Going Natural: What Does Eating Naturally Actually Mean?
Continuing with momentum of Dr. Heather's previous article, we move into going natural with our food! After all, everything we feed ourselves provides us with the stuff that makes up every cell in our body! However, now that we live in a world where we can choose from a dizzying array of foods or "food-like substances", it becomes harder to navigate healthful from harmful.
I have been experimenting with ways to eat more naturally, but first I had to understand what that meant.
Over millions of years, we have changed our behaviours around eating, and have expanded our choices drastically. Humans are an evolutionary marvel in the ways our brain has undergone a cognitive revolution that has allowed our ancestors to think abstractly, to imagine, dream, and create what we currently do not see or have in front of us.
Hence, the creation of all kinds of foods!
Historically, our bodies normally adapt to the changes in the foods we ate, but that took tens of thousands of years!
The foods available to us now, the ones that come in packages, are highly processed and come ready for us to eat within a matter of seconds to minutes. This has only been available to us since the early 20th century. Prior to that processed foods meant fermenting, curing, and drying.
This is not even close to the amount of time needed for our bodies to adapt to these new foods and eating styles. Hence, eating these foods is not yet natural for us, as the introduction has not been a more gradual, learned coexistence.
Eating large quantities of foods that are unnatural to us has lead us to the mountain of health concerns we have.
So I decided to figure out how I could eat more naturally at home, and this is what I learned:
Eating what we are designed to eat - eating foods that don't come in a package, and making as much of it at home. Ie. hummus, nut butters, dumplings! My rule is if we have to buy a packaged food it has to have five ingredients or less (and I prefer none of them to be refined sugars, hydrogenated oils/ palm oil)
Eating variety - I made a running list of all the different types of foods I eat. Back when we were foragers, we didn't have sustainable food sources. This meant that what we found today could be vastly different from what we'd find tomorrow. Try it yourself, it's pretty amusing. You can make a column for fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts & seeds and add to it.
Eating organically - I have done this on and off with buying certain foods, and often refer to this list of the dirty dozen. However, I find the best way is to grow some of your own foods at home! Even living in an apartment you can be quite successful. Our friends bought me a wonderful Christmas gift this year called Click & Grow which has yielded me the best crop of basil I have ever had.
Eating naturally to the best of my ability in our current world has not only been a promising challenge, but also has taught me new skills, and has helped me with some of my own health concerns and weight goals!
Don't be afraid to use your time and energy to learn these skills either. The average forager was much smarter than their descendants since they had more in depth, varied and wider knowledge of their surroundings. Some evidence has shown that our average brain size has actually decreased since the age of foraging (pg. 49 in "Sapiens").
I have cleaned out my cupboards, meaning I've either given away or thrown out foods I don't want to fuel my body with. When I don't keep the processed items in my house, like cookies (I used to be a huge Oreo fan), sugar, and hydrogenated oils, everything I eat naturally becomes healthier :)
Whenever I am craving a cookie or muffin for example, I've learned the make them from the ingredients I have at home. And since the ingredients I keep are healthier, my food is much better for my body! I've noticed that when I eat a store bought cookie/ or any junk food my skin breaks out, or my head feels less clear.
I don't buy hummus anymore, ever, because 1. It takes no more than 10 minutes to make a big batch of whatever flavor I want, and 2. it's way cheaper.
The food industry is not going to put our health interests above profit (health interests can be used to market and increase profit, but the bottom line is still to have a successful business). So it's up to us to learn the skills we've forgotten. Eat naturally and share your food with others !
Naturally Delicious Muffins
3 tbsp chia/ ground flaxseed mixed with 6 tbsp water
2 1/2 cups oats
1/4 cup walnuts
2 tbsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 cup coconut oil
1/4 cup maple syrup/ honey
2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
Pick your flavor:
Blueberry Lemon = 1 cup blueberry, zest of 1 lemon
Orange cranberry = 1/4 cup dried cranberry, juice and zest of 1 orange
Zucchini Coconut = 1 grated medium zucchini, 1/4 cup coconut
Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari