Everyone has an opinion when it comes to diet, and a conversation on the best way to eat can get more heated than a politically charged debate or the world cup finals. My food philosophy is simple: real, whole, unprocessed, organic food. I believe in eating as local as possible, and in season- because nourishing food is fresh, it is alive. Even when you’re cooking your food- you want it to be as fresh from the time it was picked from the earth to the time it makes its way into your mouth.
What your own particular body needs, however- is something not I, not anyone can tell you- because it is so bio-individual. Based on a million and one things, including your own genetic history, your gene polymorphisms, epigenetic, your level of activity, the types of stresses you’re exposed to (physically and mentally) throughout the day… it’s legitimately impossible for anyone other than your Self to know what it needs in that moment. And something that is serving your health today might not tomorrow… yes: it’s overwhelming to think about at first, but it doesn’t have to be. Take a deep breath and start by acknowledging one of the easiest forms of intuition: cravings.
Cravings often come in the form of “naughty” foods, but often have roots in nutritional deficiencies. Chocolate cravings are often rooted in magnesium deficiency, chips could be the need for salt or dehydration (salt helps us retain water), and candy and sweets could be the body craving vitamins or perhaps the expression of imbalanced blood sugar. Explore your cravings, and get to the root cause of them. It doesn’t take a food science degree to do this- hop on google and spend a couple of minutes looking up things like “if i’m craving *insert food*, what is my body deficient in” and you will find innumerable sites explaining potential deficiencies for particular cravings. That being said, there is almost always a healty, whole food, or recipe for any craving. Chocolate is a great example of a good that has gotten a bad repuation- when in reality, cacao in its raw form is one of the most nutrient dense, magnesium rich, healing superfoods on the planet (check out my Q&A with Tahlia Mynott, holistic nutritionist and founder of a raw, organic chocolate company HERE). When the chocolate craving hits, you needn’t suppress it whatsoever- just opt for a real product, made without emulsifiers, preservatives, or refined sugars.
Check out my recipe for Chaga Collagen Cacao Cups Filled with Reishi Infused Sprouted Almond Butter HERE.
Nourish with: raw cacao nibs/ powder/ raw organic chocolate, nuts, seeds, green vegetables, or a magnesium supplement.
Soda/ Fizzy Drinks:
Nourish with: sesame seeds/ tahini, salmon, raw yogurt, lentils, broccoli, kale, mustard and turnip greens.
Bread, Pasta, & Starchy Carbs: Nitrogene Deficiency
Nourish with: higher protein foods like organic, pasture raised meat (chicken, beef, lamb), and wild fatty fish (sardines, mackerel).
Aforementioned, sugar is a more complicated issue- and has roots not only in hypoglycaemia (low blood sugar), imbalanced blood sugar, but multiple deficiencies including tryptophan (spirulina, pumpkin/ sesame sunflower seeds, cacao, sweet potato, chromium deficiency (onions, romaine lettuce, tomatoes, cinnamon, apples, sweet potato), sulphur deficiency (cricferous vegetables, horseradish, asparagus, carob, garlic, onion) and phosphorus deficiency (beans, pumpkin seeds, brazil nuts, lentils). Dive deeper into cravings and their root causes HERE.
That being said, I'm not saying to never have bread or fizzy drinks- because at the end of the day live your life and eat what you want; but if you first nourish your body- you will have control over your cravings. From there, opt for the most nourishing version of your craving (like a 48 hour fermented organic sourdough made with heirloom grains), and do so from a place of power knowing that you're not simply giving into fleeting, uncontrolable, mouth pleasure.
Your body’s intuitive wisdom reaches far beyond cravings. The more you begin to connect with your Self and listen to your body’s subtle voice, wants, and needs- the more you’ll find yourself gravitating to foods that your body is seeking the nutrients from. I’m currently travelling Europe, and despite never having liked tomatoes- the moment I landed in France I started craving them. The more sunshine I got- the more intense my desire for fresh, whole, organic tomatoes got. Full of lycopene and carotenoids, tomatoes help counteract the free radicals in the body, and protect the skin against DNA damage from the sun. The body knows intuitively what it needs to heal, and thrive- and despite genuinely not liking the taste of tomatoes- my body said NEED, and my tastebuds immediately adapted. I have generally been avoiding nightshades while back in Canada, but as soon as I got to the Mediterranean my body said hell yes to all the big local organic eggplants, peppers, and tomatoes: and I have been thriving off of them. Sometimes the mind has been programmed by societal pressure and beliefs, which can be helpful along your path to understanding nutrition to a degree- but not when it comes to rigid, dogmatic, absolutely inflexible rules regarding whole foods.
When I was living in Australia I was also mega dosing chaga mushroom, consuming it basically every single day. When I got back to Canada in the fall, I didn’t feel called to use it at all, and yet when summer hit my body wanted to start taking it again. Chaga is another powerful DNA repairer, and absolutely amazing to take when you’re exposing yourself to lots of sunshine. (Learn more about chaga HERE). Just because chaga has benefits, doesn't mean you have to take it 365 days of the year. That's why I love having a cabinet full of adaptogens, that I stare at for a minute of two every morning deciding what my body needs that particular day. Fluidity, cycles, flexibility.
Tune in to your body, not what another person tells you you need. Whether it be a personal trainer, a nutritionist, a doctor, or a friend - these are not ultimate authorities over your body. They are tools, points of reference- not dictators. You are the final frontier between what nourishes you, and if a particular food or supplement turns you off: do not consume it. Your body knows what it needs, and if a "healthy" food repulses you- it’s for a reason. Sometimes I am called to take chlorella supplements, and I will do so everyday for months- but I’ll wake up one day and not want to take them, so I don’t. You’re not a robot, and food and supplements have impacts beyond their labels- beyond anything we can rationalize with our human minds. Although clean water is necessary to live- you can also die from over-hydration. Your body requires balance, and even a natural herb or supplement can throw if out of whack.
An interesting exercise you can do to tune into your body's wisdom is choosing an item (fruit, vegetable, supplement, adaptogen, or even a product like skin care, or shampoo)- hold it up to your heart, and close your eyes. Your body will intuitively lean forward if it benefits you, and lean backwards if it doesn't. Even without the leaning- simply closing your eyes and asking your body if it will thrive with the certain product will give you a clear answer. The more you communicate with your body in this way, the clearer your answers will be and the more finely tuned your intuition will become.
Intuitive eating is another reason I don’t believe in meal prepping a week in advance. You can make life easier for you by pre-washing and chopping veggies, or perhaps cooking meat or fish in larger batches, having a few big salads and stews in the fridge… but try to give your body the opportunity to choose what it wants to eat for each meal. Give it options, be flexible with yourself and empower your Self by allowing your body to flow with what it needs in that moment. Same goes for quantities of food and nutrient timing. Flexibility! So many people get caught up in semantics of timing things like protein/ carb counting and consumption or the importance or eating or not eating breakfast or having a light or a large dinner, and having food directly (or not) after exercise…. LISTEN TO YOUR BODY! There is not a stedfast rule; you need to find what works for you, and continuously check in to see if it's still working. You might have a day of serious feasting- calorically, and extremely heavy on the carbohydrates for example... and then have a day or two lighter days, with almost no protein. The body will balance itself out- you don’t have to squeeze in all your "daily requirements" in every day- in fact our ancestors rarely did. They would gorge on berries in the summer months, and these antioxidants would store in their bodies to last them the entire winter. We are not robots, we are nature- we are cyclical, we flow.
Calm down, take a breath. Tune in, listen. Relax. Nourish. Be.