An optimum diet contains an abundance of high-nutrients and is the basis for good health, energy, and a sense of well-being. The foods that we need to eat to assure good health include whole grains, legumes, raw seeds and nuts, fish, poultry, fruits, vegetables, herbs and spices, and water.
Whole grains are the seeds of various grasses (cereals). Whole grains are almost complete meals within themselves, containing fibre, protein, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins such as B and E, and many minerals like calcium, magnesium, potassium, iron, copper, and manganese. When grains are refined in milling the germ and bran are removed, as a result, most of the essential nutrients of the grain are removed.
- Cooked grains. Grains should be eaten as an integral part of most meals. Vary the grains you eat: amaranth, barley, buckwheat, corn, kamut, millet, oats, quinoa, kasha, rice, rye, spelt, triticale, wheat, wild rice.
- Sprouts. Several grains, as well as beans and peas, can be sprouted easily at home. Sprouts are extremely high in nutrients.
- Pasta. It is best to buy, or make, fresh pasta from rye, buckwheat, millet, rice or corn. These non-wheat pastas are easier to digest and have a variety of flavours.
- Legumes, beans and peas. Legumes are excellent sources of easily utilised protein, particularly when combined with whole grains. Common legumes: adzuki, black/turtle, black-eyed, garbanzo, lima, mung, navy, pinto, red, soy, and kidney beans, lentils and split peas. Here is a preparation method to make them more accessible for use: Bring water to a boil (3 cups water to 1 cup beans). Add beans to boiling water and cook for two minutes. Remove from heat, cover pan, let beans soak in boiling water for one hour. Drain, rise with cold water and freeze. When you want them, thaw quickly under running water. Boil for 30 to 50 minutes.
Seeds and Nuts
These should be eaten raw and unsalted. They are a source of many nutrients including, Omega-3 and 6 essential oils. Seeds: flax, pumpkin, sesame and sunflower seeds, and nuts: walnuts, pecan, almonds, cashew, hazel, brazil and pistachio.
Fish and Poultry
Both are excellent sources of protein. Fish, especially deep sea cold water fish e.g. tuna, salmon, trout, mackerel, sardines and halibut, provide essential Omega fats (EPA and DHA), even more so if eaten raw such as in sushi or sashimi. Tinned fish is a good form of calcium due to the small easily digested bones, e.g. sardines and salmon.
Most poultry fat is found within the skin and the internal organs, so if you want to minimize your fat intake it can be easily removed. The total fat content of chicken and turkey, is far lower than that of beef (11% compared to 40%). Chicken and turkey are less abundant in their vitamin and mineral content though. If you eat poultry buy organic, free range, as their exposure to pesticides, antibiotics, and hormones has been reduced. Both fish and poultry are best eaten grilled, roasted, sauteed, or baked. Frying or sautéing in oil should be avoided.
Nutritionally, fruits are a treasure trove of vitamins A and C, many minerals, natural sugars, fibre, and water. Adequate fruit intake can help to prevent or relieve a wide variety of health problems. Much of the bioflavonoids in citrus fruits are found in the inner peel which is the bitter part of the fruit usually discarded, unaware of its health benefits. The skin and seeds of grapes contain many nutrients. Make sure to eat the whole fruit rather than just the juice, but it must be organic! Although fruit is high in sugar, the fiber helps slow down absorption of the sugar into the blood which helps stabilise the blood sugar level, fruit juice acts more like table sugar and can destabilise your blood sugar level dramatically when taken excessively. The fibre also helps prevent constipation and other digestive irregularities. Fresh and dried fruits are excellent snacks and substitutes for cookies, candies, cakes, and other foods high in refined sugar.
Eat as many vegetables as possible, raw if you can. You can enjoy a variety of raw vegetables in salads, or munch them with dips. Fresh vegetable juice is another option. Though the fibre is discarded in the juicing process, the vitamins and minerals are retained and they do not have a high sugar level like fruit juices. Juices are easy to digest, but if you find that you do not tolerate raw vegetables well and they cause digestive discomfort, cooking them slightly may be preferable. Steaming is the best cooking method because it preserves some essential nutrients. Try to eat organic veg where possible, be sure to wash all fruit and veg thoroughly to remove any pesticides, herbicides, and dirt.
Meat and Milk
If meat is part of your diet it should be a small part. It has a high iron, protein and zinc content but is also high in saturated fat, which cause a number of common diseases and health problems. It is easy to include iron, protein and zinc in your diet without eating much meat. Meat that is consumed should be lean, organic and free range as this is another industry where animals are given many hormones and antibiotics, (some of them solely to increase milk production, which are excreted in milk and consumed by humans, in some ways it's lucky the calves don’t get to drink their mother’s milk!). There are a variety of healthy alternatives to milk including soy milk, rice milk, oat milk and nut milks. Be aware that the animals you eat died for your eating pleasure and the milk you drink was meant for a calf who had no choice but to give it up for you. With the grain used to feed cattle in the US alone they could feed an extra 800 million people, thats food for thought.
Diet and the Environment
The diet should consist of as many organic whole foods as possible, when eating a meal make sure it is in a relaxed environment to aid digestion. Variety is the spice of life! Try healthy, new foods be creative. The more refined foods are, the worse they are for you.
NB. Please be aware that plastic, polystyrene, cling film etc. all contain small amounts of xeno-oestrogens (hormone like substances) that leach into packaged foods. Also think about where the packaging ends up after you throw it away… reduce, reuse, recycle!