Nutrition is a topic that most of us will hear about at some point in our day-to-day life; whether it’s your own weight or that of a family member, friend or colleague or an advert on the TV, radio or your social media newsfeed. We hear about the latest trending diet or that celebrity, you know, the one that changed their appearance so dramatically for the part in that movie. Nutrition has become more about fad diets and watching your weight than health and well-being.
Nutrition, in whichever way you think of it, is a highly emotive topic with each person having their own values or beliefs around why they follow that regime – 5:2, Atkins, Banting, blood type diet, fruitarian, glute-free, intermittent fasting, keto, LCHF, low-fat, low-FODMAP, paleo, vegan, vegetarian, weight watchers, whole 30…the list goes on with more and more popping up every week. Some even follow the same theory, just with a different name. They all have one thing in common though: they give you a prescribed list of things that you can and cannot eat. Most of them, without even addressing the premise behind the diet. For some people, this works well. You follow the rules, you may or may not lose weight, you complain how hard it is and then one day, it gets too much. You ‘fall off the wagon’, have a ‘cheat meal’, ‘let go’ for the weekend or during a holiday. That once off then gets stretched out to a few more days. “I’ll get back to it tomorrow”. Tomorrow becomes a few months later, you try on your favourite dress/jeans/jumper and it’s a little snug. You take more than just a glancing look in the mirror and you realise that you’ve gained a little in that problem area. You don’t want to go back on that diet, it was too hard to stick to, so you ask a friend what they are doing or consider the latest trending diet, you click on that social media ad that promises results in 30 days. You go from one diet to the next hoping for a better outcome.
What could you do to change that?
Moving away from thinking of nutrition as the fastest way to lose weight and moving towards thinking about using nutrition for creating health is a good starting point.
When we think about nutrition from a vitalistic perspective, we look at what our bodies are designed to eat. For this we take a look back at what wild, free humans would eat. While we aren’t the same as the wild, free humans, we can use their example to create a template. Wild, free humans ate a broad range of food that was available seasonally and different groups had access to different foods. Everything was locally sourced, organic and unprocessed. This included meat, fish, fowl, eggs, plants in the form of fruit and vegetables, honey and some nuts and seeds.
Now, let’s look at the average westerner’s diet; pre-packaged, processed foods with additives, preservatives and chemicals to make sure they last longer and are available all year round. A stark difference. Viewing nutrition from a vitalistic perspective we would encourage you to eat foods that provide your mind-body with sufficient nutrients, that eliminate toxins and reduce deficiencies.
Now, we aren’t suggesting that you fashion yourself a spear from a tree branch or only live off what you can grow but we can start to create that template. The two simple rules for this template are taken from the book Thrive! Only For Those Who Want To Be Healthy by Dr Greg Venning.
- Rule 1: Food Quality – Eat real, biologically appropriate food that was recently living
Food exists on a spectrum from high quality to low quality and is judged by how biologically appropriate it is.
Fresh foods are of higher quality than processed foods. While you can survive on processed foods, these do not create a healthy body, some even create defence and decay in your body. Underlying damage caused by poor quality nutrition is linked to obesity, diabetes, heart disease, cancer, depression, chronic fatigue, chronic pain, IBS, ADHD, acne and osteoporosis, to name a few.
High-quality food nourishes and protects your mind-body allowing it to thrive. There are many stories and research studies that have seen people who have changed their nutrition habits transform their lives and help, sometimes even reverse, their health issues.
While eating high-quality foods is best, it is not always possible so make the best choices with what you can afford. Shopping local and seasonally can help to reduce costs while keeping quality high.
- Rule 2: Nutrient Density – Nourish your mind-body with every mouthful
We live in a time where we put our mind-bodies through immense stress daily, yet our food is very nutrient-poor. Farming practices, refining and processing also deplete the nutrients from our food. Many of the conditions listed above are problems stemming from malnutrition. In order to nourish your mind-body and create health, we want to maximise the amount of nutrients we get in every mouthful.
Following these two rules then empowers us to develop and follow our own template for creating health through nutrition.
What else can you do?
Don’t shop when you are hungry – you are more likely to make poor choices if you are shopping on an empty stomach.
Do most of your shopping at the local farmer’s market – you can pick up your fresh produce at the market and you often get better deals at markets too. I really cut down on my food budget when I started to regularly buy from the Oranjezicht market here in Cape Town.
Shop the outside aisles of the supermarket – if you don’t have a local farmer’s market to get your groceries, shop mostly in the fresh produce aisles in the supermarket.
Grow your own– if you have space, you can grow your own fruit and veg. You could even start to trade with your neighbours if they grow something different from you. There are also some great gardening solutions for small spaces too.
Eat seasonally – know what fruits and veg are in season, when. This will cut down on your costs and ensure that you are getting a wide range of nutrients from different fruits and veggies. This is easier to do if you are shopping at a farmer’s market as they tend to only stock seasonally.
Start looking at labels – As a general rule, if there are more than 3-5 ingredients, put it down and walk away.
Create a meal plan – I found that picking 5-7 different meals and using them on rotation helped me to get into the swing of this when I first started. Once I got more confident, I started to add in a couple more options until I got to this point where I can improvise with what is available in our fridge. (I started this journey in 2009)
While you can take all the care to provide your body with these high-quality, nutrient-dense foods, if your body is unable to process those foods effectively then you will not gain the full benefit. If your nervous system is only working at 60%, you are never going to get 100% of the nutrients you take in. This is where Chiropractic care can help you to get the most out of your nutritional choices. With Chiropractic care, you can improve the brain-body connection and allow for optimal organ function and nutrient absorption.