After indulging over Christmas and New Year, I’m sure we’ve all been shamed into getting back on track. If you’re anything like me you’ve tried Dry January and it turned out to be more like Partially-Dry January and while there are still chocolates hanging about the place, their numbers are falling and soon, the kitchen will be a wasteland of home-cooking and herbal teas.
OK, so ‘wasteland’ is my attempt at irony, but it’s supposed to prove a point. The point being that healthy eating doesn’t have to be, and damn-well shouldn’t be a no-fun affair. Your daily meals should be full of colour, texture and flavour.
‘Eat the Rainbow’ is not a new concept by any means, but it doesn’t mean that it’s not still relevant. Nutritional goal posts seem to be shifting all the time, and while we might not know how much meat we should eat, or how evil sugar really is, no one has ever said we should be eating fewer fruits and vegetables.
Imagining your diet as part of a cycle of energy, you might better appreciate why it’s important to eat food in it’s natural state. Each morsel that passes your lips is like a little burst of potential energy. Food like fruits and vegetables, seeds, nuts and fresh meat are all naturally occurring on our planet. The things that give them life and power, are by virtue the things that our bodies need to create life and power in us. Eating a wide variety of colours, shapes and textures is a safe strategy to ensure that you’re getting everything you need to function at your best. A good example of this is phytochemicals and bioflavonoids. Plants need these to create the bright colours and pigments that attract pollinating animals. It turns out that these chemicals which give plants their colour and protect them from disease might also provide us with protection from things like cancer, inflammation, oxidisation and infection. The more colourful our intake of fruits and vegetables, the more variety of phytochemicals and bioflavonids we get to benefit from.
While these foods are most potent when eaten fresh and raw, there are exceptions to the rule. For example tomatoes are supposedly best eaten after heating as it makes the chemicals more accessible to our digestive systems, much like mushrooms, spinach and carrots. And let’s face it – many foods taste better when cooked. And like finding the right type of exercise that’s best for you, finding the foods and recipes that you love to eat will mean that in the long term, you will be able to develop and stick to healthier eating habits.
Over the years I’ve cut down on high GI, high-calorie carbohydrates like rice, pasta and bread and was forced to find more ways to eat the foods that make up most of my lunches and dinners: vegetables. I make salads and hash and fritters and soups and stews and dhals and curries.
Preparing good food does take time and effort but remember what L’Oreal has always said, ‘You’re Worth It!’ And remember that cycle of energy transfer again. Isn’t it better that the energy comes from you instead of Birdseye, M&S or Nando’s? Isn’t it better to ‘process’ your food – chopping, peeling, blanching, dressing – in ways that don’t strip it of the very properties that makes it good for you?
Or, as someone else one time said it much more succinctly; Eat the rainbow.
Here are some blogs to help you find your way …