Diet of Abundance

Whereas most diets are fairly restrictive, I feel a diet based primarily on whole foods actually brings more variety to the plate. Whole foods are foods that are not modified from their original state. Hence, they are unprocessed and unrefined. Examples include fruits, vegetables, nuts, beans, seeds, legumes and whole grains. Whole foods are rich in vitamins, minerals, enzymes, fibre, healthy fats, antioxidants and much more, all of which are integral for maintaining optimal health. In contrast, refined grains for instance have almost all nutrients removed, including chromium required for their assimilation. They consequently deplete body chromium supplies. In addition, refined grains lack fibre, spike blood glucose and insulin, promote cravings, fatigue, weight gain and generally contain rancid oils. Diets that eliminate fat, carbohydrates or protein will rarely succeed, as they deplete the body. Rather than eradicating fat for example, you’d likely lose more weight and feel better by just switching to healthy fats.

Once you switch to whole foods, your taste buds change and you find yourself no longer craving processed and refined foods. Instead, you enjoy a wide variety of grains, legumes, vegetables, fruits and nuts you never would have thought to buy before. Contrary to popular belief, eating whole foods does not mean you cannot still enjoy treats! I often enjoy pies, chocolate cake and pizza, the difference being that they are made using all healthy ingredients and I find them much more satisfying as a result! Of course eating whole foods isn’t the only aspect of a healthy diet. Eating local foods provides one with fresher products, which consequently contain more nutrients, taste and life force. The average food travels 2,500 kilometres just to reach your dinner plate! Not only does this deplete nutrients, it wastes fossil fuel and pollutes the environment; not to mention the unnecessary packaging and chemicals, gases or irradiation used as preservatives during transportation. It seems bizarre to ship apples half way across the world from New Zealand when we grow plenty here in BC – something to think about next time you are at the grocery store!

The other great thing about eating local is it usually means eating according to the seasons, how nature intended. If we eat tropical fruits in winter, the nutrient contents of these fruits trick our bodies into thinking it is summer. Our bodies therefore assume we are getting adequate sunlight and fail to activate stored vitamin D. Without vitamin D, we cannot absorb calcium which leads to a host of other problems. The Chinese five elements theory also correlates to seasonal eating. It connects a particular organ with each season. Inevitably food that grows locally supports the particular organ of that season. For example bitter, leafy greens naturally grow in spring and offer liver support. A common misconception is that eating locally means less variety. This may be true in that you won’t find the commercial produce available year round at the supermarket.

However there is a wide array of produce available that is never on supermarket shelves and the majority of the population would not be able to name, only available at local farms and farmers markets. Do not let them go extinct! One of the most important aspects of food for me is that it be grown organically. This ensures that no pesticides, herbicides or chemical fertilizers have been used in its production or processing. Currently, chemicals used in the manufacturing of non-organic food do not have to be listed on the label! And an organic label verifies the product is not genetically modified (not to be confused with cross breeding), the long-term effects of which remain unknown.

Sophia White is a registered holistic nutritionist living in Nanaimo.