In my time this year travelling, meeting with you all and talking ‘Edible’ food, there are some topics that come up again and again. I’ve outlined some dot points below.
I have raw kale in my smoothie. Is that ‘healthy’?
This one is hard, because I meet a lot of people who genuinely feel they are improving their health and nourishing their body by adding raw kale or spinach to their smoothies or salads. While it’s true that raw leafy greens are a rich source of magnesium and B vitamins (among many others), raw spinach and kale (and also broccoli and cabbage) are potent sources of goitrogens, which interfere with healthy thyroid functioning. They can also be rich in phytates, which prevent the absorption of minerals- this is even more so the case when the veggies are industrially farmed with the use of water-soluble NPK fertilisers.
The alternative is to dehydrate your kale into kale chips, or even better- to ferment kale and cabbage, with the aid of their own naturally occurring lactobacilli bacteria.
Isn’t gluten-free just a fad?
See my blog here.
Isn’t soy bad for you?
See my blog here.
Why do you use grains in your recipes, instead of nuts? Aren’t you worried about phytates?
One of the interesting precepts behind the paleo movement is the rejection of grains, and the inclusion of nuts. While the original work of Western Price didn’t recommend copious portions of them, they tend to be included in everything- almond milk, cashew cream, chocolate slices, nut balls, cakes made with almond meal. This may perhaps be necessary for some people with certain health conditions, but may not be a good overall standard.
In a true hunter-gatherer situation (although it is difficult to generalise how this would look overall), nuts would be quite difficult to access. This is reflected in the fact they are very calorie dense. As such, our bodies would not traditionally have consumed them in large amounts. Not only that, but they often contain elements which are toxic or antinutritional- for example, cashews are packaged naturally with a poisonous layer around the nut, and brown nuts such as almonds contain high levels of phytates- again, especially more so the case if they are industrially farmed.
The way around this is to soak or ‘activate’ the nuts, by allowing the water-soluble phytates to wash off the surfaces, or even for the nuts and seeds to partially sprout. This drastically improves the nutrient availability of the food. It’s also helpful to purchase organic. Unfortunately, this isn’t what is generally happening with the widespread and growing popularity of nut based snacks and treats- most desserts aren’t being activated, making them no better for levels of phytates than grains. They also generally aren’t organic.
Like cabbage and kale, wheat (which admittedly I am not an advocate for) contains naturally occurring bacteria which aid in breaking down its phytates, if it is fermented. This is why wheat was traditionally consumed as sourdough and the like, and can be quite harmful included in a huge variety of foods as a white flour.
On the other hand, rice has very high digestibility. It’s true that brown rice has some phytates as well- and this may be why very old, and healthy, civilisations such as those in Asia have traditionally milled it and eaten it white, and in moderation. That said, the levels of phytates in rice are also much lower than wheat, barley, rye, etc.
Are your recipes fructose free?
Not all. My recipes use a variety of sweeteners, primarily fruit such as dates, and rice malt syrup, which is fructose free. I also occasionally use more refined sweeteners such as maple syrup, or coconut syrup for recipes such as icing, which require the condensed sweetness of fructose. I do not use agave, and my recipes are cane sugar-free.
The growing popularity of ‘quitting sugar’ is a great step in awareness. What is of importance, however, isn’t avoiding sugar completely- as the brain and all the cells of the body require it for optimum function- but more so, eating sugar as parts of wholefoods, in the presence of fat and fibre, and with phytochemicals and trace nutrients which assist in its digestion. It’s also important to consume wholefood sugars in moderation throughout the day, to allow the body time to fully digest them. When too much sugar is absorbed at once, this overwhelms either the bloodstream, causing sugar highs and lows and requiring the secretion of insulin to store it as fat, or places stress on the liver otherwise when fructose is converted into glycogen, and stored as adipose fat in the tissues surrounding the liver. This is what causes metabolic disease such as heart disease and diabetes, and is why fructose gets such a bad rap.
Fructose isn’t inherently bad. Fructose intolerance, however, now affects up to 1 in 3 Americans, in part due to short-sighted but well-intentioned government policies designed to drop the cost of everyday food by subsidising corn. The subsequent inclusion of chemical-derived high fructose corn syrup in everything resulted in fructose overload. For Americans, this has proved a huge issue. It isn’t necessarily problematic for Australians, however, and if you can tolerate it, the inclusion of nutrient rich foods, contains plenty of soluble fibre, is usually beneficial.