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Healthy eating: how to eat healthily in our toxic environment

With so many healthy diets being touted on the internet, which diet would suit you and what does 'healthy eating' actually mean?

We can probably generalise at first and say what is not healthy eating. Healthy eating is not:

  • fast food
  • sugary snacks and drinks 
  • eating on the run, and eating while stressed or upset
  • eating packaged meals daily
  • white flour products including baked goods
  • lots of fast acting carbs like buns, breads, crackers 
  • numerous cups of tea or coffee
  • overeating

1. Digestion 

Digesting food well to absorb the nutrients you eat is the first step towards healthy eating. Eating on the run and being stressed while eating will slow down digestion considerably.

From the mouth to the anus, the digestive process is an ongoing action with various enzymes and juices being produced by the body, to make sure that the food is digested and the nutrients utilised for the proper functioning of the body. 

Why would we not digest properly while running around?

The body has a nervous system called the autonomic nervous system and this controls functions that we don't consciously control such as digestion of food, our blood pressure and heart rate etc. The nerves of this system go from the spine out to all the major glands and organs stimulating them or inhibiting them. Within this system are two branches. The sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system. 

  • The Sympathetic Branch activates the adrenal glands and organs that defend the body against attack. It is called the fight-or-flight system. Its nerves direct more blood to the muscles and the brain. The heart rate and blood pressure increase, while it decreases the blood flow to the digestive and eliminative organs.

This is a 'catabolic' state, in other words energy is used for defence not for nourishment and elimination of wastes which is required when you are eating. 

  • The Parasympathetic Branch is concerned with nourishment and rebuilding of the body. The nerves stimulate digestion and the organs associated such as the liver, pancreas, stomach etc. This system is activated by rest, positive thinking etc. If you can be at rest when you eat this will activate this branch of the nervous system and your food will be better digested and nutrients absorbed. 

Overeating is another problem as this can impair digestion as the body just cannot produce enough gastric juice and enzymes to digest the large meal. One can become malnourished just from overeating and eating fast or under stress. Add in unhealthy foods like a diet of sugary snacks, sodas, burgers, chips and beans and this pretty much describes western food culture in general. 

Take your time to eat your food

Digestion starts when you smell and see, even think about food – the digestive juices start to develop. Chew well to make sure you use enough moisture and if the food is very dry a little water may help turn the food into a softer form that can be digested. Taking a digestive enzyme supplement can help or eating a radish or some sauerkraut with your meal can help get the gastric juices going.

2. Various diets and their merits 

Different diets can be very useful for people with a range of symptoms. Here are a few you may have heard of:

Low-fat diets

This is when the fat content of the meal is very low – with snack bars being marketed as low-fat but contain extra sugar, low-fat yoghurt and cheese and so on. This is not a helpful diet as fats and oils are needed for your brain and nervous system, for energy production and for making most of the body’s vital hormones.

We all require adequate fats and oils, particularly EPA and DHA (omega 3) which are essential fatty acids needed for development of the nervous system. Quality fats are also essential for the cell membrane which are vital and must remain healthy in order to transport nutrients and hormones into the cells and wastes out. Fats do not make a person fat unless they are overeating them and have a very slow metabolism.

Excessive use of carbs makes one fat because the glucose quickly gets stored as fat and they deplete the body of minerals as well, causing a slowing down of the metabolism. 

Paleo diet

This is much better than the standard western diet. It excludes grains and dairy and is mostly made up of meats, eggs, vegetables and pseudograins – ones that are not classed as grains but can be utilised the same way. There is too much emphasis though on raw food and not enough on cooking vegetables which we promote.

Keto diet

This is a very high-fat diet: about 75% of a meal is fat, 20% protein and 5% carbs. This type of diet might suit a fast oxidiser (metabolism) because they can utilise fats for energy whereas a slow oxidiser, which is the majority of people, cannot utilise fats well and would struggle for energy on this diet.  

As you begin to burn fats and oils almost exclusively for fuel rather than sugars or starches, the body produces chemicals called ketones. This can cause quite severe changes in body chemistry and often can result in what's called the 'Keto Flu' where one goes through the change phase feeling quite ill.

Some people feel better, they lose weight, get more energy, and some cases of seizures, yeast, diabetes and other symptoms get better as well. It is a good diet to use with a few adjustments according to your body metabolism. In general though we find that the problems with this diet is that not enough cooked vegetables are consumed which provide the body with hundreds of phytonutrients that are needed today, to offset the very toxic pollution both chemicals and heavy metals in our environment.

Also the fat and oil cannot be effectively used by someone with a slow metabolism who would need to gradually strengthen their body and glands first to be able to cope with this change of body chemistry. The diet contains a lot of acid forming foods and is perhaps not balanced with the alkaline foods of cooked vegetables. 

Mediterranean diet

This diet contains a lot of plant food sources, including fruits, vegetables, beans, seeds, nuts and lentils, fish and chicken, some read meat, some eggs and olive oil. Emphasis is on unprocessed foods so fresh and raw plant food for example.

Again this is a wonderful diet for those transitioning from the fast food processed junk they may have been eating. However, again we find that it lacks the cooked vegetable component that is beneficial today, it also emphasises fish which are too high in mercury and other toxic metals to be eaten regularly (the exception being sardines which are small fish and have not accumulated many metals before being caught).

There is also perhaps too much wheat and gluten in this diet which can irritate the gut and block nutrients being absorbed. So it's not for everyone. 

The GAPS diet

Again a much more healthy diet but allows too much fruit, raw food, nuts and seeds which are difficult to digest. 

The AIP diet

This is a great diet and is very helpful for people who need to eliminate foods to curb inflammation and other reactions before reintroducing them slowly to see what one causes a reaction.  

Apart from the low-fat diet, all these diets have merit and can be modified to fit in with the nutritional balancing diet that we advocate. The main modification is to only eat small fish like sardines and to eat cooked veggies with each meal. 

3. The benefits of cooked veggies

Cooked veggies are very much needed today, more so than raw food. Cooking vegetables breaks down the outer fiber of the vegetable and unlocks the nutrients which are minerals and phytonutrients. Most people are mineral-starved due to our agricultural methods, eating refined foods, stress and other factors.

Sulfur veggies are helpful for heavy metal detoxification in the liver, and for cleansing and supporting the body in general. These include:

  • cabbage
  • broccoli
  • Brussels sprouts
  • cauliflower
  • radishes
  • turnips

When minerals are deficient, then toxic metals that are close in size and shape on the periodic table of elements will be absorbed and used by the body instead of the mineral that is actually needed but in short supply. For example, cadmium is a poor substitute for zinc. Toxic metals can help 'run' the body if minerals are deficient but they do so at a price: they damage the body and cannot perform exactly as minerals would. 

4. Cooking methods

Steaming your vegetables is a great way to cook but even better, use a pressure cooker (stove top or countertop) as it retains about 90 to 95% of vitamins and minerals.

It might help to boil high oxalate foods such as spinach and chard to reduce the plant toxins and throw away the water. The water at the bottom of the pressure cooker you can drink if you have cooked low oxalates veggies like red cabbage, carrots, green beans, broccolini etc.

5. Healthy foods we recommend in nutritional balancing 

In nutritional balancing, we recommend eating protein, (animal protein twice per day if not a vegetarian), cooked veggies and high nutrient content foods including:

  • roasted almond butter
  • tahini
  • blue corn
  • houmous
  • goat yoghurt and cheese
  • sauerkraut
  • miso

We advocate spring water due to its mineral content and regard this as a whole food as well. Only one cup of tea or coffee per day to avoid overstimulation, dehydration and depletion of minerals. This would be a balanced diet.

Fruit is not recommended in large quantities due to the high sugar content which can affect your sugar balance and send it rocking up and down the rest of the day. Low-sugar fruits occasionally are fine such as raspberries and blueberries.

For more details on the diet and to find out your mineral levels and oxidation (metabolic) rate see www.hairanalysisuk.com

Nutritionist Resource is not responsible for the articles published by members. The views expressed are those of the member who wrote the article.

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Written by Cressida Elias - Nutritional Consultant with Hair Mineral Analysis

Author of Green Smoothie Joy Books on Amazon.
Paleo Diet and Nutritional Balancing Nutritionist Diplomas.
Expert in Hair Mineral Analysis and Analytical Research Laboratories and Endomet Supplements.
Member of NNA and Natural Healthcare College.… Read more

Written by Cressida Elias - Nutritional Consultant with Hair Mineral Analysis

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