Sick in bed wondering why eat healthy

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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. 

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Health snack: date, coconut and cacao balls, recipe below

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

An overdose of wellbeing

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Today I had too much of a good thing

Exhausted. That’s how I’m feeling after a day of wellness. And I didn’t even manage to squeeze in a work out. Today I woke up with a wellness obsession. This happens to me from time to time, normally after I read a convincing article or book or speak to someone whose life has been transformed by a new diet. Like when I went crazy about fortifying my gut wall with good bacteria and ended up horribly constipated and three kilos lighter (for those who don’t know me I’m already skinny enough), thanks to my brother and his fermentation fever and the living creatures he was keeping in the fridge.

I think of myself as a health conscious woman. I exercise, I meditate and I eat my fruit and veggies. But for some inexplicable reason today I went to great lengths to have a naturally healthy day. This morning I did my normal meditation as soon as I got up – so far so good – but then, instead of my regular Saturday run, I got down on the floor for 20 minutes of yoga. Inversions! They filled my body with the anticipatory delight of how great this day was going to turn out.

Maybe it was the extra oxygen in my brain but suddenly it was borne in upon me that I had not used the juicer in a long time. That warranted a trip to the supermarket with a list of ingredients I had quickly Googled. And as I was at the shops, why not visit the health food store too, a good wellness warrior must have a pack of organic coconut flour in the pantry.

Two hours later I got back home and spread my plentiful harvest in the kitchen bench. Oh God, what have I done! There’s more foliage here than in the Amazon forest. It took me over two hours to wash, sort and pack my fruit and vegetables. By then, half the day was gone and the kids were hovering over the pantry. I offered them organic corn chips while I whipped up a quinoa and smoked salmon salad for a late lunch. They weren’t impressed. For desert I sliced fruit – victory, no processed sugar today!

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Colours of health

Of course, let’s not forget the wellbeing of the dog. Another hour quickly passed as I cooked his meat and veggies casserole and divided it in individual portions to freeze. Snoopy is the only family member that seems to appreciate my fits of wellness.

Then it was time for afternoon tea, or shall I say, afternoon juice. For the kids I squeezed ‘nothing but 10 apples’ as this is the Nudie juice I buy for them every now and then. When the juice is homemade though, the audience never shows the same enthusiasm. “It doesn’t taste the same mum, can’t you just get a normal juice?”. The jug is still in the fridge.

For me this was the moment I had anticipated since morning: my kale juice, yeah! Tons of nutrition in a single glass. It didn’t taste as bad as I expected and it did feel like I was nourishing my body and soul. I felt invigorated and thought I could repeat the dose tomorrow. This was before I went back to the kitchen to clean up the mess. Another hour of fun.

I finally sit down to do my writing and it’s 5:30pm and I’m wondering what to do with the lentils I left soaking all afternoon and I don’t think I’ll have time to make the coconut muffins. Man, I was inspired, but as usual I packed too much for one day. Unfortunately, I was carried away by my enthusiasm and wasn’t very mindful of my behaviours. On the flip side, I have a supply of healthy food that should fuel the family for a week and tonight I should sleep like a rock – and good quality sleep, you know, is vital for wellbeing.

Tomorrow I’ll continue my quest of finding the right balance.