We’ve forgotten how to eat in a way that nourishes our bodies. Let’s look at two reasons why that is. First, junk and processed foods send the body mixed signals, causing us to overeat and become chemically addicted to these foods. Let’s take processed sugar as an example.
When the sweet receptors in the brain are over stimulated by sugar-rich foods, sugar easily overrides the mechanisms for self-control.
After that first bite of ice cream or chocolate, it’s an uphill battle for most of us to stop.
The second reason is emotional. Since childhood, most of us have built emotional relationships to processed foods. Foods like ice cream and cake are used to celebrate important events or birthdays and to support us through difficult times. We’ve conditioned ourselves to reach for junk food, which causes a cascade of health issues.
Processed foods are a part of holidays, funerals, vacations, and daily work breaks.
We consume them when times are good, when times are bad, and when times are just plain boring. One of the most common times we eat emotionally is when a challenge presents itself. When a difficult event occurs—like a breakup or an argument—many of us reach for the classic “comfort foods,” such as chocolate, which numb us from emotions we don’t want to address.
These comfort foods are so difficult to digest that they pull a good portion of the body’s energy from its nervous system to its digestive system.
As you slip into a carb coma (carbogeddon as my good friend calls it), you feel a familiar wave of sluggishness and calm engulf you; you no longer have the energy to think about or feel the trigger issue that had caused the emotional response, and had prompted you to eat unhealthy food in the first place.
Over time, we develop a habit of coping with emotions through unhealthy food, essentially forming a habit of emotional eating.
Poor quality, addictive foods and emotional eating have caused us to forget how to eat in a way that nourishes and supports our health.
These two reasons have also made us forget how much and in what quantities to eat the whole foods that make up a healthy, long-term diet.
How much, then, should a person eat?
How large or small a portion?
How many times a day? And in what combinations?
Diets have tried for years to determine in precise ways the exact amount and the exact way a person should eat each day. These types of plans most often fail.
This hyper-attention to calories, nutrient levels, and weight loss creates a backlash: all the focus on portion sizes and body weight can easily diminish the pleasure we experience at each meal.
Let’s look at five simple ideas that can help you sort through the noise, eat clean, and in the process find deep pleasure in a nourishing meal.
The 80/20 Rule
When your digestive system runs smoothly, you feel great and maintain a balanced energy level. When you overeat or eat foods in the wrong combinations, on the other hand, you put unneeded stress on your digestive tract. Overeating causes food to ferment, and this fermentation becomes food for yeast, fungus, and unwanted bacteria. As a result, you create an environment inside the gut that causes gas, bloating, constipation, and decreases absorption of nutrients from your food.
The 80/20 rule, has two parts:
Fill 80 percent of your plate with greens and vegetables (raw, steamed, baked, cooked) and 20 percent with protein and good fats (meat, fish, quinoa, avocado, etc.). Stop eating when you are 80 percent full.
This is what the Japanese call Hara Hachi Bu, meaning “Eat until you are eight parts (out of ten) full.” The long-living Okinawans, profiled in the book The Blue Zones, have used this technique for centuries to improve digestion and balance energy levels.
Picture a typical buffet meal. Imagine tables laden with a variety of breads, pastries, roast meats, stews, cheeses, desserts, fruit and wine. You eat a little bit of everything. Then hit the dessert table. You have some cake and ice cream topped off with an Irish coffee. You feel a food coma setting in, and the indigestion and gas that often accompanies it. The only thing you want to do is lie down and take a nap. This is what is known as food bombing. A food bomb results from mixing too many different types of foods together in one meal.
Each type of food requires different enzymes in order to be digested, so mixing too many together at once causes poor digestion and creates fatigue. This typical buffet meal might be an extreme example, but we go through some version of this every day. Let’s take fruit, for example. Fruit takes the shortest time to digest and leaves the stomach within thirty minutes. When you eat fruit with protein or starches, the digestion of fruit can be held up and start to ferment in the intestines. When fermentation happens in the gut, it reduces the assimilation of other nutrients at a meal and creates an environment that feeds yeast and fungus. The same thing can occur when mixing animal protein with starches or grains.
Meat, fish, and eggs require the secretion of hydrochloric acid and the enzyme pepsin. They break down the food in an acidic environment.
Don’t Food Bomb
Starches and carbs require the secretion of the enzymes amylase and ptyalin in an alkaline environment. Mixing proteins and starches at the same meal can neutralize the breakdown of these foods and inhibit proper absorption, once again creating fermentation in the gut.
A few simple guidelines will help you make food bombing a thing of the past and improve your digestion and health long term.
When you combine food properly, you aid digestion and, most importantly, increase absorption of nutrients.
If you are tired of feeling bloated and heavy after every meal, it might be time to pay more attention to how you combine food.
The best way to incorporate the following guidelines is to try them for a week and to note how they affect your digestion and bowel movements.
Once you get a taste of how great you can feel when your digestion runs optimally, you’ll become addicted (in a good way) to eating foods that work well together.
Here are three simple guidelines to help eliminate your next food bomb:
Eat non-starchy vegetables and leafy greens with animal protein, grains, rice, legumes, and starchy vegetables.
Avoid eating animal protein with grains, rice, legumes, carbohydrates or starches.
Eat fruit alone.
Would you believe that most chronic diseases have their origins in the gut? It would therefore be negligent of me to exclude this topic in light of my obsession with healthy eating.
It really is pointless changing your diet before you’ve addressed your gut health for regardless how nutritious the food you’re consuming – if your gut is unable to absorb the goodness from it then what is the use?
The word ‘malnutrition’ immediately conjures up images sunken-eyed, emaciated people and although this would be true from an extreme definition of the word, many seemingly well-fed people are affected by malnutrition in varying degrees.
Poor food choices, smoking, alcohol, caffeine, sugar, over the counter and prescription drugs, antibiotics and growth hormones in meat, colourants and preservatives, pesticides, chemicals in plastics and water, mercury from fish, electromagnetic radiation, stress, lack of exercise and general pollution all put unnecessary strain on our digestive systems. So unless you’re living off the grid in an isolated part of the world – you will fall prey to modern life’s pitfalls.
Before your well-meaning health care practitioner tells you that this is all nonsense and that our body’s are designed to detox on their own – ask them why the incidence of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease is at an all time high, or why chronic diseases like cancer are spinning out of control and why no drug or scientific intervention on earth is able to stop this noxious tide of degeneration from spreading.
Paleo nutrition is what our ancestors ate for millions of years. Any other diet is an experiment. Don’t be a guinea pig. Go with what worked for humans in the past, and led us to be the conscious beings we are today.
Grass-fed meats, free range poultry and wild game
Wild seafood such as salmon, anchovy, herring, and sardines.
Eggs, avocado, coconut
Nuts and seeds
Herbs and spices
Animal fats, ghee and coconut oil for cooking
Olive oil, nut oils, avocado oil, and grapeseed oil if unheated
Fermented foods like kimchi, sauerkraut and kefir
Occasional, seasonal fruit.