What we should eat, what we shouldn’t eat, what tastes good, which key ingredient will transform your life etc: certainly one of the most discussed subjects on the Internet. There’s a deluge of information out there, so I will try to keep my contribution fairly brief.
This blog in particular will focus on three general principles of eating well: eat slowly, eat simply, and support your microbiome.
Obviously I come at this particularly from a Chinese Medicine perspective. And also with reference to supporting the immune system during this time of coronavirus.
Don’t eat in a rush. Take time over your meal. Be as relaxed as possible whilst eating. Take pleasure in your food.
When we’re relaxed and un-rushed we activate an aspect of the nervous system which is responsible for both effective digestion and for strong immune function; the parasympathetic nervous system.
And vice versa: when you eat on the go, in a rush, whilst feeling irritated or tense, you activate the sympathetic nervous system which is responsible for the “fight or flight” reaction. This impairs both digestion and immune function.
There’s been a lot of coverage in recent years on the benefits of Mindfulness. This is mindfulness applied to meal times.
I would argue that a mediocre meal eaten mindfully gives more benefit than a ’superfoods’ laden meal, eaten whilst simultaneously watching Netflix and trying to resolve an argument via WhatsApp.
The second point is to make things as easy as possible for your digestive system, in terms of what you choose to eat:
Eat fresh local veg, food that’s in season, not too many ingredients in a meal, soups, slow cooked foods, steamed foods, whole grains, not excessively large meals, don’t eat too late in the evening.
Limit the amount of refined sugars, very rich meals, bourbon infused barbecue sauces, tubs of Ben & Jerry’s, Haribos, chip butties & ketchup, pop tarts…. You get the gist.
Obviously everybody needs some fun, and I’m certainly not advocating the kind of totalitarian dietary strictness that invariably leads to failure and guilt. Life’s too short.
But slightly tilt the balance of foods & meals away from the iffy and towards the good.
One of the most significant benefits will be the lowering of pro-inflammatory cytokines, which are key components that lie behind a whole range of different chronic health conditions.
Which essentially means that it’s a good idea to include some fermented foods in the diet:
Sauerkraut, Kimchi, Miso, Kefir, and plain old live yoghurt all help improve the number & range of ‘good bacteria’ present in the intestine.
These, in turn, have been linked with improved mood and improved immune function. And given where things are at the moment, who doesn’t need a bit of that?!
Several future blogs will return to the subject of food and diet, looking at how to construct a diet that suits the needs of particular types of individuals, and also how to reverse the damage of particular types of conditions.
But for now I can’t emphasise enough that following these three principles, as simple as they sound, can significantly contribute to our wellbeing.