Welcome back to my series on Traditional Foods- the very foods which early researchers such as Weston A Price found to be the hallmarks of the most robustly healthy folk on the planet. Today- thanks to supermarkets, food is not nearly so tricky to come by as it was in pre-industrial times. At the same time the quality of our convenience foods does not appear to be doing our health any favours. (7) With a little guidance and research however you too can whip up gourmet, healing remedies in your own kitchen from locally sourced produce.
In the last edition we ventured into the controversial territory of dietary fats and learned that good quality fat- yes even saturated fats are beneficial- giving you the green light to bring real flavour and satiety back into your diet. Today we look at the time-honoured staples- fruit and vegetables. Surely there’s not a lot more to learn here is there? We all know the story too well- a couple of serves of fruit and 4 or 5 of veg a day- right? In my experience as a Clinical Nutritionist- for most people confusion reins. Raw or cooked, organic or regular farming, juiced or whole, starch or no starch, low carb, nightshades and goitrogens and on it goes.
Taking a look at each of these points we begin by taking a ‘Paleo’ supermarket tour and compare what we find today to what was available to Palaeolithic man? (1) Oh and just in case you’re thinking- “didn’t primitive man live a much shorter life than we do now?” It may be that on average the lifespan was shorter living as a hunter-gatherer, there is however good evidence from as recently as the early 1900s that people eating their traditional pre-industrial. diets were free of degenerative, modern diseases. (7)
Thanks to modern science we now know why we should eat more fruit and veg- they contain phytochemicals and flavonoid compounds found to be effective defenders against degeneration, ageing, disease and premature death (4). In my practice however I see many people especially children quite addicted to sweet fruits and juices at the expense of other nutritious foods. Could it be that well-meaning advice to increase our fruit and vegetable intake has not taken into account the dramatic changes to these staples as a result of agricultural practices? (6) Its only when we take a scholarly supermarket tour with Jo Robinson that we begin to understand that our pre-agricultural fruit and veg cousins were often bitter and higher in protein than carbohydrate or sugar. (3, 5) With this knowledge in hand, and a basket filled with rocket, purple carrots, sweet potato and dandelion greens- we can begin to replicate more closely the nutrient density of our pre-agricultural forefathers (5) and reduce some of our sugar- fuelled health issues like obesity, diabetes and heart disease. (8) According to Jo you’re better to sidestep the more modern varieties of fruit and veg like golden delicious, white corn, orange carrots and white potatoes. (2)
Raw food and green smoothies- what’s the verdict? The research is mixed however there are a few phytonutrients boosted by cooking. Do sauté your tomatoes in good fat (11), steam your heirloom carrots and toss your spinach, asparagus and cabbage into the stir fry to get more bang for your buck from your veg. (9) If you want to avoid a very lumpy neck (thyroid goitre) and sluggish metabolism cooking your crucifers like kale, broccoli and cauliflower and including seaweed for iodine will help. (10) If your still temped to down a glass full of kale and spinach a day- just ask someone how painful kidney stones can be! (12)
The ‘Paleo’ diet (13) you may have noticed is extremely popular in the blogesphere. If you’re not familiar with it congratulations- you may be getting your real life: internet balance right. One thing the Paleo movement has highlighted is the matter of ‘nightshades’- the solanaceae family and their toxic defence systems which despite being lumped in with ‘healthy’ fruit and veg can wreak havoc for many who might be sensitive to their ravaging effects. If you suffer from an arthritic or autoimmune condition or even digestive complaints, it would be well worth discussing with your health care practitioner the removal of tomato, eggplant, peppers, goji and white potato from your shopping basket. (14)
Should I juice or just eat my fruit and veg? The answer to this one is ‘it depends’. If you have major digestive issues, diarrhoea and inflammation then juicing to remove the fiber from your veg may help with absorption of nutrients without the workload and bug-feeding fibre. If on the other hand you tend towards constipation, fibrous juices and whole fruit and veg may help. For each of these cases however the GAPS (Gut & Physiology Diet) would be of benefit in helping to restore digestive function. (15)
As I mentioned in my previous article on fats- quality is everything when it comes to fuelling your body- choosing certified organic, local produce will ensure that you are burning premium fuel. (16) Whilst we’re on the subject of fats- do add organic butter to your steamed veg and extra lard to your roasted sweet potato, go ahead and add a good splash of virgin olive oil to your mixed salad. This will ensure good absorption and assimilation of protective phytonutrients discussed earlier and more importantly make eating vegetables a pleasure. (17)
What can we take away with us in our market garden baskets as a result of research to date?
The information in this article is not intended to take the place of a professional health care practitioner. It is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent disease. Discuss this information with your own healthcare provider to determine what is right for you. Readers are urged to conduct their own reading and research to find what is appropriate for them together with a registered healthcare provider.
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