I haven’t had a cold or flu for 22 months. I know it has been this long because last time I got sick it was so bad I had to call the paramedics. Much to my surprise this winter the flu came for a visit again and and I’ve been bedridden for two days already. I’ve been eating so well, I thought my immune system was strong enough to attack the bad guys and keep me healthy. I follow a good diet overall and I have abstained from processed sugar, dairy and gluten for three weeks. I’ve been eating primarily fruit and veggies, whole grains that don’t contain gluten, nuts and a little bit of meat. And yet, I’m lying under the blankets with a box of tissues. Why bother with a heathy diet? I know that a diet is no guarantee of a disease free life. So why am I restricting my life from all the tasty, high-calorie food if I don’t even want to loose weight?
The problem is that lately I’ve been hungry for information about two topics, health and the environment. These two ingredients are dangerous, you come across recipes that can cook up a storm in your brain. Now I know enough to make me uncomfortable about some of my purchasing choices. Ignorance is bliss.
Here is a brief summary of why I’ve cut back on junk or processed food:
For better health – refined and processed sugar and grains are striped of their vitamin, minerals and fiber. So when we eat processed food we are generally eating empty calories. These foods have a high glycemic index which means that they lead to rapid spikes in blood sugar and insulin levels and eating them is linked to increased risk of many diseases. Processed food also attacks your digestive system and gut health destroying good bacteria. Modern medicine knows that gut microbes influence digestion, allergies, and metabolism. Some research even show how our bacterial ecosystem is helps regulate how we think and feel.
You can find a comprehensive list of refined carbs and sugar here.
The Planet – processed food contains chemicals, involves energy-intensive production processes and all that packaging typically ends up in a landfill. In Australia our consumer appetite for packaged food means that each of us produce 200Kg of packaging per year. That includes all those chocolate foil wrappers, take-away containers, biscuit trays, etc. Collectively we throw 19 million tones of packaging in the bin. But the moment you cut back on processed carbs and sugar you start eating more fruit, vegetables and whole grains and naturally consuming less packaged food.
So I’m adjusting my diet. I’m not quite there yet. I’ll continue researching and learning and sharing. Eating healthy is not as hard as I thought it was. And if a sweet-tooth like me can do it, anyone can. I haven’t noticed any changes to my body or mind yet, but I do feel that my actions are more aligned with my principles and that I’m making a difference, even if minimal, to the planet. The way we eat does have an impact in our ecological footprint. As for my health, at least I didn’t have to call the ambulance.
How about you? Do you think your diet is making a difference to your health or the environment?
Disclosure: Dairy got in my list because I’m lactose intolerant but often eat foods containing lactose (e.g biscuits).
I got a few emails asking for the recipe of the photo so here is my little recipe for the sweets pictured | Also in Portuguese for my Brazilian friends:
1 cup of dates | 1 x de tâmaras
3/4 cup of shredded dissected coconut | 3/4 x the coco ralado (dissecado ou fresco)
1/4 cup of cocoa powder for rolling | 1/4 x de po de cacau para enrolar
Step 1: Place dates in a medium bowl and cover with water. Stand for 1 hour. Drain and discard seeds. | Coloque as tâmaras num recipiente com agua por 1 hora, tire o excesso da agua e retire os caroços
Step 2: Process dates and shredded coconut until mixture comes together | passe as tâmaras e o coco no processador ate ficar uma pasta
Step 3: put cocoa in a shallow dish, roll level teaspoon of mixture into small balls and roll them in the cocoa power | coloque o cacao num prato raso, enrole a mistura como brigareido e passe no cacau