Food is a necessity. We all need food to survive but does it really matter what foods we eat? Does food really have such a profound impact on our bodies and system?
The answer is a resounding – YES!
I came across a quote that said every time we eat or drink, we are either ‘fighting disease or feeding it’. This hit me like a tonne of bricks when I came across it. It seemed glaringly obvious but not something I had viewed in that way before.
It makes total sense when you think about it. We all know the importance of eating fresh fruit, vegetables and real food and limiting highly processed, sugar laden foods. This information is not being churned out just for the sake of it. These are facts, backed by science and years of research. As the ‘Father of Medicine’, Hippocrates said, ‘Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food’.
Foods provided by nature, have properties and qualities that cannot be replicated by processed foods. They are a natural pharmacy that help our bodies repair themselves, fight infection and disease and give us sustainable energy. These foods are alive and as we are living beings, they nourish us on a cellular level. Processed or packaged foods are ‘dead’ foods and do not provide the same nutrition as natural foods from the earth.
When I changed over to a mainly plant-based diet, I really noticed the difference. My body felt energised and fully supported when I was feeding it the right foods. I no longer suffered from the infamous 3 o’clock slump. I had constant, balanced energy all day long. However, whenever I slipped up or was caught out and ate highly processed, sugary foods, I would feel so lethargic and lacking in energy. It became so noticeable to me. And the worst part was, once I ate one of these highly processed, sugary foods, I would crave and want more. You get into a vicious cycle which is hard to break.
I think there is a massive onus on the food companies themselves as well. Research has shown how addictive sugar is for example. Companies know what they are doing by adding so much sugar etc to products. We get addicted to them. Our bodies crave and feel we need these foods and thus it becomes really difficult to break the cycle. The other side of it is, they don’t want us to break the cycle either because they make too much money. They want us to stay in those addictive patterns. Excess amounts of these foods can also be attributed to ill health and disease. If you study the body, you will realise how incredible our bodies are. They are constantly working, regulating, renewing, repairing, fighting disease/infections, eliminating etc, all without us having to think. But we need to love, support and nourish our bodies to help them function at their optimum.
So how can we start to consciously make better food choices?
Firstly, it’s all about taking small steps. Trying to introduce big changes and completely overhaul your diet in one swoop is completely unrealistic and unsustainable. Many small changes over time lead to big differences. Gradually swap out ‘unhealthy’ items for healthier versions and notice how you feel. But organic where possible as well. People often complain how expensive it is but the way I look at it, my health is worth it.
Some ideas to help you on the way
- Plan! Spend 10 minutes on a Sunday evening (or any evening) and plan your meals for the week ahead. This foresight will prevent you from being caught out. Always have some snacks with you as well in case you get caught out – fruit, nuts, seeds etc.
- Sugar is probably one of the hardest things to eliminate (as it is so addictive) so plan healthier snacks and treats. Berries are a great option (think blueberries, raspberries, strawberries etc) as they are naturally sweet but also really good for you. Dark chocolate is another good one (choose brands that don’t use refined sugars like Green & Black’s or check out brands in your local health food store).
- Eat lots of vegetables. Half our dinner plates should be filled with vegetables, eat the colours of the rainbow and try best to eat seasonally.
- Drink more water. Often when we feel hungry, we are actually slightly dehydrated and just need some water.
- Eat more fibre. Ditch the highly processed white foods and grains, instead think whole meal, brown rice, quinoa, buckwheat etc.
- Visit your local health food shop and talk to the experts there. Find out about different options to help balance your blood sugar levels.
- Understand food labels. Irish Heart & Stroke Charity Croí developed a Shopping Card to help you quickly compare and make healthier choices. You want to be going for as many foods in the green bracket as possible. Check out some information here.
- Educate yourself. There are so many amazing people out there now…Deliciously Ella, Little Green Spoon, The Happy Pear etc offering healthy alternatives. I especially look to these for healthier desserts and sweet treats.