Get the Green Spark; Food for Health

Your Backyard and Beyond 2012 series
By Rebecca Wood
Winter 2012

Tired of diets, handfuls of supplements, confused as to what herbs or pharmaceuticals are helpful or harmful? Here’s a way to get a handle on nutrients, not nutri-ceuticals. First step; Get the “Green Spark”, go for plant based, whole food, seasonal food and food prepared with love and joy. We certainly are what we eat and we are a culture that loves to eat and drink. So why not “eat, drink and get healthy”, you’ll find merry falls right into place. When all systems (circulatory, integumentary, respiratory, digestion, immune, etc.) are in sync; we feel better, move better, look better and better things just come our way. Whole plant based food can do that for us, it also opens the door to cultures, colors, taste, texture and health.
What, how and when we eat positively or negatively affects our health, so why not pack as much Fiber, Phyto-nutrients, Anti-oxidants and Water into every meal. Read the stat’s: most American’s and especially the elderly are chronically dehydrated and constipated. Processed food, STOP; research reveals a 51 % increase in type II diabetes if you eat processed meats like coldcuts , a 19% increase if you eat just one serving of unprocessed red meat per day (Delicious Living 2012). Even the young are suffering, overweight adolescents have tripled since 1980 and 16% of children ages 6-19 are now considered overweight ( What we eat is key, but it’s more, according to the recent book The Metabolic Diet Effect (Harper Collins 2010), diet along with age, menopause and chronic stress greatly affects our health and healthy outlook, that’s why just slashing calories and increasing exercise doesn’t equate to weight loss and fitness. Real food, whole food, when and how you eat, and managing stress must be considered.
Two films that have a broad appeal and present simple ‘how to solutions’, are Forks Over Knives, directed by Lee Fulkerson and Engine 2 Kitchen Rescue with Rip Esselsytn. Other films that will shake your socks off are Fast Food Nation and Food Inc. The data is there and it’s SAD, yes and it’s mostly the result of the Sad American Diet! If you’re not into movies and you’d rather snuggle up to a book, try any of Michael Pollan’s, Food Rules, The Omnivores Dilemma (or the Kid’s version), In Defense of Food or one of my all time favorites, The Botany of Desire. Barbra Kingsolver’s , Animal, Vegetable, Miracle is also informative, inspirational and fun.
“The art of healing comes from nature, not from the physician. Therefore, the physician (and you) must start from nature, with an open mind” Paracelsus.
Understanding the ins & outs of health and healing are also key. These wise words from an ancient healer offer insight to health and healing. It’s not just the right combination of foods, but adopting healthy habits including fresh air (nature), walking (or your choice of regular exercise), sitting in a quiet, contemplative setting, regular small meals at the table, focused breathing (at least three
times a day for 5 minutes), creative outlets and community. These suggestions coupled with an open mind and compassion will insure a path to enhanced wellness.
Yes, we can improve our health and it starts from a ‘podium of positivity’ and acceptance of who we are. Personal responsibility and action are also key, because if we don’t do it, it never happens. Case in point, in the past, I spent a lot of time on good diet, healthy habits and exercise but I noticed I always measured my progress by what I didn’t achieve. For example: if I missed a workout or yoga class or had that extra glass of red wine, I felt just dog-gone guilty. Then a friend shared a simple suggestion: focus on that ‘I do’ vs. the ‘I didn’t’.
So – I created a list of all the healthy things I did every day, hummm . . . simple but what a shift, instead of ‘shoulding on myself’, I started looking, daily at all the positive things I did. That shift in outlook, along with positive affirmations and time in nature, really helped me accept myself and move forward in my goals of health and wellness. Now I share that bit of advice with all my students and clients.
Give these simple solutions a 30 day trial. Consider shopping at farmers markets, food coops or local grocery stores when possible. Fresh is better and the shortest path from garden to table will always be a healthier choice, there are many studies comparing the nutrition of organic and fresh to processed and transported foods. Common sense tells us that healthy soil, fewer chemicals, shorter shelf live and knowing the source of your food leads to greater health benefits. It also supports your local community and economy.
Make preparing your meals as much fun as eating your meals. Sit down, share meals and chew, ponder, take it all in; the smells, colors, tastes. Eat the colors of the rainbow, later we’ll discuss phyto-nutrients in detail, but suffice it to say, plant based chemicals and nutrients are those vitamins, proteins, minerals, enzymes that are essential to health, you can reduce your supplement list to a few key needs. Assess how many colors are on your plate. How many flavors? Try to incorporate the 5 Flavors – sweet, sour, bitter, salty and spicy. Yep- the Sad American Diet (SAD) usually includes two flavors, Sweet and Salty, and is heavily processed- canned, boxed, bleached, additive enhanced and preservative dense, that is not food.
So, Get the Green Spark, take a tour of your local farmers market or grocers’ produce section. Notice the colors, read the labels, and if most of the calories are from fat and sugar, put it back. Look for words like Whole Grains, Certified Organic and talk to your local farmers and growers, become a part of the slow food, local movement and read that ‘I Do’ list – I bet in 30 days your health, outlook and livelihood will improve.