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Everything we eat and drink has an effect on our bodies and minds. Some things we ingest have a quite neutral effect, some extremely healthy, good, positive response, but there is a vast amount of stuff – it’s hard to call it food – that we ingest that has no benefit at all to our bodies, minds nor general health, such stuff actually weakens us.

In many ways we have lost our way when it comes to what our bodies need as fuel, food, and sustenance, in other words – nutrition. No matter what day of the week it is, nor time of day, ‘food’ is available. We can eat virtually whatever we like, round the clock. The supermarkets of today have increased our bad eating habits and are relentless in advertising its products, all geared to make us part with our hard earned money, not geared to what we nutritionally need. They obviously do sell some nutritious foods and ingredients, but you do have to search for the healthy sections and even then read the labels, (which are being printed smaller and smaller!) as many what should be natural products are manufactured for a longer shelf life at the expense of its nutritional value!

Our TVs are full of programmes showing us how to create the most amazing looking dishes, and how quickly we can prepare meals, but how many of these programmes educate us in the nutritional values of what we eat? What nutrients our bodies need on a daily basis to maintain the best level of health we can have? What foods are rich in what nutrient, and how to best prepare that food to preserve those nutrients? The answer is none; I cannot remember seeing one programme, which educated me in the nutritional value of foods or prepared dishes. It’s the same in the dozens of magazines that are full of recipes showing us how to create wonderful looking dishes, but their nutritional value is often only listed as a Calorie number, or the quantity of sugar, fat or salt, that’s as good as the educational score gets.

Knowing how I like to keep things simple, try this analogy: when it comes to the fuel we put into our bodies, think of our bodies like a car. We put in either petrol, usually unleaded because it’s better in our modern engines, or diesel. There are electric and bio-fuel engines, but I’m keeping a simple line of thought in petrol and diesel. We use oil and that varies depending on the engine type, we would never dream of putting non-oil product in the engine, nor non-fuel in the fuel tank. Why do we not think the same when it comes to putting ‘fuel’ into our own living breathing bodies?

If you like gardening, you will want to produce the best possible show of flowers, or vegetables and fruit. We go to great lengths to prepare the soil, mulch in the appropriate food source at the appropriate time of year, and feed throughout the growing season; as well as that, we prune, dead-head, nurture throughout the plants cycle to get the best we can, and that means ultimately keeping the plant in the best possible state of health and strength. It’s a natural process of looking after the plant in the best possible way to get the best end result. Why does that policy not apply to our own bodies and our own well being? Could it just boil down to ignorance and being easily overwhelmed with choice and availability?

I could use the same analogy to our pets; sadly their diets are not great nowadays. Many pet foods and treats are made with horrendous toxic ingredients, and every now and again the media does report on such issues. The Daily Mail reported on some dog food in America that has toxic levels of chemicals including propylene glycol, which can be used as an anti-freeze and mycotoxin. (dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2986195/3m Purina Dog Food); why on earth would you ever consider putting such chemicals into something that’s going to be eaten by a living creature, it’s unbelievable, but sadly true. It’s usually only the conscientious pet lovers who do the legwork, look online, research, read the labels on the products before buying, who avoid these hidden toxins. Our pets are totally reliant on us for their food, it’s a serious responsibility we undertake as a pet owner; we should give them as near as possible to their real natural food for promoting and maintaining their well being too. But our supermarket shelves are stacked with pet foods that is cheap, that is nutrient void, with so little goodness that it leads to weak digestive systems in our carnivore pets, weakness in joint support, vision, coats and teeth; our pets would never naturally eat such stuff. We look after our cars’ fuel and oil needs, better than we do our pets and ourselves. Maybe it’s because we are not bombarded with other types of fuels and oils for our cars to the extent we are for our, and our pet dietary needs.

Shelves with products for human consumption are pretty much in the same bracket as the pet foods a lot of the time, i.e. natural nutritionally void, made from unnatural ingredients, processed and refined; or fortified with certain synthetic key vitamins. Whilst we are in many ways dictated to by what manufacturers can conjure up as ‘food’, and what the supermarkets stock, we have to remain realistic and understand that profit by far outweighs nutritional value in a product. There are some areas of food production that I think are almost criminal in their marketing. Cereals geared for children for example, they are full of sugar, and the other thing they do is fortify them with a few certain vitamins. You will then find the bread they eat, the cheese and yoghurt pots they eat, the drinks they drink, and lots of foods geared for children are all fortified with the same few vitamins! How can that be healthy? What about all the other vitamins and minerals they need? The needs of young growing developing children should be of paramount importance in the products formulation, how do they get away with it? The overall synopsis doesn’t bode well when this line of thought is applied.

Diet, calorie controlled drinks and foods are another field of foods that are not exposed for what they are. They are often sweetened with artificial sweeteners like aspartame – this particular sweetener has some alarming claims against it in America who have been into this unhealthy ‘Diet everything’ kind of food intake longer than us and in greater numbers than us. They have now got statistical proof of the side effects like cancer, brain tumours to name a couple of things linked to the high consumption of these unnatural ingredients. The sheer quantity of foods eaten with this sweetener accumulatively causes damage to the human body. The producers of such ingredients often rename the additive or sweetener to try and throw us off scent and keep ahead of the claims. In a country where we are trying to address childhood obesity, we erroneously let ‘diet’ labelled products dominate these vulnerable children’s food intake – it cannot be right. Sugar is ok for us, just reduce it to a healthy amount, it doesn’t pose the risks of these artificial sweeteners potentially do. They are not a natural substance for our bodies to assimilate, less so in children.

The only way to be as healthy as you can be is possibly to think of your body more in the way we think of our cars. Keep it simple, keep it natural, and keep it wholesome. Feed our bodies with the nutrition it needs to promote and maintain health. Reduce the refined and processed foods. Increase natural wholesome food, fresh and real food; it can and often is easy to achieve. If you put nutritionally ‘empty’ foods, junk foods into your body, how do you expect your body to have the fuel and energy it needs to not only continue functioning in your every day activities, but how is it supposed to keep mentally and physically well when you are not giving it the basic nutrients it relies on to survive. Think about your diet, how processed it is, how much do you eat – the more empty the food is of nutrients, the more you will eat, because your body will still be hungry – its ‘Nutrient Bank Account’ will be empty, and goes more into debt as it uses more energy overworking in an effort to absorb some nutrition from what you eat.

People often remark on how healthy people were after the War in the 1940s; there is truth in that belief, as the rations did limit food availability, and the foods that were available endorsed the wholesome, natural, fresh foods consumption on a daily basis. They didn’t have our disadvantage of all the sweet refined ready foods jumping off the shelves into our baskets, they made their own meals and baked with these basic ingredients and became very creative with it. Because it was simple food, the body was able to utilise most of the nutrients, so the body’s nutritional levels were met. They didn’t have endless adverts on the TV and magazines promoting these modern day processed foods, they didn’t exist, and frighteningly, we are not talking that long ago.

How our eating and shopping habits have changed; gone are a lot of the little individual grocery shops who had to buy fresh and local because they didn’t have the storage means supermarkets do; we do still have our little bakeries, and some of those do offer fresh made breads, unlike some of the supermarket bakeries who bake from frozen dough, and have shelves of rubbery sliced mass produced breads. We have local butchers who in an effort to pull back some shoppers do advocate locally sourced produce and its usually fresh and wholesome. Bacon from our farm shop might as well be a completely different product to the water, salt pumped bacon you buy at a supermarket. It’s the same with a lot of the prepacked meats in a supermarket; they are often pumped with water and additives to preserve its shelf life, and when cooked shrink away to a fraction of the size – none of that is the case with fresh butchers’ produce, it’s in it’s natural state and much better for you, should you want to eat meat.

So yes in my humble opinion, whilst we have a wider variety of produce available to us than ever before, and whilst some of that is excellent for the health conscious shopper, the vast majority of foods we fill our trolleys with are not chosen for their nutritional value, they are cleverly marketed products that we ‘think’ are good for us, when they are not. The foods that were very limitedly available Post War were natural healthy wholesome foods. And the meals made from those ingredients were free from additives, artificial flavourings, and were served in a quantity that didn’t cause obesity issues. There was less food around, but it was of better quality for our bodies to use. It’s a vicious world out there today, trillions are spent in advertising and marketing products to get you to buy them; you need your faculties about you. Having an understanding of the importance of what we eat, and which foods gives us health and which do not is the best form of defence against the marketing strategies. We can of course all have the occasional treat, but we need to address our body’s requirements to then know what food best suits it.

I, for example, am a vegetarian of over 30 years; I’ve had time being a vegan, and for awhile, a raw food vegan; I’m now happy being a vegetarian who does some dairy like cheese and yoghurt, occasional egg and milk in cooked dishes. I have loved the diets I have followed, and I have the experience of them etched in me. I also have the flexibility of mind to think if my body needs to be vegan again for a while, then that’s something I would do, without doubt. I would not however, concede to eating meat of any kind, white, red nor fish – that’s my personal choice. The majority of us do have the choice as to what we eat and to me I think it is an important part of who we are by taking responsibility for our choices. No matter what type of diet you follow, you still need to know what a balanced natural wholesome diet consists of, to satisfy your bodily needs and to suit your taste; hence it is so fantastically individual and varied!

Generally speaking the healthier the food, the less you will need to eat, the fuller you will feel, and remain feeling full for longer. The trouble is, it usually tastes so good, you want to eat more! It will generally give you more energy, improve digestion, reduce stress, improve skin, hair and nails, whiten teeth and eyes too often become whiter and brighter! It can help you sleep better, think clearer and improve memory. It’s all about balance as with most things in life; think about what you put in your shopping trolley next time you’re in the supermarket, and see if you can seek out the healthier alternatives to the overly processed nutrient deficient products you are bombarded with.

I hope this post has given you, excuse the pun; ‘food for thought’, I will be posting more articles on other aspects of what we eat and drink. It’s a vastly diverse subject and there are individual likes and dislikes, there are medical restrictions and needs, and there are availability and lifestyle influences to take into account. I’ll try and address as many slants as I can whilst hopefully keeping your attention!