My health journey has had me researching the weird and wonderful over the last 12 years and sometimes I forget the uniformed place from where I started all that time ago. I love nothing more than to share the knowledge I have gathered along the way and that is what I want to give you a snippet of today. These are kitchen and food habits that are so second nature to me now, that I forget the majority of people are not aware of how some really easy changes in your food and preparation choices, can make a world of difference to your health.
Get back to home cooking
Although this may seem an obvious one, it is worth mentioning, especially as the UK is the largest consumer of ready-made meals in the whole of Europe with spending at around £2.6 billion per annum and still rising fast year on year. A consumer Mintel report has sited that 30% of adults in the average UK household eat a ready-made meal more than once a week. This is convenience at the cost of health. Eating whole, fresh foods will make a world of difference to your nutrient intake and overall health. Processed, ready-made meals are food type products full of unsavoury ingredients and not much nutrition. When you start to see a food product with more than 6 ingredients it’s time to start questioning the reason they are in the product. No food product is going to nourish you with a list of 50+ unrecognisable, chemical sounding ingredients. Coupled with that you can guarantee it will be full of sugar and salt, never mind the chemical additives. Which takes me onto my next point.
Be very suspicious of chemical food additives
Once upon a time there were E numbers in food, then the general public got wary and a lot of E numbers were replaced with the actual chemical names. Whether you’re reading E numbers or chemical names on your foods before you consider putting them in your trolley, think twice about what you’re buying.
You could assume that the World Health Organisation (WHO), the British Food Standards Agency (FSA) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) would not let food additives into food production if they were bad for our health, but you’d be wrong. Sulphates and nitrates are well known to exasperate the problems of eczema and asthma. Likewise the E numbers sodium benzoate (E211), sunset yellow (E110), quinoline yellow (E104), carmoisine (E122), tartrazine (E102), ponceau 4R (E124), allura red AC (E129) have all been shown to cause or increase behaviourial problems in children. A study that confirmed this finally prompted the FSA to issue advise to parents to limit intake of these E numbers if they noticed a change in their children’s behaviour. This is just the tip of the iceberg.
My advice would be to avoid all chemical food additives as much as possible, be they colourings, flavourings or sweeteners (especially sweeteners). Research on artificial sweeteners has demonstrated a strong and worrying link to cancer. In fact aspartame found in many ‘sugar free’ products, like Diet Coke, has had more complaints to the FDA than all other foods put together. Even more shocking is that this particular sweetener was rejected by the FDA several times over a number of years, due to extreme safety concerns, until it was finally given the go ahead after years of wrangling. Behind the scenes business and political relationships made it possible for this dangerous ingredient to come to market. The FDA has a list of 92 symptoms that can be triggered by aspartame from blindness to seizures to coma and death. These are just some examples of questionable ingredients but in truth do you really want to be eating anything that has been created in a chemical laboratory?
Ditch the canned food and drinks
Sadly when it comes to making food convenient there is often a price to pay and that is even with canned food. Though the invention of canned food was nothing short of life saving for the military across the world for the last 200 years, it’s not really a shortcut we need to make in our daily lives. Not only are you exposing yourself to aluminium, which may be an increased risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease, but many canned products also have a lining of the chemical bisphenol-A (BPA). BPA is an oestrogen mimicking chemical that you really want to limit your exposure to as much as possible. How does BPA directly affect your health? Research has shown a greater risk of early onset puberty, reduced fertility rates, an increased risk of hormonal cancers like breast cancer and prostrate cancer.
Swap your non-stick cookware
Is your kitchen filled with nonstick pots and pans? Once again it is convenience in the kitchen at the cost of health. In just two to five minutes of cooking at high heat, the nonstick coatings can start to emit toxic gases. The toxic gas released has been linked to hundreds of pet bird deaths and human illnesses according to studies by the Environmental Working Group (EWG). The chemical perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) is used to bond the coating to the pan and both wear and tear on your scratched non stick pans and high heat will equally allow this chemical to leach out into your food and environment and finally into the body, so much so that it the EWG has reported it to be found in the blood of most newborns. A healthier option is to avoid all nonstick cookware and choose healthier alternatives like stainless steel or ceramic.
Soak your nuts, seeds, legumes and grains
These foods can play an important part of a balanced diet, but knowing how to prepare them can make a world of difference to their digestibility and nutritional value. Soaking them helps to reduce phytic acid and enzyme inhibitors. Phytic acid binds to minerals in the grains, beans and legumes, which makes it impossible for your body to absorb the minerals. This can even lead to nutrient deficiencies, if you are not absorbing the minerals from other food sources. Enzyme inhibitors serve a purpose and prevent the grains, seeds, and nuts from sprouting, which means they are able to be stored safely for long periods of time. But this can make digestion challenging and uncomfortable. By soaking these foods in an acidic solution (which begins the fermentation process), the nutrients readily available to your body. An acidic solution includes lemon juice, apple cider vinegar, yogurt or kefir.
Before going to bed I find it helpful to plan ingredients for whatever is on the meal planner for the following day. If there are any nuts, seeds, grains or legumes then they are weighed out and soaked overnight ready for the following day. It’s an easy habit to get into especially if like us you have homemade almond milk every day.
Stop nuking your food with a microwave oven
Convenience cooking that may make you have a rethink. Mine got ditched a number of years ago now and once gone I didn’t give the perceived lack of convenience a second thought. Microwaves were banned by the Soviet Union way back in 1976 and with good reason. Despite the fact that microwaves are found in most homes they are definitely not a natural or healthy way to cook food. This way of cooking changes the molecular structure of the food, making the food an unnatural source for the body.
Buy organic, local and seasonal when you can
There have been times in my life when money has been scare and times when it has been abundant but throughout those times quality of food has always been of paramount importance to me. It has always been the biggest monthly expenditure (and I include supplements in that food budget too).
It has paid dividends a thousand times over when I look at the health of my family. After all you get out what you put in! Their glowing health is testament to their diet. Why is it important to pick the best ingredients you can? You are consuming less chemicals, herbicides and pesticides. The food will have far more nutrients the less number of air miles it has had to travel. There is a reason local seasonal produce tastes so good. Strawberries in December compared to July? You know there’s a reason it tastes better in the summer. Another very important reason to buy organic is to support those farmers that have chosen to produce food the most environmentally friendly way. For me organic food is the true cost of natural food production and buying cheaper foods is a false economy to your health.
We live in an age where we are happy to spend money on a fab new pair of shoes, a flashy car and the latest technology. At what point are we going to decide to spend good money on the food that truly nourishes us?
The UK spending on food is at an all time low, which last year’s horse meat scandal reflected. Family expenditure for food and drink 55 years ago came to £14.30 a week, 33% of income. If we adjust the figure to present day with inflation that figure would now be over £80 per week. In 2012, the average weekly spend on food and drink comes to just £54.80.
Stop the quick fix and turn to nourishing your body which gives you a long-term feeling of happiness into a priority. What you put on the inside and how you feed your body reflects in your emotions, your mood, how you feel and your whole quality and experience of life. There is no better investment for you and your family.
If you feel you need help with moving towards a healthier eating lifestyle or just feel that your health is out of balance then here is a link to the form where you can contact me:
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