This post is for everyone, because we all have to eat. The problem we have today is what do we eat? We’re so confused by all the conflicting opinions on what is good nutrition, many of us ‘give up’ and carry on eating what we like. And why shouldn’t we? If it tastes good, how do we know when it isn’t good? There’s masses of information available but it’s frequently unclear to say the least. And, to make matters worse, ‘expert’ opinions change on a regular basis. We might be forgiven for thinking they’re as confused as we are.
Those of us who are looking after a chronically sick person have a responsibility to take special care of the food we provide. But let’s go back in time for a moment.
SOME OF US REMEMBER THEM WELL
I became aware of ration books when I was about three. They controlled what and how much my mother could buy. A leftover from the austerity days of the war, they remained in use until 1954. After that it was down to us but our basic, fresh, mostly non-processed diet didn’t change overnight, it has morphed over time to become the commercial free-for-all that it is today. But this, thankfully, is beginning to revert as we become more aware of what we’re putting in our bodies and the possible outcomes if what we’re eating is not ‘real’ food at all.
NOT REAL FOOD
Currently, plant-based diets are in the news. The dangers of climate change are hitting us, hopefully not too late. We are now realising that the vast amount of carbon and methane that’s produced by livestock farming, as well as the huge quantities of water used and the horrendous clearing of the rain forests to grow food to feed animals to feed us, is completely unsustainable. Also because the conditions food animals have to endure are frequently devoid of any compassion whatsoever, thereby producing animals who are often sick and obviously highly stressed. Their body chemicals will reflect this. Thirdly, and taking us on to the subject of this week’s post – plants provide us with a range of extra nutrients that animal products do not. These are PHYTONUTRIENTS and NUTRITIONAL COLOUR VALUES. At the end of this post, are links to helpful charts.
LOT OF PHYTOS
Phytonutrients are natural chemicals found in plants, nuts, whole grains, seeds and tea. They help protect us from a variety of illnesses and bodily malfunctions as well as safeguarding the plants themselves.
When Leaf had his organic dry goods business, EN FAMILLE BIO, a few years ago, we became aware of phytonutrients and subsequently of their sister values – colours, aka rainbow foods. The below tips will give an idea of how I incorporate them into our diet. I should mention that we eat plant-based with occasional eggs from next-door’s special-breed, pet chickens.
ALL THE COLOURS AND RAW TOO
Phytonutrients come with the territory of our diet. As for colour, I try my best to make sure the food I serve up at main meals is as vibrant as possible. This is much easier in summer than winter with the variety of salad veggies available. I go for raw as much as possible too. Cooking always removes some of the goodness – steaming is the best if we need to cook. I would never use a microwave but there are those who think they’re absolutely safe.
My favourite winter veggies to eat raw include turnip, carrot, celeriac and, of course, most of the greens. We source ours from our neighbours who grow organic (lucky us) and they never cut off the leaves of those plants whose leaves are edible.
WALNUTS ARE HIGHLY NUTRITIOUS
Of the various colour groups – greens are easy to source as are oranges/yellows and whites. Reds and purples/blues can be a little more difficult, but we combat that with freezing or preserving red and purple/blue fruits and tomatoes and peppers in the summer and autumn for use over the winter. Walnuts are brilliant red foods which we gather where we can and we have a large persimmon/kaki tree in the garden. As for peanuts, we make our own peanut butter and eat some most days.
Other tips: we drink mainly green tea or infusions, particularly herbal or ginger, never the so-called fruit-flavoured ones which taste synthetic to me. Coffee is a must, of course, and if we want a hot chocolate, we use cocoa powder and oat milk which provides sweetness without having to add sugar. Ginger, turmeric and garlic feature a lot in my cooking but I baulk at chilli! Leaf likes it but I can’t tolerate the burn. I’ve often wondered if this means I have more or less taste buds – any ideas anyone??
DELICIOUS NIGHT-TIME DRINK
I would recommend those who are seriously into nutrition, print up a colour guide and try to follow it. A point worth mentioning although rather obvious – fruit and veggies are the most colourful of foods, whereas animal products are the least. Most meat is red or brown, eggs yellow, dairy white or yellow and none contain those vital phytonutrients. A meal using them can be made healthier by adding colourful vegetables. In restaurants, ‘cheat’ cooks frequently garnish a dish to make it more attractive – a sprig or two or parsley, a flower or a sprinkle of herbs; a good indicator that a red/brown/yellow/beige plateful without other colour is not brilliant and doesn’t look it either.
GARNISHING – PRETTY BUT NOT SUFFICIENT
No food blog would be complete without mentioning three controversial areas – salt, sugar and gluten.
We believe the first two are important but keep to the unprocessed varieties; Himalayan salt, rapadura, muscovado or coconut sugar and, low-gluten flours (and breads) such as buckwheat, coconut, rice, maize and spelt.
HIMALAYAN SALT – THE BEST
Good luck and, as they say rather cornily these days, we should all ‘Eat a Rainbow’!
This is a brilliant site with downloadable charts which give us all the info we need.
Care2 produced this useful chart on phytonutrients which I posted on my EN FAMILLE BIO blog back in 2011. Readers might like to spend an extra few minutes reading through the other short blogs in that nutrition section.