Eat only plants and animals
This is it, the big question.
Having discussed above everything that we do NOT eat when living by MotherNaturesDiet, which includes about 80% of the product lines stocked in a typical British supermarket, the big question you want to ask is ‘So what CAN I eat?’
My own personal journey to good health has been a story of 23 years of trial-and-error, 23 years of rights and wrongs, 22 years of searching for the right solution but not always finding it. For 16 of those years I was mostly getting it wrong, mostly making mistakes. I tried different ‘diets’, tried different workout plans, my weight yo-yo’d up and down, I smoked, quit, smoked again, quit again, and so it went on for years.
Eventually, in 2006, I kicked the smokes for good and I started figuring out the right things to do, the healthy things to do. I started eating a more natural diet, based on more vegetables and salad and fresh fruit, and healthy lean meat and fish, and finally things started going right. I have spent the last 7 years trying a variety of vegetarian and meat-eating lifestyles, and I have finally figured out what really works, at least what works for me.
I am writing a number of books for you, together they add up to over 400 pages telling you everything I have learned and what I believe is right for our health. As soon as those books are published, you will be able to read as much or as little of the detail as you wish. Until then, my advice for what we should eat really comes down to just four words:
Eat plants and animals.
Now I must qualify that statement with a few caveats, details and exceptions, but those four words pretty much sum it all up.
The number one additional point is Core Principle 8 (coming next, below): Eat natural, organic, free range, outdoor-reared, grass-fed, wild-caught, ocean dwelling, sustainably reared/caught. Please refer to Core Principle 8 below for this discussion – meat, fish and eggs are all covered below.
I do try to buy mostly organic vegetables and fruits, but that also comes with a caveat. There is much confusion within the business of labeling things as organic. It seems that since organic became a popular buzz word, some less ethical food companies and a few less ethical farmers have been finding ways to certify their produce as organic while still using a certain amount of chemicals. Different countries and different agencies set different standards for what qualifies as organic, and there are now controversies surrounding many supermarket organic brands which are owned by regular food companies who are at the heart of non-organic food production.
Personally, I rank free-range and grass-fed and outdoor-reared as at least as important, if not more important, than organic, as far as labels are concerned. The best food comes from a farmer or butcher you can talk to, or from animals you can see on the farm. More on this later.
I try to buy organic if it is something that I am going to eat without peeling. So for example, broccoli. I would want to buy organic broccoli because it is impossible to scrub the surface of the plant, and I do not skin or peel it before eating it, and I often eat it raw or very lightly steamed. For these reasons, I want a head of broccoli that has not had herbicides, pesticides and fungicides sprayed on it. By contrast, I do not seek out organic bananas, as I peel the thick skin off a banana, so I would hope that most of any chemicals on that skin have stayed on the outside and not made it in to the flesh of the fruit.
Of course, there are questions about fertilizer – should we eat non-organic plant products that have been grown using artificial nitrogen fertilizer? I think it is close to impossible to know just from the labeling in a shop, the true content of the soil your food has grown in. A farmer may deliver a crop to market that is ‘organic’ because he has grown it this season in a field that has not been spread with artificial nitrogen fertilizer, but do we know the history of the field before this growing season? Of course not, and it’s practically impossible to know how many times artificial fertilizer has been spread on that field before.
I think it’s fairly safe to assume that the plant wouldn’t grow if the soil was too badly damaged, and I think regulations around the widespread use of nitrogen fertilizers here in Europe are tighter than they are in North America, so I do not stress too much about this issue. Also, to some degree, I think that the stem of the plant will filter out some of the impurities from the soil before the head/seed/fruit grows, again lessening the chemicals that end up in my food.
So I try to buy organic if I am eating the whole thing, (like carrots, broccoli, raspberries), but I might skip the additional cost of buying organic if it is something in a hard skin which I will remove (banana, pineapple, coconut, etc.).
Local – reduce the carbon footprint / carbon mileage
I have two local farm shops, where I can buy lots of fresh fruit and veg, mostly NOT wrapped in multiple layers of plastic packaging. Some is sold as organic, some is sold as local, one of the shops lists all its suppliers and how far each products has travelled from around the UK to get to that shop.
I firmly believe in trying to buy local as much as possible. By local, I mean buying food that has been grown/farmed locally, not shipped in from a foreign country. Firstly, buying locally farmed food helps reduce your carbon footprint, and secondly, buying locally farmed food helps us keep in tune with Mother Nature. I believe that Mother Nature gives us clues as to what food we should be eating at different times of year, by ensuring only the right things will grow and be available depending on the climate.
In other words, in winter, all that will grow is meat, fish, and a few hardy root vegetables, so this is mostly what we should eat in winter – heavy, calorie-dense foods to keep us warm and strong. In spring and summer, Mother Nature provides lighter foods, fruits and berries, eggs and vegetables in abundance, so our diet should vary accordingly with the seasons.
As well as my two local farm shops, in the town where I live, we have a Sainsbury’s, a Morrison’s, a small Tesco and an Iceland (no chance you’ll see me in there!!). Between this range of shops, I have to source all the fresh produce that I need, both organic and as local as possible. I am just a regular guy, like you, and I have no special food supply available to me. Unfortunately, I do not have a small holding, farm or even an allotment, so I have to buy my food from the same places that you do. I encourage you to seek out your best local food sources, and even consider befriending a local farmer if you can. If you can possibly buy some food direct from the farmer himself, all the better.
I have a lot to learn about seasonal availability of certain foods. As mentioned above, I try to take my cues from Mother Nature herself as a guide to what I should eat, here in cold Northern Europe, at different times of year. There will be much more discussion of this in my books. Some foods have an obvious season (we all expect strawberries in England in June, or blackberries growing wild in September) but other foods are less obvious. I have been reading and learning, but I admit I still have a lot to learn. To some degree, I try to follow seasonal eating as much as I can, but I admit that I am still far from perfect – see Core Principle 12!
The only food we grow ourselves here at home in our garden is a little fruit and lots of herbs. We have a large strawberry patch in the garden which produces loads of delicious strawberries, and I have a couple of blueberry bushes which are growing nicely. I planted a herb garden which produces lots of coriander, rosemary, lemon balm, oregano, parsley, basil and loads of mint. The basil is eaten by slugs faster than it can grow! The mint is great, since I quit chewing gum because it contains aspartame and other chemicals, so now I just nibble a leaf or two of mint any time I want to freshen my breath and it does a super job!
Other foods we can eat
I do eat nuts (not salted or processed, only raw natural nuts) and seeds, berries and a little dried fruit, but it pays to be cautious with dried fruit. A lot of dried fruit has chemical preservatives added. Apricots only remain their bright orange ‘Apricot’ colour thanks to added sulphur, and if you buy “un-sulphured apricots” they appear black in colour. They are fine and still taste like apricots, but the food companies know that people will buy more if they are orange coloured, not black, which is a shame. Watch out for other dried fruits that have been treated with chemical colourants and preservatives. Last year I bought a bag of dried Goji berries, sometimes touted as a superfood, which I had ordered online, and I was hugely disappointed when I saw the bag had an ingredients label which listed ‘Ingredients: Goji berries, sulphur dioxide.’ Damn, sulphur dioxide is the principal ingredient in acid rain! Yuk!
Beware of eating too much dried fruit, that includes raisins, sultanas, figs, dates and so on. Dried fruit is a very concentrated source of sugar. The live natural waters are gone from the fruit, but the sugar is preserved. Over many hundreds of years selective breeding by farmers and corporations trying to make profits has made fruit fatter, juicier, sweeter and more sugary than it ever used to be. So dried fruit is quite a sugary snack, and a few handfuls can soon add up to a lot of sugar calories. In moderation, as an occasional snack, it’s a fairly healthy way to enjoy something sweet. I do eat dried fruit, but in moderation.
- Eat only plants and animals – that’s vegetables, meat, fish, eggs and fruit
- The ideal diet is roughly half plants, half animal products
- Think outdoor reared, free range, grass fed, organic
- Try to buy local and seasonal produce
- Nuts and dried fruit are OK, in moderation