July 24, 2013: Foods That Nourish and Heal

When I was growing up in the late 50’s and 60’s, my mother made sure we each took a multivitamin and vitamin C pill daily; she also followed many of Adele Davis’s nutritional guidelines, and was considered ‘odd’ in those times. I became interested in nutrition after college while exploring alternative health care. I read many books on nutrition, and was often surprised by the number of conflicting messages. I learned by trial and error what worked for my body, and then taught a basic nutrition class at a local Quaker high school. I worked at restaurants and for a catering company, prepared meals for a few events at the Quaker school, and continued to learn about foods. I attended graduate school in chiropractic health care, taking many in-depth courses in nutrition, the biochemistry of digestion and health, and nutritional supplements. These courses helped to clarify the digestive processes, and helped me better understand what foods are actually nourishing to a body.

The past 25 years of working with people in my office and over the telephone have taught me even more about what a body really needs. The big picture is that foods that nourish and heal the body are fresh, recently harvested from local sites where the plants and animals have been grown with consciousness, in good healthy soils, or in free-range, pastured settings. The nutrients in the soil or feed end up in our body, so it is best if they are raised organically and free of synthetic chemical pesticides, insecticides, hormones, and antibiotics. If this is not possible due to price or availability, then choose produce that looks vibrant, and eat it within a few days of purchase, or once ripened. Ingest lean meats in small quantities only, and do not rely solely upon animal sources for protein. Studies have shown that we need far less protein than previously thought, and that vegetable proteins can provide all the daily needs without contributing to major diseases in the way that excessive animal proteins do. Plants should make up the majority of our food intake, both to provide living nutrients and to create excellent fiber for our bowels. Foods that have been processed to last a long time on the shelves should stay there, on the shelves, for they have little nutritional content left!

Naturally fermented products like yogurt & kefir (dairy or non-dairy), miso, vinegar-free sauerkraut, pickled vegetables, and kim chi, all provide pro-biotic organisms and enzymes for the digestive tract. Seeds (higher in protein than fatty nuts), sea vegetables, and dark green leafy vegetables provide trace minerals (also known as electrolytes), which are very important to the health of bones, hair, skin, and nails. Complex carbohydrates for steady energy come from root vegetables, whole grains like rice, quinoa, and millet, and from breads with whole grains in them. Refined flour products create a glue-like substance in the small intestine through which it is difficult to absorb nutrients, and if flours are mixed with sugars, as in cakes & cookies, the glue creates a habitat for harmful organisms in the gut. Sweets and fruits are best digested when eaten alone, at least 45 minutes after a meal; the best sweets are fruits, or natural sources like honey and maple syrup. Recent sweeteners like agave nectar, rice syrup, and stevia are helpful for many people; whereas chemical fake sweeteners labeled as ‘diet’ products are harmful for many people. Oils and fats are helpful for the body if fresh, cold-pressed, and from good sources, like olive, avocado, sesame, and coconut.

There are dozens of excellent organizations, documentaries, books, and cookbooks that can guide you in your healthy food choices. Scientific studies conducted by “The Physician’s Committee for Responsible Medicine” (www.PCRM.org) have shown that many of the major degenerative diseases of our society can be prevented, and even reversed, by changing over to a more plant-based diet, especially a vegetarian or vegan diet. “People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals” (www.PETA.org) also advocate for a vegetarian or vegan diet, exposing the horrors of modern factory farming of the animals we eat, and the poor quality of meat that is produced. Both sources offer cookbooks to purchase, as well as free online recipes and support for eating a more vegetarian diet. The documentary “Forks Over Knives” looks at food choices and health worldwide, and concludes that the more vegetarian the diet, the healthier the people. “Hungry for Change” and “Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead” present the transformations in health and wellbeing of several individuals who choose to dramatically increase their intake of fresh vegetables and vegetable juices, resulting in weight loss, increased energy, decreased pain, and freedom from medications. I found “Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead” to be incredibly inspiring, and I recommend it to everyone!

I hope that you will consider implementing some of these suggestions, a little at a time, being patient with your body’s changes as it cleanses old wastes. Over time, you will feel better nourished, and healthier!

July 24, 2013