Chapter One: The Fundamentals of Food

“Foolish the doctor who despises the knowledge acquired by the ancients.” 
~Hippocrates 460 – 370 BC

Food has taken a real precedence over our lives. Whether we’re sitting in a café, waiting at the supermarket checkout or on our way to board a plane, conversations around diet are quite frankly unavoidable. “I’m on the alkaline diet”; “I’ve given up gluten and I’ve really noticed a difference”; “Keto is the way for me, it’s changed my life!” As for vegans, well, they have their own joke: How can you tell if someone is vegan? Don’t worry, they’ll tell you. Ha ha ha.
I can’t help but thinking have we not become a tad obsessed with food?
We are most definitely going through a health revolution. The plus side is good quality food no longer tastes like cardboard. Specialised diets are not only reserved for the Hare Krishna’s and farm fresh, nutrient dense and untampered-with produce is making a resurgence (yes, we always used to eat like this). But, let’s call a spade a spade. Food has always been around, and it has always been a necessity. Ultimately, food is fuel for our bodies. If we don’t eat, eventually we’ll die. That’s really it. And it’s the same for all species inhabiting Mother Earth. However, we don’t see tigers searching for their prey armed with a calorie counter or glycaemic index chart. Dolphins swimming along with a measuring cup tied to its fin. Birds avoiding a nibble because they’ve adopted a new diet.
There seems to be a tendency to take things to the extreme when we hear something is ‘good’ for us. Let’s take the example of soy. The unsuspecting bean was introduced to the West by the Japanese and was touted a super food back in the seventies and eighties, revered for its high protein content (an ideal substitute for meat products) and hormone-balancing powers due to its phytoestrogen content. Sadly, like most grains and legumes, the humble bean was adulterated for mass consumption, genetically modified and processed into substances called soy but were so far off the real thing. Over-consumption was then thrown into the mix with soy and its hybrids added to everything: soups, sausages, protein powders and cake mixes, you name it. As a result, people started to react in negative ways from consuming too much fake-soy, so much so, that the poor, ashamed soybean sits in the naughty corner of staple food items, all the while wondering what it did to be given the cold shoulder.
Another example is a necessary food group called carbohydrates. For those of us who didn’t pay attention in biology class: Carbohydrates are a macronutrient, meaning they are one of the three ways we derive energy, as well as being the body’s most efficient fuel source. Simply put, carbs are the sugars, starches and fibres found in fruit, vegetables, grains and milk products.
I’ll single out grains to make my point. Toxic pesticides and weed killers like Roundup are added to our crop. We mess with the grain even further in a bid to lengthen shelf life by adding fillers and preservatives. We don’t stop there; processing continues to minimise the fibre content because some prefer the bleached look. We then pile our plates with huge portions of the macronutrient while doing one tenth of the exercise our forefathers did. Then we declare carbs are evil.
Rather than labelling food as ‘good’ and ‘bad’, or fanatically searching for the must-have, cure-all latest super food (it doesn’t exist, by the way), we should simply take responsibility for what we put into our mouths. Yep, that’s right. We’re in control and we have the choice to either dig our graves with our knives and forks, or nurture our bodies to promote vitality, prevent disease, live naturally and harmoniously. It’s easy to blame the produce, the manufacturing process or even government for that matter. It’s much more confronting to look within, but there lies the answer to your food questions, as well as your gauge to determine what food works for you. After all, digestion is key to breaking down food into fuel and according to traditional naturopaths, all disease begin in the gastrointestinal system.
You are not what you eat. You are what you absorb.
Let’s think of our internals like a fertile garden. We want our plants, flowers and trees to thrive abundantly, so we choose the best, organic fertiliser for our soil. But if we don’t take the time to pull out the weeds, it doesn’t matter how expensive or elite the fertiliser is, it’s simply not going to cut through. Unless the good stuff can get to where it needs to, to do its work, there is not much point in splashing out on the latest and greatest anything.
Let’s take diet-overhauling for example: we feel rough or pack on a few pounds, so we decide to embark on a diet, breaking the bank to purchase what resembles a mini-health food store complete with the freshest organic produce, best nutritional supplements and latest super foods. But remembering those weeds from the earlier garden metaphor, if we don’t take the time to pull them out, the costly fertiliser ends up sitting on top of sludge, creating more sludge. The result? Expensive excrement.
If you enjoy what you’re reading and want to know more, please download the whole chapter here which includes the five super simple questions we can ask ourselves to strengthen our digestive capabilities and refresh our relationship with food.

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