I recently discovered how to make a superhero, here’s how it happened.
“I’m sorry Sharon, but I just couldn’t live without bread!” This is often the response I receive when I say I don’t eat wheat and gluten.
I totally get it, after leaving school I studied Hospitality & Event Management at University College Birmingham. Back then my Food Science lectures were based just along the corridor from the Patisserie training kitchen, and I’d often start dreaming of freshly baked Chelsea buns slathered in butter and confectioners sugar as their smell wafted down the hallway and into the lecture theatre. A much more appealing line of thought than the study of macro and micronutrients and how they affect the human body.
To pay my way through Uni. I worked three part-time jobs. Long hours, late night shifts and early morning commutes through Birmingham traffic, made the purchase of 2 or 3 of these high carbohydrate laden delicacies impossible to resist. I worked hard, and I deserved some upsides -right?
In hindsight, treating myself to high carbohydrate foods and my standard British diet of pasta bolognese, lasagne or pizza was the start of my dietary issues. Moreover, my Saturday daytime job was at the local bakers. Oh, the delight! Row upon row of custard doughnuts, pineapple tarts, blackcurrant and apple danish, Bakewell tart and chocolate eclairs. Baskets of rolls and flour dusted shelves filled with loaves and loaves of freshly baked bread. The warm yeasty smell and the thought of all that sugary wonderfulness it was a carbohydrate lovers paradise.
For me, it’s not empty words when I say I understand the pleasure of sinking your teeth into a freshly made cheese sandwich. The truth is, my first thoughts when it comes to food are how does this taste? What are the nuances of flavour going on here?
A great recipe is like a concerto, the individual ingredients must add up to more than the sum of their parts. Does the saltiness, sour, bitter & sweet play in harmony? How about the creaminess does it resonate against crunch? And what about the first violin of taste -umami? For goodness sake don’t leave out umami he’s the star of the show. In short, I don’t just want to eat food, I want to experience craftsmanship.
So what changed? What happened to Miss Cupcake and her baker’s delights?
In a nutshell, she got tired and sick –read that as exhausted and waking up each morning with nausea. I know what it sounds like and I wondered that too. Could it be a bun in the oven? Time and a trip to the GP confirmed this as negative, but nausea and fatigue continued. A while later I found out I have a hypersensitivity to wheat and gluten, which means I can no longer eat products which contain them.
Today we have a wider variety of food available at relatively low prices compared to history. As a child living in the UK, we thought a banana was a treat. Meat portions were significantly smaller, and choice cuts of lamb and beef were unaffordable to the working classes.
Yet it seems that as food has become cheaper and more abundant, it has created more problems not less. Today we are daily bombarded with a proliferation of people with a view on what should and should not be eaten. It has gotten ever more tricky to know who to believe. Dietitians are legally bound to advise patients according to empirical science, that many believe is outdated. Take any two nutritionists trained in the same institution, and they can emerge with differing ideas on what constitutes proper nutrition. Geneticists, neuroscientists and endocrinologists are all chasing for answers. And it seems new opinions, research and recommendations, daily come to the fore. There are those at the battle front trying their best to help their clients, the fitness coaches, wellbeing practitioners and entrepreneurial businesses of Social Media. Add to these recipe writers, celebrity chefs and cookbooks filled with more dishes than anyone could possibly eat in a lifetime. It’s become a confused picture.
Since the birth of the industrial revolution, our species has flourished. We’ve found ways to mass produce food stuff that was previously scarce. We’ve learnt that if you spray crops with pesticide and use genetic modification yield increases. These things have been important factors in the growth of western economies and our improved lifestyles. Yet the rates of diseases, such as Type II diabetes are still on the rise.
What can the average person do to ease the confusion?
Perhaps, acceptance that we live in an age of emerging science is a big key. For example, did you know, according to geneticists that there are over 100 genes that influence body weight? We all have a slightly different mix and a subsequent differing genetic burden. The problem is that while much is known in general terms, it’s simply not yet possible to determine exactly what we need to eat as individuals to maximise our biology and not fight against it.
What hope is there then if we don’t yet have all the answers?
Be curious. After all, you are the only real expert on YOU.
What could it mean in your life if you were to take steps towards healthy eating? What could you do and what impacts might it have on the bigger picture things, like sustainability or the environment?
Here’s a list of twelve things you could do to move towards a more healthy lifestyle. Why not pick a couple and start today?
- Eat in season – it’s cheaper
- Grow your own lettuce and green vegetables – Did you know that Chlorophyll in green plants is the basis of health? Chlorophyll contains magnesium, and that makes plants a powerful blood cleanser and antioxidant. Magnesium also helps activate enzymes that are essential for the production of energy.
- Take care of the soil, grow your own compost – Did you know that because of soil depletion, crops grown decades ago were much richer in vitamins and minerals than the varieties most of us get today? Think about it, everything that lives on our planet does so because of the layer of soil beneath our feet. Crazy huh! That said, not all dirt is created equal, so get growing some amazing compost and you’ll reap terrific benefits.
- Plan your menus
- Have a meal preparation day – get in the kitchen, slice, dice and prepare all the vegetables you need for the week.
- Learn how to cook.
- Know your portion sizes
- Educate yourself about how much protein, carbohydrate and fat you really need. These are also called Macros.
- Be mindful and present when you eat. Become aware of the nuances of taste & texture. Respect the fact that the use of flavour is a skilful art. Google ‘umami’, find out what it is & begin to find ways to add this culinary whiz kid to your meals.
- Learn about the importance of micronutrients, their effects on hormone production and how these help you.
- Reduce or eliminate sugar. Sugar does not have a single nutrient -no vitamins, no minerals. Eating lots of sugar-laden processed foods steals essential vitamins and minerals from your body. Your body then develops chemical imbalances, put another way that’s called malnutrition.
- Eat real food. “Don’t eat anything your Great-Grandmother wouldn’t recognise as food” – Michael Pollan
How to make a DNA whisperer in your kitchen.
In the following talk you’ll find out why my recipe for Cauliflower Bread is a real superhero:
Click here for my FREE Cauliflower Bread – Recipe
Celebrate and enjoy your food. Science is great, but it would be awful to lose sight of the social aspects of food, the environments we create over a meal with family, with friends. Aim to eat healthy 80% of the time and extend a bit of grace to yourself for the rest.
Try not to get too caught up, remember life is short. If someone has gone to the trouble of putting their time aside to prepare you a meal or bake a cake for your Birthday, put your food opinions aside and embrace the loving gesture with the same vigour that it was given.
Go live your best life!
University of Texas (UT) at Austin’s Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry was published in December 2004 in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition.