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Traditional food is the new buzz word and healthy eating craze sweeping the world – well, the Western world anyway. Some people and certain entrepreneurs are pushing eating traditional like it’s some revelation when in fact it’s simply the food our grandparents mostly grew up eating.   

Coeliac disease, irritable bowel, allergies, obesity, diabetes, heart attacks, strokes, and a myriad of other diseases and disorders can often be attributed to diet or in other words what we eat. By not eating certain foods or eating less of something we can avoid getting these illnesses in the first place and often cure ourselves from a disorder by changing our diet.   

Barley (image above) contains gluten

The buzz for the past several years now has been on eliminating certain “evil foods” like wheat, for instance, mainly by those who suffer from coeliac disease. It is well known that gluten in wheat causes the coeliac sufferer to become sick so by avoiding foods with wheat or gluten as an ingredient they can stay healthy.

Gluten not evil?

However, new research into dietary diseases like celiac indicates pointing the finger at just one ingredient, protein, or element might be a little too simplistic and possibly even totally wrong. For instance, scientists in Australia are currently working on evidence which may prove gluten not to be the “bad guy” after all in certain other intestinal problems like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

IBS may, in fact, be caused by the sugars or fructans in wheat rather than the proteins; therefore, those IBS sufferers who follow the coeliac diet tend to benefit from better health not because of abstaining from gluten but because they eat less fructans. And, there’s probably lots more foods or compounds we ought to eat less and it’s our overindulgence which makes us ill.

I know a person who suffers from IBS when they eat too much pastry or fat like a good feed of KFC. She seems to feel it’s not wheat related but more to do with her body trying to cleanse itself of the excess fat contained in the overly processed food.

Heed the warnings from our body

Getting sick makes perfect sense if you consider it logically and is probably a completely normal way for our body to act when trying to keep us from absorbing food we shouldn’t really be eating or don’t need. I mean, why wouldn’t our body tell us what is good or not good for us? Of course it is going to give us warnings not to overindulge in a certain food again in the hope we listen and learn from the experience.

Even subtle signs from our body should be heeded; things such as: lethargy, low immune, headaches, poorly formed stools, lacking certain vitamins and minerals, and weight gain. I’m not a doctor but you don’t need to be one to understand 90% of dietary related illnesses are due to overindulgence – full stop.          

Most of us are guilty of overindulging on occasions; however, it only becomes a problem when overindulgence becomes routine. There was a time towards the end of my military career when for almost a 12 month period every lunch time (I possibly could) I would leave the barracks go find a takeaway food shop buy something unhealthy and go eat it at some park in peace.

I had had a gut full (literally) of the unrelenting madness of work and this was my little “out” to get away over lunch with my “comfort food.” Unfortunately, the consequences for forming this little unhealthy habit was a weight gain of about 7 kgs, higher blood pressure, and raised cholesterol.

In the end, the only thing that saved me was I quit my job and retired from the Army.  Then, just as easily I got back into a healthier lifestyle, lost several kilos, and felt a whole lot better. But, I shouldn’t have waited until I quit my job to act on my unhealthy habit – that was wrong. When I think about it now, my lunch breaks munching on bad food only made my situation worse and the “comfort food” did the opposite in reality by putting more stress on my body.

Traditional foods are everywhere

This morning I went into the backyard and picked three oranges – two for my kids school lunches (cut into 1/8th pieces) and one for me to have with my breakfast. Natural foods straight from the garden (if you can) are the traditional foods we need to eat more of and there’s nothing new about this process.    

Metro-greenies like to spruik the magnificent newly found qualities of the latest rare seed or ancient grain sold only by their secret source at the Indian spice shop down near the train station. That’s just total puke and sometimes listening to this dribble makes me want to shake them and say, GET A GARDEN!  

Yes, it’s true some of these old traditional grains in their more raw forms are better than other highly refined grains but eating bucket loads of this “special” food won’t necessarily make you live to 110 - it’s more likely to either give you diarrhoea or constipation (or both) instead of longevity.

Humble carrot - easily home-grown and full of vitamins/antioxidants (image above)

Honestly, the best traditional food diet we can eat is one which includes a high variety of in season fresh fruit and vegetables, proteins with a normal amount of fats, and a mixture of nuts/grains. We don’t need to go on a quest to find the miracle food we just need to eat a varied diet and limit the overindulging to rare occasions rather than routinely.

You don’t really need a garden to benefit…

Naturally, to eat traditional food doesn’t mean you have to grow it yourself but I would say it should mean you have to make the majority of meals that you and your family eat. This accomplishes two main things:

  • Knowing what’s in your food – When you make your own meals from whole foods like fresh fruit and vegetables, meats, and grains etc you choose what other ingredients end up on the plate. You can limit sodium, you don’t need to add preservatives because you’re cooking to eat now, and you don’t have to eat residual chemicals if you buy organically grown produce.
  • Control over how your food is prepared – This is important! Processed, pre-cooked, and fast food often lacks nutrients because of the way it needs to be prepared to keep it safe and preserved on the shelf. Often, we don’t need to overcook the hell out of our food and destroy valuable nutrients. Many vegetables can be cooked slightly underdone or incorporated into salads to preserve vitamins.      

Conclusion

Traditional food really just means eating normally (well that’s what it should mean) and eating normally isn’t hard to do. If you want to seek some ancient grain for its claimed healthy eating qualities then go for it, however, don’t lose sight of the old tried and tested varied diet with plenty of fruit and vegetables.      

Because it’s likely the varied diet of fresh whole foods full of antioxidants and vitamins, is what really is keeping the body strong and healthy rather than the seven servings of ground flaxseeds eaten each week…  

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Mark Valencia - Editor SSM

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