Chew on it

As we enter 2011, here are some resolutions to consider in regards to healthy eating.

Broccoli (cartoon) 521 (photo credit: MCT)
Broccoli (cartoon) 521
(photo credit: MCT)
More than a year ago, a friend invited me to join her for a weekend in Galilee of “body cleansing and healthy eating,” as she put it. Always game for an interesting weekend away, I gladly accepted, and off we went to Mitzpe Alumot.
What I was not prepared for was a weekend of raw food – no bread, no starch, hardly any protein but legumes and a lot of raw fruits and vegetables in every form imaginable. For a dedicated meat-and-potatoes person like me, this was a real shock to my system, but I did come away feeling cleansed and lighter.
While I found the food at Alumot metaphorically hard to digest, what I did take in with relish were the idyllic surroundings and the lectures on health and nutrition. The lectures were filled with good sense and excellent explanations, and I went home with an arsenal of illuminating insights into the whys and wherefores of healthy eating.
Over the year, I have slipped back into a lot of my not-so-healthy eating habits, but there are some principles I still adhere to. So now, as we enter 2011, and the opportunity to make New Year’s resolutions is at hand, I’d like to share some of the do’s and don’ts that made sense to me – as I understood them – and, thus inspired, put them back into practice.
As they said at Alumot, of course you don’t have to follow all the guidelines, but even if you change one or two habits, that will be a healthy improvement.
✧ Chew your Food very well before swallowing. This signals the brain that food is coming and prepares the body to accept it. And the stomach doesn’t have teeth, so the more the food is chewed, the better the body is able to digest it.
✧ Eat fresh fruit and raw vegetables as often as you can.
✧ If you’re going to cook vegetables, steam them, don’t boil them. Steaming will retain the vegetables’ natural vitamins. Boiling will destroy them.
✧ Always eat fruit on an empty stomach. You can have fruit half an hour before a meal or two hours after. Otherwise, the acid from the fruit ferments the food in the stomach and causes indigestion and other unpleasantness.
✧ Do not eat cooked fruit.
✧ If you eat dried fruit, make sure it has no artificial coloring. Fruit dries to a natural brown color. Dried fruit sold commercially that is white, orange or red has been treated with artificial coloring.
✧ Do not drink anything during a meal, as it dilutes the digestive juices. Drink water half an hour before a meal or two hours after, but not during. And if you’re thirsty during a meal, it’s an indication that the food is too salty. You should be getting the liquids you need from the vegetables you should be having in the meal.
✧ Avoid salt as much as possible. Use lemon juice on meat and vegetables, as well as natural herbs and spices.
✧ When frying anything in oil, temper the oil with water before you turn on the gas. Once oil reaches a certain high temperature it becomes a transfat – even healthful oil like olive oil. So keep the temperature level by balancing it with water.
✧ Avoid cooking food in aluminum pots or containers and do not wrap food directly in aluminum foil. Use waxed paper or parchment paper (pergament) as a buffer between the food and the aluminum wrap.
✧ Don’t use margarine for anything. It is made from ingredients the body cannot recognize and is unable to break down.
✧ If you feel you must drink coffee, try to limit yourself to one cup a day.
✧ Drink three cups of green tea a day. It is rich in antioxidants, which are good for the body.
✧ Avoid artificial sweeteners. They can cause many negative side effects in the long term.
✧ Do not eat hot dogs or cold cuts. These foods are filled with nitrates, which strangle the arteries.
✧ Avoid minced meat or minced chicken, as it is a haven for bacteria. It is better to have a beef or chicken steak than meat that has been chopped, especially if it has been sitting in the butcher’s meat counter all day or longer.
✧ Steer clear of charcoal barbecues, as the charcoal and the lighter fluid are infused directly into the meat.
✧ Avoid using a microwave. Radiation of any kind cannot be good for food.
✧ Do not eat anything after 8 p.m. The body has an evening schedule in which it processes the food from the day. If you eat after 8, it interferes with that process and causes undue discomfort.
Hopefully, we will step into 2011 on the right foot and with the right food.