HEALTH NEWSLETTER #16
EVOLUTIONARY THINKING, EATING AND EXERCISING
30th August 2016
Welcome to August's health newsletter. I've had a great month relaxing and travelling to Italy. It was so good to get away explore nature, read great books and eat fantastic food. Now I'm back at the laptop and creating the best in health education just for you.
This month's newsletter is all about food preparation and cooking.
Reading time: 4 mins
Cooking in the kitchen
Last month I watched series on Netflix called COOKED. The creator, Michael Pollan, is an American bestselling author. His books include:
- The Omnivore's Dilemma
- In Defence of Food
- Food Rules: An Eater's Manual
I've been recommended a few of his books but never got round to reading them. So when I saw this series I knew it must be good. I wasn't disappointed and IMBD even scored it 8.2/10!
Here’s a trailer to give you a taste...
The series looks at food through the four elements: fire, water, air and earth. The fire episode explores how cooking increased the bio-availability of nutrients in our food. The water episode explores the role of pot cooking, which allowed us to mix the flavours of plants with meat. The air episode explores the role of yeasts in making bread and beer. And the earth episode explores the role of bacteria in the production of cheese.
Why do we cook our food?
Cooked gives the viewer a look at the evolution of food and cooking. Michael examines what food means to us through the history of food preparation. He discusses its universal ability to connect us and how our hectic lives have disconnected us.
In our calorie driven culture many of us have forgotten that food has the ability to nourish our body and soul. He highlights our human need to cook and urges us to reclaim our lost traditions.
I come from a family where my parents both cooked but I didn’t explore cooking until I was 26. Up to that point I ate fairly typical meals, not especially healthy or unhealthy. So what changed? I started to learn that being healthy and strong wasn’t just a game of numbers. There was more to a healthy diet than smashing down as much protein as possible!
A modern food culture
We have been taught to obsess about carbs and fats and have yo-yoed from one to the other. Demonising food groups is not the answer. Perhaps what's more important is how and where we eat our food. It's too easy today to eat on the move and eat unconsciously. The Mediterranean diet isn't just the healthiest in the world just for its ingredients. Traditional people from Italy France or Greece rarely eat alone or on the move.
What we need is a more holistic approach to nutrition. Forget the numbers and the science for a minute, let's try to fix our food culture first. When our sole focus is weight loss our long term health suffers. Our weight fluctuates back and forward and we often end up worse off than where we started.
Our reductionist theory of calories in versus calories out just isn't working. Perhaps because food and digestion are much more complex than that. Just because calories go into the digestive system doesn’t mean they get digested. Also, no two bodies are the same, so what makes us think that we would all digest food the same way?
Take nuts and seeds for example. Many people trying to lose weight will avoid these due their high calorie count. But they are full of nutrition that make us health and help us lose weight. Experts also suggest that not all their calories get digested.
Calories get calculated in a laboratory. Our gut is far more complex an environment than a laboratory. Which is why it is foolish to just eat food based on its calorie content.
Instead I recommend eating nutrient dense food that comes from nature and not from a factory. I also encourage you to explore age old traditions like making sourdough bread.
Food in the Post-industrial Era
Humans are energy saving machines. Modern industrial principles save us so much time, but as a result we have lost our traditional methods of preparing food. No longer are mothers and fathers passing on their family recipes. To make things worse, most schools only teach kids how to make pizza, spag' bol' and cookies - not what they need to be healthy.
Bread is an excellent example of this. In the past we baked our own bread with simple ingredients; flour, water and salt. But today bread has a long ingredient list and you need a chemistry degree to decipher it.
Many argue that gluten should be avoided, while others say it's only an issue if you have Coeliac Disease. There aren't many people talking about the effect of traditional methods on digestion and health. Methods like soaking the grains and creating fermented cultures like sourdough bread.
All's not lost though, as there seems to be a resurgence, at least where you can find the hipsters! Craft ale, proper coffee and trendy bakers and booming. I've even seen a fermented food course at my local organic fruit and veg shop. So I remain hopeful!
When I returned from travelling I began experimenting. I've tried fermenting kombucha, sourdough bread, sauerkraut and I’ve just bought some kefir grains. My next project is ginger beer and ginger flavoured water kefir! I really love ginger!
It's possible to enjoy sweet, fizzy drinks like kombucha, without feeling guilty. The yeast and bacteria in the culture eat all the sugar and convert it into beneficial acids and a bit of fizz. If you can find someone with the alien like SCOBY (Sybiotic Culture Of Yeast and Bacteria) get onto YouTube and start brewing!
If fermented food doesn’t spark your curiosity then why not explore your favourite cuisine. I was fortunate enough to work in an Italian kitchen for a few months and I learnt so much. I’ve also had Indian cooking lessons in Rajasthan and both were transformative.
When you can cook something a little different, it’s an incredible gift to give to family and friends. I especially loved cooking for my mum and dad, repaying all the meals they made me as a youngster.
My best tip when it comes to cooking is start simple and cook with the ingredients you love the most. Choose a good source of protein and two or three portions of vegetables and you can’t go wrong. Then try mixing some vegetables and spices together to make simple vegetable tagine. Oh and never scrimp on the salt or fat, that’s where the flavour comes from. But make sure you buy the best quality salt and fat you can afford. For more info click here.
If you cannot get onto Netflix then here’s a link to the buy the book:
And here are a few links to some books that have really helped me:
Since I was young there have been two things I've always loved to do:
- Travel/ adventure
- And move
I've always been active and played many different sports. This love of sport took me into the teaching profession. But today I find myself looking for new inspiration away from sport. If you are in need of some inspiration to rejuvenate your current exercise habits look no further. Read all about natural movement by clicking on the crazy collie below!
When I was young I would often end up going for adventures on my own, often on the back of my bike. I'd just ride and see where I ended up. My parents took us on many an adventure in the school holidays. My adventurous spirit is still alive and here's a blog all about why we love to travel.
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Here are a few of my latest social snaps. If you don't follow me on Instagram, what are you thinking!!!