“You can’t escape, with your body, problems that exist in your mind and soul.” -Ryan Holiday
Let’s face it. We all love food. Whether you’re a gastronome, a foodie who’s eager to travel or simply a person who loves to eat, food is something you want to taste good, above all else. Taste is king, they say.
But sometimes, taste can get in the way especially if we want to stick to a clean, healthy diet. It can feel like a comatose: you’re alive and fighting inside, but stuck and helpless outside.
If you’ve always felt like this, don’t be too hard on yourself. It’s not about you. It’s about modern day food! As shocking as it sounds, that’s exactly how the food industry is set up: setting us up for failure rather than success. In this article, let’s learn how.
The Gift of Taste
From an evolutionary point of view, all of us sense flavor through our nose and our mouth. Researchers say that it takes more DNA to write instructions for our tasting system than with any other part of our body.
Mark Schatzker, author of The Dorito Effect explains, “Nature endowed us with our most sophisticated bodily systems because it performed the body’s most essential tasks: getting important nutrients. Our ability to sense and enjoy food is no accident. We aren’t only flavor experts, but flavor has a firm grip on our minds which drives our behaviors and controls our moods.”
Flavor: Good or Bad?
Different foods have different nutrients and our brain’s ability to sense flavor from food enable us to determine which nutrients to eat. If we’re exhausted from physical activity, we crave something starchy, as starch quickly replenishes energy. If our muscles are fatigued, we crave for that gamey taste of meat because protein rebuild muscle. Unfortunately, we humans have learned how to manipulate flavor and make any food taste like anything we want. We can make corn taste like beef and chicken taste like lemon.
“The Food Problem is a flavor problem. For half a century, we’ve been making the stuff people should eat–fruits, vegetables, whole grains, unprocessed meats–incrementally less delicious. Meanwhile, we’ve been making the food people shouldn’t eat–chips, fast food, soft drinks, crackers–taste ever more exciting. The result is exactly what you’d expect.” –Mark Schatzker
It’s not only artificial flavoring that gets us running around in circles. Refined sugar is, more so, already considered an addictive drug.
According to Mark Hyman, M.D., director of the Cleveland Clinic for Functional Medicine, “Sugar is eight-times more addictive than cocoaine.”
In one of his blog articles, he goes on to explain that, “Being addicted to sugar and flour is not an emotional eating disorder. It’s a biological disorder, driven by hormones and neurotransmitters that fuel sugar and carb cravings–leading to uncontrolled overeating. It’s the reason nearly 70 percent of Americans and 40 percent of kids are overweight.”
Our behaviors, moods and biology have all been hijacked by chemicals that mask themselves as flavor and sugar! No wonder keeping up with that new diet feels so impossible. Could there possibly be a way out?
Reap What You Sow
The past months, I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to visit two organic and sustainable farms here in the Philippines. Not only was the visit a relaxing vacation, the trip also opened my eyes on how our food is meticulously grown and how food can cleanse us from our toxic habits.
Palaya Natural Farm derives its name from two Tagalog words, “Pala“, which means blessing and “Laya“, which means freedom. True enough, that’s exactly how I felt during my stay in this 68-hectare farmland located in Tanay, Rizal.
Aside from aiming to be the number one distributor of Dragon fruit in the country, it boasts of its natural farming protocols, meaning zero-chemicals, natural fertilizers, and extremely hospitable staff–one of whom toured us around and showed us how sustainable farming is done.
The fast-paced city life, after a while, becomes dull, toxic and saturating. Retreating to nature, I wanted to decongest, detoxify and plant seeds of awareness within myself so that hopefully I can take this glimmer of hope back into the city and inspire others to live more environmentally conscious lives. After all, the future will reap what we sow.
Bohol Bee Farm, on the other hand, isn’t your typical eco-friendly farm. The spirit of this multi-faceted wellness haven which houses an organic restaurant, cafe, ice cream store, spa and souvenir shop, is in its roots, all about consciousness and integration.
With sheer hardwork and a determination to uplift her community, Vicky Sandidge, a former OFW turned businesswoman, went home to Bohol and saw how nature creates a livelihood for the place.
Through bees, she weaves together the entire ecosystem and turn it into one of the most popular retreat destinations in the country for both local and foreign tourists. We shouldn’t underestimate the role bees play.
“Close to 100 crop species rely to some degree on pollination services provided by just one bee species—collectively, these crops make up approximately 1/3 of the U. S. diet, including the majority of high-value crops that contribute to healthy diets.”–May Berenbaum, proffessor at the University of Illinois.
In order for us to break free from the shackles of refined sugar and artificial chemicals, we need to take conscious and specific steps to set us free.
Returning to eating whole, natural and organic foods isn’t a trend, it’s simply how nature wants us to be. If we want to cut out toxic chemicals and we need to replace them with nourishing ones.
In the same light, it is equally important to know that the health of our environment determines the health of our food because, ultimately, the health of our food determines the health of our bodies.
If you’re the person who’s always craving savory or sugary food, try filling your plate up with these instead:
1. Green Leafy and/or Cruciferrous Vegetables. These types of vegetables are very lower glycemic, meaning they don’t spike blood sugar like starchy carbs. Plus, they are very high fiber, which keeps you full longer. Keeping your blood sugar level for the most part of the day prevents you from getting hungry every so often.
2. Herbs and Spices. These are great to add natural flavoring to your food. They’re cheap, free from calories and chock full of micronutrients! You can easily find then in all markets and grocery stores, or better yet, simply plant your own!
3. Quality Protein. Organic, free range or grass-fed meats does not only make you satiated longer, it offer nutrients not found in conventionally raised meat. Things like Omega-3 fatty acids and Vitamin B12, helps you burn more fat, suppress cravings and boost your immune system.
Also, they’re production is good for the environment. For plant based proteins, going for non-gmo sources will lower your exposure to toxic pesticides, keep your hormones healthy and increase nutrients and fiber in your diet. More fiber also keeps you full longer and makes you eat less throughout the day.
4. Healthy Fats. Use coconut oil or olive oil or lard from organically grown meat when cooking makes your food more flavorful plus offers important nutrients for immunity and replenishes your energy quickly. The energy source from fats burns out longer, meaning you’ll feel energized and less hungry overall. Remember, controling your hunger is key to avoid random snacking and overeating.
Removing addictive chemicals such as artificial flavoring and sugar takes a Herculean effort. With out fast-paced lifestyles and fast food culture, the magic of the farm rarely lands on our tables. The result is a disastrous and destructive reliance on convenience instead of navigating life with consciousness.
At the end of the day, we’re all on the same boat on our journey towards health and wellness. Indeed, no man is a island and it will take a collective effort for us to appreciate and re-embrace the wonderful flavors of nature.
“Food is an essential part of celebrating our culture, our families, and our lives. Food is fun. When we are celebrating with people whom we love, eating is really the pleasure that it should be. When we choose food that nourish us, our bodies feel happy, feel well, and stay well.” –Dr. Rachel Abrams, author, Body Wise