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Eat to improve your health...

1 Aug 2014 3:11 PM - More simple tips for healthy eating
Mushroom and lentil soup on the stove
Chia seed pudding with banana, coconut and blueberries

When I am consulting with naturopathy clients here in my Melbourne CBD clinic, we spend much of our time talking about food, or more specifically how to improve the nutritional quality of their weekly food intake in a way that is achievable and sustainable for them.  i.e. personalised eating plans. It's all about eating in a way that serves their unique health needs.

Everyone is different but there are some general guidelines that will apply to just about all of us.

I am a bit of a fan of Michael Pollan.  I've read his books and I've been lucky enough to see him speak a couple of times. I like much of what he says about food. To me he speaks with logic and good old common sense which is pretty easy to follow. 

If you haven't heard of Michael, he is a journalist with a special interest in food and the food industry.  He has written many books but his best known are In Defence of Food, The Omnivore's Dilemma and Food Rules.  You can learn more about Michael and his books on his website.

The first time I saw Michael was in 2011 when he came to Australia and I went along to a presentation he gave at the Melbourne Town Hall.

Here is what I took away from his talk:

  • It seems we have lost the "culture" of food as it was known and practiced by our ancestors.  It has been lost in a sea of advertising and hyped-up marketing claims.

  • Unlike other animals on the planet, we don't seem to know how to eat instinctively anymore.  We seem to have become dependant on others (marketers) to tell us what to eat.  (I think many of us have lost the ability to listen to what our body is telling us and to read the signals as to what it needs). 

  • We appear to have become very focused on nutrients instead of food but we don't "eat" nutrients, we eat food. (This comes back to the point above as well). The minute we start thinking in nutrients we are handing the power for our food choices to the manufacturers and scientists. (This is consistent with how I practice as a naturopath.  Firstly, work on the overall diet and then worry about specific additional nutrient needs only if they are warranted for that individual).

  • Avoid most food advertised on TV.  Most of these ads are full of "bright and loud marketing".  If it needs a big marketing budget behind it then ask yourself why.  You don't see a lot of advertising dollars going in to fruit and vegetables.  They don't come in bright, bold packaging which screams their "benefits".  

  • Eat as much "junk food" as you like...as long as you make it yourself.  (It takes quite a bit of effort to make a bowl of chips from scratch so you probably aren't going to do it too often which is about right).

  • Eat meat as our ancestors did.  It used to be a real treat to have the Sunday roast or a steak.  Otherwise, it was a bit of meat in casseroles and stews with lots of vegetables and beans to bulk up the meal. 

Four golden rules guaranteed to improve your health

Many of the other points he made come from his book Food Rules.  Things like:

  • don't eat packaged food with more than 5 ingredients on the label

  • don't buy food your grandmother (or great grandmother) wouldn't recognise

  • don't eat food with ingredients an 8 year old couldn't pronounce

  • eat only foods that will eventually rot (if bacteria won't eat it, why would you?) 

Ultimately, Michael's mantra is Eat food (i.e. real food not "edible food-like substances"), not too much (i.e. eat to be satisfied, not to be full, eat when you are hungry, not when you are bored), mostly plants.

In May this year, I attended the annual conference of the Institute of Functional Medicine in San Francisco. It was a wonderful three days and one of the sessions was a one-on-one conversation with Michael Pollan and Dr Mark Hyman. It was a very powerful conversation highlighting the impact of "big food" and "big marketing" on the way many of us eat.

Just a few of the interesting points I learned were:

  • health is not always a matter of money...studies have shown poor people who cook have healthier diets than rich people who don't

  • it is possible to change your eating habits with your very next food choice...it can be that simple

  • don't eat foods with big "health claims" ...eat the "quiet" foods

  • a big part of the food movement towards organics or sustainability or buying local is not just about health...it's also to do with community, connection and sharing...which is so important to our wellbeing

  • it is only in recent times that we have even had the option to not cook for ourselves

  • cooking doesn't have to be difficult....the food industry just wants us to believe it's complicated or expensive or drudgery or time consuming because that way they sell more of their packaged and processed products.

The philosophy of healthy eating is pretty simple really and it resonates with my naturopathic philosophy.   Sometimes we can over-complicate things but when helping my clients to regain their health and vitality, it is essential to address their diet.


No amount of supplements can combat the weaknesses of a diet laden with processed and packaged foods. 

Having said that, it sounds easy but if eating healthily is new to you it can be challenging and a bit daunting.  That's where I come in, to gently and realistically help my clients move to a healthier lifestyle. 

If you would like to learn more and get some help with your food choices, call the clinic on 03 9620 9503 for a naturopathic consultation.

In good health,

 

Kaye Wright
Naturopath
Melbourne CBD


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