This is not only my favourite topic, but something I have been reading, writing and researching since about 1999.
It was in 1999 that I started playing with different ways of eating, living and thinking.
Over the decades I have experimented with numerous concepts, philosophies, practices and elements, and here are some of the things I have discovered along the way.
In 2014 I even published a book called The Guidebook to Optimum Health, which is still current, though I might have to update the section on ‘detoxification’.
So with all of that said, let’s jump straight in.
Note: They are not in priority order, but the order they came to mind and this is Part 1 of a 2-Part “Health Tips” Blog.
Health Tip #1: One size does not fit all
One of the most challenging subjects for most people is ‘nutrition‘. Most people have tried multiple different ways of eating, based on the latest diets, fads, second-hand stories, friends advice, etc.. But the thing I have come to be quite clear on over the last 20+ years when it comes to food is, that one size does not fit all. There are so many factors that influence what works for one person, but doesn’t work for another. It might relate to genetics, geography, food accessibility, traditional eating habits, food preparation, cooking methodology, state of your microbiome, whether you had a natural birth or C-section, childhood illnesses, use of pharmaceuticals (now and in your childhood), how you handle stress, your beliefs and beliefs systems, etc., etc., etc.. Whatever the origins of what makes you YOU; know that you are (as we say in Bali) “same, same, but different”.
This means, you might need to discover what works best for YOU and not assume that what works for someone else, will automatically work for you. You need to know thyself, and your own inner-outer relationship to the food and beverages you consume.
Health Tip #2: But there is one thing that does fit all
Regardless of what general diet you choose – vegan, vegetarian, pescetarian, paleo, keto, omnivore, carnivore, fruitarian, flexitarian, etc.. – they ALL benefit from the fact that they all omit or recommend greatly reducing all PROCESSED FOODS. Also known as ultraprocessed or hyperpalatable foods. These processed foods have additives like dyes, flavor enhancers, artificial preservatives, salt, sugar (in all its forms), plus flavor combinations (usually highly processed carbohydrates and fats, with additives) and synthetic additives with names you cannot pronounce, to stimulate you overeating them. The production methods might also involve super-heating, which can change the molecular structure of certain elements (e.g. most vegetable oils) and make them unhealthy for you.
This tip is simple. The more processed foods you eat, the more unhealthy you will be, or become. Eat at much “REAL” food as possible – which can include different sources of meat if it is well raised and humanely killed (plus the organs). I also include free-range eggs in the unprocessed food department.
Health Tip #3: My current thoughts on dairy
For a number of years I have been saying that dairy is a condiment and not a food group, as most people are not able to comfortably digest and process dairy in their guts. In my once size does not fit all thinking, plus noting the processed food element, I now have a new thought around dairy. I think that if it is not processed (i.e. super-heated to remove bacteria, since we are now realizing certain bacteria are beneficial for the microbiome of gut), some people might be totally okay with dairy in their diet. So if you can get hold of good quality RAW dairy (or can park a cow or goat in your back yard), you might try it to see how dairy works for you. I actually think butter, cheese and yogurt, made from raw dairy (and grass fed animals), can actually be quite healthy. Again, see what works for yourself, and try more natural versions (not pasteurized and homogenized) and traditionally made, to see if they work for you.
Health Tip #4: You might benefit from the timing of your meals (and the space between)
I have read more of late about time restricted eating (TRE), intermittent fasting, and extended water-only fasts. I have also practiced all of these throughout the last 2+ years. One book I read (I think it was ‘Fast This Way’ by Dave Asprey) said that regardless of the style of diet, in one study he quoted, all of them benefited from time restricted eating. That is, eating in a time limited window, so the body has the maximum opportunity to digest and assimilate the food you eat. The ideal range suggested is within 4-8 hours. Meaning that the body is in a fasting state (having no new food ingested) for a period of 16-20 hrs. Therefore it can process the food you consume more effectively and efficiently. If this is new to you, try a 10 hr window of eating (e.g. 8am to 6pm) and then see if you can take it down to 8hrs (e.g. 10am to 6pm). I personally, 5 days a week, eat between 1pm and 7pm. One day a week I have a 24hr break from my last meal (i.e. I eat only one meal on that day in a 2 hr window). And one day I eat whenever I want.
Giving the digestive system a break, and helping hand, is definitely working in your favour. This can be a challenge for people to manage around their lifestyles, but give it a go and see what works for you. I am a big believer that reducing the energy requirements for digestion increases the available energy for rejuvenation and regeneration. The concept of “grazing” was probably introduced by the marketing team of the Big Food industry, to encourage people to eat more, and make them more money.
Dr Eric Berg has some pretty good videos on YouTube about Intermittent Fasting for beginners.
Health Tip #5: The sun is essential for your health
The sun has been getting a bad rap over the years. Blamed for causing skin cancer, when there are probably a lot more factors involved (our diet, internal toxicity level, what we put on our skin, air pollution, levels of toxicity from pharmaceutical drugs, etc..). Over the last few years it has become clear that a persons levels of Vitamin D has a very different outcome on whether they will get sick, and to what degree. Vitamin D is involved in a whole lot of bodily processes, especially involving the immune system. I once heard a statement (I can’t remember where) suggesting that if you lived outside (south or north respectively) of the Tropics of Capricorn or Cancer (latitudes), you probably have a Vitamin D deficiency. I live pretty close to the equator, and aim to get at least 20 mins of time in the sun on my bare skin (ideally I would be fully nuded up – but that seems to be frowned upon in my neighbourhood , so I am good to go. But if you get minimal direct sun on your skin, it might be worth getting your Vitamin D levels checked, and taking a high quality supplement. I am also not a fan of 98% of sunscreen lotions, which are mass-produced and likely made with unhealthy (and synthetic) toxins which leach into the skin.
Health Tip #6: If you choose to eat a vegan or vegetarian diet
This is an interesting and often emotive topic. But worth mentioning. I think many people who choose to eat a vegan or vegetarian diet for health or philosophical reasons probably don’t know enough about the bodies nutritional needs to do so, without incurring nutritional deficiencies and their incumbent side effects. It might be alright if you are a Celebrity of financial means who can get the best advice, purchase the best range of diverse produce, create the time for food preparation (or pay someone to do it), and afford the best nutritional supplements you might be missing. However, a lot of people choose a vegan and vegetarian diet and end up eating a diet high in processed foods, high in carbohydrates (think potatoes, pasta, and GMO mono-crop gylphosate riddled grains), low in protein, without the diversity necessary for all the essential amino acids and fatty acids, and therefore actually cause their health to suffer. Most vegans and vegetarians are likely to need supplements of B12, various minerals (like Iron and Zinc), maybe protein, and omega 3, among others. Also my take on soy as a primary protein source, which is mass produced through environmentally disrupting mono-culture farming, mostly GMO, often highly processed, and has compounds similar to estrogen (isoflavones), is being WAY over consumed, and is probably therefore not the best source for protein.
Tempe – produced via the traditional process of fermentation – is most likely much better; but again is impacted by the quality of the soy used in the production.
If you go down this path, make sure you invest in high quality advice on how to do it effectively. And noting that most, if not all plants, have natural toxins to fight off pests and predators, that may not be ideal for your health in large quantities. This is why traditional cultures created various cooking and preparation processes, like fermenting for example (pickled vegetables, sauerkraut, miso, kimchi, tempe, etc..).
Health Tip #7: Go local and seasonal
We have got a little out of touch with the ground under our feet, the seasons of the year, and Mother Nature’s seasonal gifts. Regardless of wherever I have lived in the world (Australia, Asia, Middle East, Europe, North America), I have aimed to eat the local and seasonal produce. Plus the locally cooked foods. It is not only better environmentally (less transporting a tub of berries from one side of the planet to the other), but the native local produce is likely to be in alignment to your bodies needs, based on the seasonal changes, and your gut microbiome adapting to the environment you live in. There is also the community and human connection element of this form of sourcing your food, which again is a bit lost in our modern world. Honey for example, if bought locally, is likely to be more protective for your health (since it has been created in your existing environment) than honey shipped from the other side of the planet. Again, this is a suggestion from little old me, but give it a go and see how your body, mind and spirit respond. And if you want extra points, see if you can find a local foraging tour to take your relationship with your local environment (and food) to a whole new level.
Bonus Tip: Examples of Better Choices
I thought I would throw down a few extra examples of better food choices, for you to play with:
- Natural sea salt, Himalayan salt, over table salt (Sodium Chloride).
- Honey (100% and locally sourced), over processed sugar.
- Fresh whole fruit over a cup of fruit juice (every time).
- Soda water with a splash of lime, lemon, or orange, over a flavored soda drink.
- Raw milk (from a quality source) over processed milk.
- Small fish (e.g. sardines) over large fish (which may have more heavy metals, like mercury).
- 80% Chocolate (local or fair trade brand) over a Cadbury’s Milk Chocolate.
- No food, and just fluids (water, herbal teas, etc.) if you have an upset stomach (humans are the only animals to still eat when they feel sick).
- Regenerative farmed meat over mass produced meat.
- Butter (grass-fed) over margarine (which hopefully no one these days is still eating).
- Extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil or avocado oil over vegetable oils (e.g. soy bean oil, sunflower oil, canola oil, corn oil, cottonseed oil).
My parting words
I will keep it short.
Choose one, or a few, of the things I have mentioned and give it a go.
This is about getting to know what works best for YOU.
And when you know YOU better you are way out in front in the game of life.
It will impact all areas of your life.
Next week I will talk about other elements of the health spectrum, from the image below.
Have a super day and a joyful and connected relationship with your food this week.
The image below is from my book “The Guidebook to Optimum Health”.