This week is perhaps one of the most basic tenets of my practice as a food lovin human being. Sure, it factors in a bit on the Holistic Nutrition side of things, but I consider this a more human endeavour than a scientific-based endeavour. Ok yes, there is science to back all of this up, but even if there weren't, it's one of those 'just makes sense' kind of things.
When I fill my plate, I like to think of the food on this plate in one of three categories. I look to include food that will nourish the cells of my body, so the traditional way you'd think of food as a vehicle for nourishment. I look to also include food that will feed the good bugs in my bug (we're talking prebiotics for the probiotics). I also look to include those foods that will nourish my soul, or feed me.
Are you scratching your head? Wondering what this means? Fearing this is a new fangled way to also think about preparing meals? It isn't meant to complicate, but merely a simple way to be at peace and practice gratitude for what's on the plate in front of me.
NOURISH YOUR BODY
I am looking to include those foods that will fuel the cells of my body, those foods that will help me get through my day. This is quite an individual undertaking, and depends on your current health status, whether or not you're in a building phase or a maintenance phase. You would be in a building phase if you were growing, or if you were building a tiny human in your uterus. You could also be in a building phase if you had a cancer diagnosis. You would be in a maintenance phase if you were a regular adult going about your day. What this means for me? Most of my plate is filled with foods that will best support my organs; this means mostly loads of veggies and fruit for their antioxidants and minerals and carbs so I can have the energy to get through the day, and my brain can get the fuel it needs to keep going. Those antioxidants also help protect my body against damaging free radicals, and help my liver do the detox work it wants to do. I would look to include good sources of protein in order to support my immune system and the regular maintenance and repair of my body, for the enzymes, DNA repair. I would also add some excellent fats in my daily foods in order to best fuel my brain, support my immune system, help protect my heart and liver and give those building blocks necessary for every cell I'm building. (Oh yes, did you know you are always making new cells?) Here is a good article on how best to fuel the cells of your body, and why you would want to think about this. Highly recommended.
NOURISH THE BUGS IN YOUR GUT
Now that I've figured out I've got those good foods that will feed me, I need to look after those little guys I carry 'round with me in my gut. Oh yes my friend, you have some (not-so)freeloaders living in your innards. Some estimates rate this between 2 and 6 pounds of bacteria living on your skin and inside your body. That's amazing! (And it's all good, I assure you. For a more in-depth understanding of just what is this human microbiome that seems to be such a hot word of late, I invite you to watch this short film aptly titled The Invisible Universe. Fascinating stuff.)
So because I want to keep those little guys happy and working for me, I aim to make sure there are foods on my plate that will best serve them and fuel their work in this symbiotic relationship of ours. That means things like fibre and resistant starch. Think prebiotics. If you're eating loads of veggies and fruit, you're covered. Here are foods that will best play the part of prebiotics, for those who want to ensure: potatoes, rice, (especially leftover potatoes and rice!), bananas, plantain, beans and lentils, nuts and seeds, cabbage, dandelion greens, garlic, leeks & onions, asparagus, rhubarb, pears, apples, berries, oats and barley. But really. If you're eating loads of veg, you're covered. Don't overthink this one.
NOURISH THE SOUL
It's absolutely imperative that food continues to be a fuel source and a vehicle of enjoyment. Nowhere do I want you to get bogged down in calorie counting, or demonizing certain foods or elevating others. Food is nourishment. Food is fuel. Food is a vehicle for joy. And this last piece is the one I work hard at incorporating, especially with my family. FOOD NOURISHES THE SOUL. This means I look to include those foods that primarily bring the good feeling in, even if they aren't highly nutritious in terms of nutrients and antioxidants and all that scientific stuff. YES THIS MEANS ICE CREAM. Because this joy is a big big part of how we experience food. Not to mention it ensures we are digesting better... The joy component for me also involves sharing a meal with loved ones. It is a big part of practicing mindfulness, which most certainly also improves our ability to digest. See this blog post for a recap on mindfulness.
Food serves as a cultural touchstone in all families; it carries memories, smells, tastes and flavours with it. Every early September, as I start to prepare my Mom's famous Zucchini Relish, I get transported to those early years when my Mom and Grand-Maman (who lived next door) would prepare the bounty from the garden and pickle it all in glass jars for us to consume over the winter months. That scent, that tradition, that sensory experience feeds more than just my cells, it feeds my entire being. And that soul part seeks nourishment just as much as your cells do. So eat the food that makes you feel good inside. Go back to that pasta dish your Nonna used to prepare for you, and eat it with gusto. Relish in those delicious slurpy soups your Oba-chan would make when you would come over for a visit. Yes, your Savta really does make the best felafels, you should recreate those in your kitchen! And your Bubbie really was the best at making latkes. In her honour, you should whip some up. Your Bibi loved you through her ugali, so feel that love. And your Awa's idli was like no other; you should have some tomorrow to remember her by.
Further to this, in ensuring there are foods that bring you joy on the plate, as we sit down to a meal as a family, it is through these foods we are creating those sensory memories. It is as an inclusive kind of practice, and a loving one. Nourish your soul, my friend. And that of those around you.
NOW GO PLAY WITH YOUR FOOD.