Recently I was chatting to my brother Dom and he asked me ‘when was the last time you were sick?’
I had to think about it for a while. And I honestly couldn’t remember.
There has been a few runny noses and some pregnancy related tiredness. But since becoming a full time Stonesoup employee, back in January 2010, I haven’t had to ask my ‘boss’ (aka me) for a sick day (even though she is very caring and understanding).
Now I can’t take all the credit for my health.
My Mum passed on her Superman-strength immune system to me so that is a huge bonus. But I do make a big effort to look after myself as well.
Meditating first thing in the morning is a habit I’m really enjoying. I try and get at least 9 hours sleep each night, although with a baby in the house that hasn’t been happening. I try and do some sort of exercise each day. It used to be running but now I’m running only once a week and walking the rest. When I walk I like to carry some extra weight either as Fergal in the Baby Bjorn or my weights vest. I also do some kettle bell swings or pushups most days for some upper body strength.
And of course I try and eat as well as I can.
But what is healthy eating?
I know it can be a very confusing topic. So when I got the following question from an anonymous Stonesoup reader I figured it was something I should write about.
“I am so confused about diets and which is better for you. Paleo diet seems to be protein based and no legumes. Dr. Joel Fuhrman who advocates all plant for health, some legumes. I have been vegetarian for 30 years and on/off vegan. Carbs are bad? Good? Help!”
Anonymous Stonesoup Reader
Before I share my opinion, I’d better be clear about my credentials.
I’m not a professional dietitian or nutritionist. However, I do have some credentials in the area. For my food science degree I did study two nutrition subjects (and got distinctions!) along with basic biochemistry. So do I understand the fundamentals.
These days, apart from cookbooks, I love reading nutrition and diet books to keep up to date. Things like Wheat Belly by William Davis, Sweet Poison by David Guillespie, Why We Get Fat by Gary Taubes, and The Paleo Solution by Robb Wolfe. You get the idea. So here it is…
My 6 Guidelines for a Healthy Way of Eating
1. Find what works for you.
At the risk of sounding like a conspiracy theorist, I believe there are two reasons the message about what to eat is so confusing. First is the influence of big business and politics in nutrition.
The second is that we’re all slightly different in our biochemical makeup. It’s the only way to explain why some people can eat junk all day and remain lean whereas others just think about chocolate cake and they gain weight.
So really the only option is to take responsibility for figuring out what is best for you and your body.
2. Eat real food.
The rate of obesity has increased at the same rate as our consumption of processed factory food. Coincidence? I think not.
So what is real food? Michael Pollan recommends not eating anything your grandparents wouldn’t recognise as food. But that would rule out sushi for me!
I prefer to think of real food as anything that you can buy without an ‘ingredients list’ on the pack.
3. Don’t be afraid of fat. Including saturated fat.
In my first job as a young food scientist I worked on developing many low fat products. And what did we replace the fat with? Sugar. Lots of different types of sugar. I still feel guilty that I contributed to the whole ‘low fat’ fiasco.
The thing is, fat is the best fuel for us to burn for energy. I won’t go into details here but if you’re interested in reading more I recommend the following 2 articles from Mark’s Daily Apple:
– What Does It Mean to Be Fat-Adapted?
– Why Fat is the Preferred Fuel for Human Metabolism
It also turns out that saturated fat isn’t bad for us. It tends to be the most stable fat for cooking and can actually be beneficial. If you think I’ve gone crazy read 7 Reasons to Eat More Saturated Fat.
4. Be wary of sugar, especially fructose.
So you’re probably all over the concept that eating loads of jelly beans isn’t good for you. But how about fruit? While fruit does contain vitamins, antioxidants and fiber, it’s also laden with fructose, or fruit sugar.
The problem with fructose is that it gets stored directly as fat by our bodies. Not ideal.
Then to make matters worse, our bodies don’t have a system for detecting when we’ve eaten enough fructose. So there’s no ‘off’ switch. If you’re interested in learning more about the evils of sugar and fructose ‘Sweet Poison’ by David Guillespie is a good read.
5. Go easy on grains, especially wheat.
The main problem I have with grains, even ‘whole grains’ is they provide loads of carbohydrates without enough beneficial micronutrients. So I prefer to get my carbs in the form of vegetables.
Even if you think you don’t have a problem with wheat or gluten, you may find your health improves if you experiment with removing wheat from your diet. And it’s not just a digestive thing. In ‘Wheat Belly’ William Davis links consumption of modern wheat to all sorts of ills including schizophrenia.
6. Eat lots of vegetables.
Vitamins. Minerals. Fiber. Antioxidants. Plus they’re delicious. What’s not to love about veg!
I could also add ‘watch the carbs’ but if you’re avoiding sugar and grains you’ll mostly be keeping your carbohydrate intake to a moderate level. Unless of course you have a heavy potato addiction…
Sesame Stir Fry
To give credit where it is due, my Irishman came up with the idea for using tahini in a stir fry from something he read. It works so well I had to steal the idea!
Enough for 2
3 tablespoons tahini
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 bunch bok choy, bases trimmed
450g (1lb) minced (ground) pork
2-4 red chillies
1. Stir tahini and soy sauce together in a small bowl.
2. Heat a wok on a super high heat. Add a little oil and stir fry the bok choy for a few minutes or until it’s just wilted.
3. Remove bok choy and divide between two bowls.
4. Add a little more oil to the wok. Add pork and stir fry for about 5 minutes or until the pork is cooked.
5. Add the tahini mixture and chilli and cook for another minute or so. Taste and season with more soy if needed.
6. Serve pork on top of the bok choy.
vegetarian / vegan – replace pork with drained cooked or canned chickpeas. Or cooked lentils – red lentils would be best, just undercook them slightly so they don’t turn to mush in the wok. Stir fried quinoa would also be lovely.
different meat – feel free to use beef, lamb or chicken instead.
different veg – any stir fry veg are good – snow peas, carrot, red capsicum (bell peppers), other Asian greens, broccoli.
more flavour – a little grated ginger and /or chopped garlic are lovely added with the pork.
ps. Stonesoup Is Hiring!
As a new Mum, I’ve realised its time to grow the Stonesoup team and take on a personal assistant. So if you are based in Australia, available to work from home and love food (but don’t worry, I won’t be asking you actually cook anything) go to: