New You programme, week 2: nourish
6th January 2016
Welcome to week two of Pukka’s New You wellness programme, a month long plan to help your body prepare for the year ahead. In our second week we focus on the concept of nourishment and the importance of a healthy diet to ensure a healthy you.
So much of our existence centres on our appetite and digestion: how hungry we are, what we want to eat, how we feel before and after eating. Increasingly we are re-evaluating our food culture, its relationship to the environment and how we are truly nourished. In fact, how we eat – in the broadest sense – is crucial to good health and Ayurveda, India’s ancient health system, offers the tools for understanding why.
The food we eat brings us more than just nutrition and a sense of satisfaction – it brings us life. This vitality is the essence of food, its life-force. It hardly needs stating that we need food to live. Fresh, colourful, unrefined, healthy food gives the body fuel that helps us grow, repair, metabolise and energise. However, as the Charaka Samhita, one of earliest texts on Ayurveda points out, “even food, which is the life of living creatures, if taken in an improper manner destroys life.” In the western world we have an excess of poor-quality food with millions of people suffering from Type-B malnutrition due to poor quality food. Type-A malnutrition occurs in a devastating famine. Type-B is what happens when we have a sufficient volume of food that is nutritionally bereft, resulting in a different type of devastation: chronic disease and premature ageing.
As well as choosing the right foods to eat, we also need to focus on ensuring an effective digestion to ensure the nourishment from our food is absorbed in the right way. When your digestion is healthy, it gives you your immunity, balanced weight and clear skin. A healthy digestive fire literally makes you glow with health.
Here are some tips to ensure a healthy diet and a balanced digestive fire.
- Balance your digestive fire with herbs. Support your diet with digestion enhancing herbs and spices such as ginger, cardamom, mint, fennel and celery seed. Ginger root is particularly good at reducing unwanted bloating, warming up the digestive tract and speeding up the digestive process.
- Go organic. It’s well documented that organic foods and herbs have higher levels of both primary nutrients and secondary metabolite compounds than conventionally grown crops. The Soil Association says, ‘Organic farming and food systems are holistic, and are produced to work with nature rather than to rely on oil-based inputs such as fertilisers. Consumers who purchase organic products are not just buying food which has not been covered in pesticides (the average apple may be sprayed up to sixteen times with as many as 30 different pesticides), they are supporting a system that has the highest welfare standards for animals, bans routine use of antibiotics and increases wildlife on farms.”
- Go seasonal and local. Buying locally produced fruit and vegetables not only helps support local economies, it makes health sense too. Local food is far fresher with more nutrients than its imported cousins. Food imported from far-away countries is often older, as it’s been travelling for some days before sitting in distribution centers. It also tastes better.
- Eat a curry. Spicy foods like curries are packed full of vitalising herbs such as ginger, turmeric and cinnamon, helping to promote energy, circulation and increase the body’s metabolic rate. Whilst a take-away is a treat once in a while, it’s easy to make your own curry from scratch using fresh vegetables and pulses. Serve your curry with plenty of fibre enhancing brown rice which will also help you to feel fuller for longer.
- Remember your manners. Before you eat anything, make sure you are calm. If you are stressed, depressed, angry or rushed it is better not to eat, or only very lightly. Don’t eat whilst standing up or walking and try and eat in a peaceful place – your food will taste better and digestion will be improved.
- Stimulate your digestion. Start each meal with something a little spicy. This will help to get your digestive juices flowing. Mix 2cm of freshly grated ginger, a squeeze of fresh lemon juice and a pinch of salt to eat as a digestive chutney.
- Chew it! The physical process of chewing helps to break down larger particles of food into smaller particles, reducing stress on the esophagus and helping the stomach metabolise your food. The smaller the particles of food the better. Chewing your food properly also ensures that your digestive enzymes get to work in the mouth and make it easier on the rest of your digestive system.
- Try Aloe Vera. Aloe vera is a fantastic cleanser, helping to keep your digestion in tip top condition. Always chose an organic aloe vera juice and one which uses the inner leaf to avoid a bitter taste. Drink it daily, first thing in the morning with water, juice or a green super food such as Pukka’s Clean Greens.
Many thanks to Daniel Western for the above photography.