3 amongst other things.

I am still largely opposed taking supplements of vitamin D3. I have written many times about the problems with taking supplements and maintain my stance. Buying them is fraught because we don’t know how they have been made or whether they contain what they are supposed to contain and even if they do, whether it’s in the right form for humans to absorb! It is just too costly and complicated

We need the sun for our lives

Let’s take the benefits of the sun. Everyone knows that the sun makes vitamin D3 in our file000336228048(1)skins. Just think about that for a moment. Isn’t it absolutely astounding? This is just one example of how we are dependent upon our environment. (There are many others but I’ll save them for another time.) We need the sun for our lives – literally in every sense. We cannot survive without it and we become sick if deprived of it. We would not be here without the sun – and neither would anything else. It is vital that we appreciate and accept this fact. Our to-date evolution, over hundreds of thousands of years has depended upon the sun more than anything else. Most other factors in life have alternatives or can be foregone for a while.

..we have an epidemic of diseases associated with vitamin D deficiency

There is much evidence that certain diseases are more prevalent the further north in the hemisphere one looks. But we have lived in these places for many thousands of years and these diseases were not prevalent in our ancestors. “Modern” diseases are to be evidenced from remains that are less than 10,000 years old – giving grounds for the popular belief that these illnesses started during the time when we became farmers and had more permanent forms of shelter. Personally, I doubt that many of these illnesses were due to lack of sun exposure – we were very much outdoor people at this time. Their health change was more to do with their rapidly changing diet but as time continued, even more permanent buildings were constructed and much work was done indoors.

Even in the last couple of hundred years or so, we spent much time outside – walking (to get from one place to another, not necessarily for pleasure), farming, gardening and doing all those other necessary jobs that involve us stepping outside the house. Not anymore. Bringing it bang up to date, we travel to our place of work by car where we then enter an artificially lit, windowed building which allows no UVB light to enter. We travel home by car and spend the rest of the day inside. For many, the main source of UVB light is once a year on holiday. And then what do we do? Smother ourselves in sunscreen! We are in real trouble. Now, here in the northern hemisphere, we have an epidemic of diseases associated with vitamin D deficiency – and it is true – the further north you look, the more of these diseases you find.

How we obtained our vitamin D through pre-history

If you accept that we originated in Africa about 100,000 years ago and migrated northwards, you will also understand that at this time our skins were dark which protected us from the relentless equatorial sun whilst still allowing us to obtain the benefits. The northward journey took time – no jumping on Easyjet and arriving a few hours later! It possibly took thousands of years to inhabit the most northerly areas. Remember that at this time the Asia and Europe we know now, didn’t exist and the countries were merged making the migration easier.

As we very gradually moved northwards, our skins lightened. Why do think that was? In order that we could still benefit from the now much weaker and less reliable UVB rays from the sun! Our skins had to lighten in order to scavenge these less frequent rays at a much quicker rate than our African cousins – and the further north you live – the paler your skin will be and the faster you will get your dose of vitamin D! So, given that we need the same levels of vitamin D, the same amount can be obtained in just a few minutes if your recent ancestry is Scottish, a bit longer if you’re English but much longer if you are dark-skinned and living in Africa!

Vitamin D3 is not really a vitamin. It is a pre-steroid hormone and as such, can affect your DNA (unlike true vitamins). My take on this, is that many of the diseases that we label as genetic may in fact be acquired. Chronic vitamin D deficiency can be passed to our offspring. I have lots of reasons for believing this but one factor that I have come across many times when I am asking people about their health, is the “Welsh Tale” as I have named it. If someone has several generations of miners in their family, there is more risk of disease in that person. I’m sure you get the connection. Another scenario which is well documented is that of recent immigrants (within a few generations) to the northern hemisphere. It is this group of people who are the sickest in the western world – more diabetes, heart disease, obesity etc. Whilst there is a dietary factor, there is also a lack of vitamin D from the sun. Life is indoors and even if some time is spent in the sun, it is rarely enough for vitamin D to form. Each generation does seem to have lighter skin even if both parents are dark-skinned – nature knows what has to be done, but this takes time.

Sunbathe!

To prevent vitamin D deficiency, we must sunbathe. It must be taken like medicine. If the sun is high in the sky and your shadow is shorter than you are tall, the UVB rays are reaching Earth. Depending on your skin colour, sunbathe as near to naked as possible for as long as it takes your skin to go pink. Not red. When this has been achieved, cover up, use sunscreen (try to find a non-toxic one or use coconut oil which offers a little protection) or go indoors.

Don’t use soap/shower gel for at least 24 hours as this will remove the skin oils that contain the vitamin D. Use just water on the main parts and maybe just a little soap where you feel you must. Moisturise your skin with something natural such as coconut oil. With this amount of sun exposure you can make up to 20,000 IU of vitamin D but your body will stop the manufacture when it has sufficient to deal with. This takes 24 – 48 hours – then you can go out and make some more! You won’t find this quantity in a supplement and indeed, if you took this amount, it would be harmful.

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Since the fat-soluble vitamins work together, make sure you get plenty of vitamins A and K2 as well. Cheese is a good source especially Brie and Gouda.

Vitamin D is just one reason why we need the sun but there are others. For example, there is evidence that we need it for energy – just like plants. Lots of people feel energised when in the sun. Also, UV light through our eyes regulates our Circadian rhythms, thus helping us sleep. There will be more evidence to come I feel quite sure. Here is another article about the effects the sun has on us.

I have written about it before, but for completeness, I will give you a run-down of the diseases that seem (research is showing) to be related to vitamin D deficiency: around twenty types of cancer; diabetes; depression; heart disease; bone abnormalities; auto-immune diseases; infections. More about vitamin D3 here.

This is one way to boost your health enormously – it’s all of the above and more – and you can do it for free! Now what are you doing here? Outside you go!

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Stop Counting Calories and Start Counting Nutrients – part 2

The government guidelines of the 1980s are still with us, despite oodles of research calling them into question.

The two main groups on the Eatwell plate, are fruit and vegetables and the carbohydrate foods – bread, pasta, rice etc. They both have their place but not in this way – I wrote about these groups last time. The foods here have a fairly low calorific value and of course, file331303081137(1)this is one reason why the government came up with this recommendation – to try (in vain) to curb obiesity. The calorific value of foods has become the most important attribute of a food to dieters, nutritionists, dieticians and even those who just want to look after their health. This is a mistake. The whole point of hunger is the body telling the mind that it is time to replenish spent nutrients. What is required is food that replaces these – not a rice cake which has very little energy value – and in fact, very little of anything else either. Let’s look at the rest of the Eatwell plate – three further sections (making up the last third) which make up the whole.

Non-dairy proteins: There are essential proteins – meaning we must eat them. The foods containing proteins are mainly of animal origin. These are complete proteins and ideal for humans. There are many vegetable sources of protein but as they are incomplete, a wide range of these must be eaten. The foods include eggs, beans, peas, fish and meat from animals.

A few problems:
1) There is no guidance for vegetarians as to how to mix vegetable sources of proteins.
2) The amount depicted is a little less than I would suggest. The “slice” represents about 13% of the total plate. Roughly the same is recommended for the dairy proteins bringing the total to about one quarter of the plate.
3) Lean meat is advised and there is no mention of offal. Muscle meat is good – with its natural fat which is needed for the metabolism of protein. Offal is incredibly nutrient dense so only a little at a time is needed in order to receive the benefits. Grazing animals, or more precisely, their gut microbes, are able to convert the vegetation they eat into all the nutrients they require. Having done this, the animals store their nutrients in their organs – liver, brain, glands and kidneys. Superb nutrition!
4) If you are not eating organic meats and wild-caught fish, then you are dosing yourself with broken down antibiotics/hormones and other drugs.

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Dairy proteins: This group of foods are advised for both their protein and their mineral content. Whilst unnecessary for good health, they make obtaining nutrition easier and more varied. In their natural state, they provide a wonderful array of goodies for us so if you can find a source, use raw milk products. Organic pasteurised milk is a reasonable food although it is not the same nutritionally as its raw counterpart. Sadly, most dairy products have been tampered with in some way.

The problems:
1) Dairy products are denatured by the pasteurisation and homogenisation of milk, the addition of colours, sugar, thickeners and flavours to yogurt, processing of cheese to make “child-friendly” products etc.
2) The recommendations are (with the exception of that given to small children) for low fat varieties. More denaturing.  It is the fat soluble vitamins contained in the cream that allow calcium and other minerals to be absorbed – so why is the cream removed? To save on calories of course!
3) Dairy cows are given antibiotics routinely, ensuring that you get some too.
4) Cream and butter are not even given a mention. They do not contain any useful protein but the dairy section of the Eatwell plate would be much more valuable had they been included. They contain lots of fat-soluble vitamins and essential fatty acids. Raw butter and cream are health foods. There are essential fats – we must obtain them from here and from meat products.

The last and smallest section on the plate is the “fatty/sugary” foods and I (almost) completely agree. (I imagine the Eatwell Plate includes butter, cream, raw honey etc. here, but these in moderation add positive nutrition.) The problems with overeating these are many – diabetes, obesity, heart disease, compromised immunity and so many more. Our love for these foods corrupts the smooth-functioning of the body – literally everything will be compromised. As usual, there are sweet fatty foods and sweet fatty foods. Ice-cream made with vegetable fat, ordinary sugar, flavourings and colourings should be avoided at all costs. My ice-cream contains organic milk, eggs, cream and maple syrup. Not only is it a treat, but it is good for you too! There are lots of parallels to be drawn.

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In general, the foods to be avoided are the cheap sweet foods – sweets, fizzy pop, biscuits, bought cakes. They often contain large quantities of highly processed seed oils which are downright dangerous for our health. Sugar is nothing but sweetness with no nutritional benefits whatsoever. Sugar and seed oils are both contenders for the top spot as the most damaging “foods” for our health.

It is not a requirement to add vitamin/mineral content of foods on packaging. Since these values vary so enormously even in the same foods, neither would it be a wise addition. However, it might be a good idea to put “a good source” if a food is rich in a certain nutrient. Frankly, you are better off buying fresh foods without packaging and do your own research regarding nutrients. Read my guidelines for health for more information.

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