Our father used to love the catchphrases “Eat Well, Live Well” and “You are what you Eat”.
We often see Hippocrates quote “Let thy food be thy medicine and thy medicine be thy food’ but what guidance do we take from these pearls of wisdom? My understanding of these phrases is that our diet can be either very healing or it can kill us too early ¬ and unfortunately too many of us eat the cheapest, most convenient ‘food’ we see rather than paying attention to what our body actually needs. We are overwhelmed by confusing advertising, tempted by easily available treats and unhealthy snacks, and the result is that many people in Western ‘developed’ nations are getting sicker and sicker. And more and more dependant on pharmaceutical drugs to keep us upright.
What should we do about this? Well, again this is only my understanding, and it is far from complete. I think we need to start to listen to our own bodies ¬ do I feel good after I eat that cake? Does cereal in the mornings mean I crave sugary foods all day? Is that second cup of coffee actually good for me, or does it increase my anxiety? And then we need to focus on building our will power and following what we know to be the best diet for our present and future health. I think we need most of our foods to be ‘good food’ ¬ to be free of chemicals, to be fresh, to be nutritious, to be real. Here are a few ideas of what to put on that ‘good’ list!
First on that list? Vegetables of course. If we really focus on eating as many vegetables as possible every day we will all have the best chance of staying healthy all year around, but most importantly in the winter when there can be a tendency to eat less fresh vegetables and instead eat lots of toast and jam! Sugar is the enemy of the immune system, as it competes for absorption in our gut with vitamin C ¬ the very vitamin that we are trying to increase to help ward off colds. Foods high in vitamin C include green leafy veg, kiwis, and citrus fruits. Zinc rich foods are also important for healthy immunity ¬ a high level of zinc has been shown to reduce the severity and the duration of a cold. Try to increase seeds and nuts, whole grains and beans in your diet. And don’t forget seaweeds ¬ they are very valuable as sources of minerals and vitamins. Try re-hydrating a few pinches of Arame and adding it to your stir-fried vegetables ¬ you will hardly notice the taste and it adds a huge nutritional boost to your meal.
In the winter, the most important foods to make a priority in our family’s diets are nutrient dense foods such as green veg (think green smoothies, green juices, green soups); sweet potatoes and carrots (containing beta carotenes); Garlic (preferably in a meal every day really ¬ and raw as often as possible); fermented foods such as sauerkraut, kefir, and miso; and coconut oil which contains lauric acid, which converts to monolaurin, the compound found in breast milk that strengthens a baby’s immunity.
And of course don’t forget Turmeric. In India where people eat a lot of turmeric – mostly in curries – it is being widely researched as it is thought to have a huge impact on heart health, to ease inflammation and ward off serious illnesses such as cancer and complications from diabetes. It is also thought to help protect cells from damage by chemotherapy agents, and is very effective as general pain relief. One popular way of taking turmeric is as Golden Milk, which involves making a paste and adding it to hot milk of your choice, perhaps with a little local honey (google it if you want a more precise recipe!) In Organico we have fresh organic turmeric root, Organic powdered turmeric, a few different Turmeric Teas, and about eight different kinds of Turmeric in capsules and tablets for when you need something stronger. If you would like to take a capsule, we find the Pukka Turmeric range very effective. Turmeric is so popular that you have to do some research before choosing a product – Pukka always buy organic turmeric root for example, which makes a huge difference to the quality and efficacy of the end product. If you have never tasted Turmeric before do come and try our Cold Buster in Organico Cafe – it’s a hot drink we make from ginger, turmeric, lemon juice and lots of herbs and spices and it’s very warming and soothing, perfect for soothing a sore throat.
Another favourite and much more local food which has wonderfully gentle healing properties is Carrageen Moss – so soothing for a hacking cough. Carrageen is a red seaweed, which grows about these parts and makes a very soothing drink when cooked in water with lemon and honey. It is also used as a food additive in form called carrageenan but this can cause adverse reactions for some people. Luckily the whole form is completely different, so you can make a remedy your grandmother would have recognised and give it to your kids – a lovely act of continuity through the generations!
Vitamin D is another crucial vitamin for winter health, both for our immunity and our mood. Whenever the sun shines we need to get out in it, with as much skin exposed as we can manage! From a dietary perspective we need to look for good quality eggs (egg yolks are an excellent source of vitamin D, as well as B12); fatty fish; cheese and liver. However, the UK Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition has recently come out and advised everyone in the UK to take a vitamin D supplement, as they have determined that it is essential for bone health and simply is not present in our diet in sufficient quantities for the indoor lifestyle we are living. In Organico, we would advise 3000IU spray on a daily basis for all adults and at least 1000 iu for all children. The spray is the most absorbable way of taking your vitamin D – it goes straight into the blood via the mouth rather than having to go through the stomach.
And last but not least, mushrooms are another excellent immune-boosting food. You can also get quite a range of dried mushrooms – we aren’t terrible familiar with eating dried mushrooms here in Ireland but many countries use them all winter long in soups and stews. In Organico, we have fresh Oyster and Shitake mushrooms – google recipes, they aren’t hard to cook.
And finally, I am hoping to have a fixed date soon for an Ayurvedic Cookery Demonstration, which we are hoping to host in Organico – pencil in November 5, it’s going to be excellent. Sarika is from India, she is a trained nutritional therapist and has a lot of experience in cooking according to Ayurvedic principles. As soon as the date is fixed we will start taking bookings – get in touch if you are interested. Organicobantry@gmail.com.