This topic could be very straightforward. Eat your 5-a-day, have some healthy fats, say no to processed foods, reduce your sugar intake and do some exercise! I could finish this article here as I don’t want to bore you with facts you are already familiar with.
After all, if achieving optimal health could be summarised in one sentence, our GPs (and me, for that matter) would be out of work and we all would be bouncing around with endless energy and vitality. A little more thought has to go into the matter of living to your full health potential and this short guide will, hopefully, be more useful to you than the leaflets you can pick up at your local supermarket.
Ditch the breakfast cereal
Processed grains, smothered in sugary syrup are still a staple feature of our breakfast table. Rice Krispies, corn flakes and even popular ‘healthier’ options such as shredded wheat (neatly compressed into brick-like structures), are devoid of all nutrients and provide a generous helping of gut-wrenching gluten and fibre, so rough it acts like a metal brush against your intestinal lining.
Even gluten-free muesli from the local health shop is not an ideal alternative because starting your day on a purely grain-based meal will eventually wreak havoc with your blood sugar levels, deprive you of essential nutrients and irritate your tum. These are not great attributes for ‘the most important meal of the day’. Instead, embrace your savoury side and whip up some scrambled eggs with mushrooms and beans or generously fill an omelette with spinach and tomatoes. This way, you will start your day with a hit of protein energy, sprinkled with vitamins, minerals and anti-oxidants!
Brew your own
Arthritis seems to be an inevitable reality for many. Creaking joints and painful limbs often severely compromise quality of life, even if we are otherwise healthy. Looking after your joints on a daily basis can greatly reduce your risk of ever having to deal with this painful condition but there is no need to stock up on joint supplements. We can obtain natural glucosamine and chondroitin from bone broths, like we used to many moons ago. Slow stewing large knuckle and marrow bones with herbs, carrots and onions makes a fantastic stock that can be consumed just on its own or in homemade gravies and soups. Aim to cook at least one pot a week and put your mind at rest that your joint support is bubbling away on the stove while you watch Sunday soaps!
99.9% (anti) bacterial!
We are a generation obsessed with disinfecting our environment. A germ-free environment is not a safe haven but a breeding ground for fatal disease, allergies and atopic disease. Without naturally occurring micro organisms, the immune system never has an opportunity to learn how to defend itself from harmful invaders. Wiping out the population of friendly bacteria who set up camp in our intestines with antibiotics and medication does not help the situation. Many modern diseases such as IBS, asthma and even diabetes and heart disease are linked to a lack of beneficial bacteria in our food, in our environment and in our digestive systems. Our diet used to be brimming with health-giving organisms in fermented foods such as sauerkraut, soured milk and cream, yoghurt, kefir and a form of fermented soy beans called tempeh. Such foods should feature plentifully in our diet, at least on a weekly basis. Alternatively, a good probiotic supplement can save you from the misery of digestive disease and keep your immune system in tip top condition.
Get herb savvy
Our herb garden used to be our medicine cupboard. Rubbing a bit of onion on a bee sting or chewing sage leaves for inflamed gums, we used to know and recognise our common herbs for their health potential; today, instead, we have become increasingly reliant on a chemical concoction from the pharmacy. Herbs play an essential role in preventative medicine and buying a well-referenced herbal medicine book can be a wise investment for the future. I am not suggesting you cure yourself of every disease with a bit of shrub but that you include easily accessible herbs in your daily diet. Plant some fresh herbs to pick from your window sill and use dried spices such as turmeric and cinnamon liberally in your food.
Embrace the fat
If you have read any of my previous articles you will be familiar with the fact that I am a fat lover. I cannot speak highly enough of this often misunderstood and neglected food. Never go about cooking a meal without having a bottle of olive or coconut oil at the ready. Never let a salad leaf pass your lips without a slathering of cold pressed seed or nut oil. But never ever be tempted by processed and artificial fats such as margarines, spreads and hardened vegetable fats. Above all, essential fats found in oily fish should stand elevated on a plinth with a golden halo right at the top of your daily food pyramid. The Oxford English Dictionary defines the word ‘essential’ with the following: Absolutely necessary; extremely important or Fundamental or central to the nature of something or someone. Therefore, eating oily fish is not an option, it is a must! It should be chiselled in stone like the Ten Commandments and plastered over every available advertising space: If you want to have a shot at achieving not just optimum health but any kind of health, eat oily fish three to four times a week, no discussion. Or take a high quality fish oil supplement on a daily basis if the thought of fish makes your tummy turn!
How red are your apples?
Colour is nature’s way of telling you that she has provided a ripe and ready meal for you. Fruit and vegetables that are brimming with all colours of the rainbow while emitting a tantalisingly appetising smell are the best way of obtaining natural antioxidants. These chemical compounds protect every cell of your body against damage and ageing. A deep blue, red or purple colour means a ready supply of resveratrol and other flavonoids that protect your heart and skin. Dark green leafy vegetables contain an ocean of chlorophyll, a life giving substance that is purifying as well as nourishing. The more colours you have on your plate, the better protected you are against all sorts of onslaughts!
Don’t watch TV
This rule is very simple to follow. Don’t eat or buy anything that you see advertised on TV. If a happy family or a celebrity is trying to sell you something then it is manmade, most likely processed and comes in some sort of packaging. The beauty about natural foods is that you do not have to wrap them in plastic, cardboard or aluminium foil. How many times have you seen a commercial for fresh strawberries (not the frozen kind out of a pack) or a humble onion?
Ignore all advice!
Sometimes the best advice I can give you about how to achieve optimum health is to ignore all advice and follow your instincts. Some of us have lost the ability to judge which foods are naturally part of the human menu and which ones are not. It might just take a little time to tune yourself back into your natural environment and imagine life as a cave man. If you can dig it up, collect it, forage for it or climb a tree to reach it, it is probably ok to eat. This would include roots, leaves, vegetables, nuts , seeds, berries and the odd bit of fruit when in season. I should add at this point that it is still common practice for monkeys to consume over-ripe, fermenting fruit in the autumn only to stumble around drunk out of their eyeballs! Some might interpret this fact as perfect justification to indulge in the odd glass of wine or beer (myself included). Furthermore, if you are able to hunt it, catch it and kill it, it should also be on your dining table. This would include all cuts of meat – including offal, game, fish, seafood and insects. Yes you read that right, insects are still a delicacy in some countries and an excellent source of protein and collagen. Cooking up a dinner of ants and spiders might be a step too far even for me but you would be surprised how delicious deep-fried grasshoppers are!