In a fast and modern society like the one that we are living in today, knowing what food to consume, can be a tough task.
Often we have a short time, and a tight budget and we go for what catches our eyes which is not always the healthiest option. As the food industry did evolve to be one of the most complex marketing industries in the world, if someone has to sell you food before thinking about your health, most of the time, they will think about how to sell you a cheap and high-profit product.
There you go then with colourful and ergonomic packaging, health benefit status and star rating. But why we would need all these suggestions about what to eat when we could work out our diet on our own by being present in the body and the mind? Is that so hard to do it?
Let me share with you my path, which did allow me to build some food awareness.
When I was a kid/teenager I grow up in a family where food preparation/consumption would be a ritual and a way to spend time together. Mum would spend most of her free time cooking for all family (3 kids and husband) and would try to vary the intake of nutrients by following the seasonal products and the traditions of the culture she did grow up in too. On the other hand, I was the spoiled one who would have to complain all the time that the food on the table would not suit my taste.
As I grow older and came to Australia (I was 22 at that time) I realized that I could eat whatever the fresh food industry would have to offer. In a matter of days, I lost the idea that processed food was the only thing I could go for and soon I realized that I did waste so much energy and time as a kid fighting back mum’s hard work.
How I did do that?
Well, everything started in Italy actually, just a few months before I was leaving for Australia. I had a blood test for general health concerns and my GP at that time did make me notice that my liver was stressed. I was not a heavy drinker or drug/medicinal user, so my liver could be under stress just because my food intake was not proper.
Too many small goods, processed food and low intake of veggies and fruit. A few weeks later I did end up in Tuscany at Poggio Antico farm to do a WWOOF experience. Is there that I had my first and in-volunteer experience as a vegetarian eater. I was picking olives all day long and even if I was requested to work a few hours a day I was pushing myself to make the most out of that work experience.
The family that hosts me, was a vegetarian and they would prepare and grow all their food, from Olive oil to cheese, bread, veggies and fruits. After about 10 days of hard work ( I was working voluntarily for about 8 to 10 hours a day) I end up gaining weight and was surprised when I end got back home I did another blood test and my liver was back to a healthy state. That experience gave me the biggest inspiration for food intake.
Food is not what I want or what I would crave, but the food is about what my body needs and what Mother Nature has to offer.
So soon after the Tuscany experience, I came to Australia and I start working in the hospitality industry as Pizza Maker. Is here that I start acknowledging how for the sake of profit, those who sell you ready food to eat, will sacrifice your health in exchange for a bigger profit. In the following years, I stop eating processed food and became vegetarian too. Now, the fact that I choose not to eat animal flash is a personal choice that doesn’t suit all and I don’t think that has to be the choice of us all.
I rather think that if your body needs meat/fish you should allow yourself to consume it. But just make sure to buy and consume sustainable products, of high quality and once in a while, not cheap stuff daily. How then be so in tune with the body? Well, the body will maybe not speak our language, but definitely will send out signals on what it does tolerate and what it doesn’t.
For example, a daily intake of high sugar will puff the skin up. You will easily notice as the vain of your arms are not visible anymore, your stomach would swell and your breath will become heavy and smelly. These are a few signs of stomach acidity. The colour, consistency and timing of your faeces would not be regular too as your intestine is having a hard time processing the high acid food. All these body signs will then affect your mood, so you will easily feel grumpy, depressed, or anxious and of how the correlation between body-mind and stomach-brain works you will easily end up in a cycle of eating for craving and not eating for northing your body.
One way to break this cycle is to:
– Observe and also start writing down how you feel when you are craving high process food.
– As the craving arises, rather than opening a package of highly processed food go for seasonal fruits and raw nuts.
– Have regulars cycle meals such as Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner and fewer intermediate snacks made of processed food.
– When you want to buy package food, learn how to read and understand the ingredients that are in it. Corn Syrup, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Cane Sugar Syrup, Cane Molasses, Golden Syrup, Hydrogenated Oils, Carrageenan, Potassium and Sodium Benzoate, Powder eggs/milk and any ingredients with numbers and letters combine or unpronounceable name is better to be avoided.
– Long list of ingredients is already a sign of poor quality health food. It doesn’t matter much about the KJ intake that it has to offer.
– Remember less is more.
– The brain works on remuneration. If you train your brain to receive pleasure from good quality food, it will stop craving for high process products.
– Get to know what veggies/fruits/meats are in season and what is are their benefit. Nowadays with the Internet in our hands is so easy to access this information.
– Eat a variety of colours and multigrain.
– Switch to local honey rather than white sugar/sweetener where is possible.
– Switch to wholegrain flour rather than white flour.
– Healthy claims on packaged food are a trap for the unsecured eater.
– Less meat more veggies
To conclude I will suggest reading “Omnivorous Dilemma” by Michael Pollan. Pollan took a journey along with the food industry for us and thanks to his easy way of communicating he made a book that is a simple guide about what is better to eat and what is a must to avoid.