Organic? Grass-Fed? Confused?

Which of these are better for you? Organic or non-organic, grass-fed or grain-fed?

I was chatting with my Mum last week (we live 6,000 miles apart) and was rather pleasantly surprised when she said that she had been to the market with my sister-in-law and picked up a bunch of organic veg. My sister-in-law said, “Mum, did you mean to take that? It’s organic and more expensive.” And my Mum said, “Yes”!

I’d been telling her a few weeks before why I prefer to buy organic whenever I can. Did you know that the amount of nutrition in non-organic vegetables these days have dropped significantly because of the way that we are farming them? Intensive farming, soil depletion, lack of rotation or crops all contribute. Plus, have you ever noticed how many vegetables from your local supermarket can somehow still look “fresh” after a couple of weeks? What are they being sprayed with that they enables them to still look green after two weeks?

[Tweet “Whatever is in the food that you eat becomes the raw material for your body”]

Our bodies need good nutrition in order be healthy and to remain healthy. When we go on a diet, for example, many of us may think that a calorie is a calorie and that it doesn’t make any difference where that calorie comes from, as long as you eat the right number of calories that your body needs. But that is not true. A calorie is not a calorie, because the quality of the calorie counts. Eating food with little or no nutritional value, while packed with calories, will leave your body nutritionally starved.

This I know, first-hand, from many years of yo-yo dieting.

Ageing is the result of our cells not being sufficiently replenished. Think wrinkles, “thin” soles of the feet, dry skin, diminishing health and well being… what is it that causes our cells (bodies) to be insufficiently replenished? One of the major causes is not eating nutritious and wholesome foods. These foods are the raw material that our bodies use to get back what we’ve used up, not just in terms of calories or energy, but also, in terms of re-building itself. In other words, we can turn back the clock through eating real food, and so regenerate and rejuvenate our cells.

So, is it better to eat organic? Or grass-fed? Have a read of the infographic below and decide for yourself.

organic-infographic

Does it mean that you should never eat non-organic or that you should never eat an empty calorie again? Well, I know that when I try to cut out my favourite foods and change too many things all at the same time, I fail dismally. So, instead, why not take just one step, and let that be that you actually start eating more, not less. Add in some real, wholesome and delicious foods to your current diet and notice the difference in taste. As your body starts to replenish and heal, you’ll most likely find that you’ll naturally start making different and more healthful food choices.

Learn about how organic foods, eating healthy, exercise, sleep and mindset affect your Vitality at Well.org.
Read the Associated Well.org post

Why Are You Not Seeing Results Yet?

That’s often the cry of the dieter. You’ve…we’ve been sold the idea of quick weight loss (not necessarily fat loss, mind, but weight loss). You know, all those diet book titles – six weeks to…, eight minutes a day…, seven pounds in seven days….two days…. four hours…. – marketing messages that promise quick results and sell a promise of “quick and easy”. What they don’t tell you is that 95% of dieters may well lose some weight, temporarily, that those results are not sustainable and the weight piles back on again plus more. Sound familiar?

Carrying extra weight is a symptom that your body isn’t in balance. It’s one of the outward manifestations of your body not being at its optimal health. We’re so focused on our weight that we don’t relate our diet to other symptoms – eczema, allergies, blotchy skin, a less than healthy colour, dry skin, fatigue, brain fog…. Often, we put some of these things down to age, without even stopping to think that if we tackled the source of the problem, then our body could heal, and all of these other issues would clear themselves up and we could have our body be at its ideal body composition. We look only for linear measurements by which we track progress.

What’s more, so many people have learned only to measure progress by the weight on the scale. We weigh ourselves and become upset and throw the diet out of the window when the scale doesn’t show that same 2 pounds a week loss. But what exactly is that loss? Fat? Water? Muscle? We become attached to the number on the scale, which then determines how good or bad we feel about ourselves and then how well we treat ourselves, especially through our eating for the rest of the day.

It’s time to let that go

It’s time to take a step back and take a bigger picture view on things, and to understand that our body will heal if we provide it with what it needs. That healing takes time.

That is the way of nature. Children grow in spurts; they don’t grow linearly. So it is too with our bodies. As the teachers in my Bikram Yoga class say, “Same class everyday, not the same body everyday”.

Our bodies are an amazing bio-chemical lab.

Within the course of a day, the body shifts in temperature, metabolic rate, brain wave patterns, hormone levels, energy output, respiratory function… Each second, millions of blood cells are born and die. Your stomach lining regenerates completely in a week. Your skin surface is replaced in a month and your liver cells turn over in six weeks. Scientists say that our entire body is replaced within seven years.

It isn’t a static “same everyday” organism; it is living universe that responds moment by moment to its environment. This includes its external environment as well as its internal environment. Guess what? The foods that we eat determine its internal environment.

[Tweet “So, have you ever wondered why your body seems to recreate the same body over and over again?”]

If your skin surface is replaced in a month, why does it still look the same as last month?

Well, if you’re eating the same as last month, they there’s your answer right there… because what your body gets to use to rebuild itself is the food you eat.

The quality of the food that you eat determines the quality of the building material that your body has, which in turn determines the state of your health and metabolism, and so ultimately your body composition.

The visual measurement of skinny or fat is not necessarily a reflection of health.

You need to be healthy first

As Dr Schwarzbein, author of The Schwarzbein Principle, says, “You need to be healthy to lose weight, not lose weight to be healthy. It is only when you have completely healed your metabolism that you are primed for losing all your excess storage fat.”

So what gives? The idea that weight loss in and of itself is the goal. It’s not; it’s just one of the outward symptoms of a body not being at its optimal best.

Next week, I’ll write about what foods to start adding into your diet. And I won’t be asking you to take anything away.

In the meantime, start listing out all the things that you’d like to see improve – better and clearer thinking, clearer skin, shinier hair, brighter eyes, more energy, better quality sleep, fit of clothes, self-confidence, improved mood… what else can you think of?

Oh, and if you can start weaning yourself off your scales, that would be good too.

Until then.

Is Fruit Really Good for You?

“Of course,” many people would say, “It’s part of my five-a-day.” The “five-a-day” is one of the best known dietary messages publicised by the UK Government – five portions of fruit and vegetables each day, for healthy eating. But wait, the Government doesn’t care whether that’s five portions of only vegetables in total, five portions of only fruit in total, or five of both fruit and vegetables together in total.

So, according to those recommendations, you could eat five servings of fruit each day and consider that healthy based on that guideline.

Let me be clear. Five portions of non-starchy vegetables a day – in fact, ten servings of non-starchy vegetables a day – go for it! But five servings of fruit a day? Maybe, maybe not.

What’s the story?

Fruit contains glucose and fructose, the sugars found in fruit. Further, different fruits have different levels of fructose relative to glucose. In order to understand fruit and its impact on our bodies better, we need to understand how fruit is metabolised (processed) in our bodies, namely, the fructose. I’ll keep it simple, I promise.

Your body metabolises fructose differently to glucose.

Unlike glucose, fructose does not properly stimulate an insulin response, which in turn does not suppress ghrelin (the “hunger hormone”) and doesn’t trigger leptin (the “satiety hormone”) production in your body. These hormones are crucial for sending signals to your body to tell you when you’re full.

The result? You eat more.

I remember deciding to eat an apple for a mid-afternoon snack when I was in my twenties and going through one of my eat-more-healthily phases. I soon gave that up because I found that the apple left me feeling hungrier than before and craving more food. At first I thought it was just me, when a colleague in the office, upon spotting me snacking on my apple, commented that she often felt hungrier after eating a fruit than if she didn’t. Coincidence? Well, now I understand why.

What’s more fructose goes straight to your liver to be processed where it is more rapidly absorbed than regular sugar.

Your liver can handle about 15 grams of fructose. Beyond that and your liver gets overwhelmed, it just can’t keep up. To cope, it shovels it into your fat cells to keep you safe (fat cells are inert and so putting the excess into your fat cells will stop overload because now your liver doesn’t have to deal with it any further). The stress from this overwhelm in turn causes low-level inflammation. And did you know that inflammation is thought to be behind many visible signs of ageing?

Fructose also increases glycation (the way protein molecules bond with sugar molecules in our body) which in turn has been implicated in many age-related chronic diseases such as cardiovascular diseases. It also sets you up for insulin resistance and eventually Type 2 diabetes.

[Tweet “To put it very simply, our bodies cannot cope with too much fructose.”]

Fructose on its own is not evil; it’s excessive fructose that can make us fat and/or sick.

So Should You Stop Eating Fruit Altogether?

No. But what would be good for you to consider is which fruit you’re eating, how you’re consuming it and how much. Your limits will depend also on your own bio-individuality. For example, many a raw foodist who eats a very clean diet and exercises well is able to consume a considerable level of fruit and remain healthy.

Fruit – especially organic fruit – does have a lot going for it. It’s rich in fibre, vitamins and other nutrients that are good for us. They can also help us to satisfy our desire for something sweet.

As a guideline, if your aim is to lose some fat, then you’ll want to limit yourself to one to two servings a day and keep to the fruits with a lower glycaemic level, such as berries. This translates to approximately 5 grams of sugar per serving (about a teaspoon).

As an example, three ounces of grapes have about 12.5 grams of sugar compared to three ounces of strawberries, which have only about 4 grams of sugar.

Ideally, you’ll also want to consume your fruit in its original form, meaning, eat fresh fruit. Dried fruit is concentrated sugar and boy, it’s so easy to eat a lot of those without even noticing. As for fruit in the form of fruit juices, please be very mindful of these. Not only do they go down quickly, but the processing removes much of the fibre and a lot of the nutrients are lost, leaving you with a high level of fructose.

An annoyance of mine is how marketing campaigns would have you think that drinking fruit juice contributes to one of your five a day. Unsuspecting and well-meaning parents give their young children fruit juice, thinking that it is good and healthy for them when this may lead to the over-consumption of fructose. Unknowingly, they may be setting their children up for future health challenges. This makes me mad!

Here’s a chart, extracted from The Sugar Fix: The High-Fructose Fallout That Is Making You Fat and Sick by Robert Johnson, MD so you can gauge the level of fructose in fruit.

fruits-gi-01

fruits-gi-02

fruits-gi-03

fruits-gi-04

You can still eat, say, mangoes, for example. I love mangoes! But just don’t eat it everyday. Consider the fact that many fruits are seasonal, which means that were it not for modern methods, we certainly wouldn’t be eating fruit every day and all year round. Also, consider buffering the sugar load by eating it with protein and fat. For example, eat your apple with some plain Greek yogurt or a yummy sweet pear in a delicious halloumi salad. Or eat your fruit with some nuts, or put some berries in a smoothie with flax or chia seeds.

So there we have it. Eat your fruit, enjoy your fruit. But be mindful of how much you’re eating, how you’re consuming it and how much you’re downing. The recommended five-a-day may perhaps be too much for you.

If you want to make it really simple, then just do this.

Stick to the citrus and the berries and savour up to three servings a day.

No One Size Fits All

Have you ever noticed how many diet books there are on the market? It seems that a whole plethora of new diets emerge each year, all promising essentially the same thing. Perhaps you’ve even tried many of them yourself. I have… each time with renewed hope that maybe this time, it will be different, and maybe this time, I’ll lose the weight once and for all.

The truth of the matter is I’ve lost the same pounds over and over again and then gained a few more each time to boot. Eventually, I ended with diet fatigue. I just could not try another diet, simply because they somehow all stopped working. What had worked the year before now didn’t work anymore.

You know that definition of insanity? Doing the same thing over and over again expecting a different result? I finally copped on to how insane all my dieting had been. More so because I didn’t feel that I could continue that way anymore, rather than because I was really smart, I decided that would never diet again.

So I stopped searching for a diet to lose weight with, and started looking for a way of eating more healthily. I confess that my search was still tinged with the idea that maybe I could still lose my excess weight.

What I did not know would emerge from my research was that through my many years of dieting, I’d been unknowingly starving myself; nutritionally starving myself. I thought, for example, that if I just ate fewer calories, no matter where it came from, then I’d be fine. Uh-uh, nope.

Instead, because my body was nutritionally starving, it craved more food, any food, so it could get whatever it possibly could to keep me going. Everything else got shovelled into my fat cells, so that it could ask for yet more food to try and get that nutrition it was starving for. In my quest to diet and be slim, I had inadvertently been sabotaging my own efforts.

What I have found and discover more and more each day, is that there truly is no one size fits all. What works for one person, be it paleo, primal, raw, low carb, high fat or something else, is not necessarily going to work for another. The bottom line is that our bodies are highly intuitive and will actually tell us what it wants and needs… once we’ve got past that period of stuffing our faces on anything and everything because we’ve been depriving ourselves for so long!

If you think about it, you’ll notice that even you yourself had different nutritional wants and needs over time. What your body needed in your 20s was different to in your 30s. A child needs (and can handle) different foods than when they get older, just as a man’s requirements are different to a woman’s. Similarly, what our body craves in the spring may well be different to what it craves in the winter. For example, many people swear by eating plenty of fruit everyday. Yet, my nephew’s girlfriend who’s in her twenties, and highly active, has noticed that when she eats fruit everyday, she starts to store fat.

Have you noticed how one nutritional expert might say that whole grains are good for us, while another might say the exact opposite, that we should steer completely clear of grains? For each piece of nutritional research, thee appears to be another one debunking the first one.

Is it any wonder that so many of us are confused?

So here it is. We are all individuals with different needs at different times of our life. What works for each one of us is for each one of us, as individuals, to find out for ourselves what works most effectively and what doesn’t. Our bodies have the innate wisdom to know exactly what we need… and the best news of all, is that it does not necessarily mean that we have to give up all the tastes we love. (I’ll write about how we can eat well and healthily and still enjoy delicious foods another day).

No one size fits all. This is bio-individuality.

There is no such thing as “good” food or “bad” food, as such, just food that is right for you, in the proportions that are right for you. Mind you, I will put a caveat on that – because when I say, “food”, I do mean real food, not processed or artificial edible products that pass off as food (more on that another time too!)

[Tweet “When we eat the foods that are right for us, the sugar cravings disappear…”]

…we get to eat more (oh yes!), we have more energy, we feel clearer and brighter, our vision may well improve and as our body naturally heals from the inside out, not only do some of our ailments, such as eczema or psoriasis, clear up, but our body also starts to release those excess pounds and clearing out what it had deemed to be toxins that it shovelled away into our fat cells. In short, you’ll most likely lose some inches.

So what does your body want? A higher level of fat and lower carb with moderate protein? Or higher level of protein, lower carb and moderate fat? It’s up to you to experiment and discover what works for you, what makes you feel good.

You deserve to eat the food that nourishes the amazing person you are.