Do you have a food conscience? Do you try to eat a variety of fresh local foods that are in season? Camilla Fayed, author of Farmacy Kitchen Cookbook, is dedicating her life to that goal, encouraging healthy plant-based eating and conscious living. Her aim is to bring attention back to nature, simplicity and balance, and to make healthy eating fun. She explains her philosophy in her latest book.
One of the exciting things about making healthy food is the alchemy that happens when ingredients are combined in a specific way, creating something that tastes amazing and unlike anything you’ve tried before.
Food fuels our bodies and provides the catalyst for the chemical and biological transmissions that happen inside the cells and organs, providing us with the elements we need for energy creation and good health. The better the quality of fuel we give our bodies, the more good health, wellbeing and positive emotion we feel.
The intuition that ancient philosophers and traditional wellbeing systems such as Chinese medicine and Ayurveda had about the relationship between diet and health is once again coming to the fore as science explores this area.
It is now accepted that the modern Western diet – high in processed foods and deficient in fresh wholefoods – is a major contributing factor to current levels of heart disease, cancer, diabetes and autoimmune diseases. Links are being discovered between diet and brain health, fertility and mental health.
Now that it is widely accepted that a poor diet has affected human health in a negative way, science is increasingly looking at the positive effects a good diet may have on our health and happiness – from the incredible anti-inflammatory properties of a spice such as turmeric, to the health-giving fermented foods that help replenish the good bacteria in the gut essential to addressing the digestive issues that affect so many people today.
At the heart of new food science is the message that a plant-based, wholefood diet with little or no processed food is one of the best ways to improve our health. Including foods and cooking techniques that support digestion – and reducing foods that strain digestion, such as meat, sugar, dairy products and gluten – allows the body to absorb more nutrients and enjoy new levels of energy.
This goes back to our theme of simple abundance – cooking and eating foods that have had as little interference as possible from farm to fork.
Digestive health through alchemy of food
The alchemy of eating involves not just your food choices and the combination of foods you eat. It also means working with your body to eat complementary food groups that require the same sort of enzymes to digest food effectively.
Fresh organic vegetables and fruit are high in water, making them easily digestible.
The fibre in plant-based food helps to move the food through the body, speeding up transit time through the gut, resulting in less fermentation and putrefaction in the intestine. This is good for preventing diseases and improving digestive health. We need plenty of fibre to stay healthy.
Go for wholegrains rather than refined grains. Even if you’re not allergic to gluten, gluten-free wholegrains such as quinoa, millet and teff are easier to digest and free from the potential allergens present in some glutinous grains, such as wheat, barley and rye.
Eat food that helps your body produce healthy bacteria, including coconut yoghurt and fermented foods such as kimchi, miso and sauerkraut, all of which contain plant-based probiotics. These help the body to produce good bacteria to keep the gut in best condition.
Processed food causes stress in the body and slows down digestion, depleting the body of nutrients and creating a feeling of low energy.
The body takes nutrients from other places in the body to aid digestion. Processed food has a negative impact on the immune system, too.
Both red meat and processed food have been linked to digestive cancers, such as liver and colon cancer. Try to avoid both in a healthy, plant-based diet.
Meat is hard to digest and can stay in the digestive tract for long periods because it lacks fibre and water. As a result, animal flesh may become stuck in the intestines as impacted faeces that can create toxicity inside the gut.
Making good food choices
Be aware of what is being served and whether it contains meat or other animal products.
Ask questions about the food you buy and eat. Get tested for food allergies and make changes to what you eat, if necessary. Common allergens include gluten, dairy products, nuts and corn.
Reduce or eliminate processed foods as much as possible.
Cut down or out: caffeine, fizzy drinks, alcohol, deep-fried food, refined sugar, refined grains, canned food, junk food, meat, meat products, non-organic soy.
Try mono meals from time to time – eating just one type of food at a meal – and see how it makes you feel and how much energy it gives you.
Choose a plant-based diet
The body needs a lot of energy to process unripe fruit. Fruit is packed with nutrients and contains high levels of fruit sugar (fructose) so should be eaten in moderation. In other words, don’t assume that eating as much fruit as possible is a good thing. Including fresh, ripe fruit in your diet is healthy in small amounts.
Eat fruit when it’s ripe. Sweet and acid fruits are best eaten separately to help you digest them better. Fruit should make up a maximum of 15 per cent of your daily food intake.
Melons are high in sugar. Eat them on their own and not with other foods.
Don’t eat fruits and vegetables together – digesting them requires different enzymes and the body digests them at different rates. Eating them at the same time can lead to bloating and gas.
When drinking fruit juice, dilute it with about 80 per cent natural, filtered water to make the juice more digestible.
Are you conscious of what you eat? Do you buy local produce? And only what is in season? Have you reduced the amount of meat you’re eating?
Camilla Fayed is the founder of the UK-based Farmacy restaurants. Her book, Farmacy Kitchen Cookbook, is available at all good bookshops.
Disclaimer: This article contains general information about health issues and is not advice. For health advice, consult your medical practitioner.