I am having a bit of a love affair with the concept of “food as medicine” at the moment. It may have started with the onset of slightly cooler weather and a return to porridge in the mornings. Porridge is one of those breakfast meals that as a child I forced down but as an adult I have learned to love. Having said that, these days I make porridge a tasty dish…see my version below:
Rolled oats (the real kind, not instant or microwave oats) and filtered water with 1/4 teaspoon of cinnamon cooked on a low heat. While cooking grate an apple or slice up a pear and add to your bowl. Serve warm cinnamon porridge over the grated fruit and top with LSA (Linseed, Almond & Sunflower meal), Pure Magic Coconut Oil and a dash of honey. Add rice milk as desired.
This is the recipe I love at the moment but to stave off the boredom of having the same thing everyday throughout winter I add gogi berries while cooking, some natural yoghurt on top or sprinkle with frozen blueberries. Sometimes I even substitute the apple with banana for something different. You can also include Quinoa when cooking the porridge as it brings more texture to the dish is also a rich protein source. For those who are gluten intolerant try a millet based porridge.
For me this meal not only tastes good, but is it also a nutritious way to start the day. I feel good about what I am eating and I think that has an impact on how our bodies respond to food. Conscious food consumption is an often underrated aspect of eating. What I mean is that by taking a moment to enjoy and appreciate the food we not only feel better emotionally about what we are eating but also allow the digestive processes to occur in a relaxed environment which ensures better digestion and assimilation of the nutrients. Jenny from Coconut Magic writes that “Radiant health embodies right thinking, conscious eating and energetic flow. There is no separation and therefore radiant health is a state of being and living with optimal energy, health and beauty.” Sounds good to me!
I love hearing alternative breakfast ideas so please post yours.Twitter It!
I mentioned in a previous blog that I was going to do a review about the latest fad diet, Raw Food. I say fad diet because like many other diets I have seen over my 15 years as a naturopath, the Raw Food Diet will have a boom in popularity followed by a slump with only the “true-believers” continuing on. Do I sound cynical already? Well I don’t mean to – I am writing this article primarily to stimulate comment. But first, just a little bit of cynicism, a list of the fad diets I have lived through, either via my own experience or vicariously through students and patients over the years:
versions of this diet include good fats – thank goodness (fat tastes so delicious!)
for the entire 3 weeks of the diet (I know, too much information). The problem with this diet is that it is too open to interpretation e.g. a friend of mine interpreted a high protein diet as follows: breakfast – scrambled cheesy eggs, lunch – 2 x lamb chops, dinner – cheese platter….and so on. With such a lack of anything resembling a vegetable, I am not surprised it didn’t work for him. While this diet may be useful for short term weight loss, it may not be so good for bowel health in the long term.
And so this leads me to the dietary fad of the 2010′s – Raw Food. Firstly I want to say that there are many positive aspects about this diet. For a start, the diet is based on fruit, vegetables, sprouts, nuts, seeds, grains, legumes, seaweed, and dried fruit – foods that most Australian’s don’t eat enough of and certainly not over 75% of the diet as advocated by raw foodies. If you ate 2 serves of fruit and 5 of vegetables yesterday, which is considered the minimum daily intake, I bet you feel fabulous today. However, most of us didn’t. Raw Foodies also believe that heating above 116 degrees F. destroys the naturally occurring enzymes that assist with digestion and absorption of nutrients. In addition that cooking food can reduce certain vitamins such as vitamin C and B group.
The raw food diet is highly alkaline and very cleansing and so the health benefits can be extensive and include weight loss, detoxification and bowel cleansing. While this all sounds good, and don’t get me wrong, I think most of us could do with a good clean out, in the long term a raw food diet is not a good choice for all.
I see the biggest issue with a primarily raw food diet is the issue of absorption. Many nutrients need to be cooked to be absorbed effectively. One example is lycopene from tomatoes which is released when in the presence of oil and heat. More importantly is the strength or effectiveness of most people’s digestive systems. This varies from person to person however, many people do not have the necessary digestive enzymes to break down the nutrients in raw food.
To illustrate this point, if you imagine the gut is like a small campfire, burning (processing) firewood easily and generating heat as a result. If you pour petrol on the fire, it will turn into a raging inferno (petrol in food terms equates to
excessive consumption of foods such as alcohol, coffee, fats and hot, spices). If you feed the fire leaves, it will burn quickly and then go out (leaves = processed, sugary foods which are full of energy but empty in nutrition). If you put green wood on the fire it will also eventually dampen down and die out (green leaves = cold foods such as those straight from the fridge, cold drinks, too many raw foods.). The gut is rich with capillaries that bring a supply of warm blood to the stomach so it can produce digestive enzymes. Too many cold and raw foods will constrict the blood supply and reduce the body’s own supply of digestive enzymes. And no matter how raw the food is, the enzymes supplied will never match the body’s own ability to produce its own enzymes.
So for those who have weak or poor digestion in any way (loose stools, IBS, bloating, indigestion etc), a raw food diet may be actually harder on the digestion that fresh, warm, cooked foods. You can consume the same types of foods that the raw food diet focuses on, veges, nuts, seeds etc but prepare them differently. Have a veg stir-fry, soups, stews, steamed veg or fresh fruit & veg juice instead. Warm foods are particularly important in Winter when our body is using a lot of energy to stay warm. Eating a raw salad mid-Winter means our body has to warm up the food to digest it properly as well as keeping our body warm. Summer is definitely the season for more raw foods and indeed the thought of eating hot vege soup on a hot day is not appealing.
Genetics play a role in how we digest and process food as well. If you come from a culture where cooked foods is the norm then it may be a shock to the system to suddenly change over to a raw food diet. Our body’s adapt to the food we eat and the way it is cooked so in this case, gradual inclusion of more raw foods is a good way to proceed.
Over time, a strict raw food diet may also lead to nutritional deficiencies such as protein, calcium, iron, B12 and zinc. These nutrients are commonly found in animal products and can be hard for the body to process from vegetable sources. While not impossible impossible to maintain good levels of these nutrients by any means it does require planning and deliberate inclusion of raw food sources that contain these nutrients.
My philosophy about food is one of moderation: good quality food, a majority whole foods – both raw & cooked, enjoyment of that food and the occasional treat. Maybe why I think the raw food diet will be another fad is that it is at the extreme end of the dietary spectrum. However, as with any diet, there will be some that absolutely thrive eating raw foods. I also stress that most people need to eat more fresh fruit & veg in general and if the raw food message is the way for this to occur then I for one will jump on the bandwagon. And I can’t stress enough how much people need to move away from processed, empty calorie foods, however, I suspect that like the other fad diets around, the raw food diet will have its day and I for one will stick to more moderate eating habits.
I would love to know what you think about raw food and if you have gone down this path, what your experience is.Twitter It!
This blog is unrelated to skin health and more about total body health. I have had the flu and so have been using the principle of “food as medicine” particularly with grated ginger, hot water, lemon and honey. The other reason I thought of these ingredients is that a friend dropped around some food for me (bless!) and he used cinnamon sticks in a savory meal. It was fantastic. So below are some tips about some common kitchen spices and their medicinal benefits. I have also put one of my favorite winter dishes at the end.
This spice comes from the underground rhizome of the ginger plant. Traditionally, ginger has been used to remedy symptoms arising from
gastrointestinal issues. It works primarily by relaxing and soothing the intestinal tract. Ginger is also warming to the digestive system so useful for sluggish digestion.
Research has shown that ginger effectively reduces all symptoms associated with motion sickness including dizziness, nausea, vomiting, and cold sweating. This action is also helps to safely reduce nausea in pregnancy. The good thing is that ginger is extremely safe, and only a small dose is required.
Ginger has also shown a reduction of inflammation and swelling in trials for arthritis. Regular cooking with ginger will help reduce generalised inflammation within the body.
Fresh Ginger contains more of the anti-inflammatory gingerol compounds than dried so use fresh ginger in cooking rather than dried ginger. Used in tea, mixing the ginger with honey and lemon juice, its pungent effect may help to relieve sinus congestion and assist with digestion.
From the root of the Curcuma longa plant comes Tumeric. Traditionally called “Indian saffron” because of its deep colour Tumeric has a history of use as a spice, therapeutic remedy and clothes dye.
The deep yellow or orange flesh of Tumeric are largely responsible for its
therapeutic effects. The active constituent in Tumeric is known as curcumin and it has shown in many studies to have a powerful antiinflammatory effect. When compared to drugs such as hydrocortisone and phenylbutazone, curcumin has exerted similar anti-inflammatory activity without the same risk of side effects.
Recent research Curcumin has shown to be a safe and effective treatment for inflammatory bowel diseases such as Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. This effect has been seen in doses as low as the amount required for a good curry!
Another great benefit of including Tumeric in cooking regularly is that it has a powerful detoxifying effect. It works by enhancing the liver’s ability to detoxify chemicals.
Keep fresh Tumeric in the fridge and the powdered form in a cool, dark cupboard. Use it for soups, curries and bean dishes such as Kedgeree (see recipe below). Be warned, Tumeric will stain if it comes into contact with your hands or clothes.
The berries of the pepper plant (Piper nigrum) are picked when half ripe and dried to create Black Peppercorns. Pepper has a stimulating effect on the
digestive system which is why it is often added as a spice to foods. It works by stimulating the taste buds which has the effect of increasing hydrochloric acid (HCl) secretion in the stomach. An increase in HCl leads to more effective breakdown of foods and therefore increased bioavailability of nutrients. For this reason, pepper has been used in some traditional Ayurvedic herbal combinations to increase the absorption of the other herbs.
Black pepper also acts to reduce pain and gas build up in the gut which is likely also a result of increased HCl production. The hot taste of pepper has the effect of increasing sweating which promotes toxic elimination through the skin.
Pepper used to add flavour to food however, as with everything, too much of a good thing can be detrimental. A good guide is that you can taste the heat of added pepper but your mouth doesn’t feel hot or burnt.
Cinnamon is a well known spice with an extensive history of use as a pungent and sweet flavouring agent as well as a medicine. It is the inner brown bark of the cinnamon tree, which is available as a form known as a quill or as ground powder.
New research has shown that cinnamon may significantly help people with
type 2 (non-insulin dependent) diabetes improve their ability to regulate their blood sugar.
Studies have found that cinnamon improved the ability of fat cells in diabetics to respond to insulin and greatly increased glucose uptake by the cells.
In a human clinical trial published in Diabetes Care, 2003 volunteers with type 2 diabetes were given doses of cinnamon powder, in capsules after meals. All volunteers in the trial responded to the effects of cinnamon with an average blood sugar level of 20% less than the control placebo group, some even achieving normal blood sugar levels.
The results of this study demonstrate that intake of 1 (equivalent to ¼ – ½ teaspoon daily), 3, or 6 g of cinnamon per day reduces serum glucose, triglyceride, LDL cholesterol, and total cholesterol in people with type 2 diabetes. The long term implications of this study suggest that regular inclusion of cinnamon in the diet of people with type 2 diabetes will reduce risk factors associated with diabetes and cardiovascular diseases.
Cinnamon research in a completely different area has also yielded positive results, this time for brain function. In one study chewing cinnamon flavoured gum or just smelling cinnamon enhanced study participants’ brain activity by improving cognitive processing. The specific outcomes were that tasks related to attention processes, virtual recognition memory, working memory, and visual-motor speed were all improved.
Cinnamon can be added to cereal, shakes, stewed apple and other sweets as well as savoury dishes such as lamb casseroles.
Like Tumeric and Black pepper, cumin seeds have a beneficial effect on the digestion. Cumin works to stimulate the secretion of pancreatic enzymes,
compounds essential for good digestion and nutrient absorption. It is no surprise that these three spices are so commonly used together to create delicious dishes that have the added benefit of supporting the digestion.
Add Cumin to curries, bean and lentil dishes, vegetables and dukkah.
Kedgeree is a spicy flavoured lentil dish without the heat of a curry. It is light enough to eat in spring and summer and contains lots of delicious spices.
• 1 cup of mung bean lentils
• 4-6 cups of water
• 1 onion
• 1 teaspoon minced garlic
• 1 teaspoon minced ginger
• 2 teaspoons coriander powder
• ¼ teaspoon astafoetida powder
• 1 teaspoon tumeric powder
• 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
• 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
• 2 bay leaves
• 2 tomatoes, roughly chopped
• 2 tablespoons of ghee
• 1 cup of chopped, mixed vegetables eg. broc, cauliflower, carrot, Brussel sprouts, zucchini, eggplant etc
• Salt and pepper to taste (usually a good dash of each)
• Fresh coriander as garnish & yoghurt
• Soak mung bean lentils overnight in water. Scrunch them in the water before rinsing to get rid of the woody flavour.
• Put the lentils in 4-6 cups of water with the ginger, garlic, bay leaf and spice powders.
• Bring to the boil and then reduce to a simmer. Add the tomatoes and other vegies. Cook for half an hour.
• In the meantime chop the onions and fry in the ghee until almost soft and clear. Add the mustard and cumin seeds to the onion and ghee and fry for an additional 5 minutes on a low heat. Make sure the seeds don’t burn.
• Add the ghee mix to the lentil & vegie mix. Take care as the fat hitting the water may spit. Stir through.
• Serve into bowls. Top with yoghurt and fresh coriander leaves.
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