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Eating and Drinking for Health

Embracing change
The answer to many a modern ailment lies in change of dietary habits. The modern diet contains too many refined foods; saturated fats; sugars; caffeine; artificial food additives. Changing habits needn't be an arduous process, or a boring one. It all depends on your attitude. Take it slowly making small changes bit by bit; see it as a game or an adventure. If the thought of changing your diet makes you depressed then don't do it. Take up yoga or rock climbing instead.

Food and emotions
Food is about love and it is important that you love what you eat, don't get bogged down with it. Remember food is about nourishment, nurturing and taking care of you, your family and friends. If you cook for others your attitude towards food and cooking will come across to them too. If you find yourself thinking negatively when cooking, try putting on some of your favourite music.

Water and health
It is highly beneficial to drink about two litres of water a day if you can manage it. Filtered water is a cost effective alternative to our rather revolting tap water, but for purists bottled water (preferably in glass) or purified water is even better. Drink water away from meals. Sip only small amounts, if at all, while you are eating. Excess liquid will dilute your digestive secretions, which can lead to poor digestion of food and heartburn. Simply drinking more water can help many minor health problems - e.g. dry skin, urinary infections, fatigue.

Positive eating
Try not to have meals on the go or when you are feeling hurried, stressed or upset. Take a bit of time to calm and centre yourself before you eat. Eating whilst stressed can lead to poor digestion and heartburn. It is very important to chew your food well; this leads to better digestion, and better assimilation of nutrients. Drinking dandelion coffee an hour before you eat will aid digestion. Fennel or peppermint tea drunk after a meal will ease wind or bloating. Let your food digest for one or two hours before you go to bed.

Balance in diet is unique for each person
Every person is unique. So each person will benefit from different types of foods. The Chinese system of healing makes a distinction between hot and cool persons and persons who are dry or damp. Foods can also be classified in this manner. So cooling foods are suitable for people who have heat signs and vice versa. For more information on the classification of foods in this way see Paul Pitchford's Healing with Wholefood.

Less is more
You can help your digestion and aid your health by not over eating and by choosing simple food combinations. Money saved choosing the more simple foods can be spent on choosing better quality, organic ingredients.

Tea and coffee
Tea and Coffee are best taken on an irregular basis, if at all. Regular consumption of these caffeine drinks can lead to poor absorption of nutrients - particularly minerals and a reduction in your body's ability to throw off toxins such as uric acid. This is particularly important advice for arthritis sufferers. Herbal teas on the other hand, provide a wide variety of nutrients, may be used to alleviate minor health problems and are generally detoxifying. With such a variety to choose from - there is a herbal tea to suit everyone. For those new to herbal teas try green tea - there are some tasty blended teas available; rooibos tea - which may be taken with milk; the yogi tea range - for those who like spicy teas and mint tea - refreshing and simple.

Cut down on wheat consumption
The Haelan Centre stocks many wheat-free types of bread. Many are based on rye, yet there are some which are suitable for those who are intolerant to gluten. Most of types of bread we sell, particularly the sourdough varieties, are better toasted. This improves the flavour and stops the yeast fermentation process that is still slightly active thus making the bread lighter and aiding digestion. Those seeking alternatives to wheat pasta may try replacing it with pasta made from spelt or kamut. These are ancient varieties of wheat not in widespread use; therefore our bodies are less likely to be sensitive to them. Those with gluten intolerance should avoid them. For more information see the Gluten-Free Diet page. Also try pasta or noodles made from rice or buckwheat. Cook sweet or savoury pancakes using rice flour or Doves gluten-free flour instead of wheat flour. This flour also works well in all sweet or savoury cakes. However, when using it to substitute self-raising flour, baking powder must be added.

Use a variety of grains
When cooking rice add a handful of quinoa or amaranth to give more texture and a nutty flavour. Both grains are easy to digest and extremely high in calcium and magnesium. (Both grains cook in about 7-10 minutes, not in 35 minutes as is often written on the packet!) Amaranth can also be added into porridge by soaking it over night in water with some raisins etc. (see recipe). You can make porridge with Quinoa flakes, or try using half quinoa flakes half ordinary porridge oats. Both Quinoa and Amaranth are rich in calcium and magnesium. For recipes containing couscous (made from wheat,) try millet or buckwheat instead. Or at least try our wholemeal couscous, which is tastier and more nourishing than the refined kind.

Eat your greens
Organic vegetables provide a good source of vitamins and minerals. Red, orange and yellow fruits and vegetables are rich in beta carotene an important anti-oxidant, as are dark green leafy vegetables which are additionally rich in chlorophyll which aids detoxification of the gut. Organic vegetables are generally richer in minerals due to the use of natural fertilizers. You should try to include a wide variety of vegetables, salads and fruits in your diet.

Cut down on dairy consumption
These days it is very easy to substitute cow's milk for a vegan alternative. There are many tasty "plant" milks around, all may be used in cooking and with cereals but some milks are better than others for use in tea and coffee. Soya milk is the most popular alternative, but it might not be the most suitable for you. See Soya and Health for more information. Experiment with rice milk - delicious with cereals; oat milk - rich and creamy; and coconut milk - ideal for use in cooking. Almond milk is made by putting about ten blanched almonds in a blender with a cup of water and blending it into 'milk'. We don't sell pre-packaged almond milk because it contains sugar. You can serve pasta with a vegan pesto sauce or make a white sauce using soya cream, almond or coconut milk, and add a lighter, fresh cheese such as feta or goat's cheese. Soya, almond and coconut milk make excellent replacements for cow's milk or yoghurt in recipes. You can also use almond butter (you will find this near the peanut butters). Add two teaspoons into the dish of vegetables that you are cooking, stirring in some water or milk substitute. Coconut milk is available in cartons, or coconut cream in a hard block, which you slice off thin pieces and add with a little liquid, either water or milk substitute, just before the dish is cooked.

Cut down on sugar
Sugar of any type is a refined product and causes many problems, particularly when it is taken regularly in excess. Blood sugar imbalances cause a wide range of problems, including; mood swings; reduced ability to concentrate; worsened pre-menstrual symptoms; leading to hypo and hyper-glycaemia (diabetes). All refined foods and drinks that contain sugar should be eradicated from the diet, or only taken in small amounts on special occasions. Sweeten your foods with fruit purees and juices; honey; maple syrup; agave syrup or brown rice syrup. Those with yeast imbalances should use sweet foods (including fruit) sparingly.

Vegetarians and protein
Many vegetarians do not have enough protein in their diet, or rely too heavily on protein-rich refined soya products. This is a shame as it is very simple, cheap and tasty to combine pulses with grains to get the full range of amino acids, which constitute protein. Protein-rich spirulina powder can also be added to smoothies or simply stirred into apple juice to disguise it's rather seaweedy flavour. Bee pollen is also a good source of protein - take half a teaspoon a day. Sprouted grains, particularly Quinoa are also very good sources of protein.

Essential Fatty Acids
Essential fatty acids are essential because they cannot be made by our bodies from the food we eat, we have to have a regular intake in our diet. It has been said that essential fatty acid deficiency is the most common nutritional deficiency, yet most people tend to focus more on vitamin and minerals supplementation rather than these important fats. You can get your daily requirement by grinding fresh golden linseeds, pumpkinseeds and sunflower seeds (one third of each) and taking three tablespoons of the powder every day. You can stir it into soups or stews or have it with yoghurt on fruit. The powder should be stored in a dark glass jar in the fridge and used within a week. Alternatively you can take an essential fatty acid supplement. It is recommended that you start off taking a linseed oil supplement, for six months to redress Omega-3 EFA deficiency. After this six-month period, change to a balanced EFA supplement such as Udo's Oil; Essential Balance or Hemp Seed Oil. You may take between 15 - 45ml of oil every day depending on age and symptoms. Please note that as soon as oil is heated it looses all its therapeutic benefits even if it is a cold pressed, good quality oil.

Use Mineral Rich Seaweed
Seaweeds are a rich source of common and trace minerals. Mineral deficiency is more common than vitamin deficiency as minerals have been leeched from the soil at an alarming rate due to the continued and widespread use of manufactured fertilisers. Seaweed offers a natural answer to this problem. Seaweed also has the property of binding to heavy metals (such as lead and mercury) and carrying them out of the body. Hijiki seaweed is virtually tasteless and may be added to soups and stews, or cooked with rice. Just add to the pot and cook your dish as normal. Nori flakes can be used as a condiment; wakame is traditionally cooked with beans to improve their digestibility. Seaweed is a cooling food, cook with warming spices if you have a cold constitution.

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