Do you remember when fast food didn’t exist and a good portion of your food came from your household backyard garden? Uneaten fruits ended up becoming delicious preserves and veggies became pickles and sauces.
That wasn’t very long ago in the scope of our human existence but during this time period we have seen major changes in our food production, distribution and quite simply the way we eat.
Produce and grains have been hybridized to create higher yields and foods that can withstand thousands of miles of transport and weeks of “freshness” (really visual aesthetics) as they sit on shelves waiting to be bought.
But what has been lost?
Flavour, variety and most importantly – nutrient value.
All of those lovely, perfectly cloned tomatoes, peaches and potatoes have lost large percentages of various vitamins and minerals due to this shift to mass production practices. Of course, they lose even more as they sit on shelves (and in your fridge) waiting to be part of your home-prepared meal.
So maybe we never think about this.
Possibly/probably we have been assured by conventional sick care that what we eat has very little to do with heath issues in general.
Likely, if we rely on media for information we have been confused to the point of defeat by contradicting new evidence and ensuing advice about nutrition.
As it turns out, the science of nutrition is extremely complicated due to lack of diagnostic tools over history but even more so due to the fact that metabolic processes are complex and difficult to isolate and measure. Add to this the reality that every human being is biochemically unique and therefore processes and reacts to everything differently and you have a complex task to say the least.
To break it down, we are learning new things all the time, newer technologies are increasing our understanding of how the body works and we are slowly unraveling this tangled web of nutritional information.
We know now that everything we consume becomes who we are on a cellular level.
In other words, we are what we eat but more accurately, we are what we absorb.
Now that we know that our food choices are crucial to our health and longevity, what can we do to make real food more accessible to us?
Grow it at home?
Yes! Bring back the backyard (or front yard) garden. This is the single most sustainable and economical way to feed your family. It often results in a bumper crop to share with others!
This may seem like a ton of work and it can be as much or as little as you prefer.
In a search for a solution to our dying lawn situation we recently converted our front yard to a naturalized state with beautiful native plants that need no extra watering. Since our backyard receives very little sun, we added a few vegetable garden beds amongst the plantings where we are “experimenting” with growing some veggies.
I say “experimenting” because as a busy family of 6, we are always on the go. If I can get things planted in the spring and check on them once in a blue moon, we are ahead of the game.
We have also planted two different pear trees, two apple trees, a peach tree, blueberry bushes, asparagus, raspberries, rhubarb and some perennial strawberry plants. We don’t spray with any chemicals and use organic seeds and seedlings wherever possible. We also compost in a backyard composter (get one from the city in the spring!), which provides us with nutrient rich compost to add to the vegetable beds. Composting enables us to put out a single can of garbage per week on garbage day!
Herbs are by far, the easiest and most tolerant things to grow. Parsley, chives, thyme, mint and oregano will come back year after year. Tomatoes ran rampant our beds this year and I pulled a few pounds of carrots fresh from the soil well into December!
If you don’t have the lawn space, container gardening on a patio or deck is a great option. Otherwise, there is an amazing option in the city with the Equal Ground Community Gardens Initiative. This group has created various garden plots across Brantford where you can volunteer to help grow food for your self and/or for those in need for the food bank. The Brantford Food Bank has the capacity to store fresh food so they do happily accept donations.
Increasingly, as a society we tend to eat on the run (probably more than we need to) but the good news is that more and more local businesses are trending towards fresher, healthier & more locally sourced food offerings.
The food we choose to eat is arguably the most powerful aspect to our health – most of our modern-day diseases can be prevented and often reversed by following an optimal eating regime.
The good news is that you have full control over what you put on your fork and in your cup.
There are 3 pillars to an ideal diet (as in your everyday lifelong eating habits).
1. Eat Fresh whole food – The closer food is to the way it was grown, the more nutritious it is.
2. Eat Seasonally - We have evolved to most efficiently absorb and metabolize foods as they are locally in season. This is when they are most economical as well.
3. Eat a variety of different foods – This way we cover more nutritional ground, keep food interesting and reduce the prospects of developing sensitivities due to over exposure.
So where do we start?
Eating at home is the ideal method to having complete control of what we consume, keeping healthy and keeping extra weight at bay.
Shop at the local farmer’s market (but be aware of vendors who simply sell food terminal fruits & veggies).
The Brantford Farmers Market boasts local meats, fish, cheese, popcorn, prepared foods, natural cosmetics, soaps and other crafts.
Seek out local farmers who go the extra mile to provide pesticide free produce and hormone/antibiotic free meats. They do exist and this is a far more sustainable model for providing food than factory farming and soil depleting monocropping.
CSA (community supported agriculture) shares are a great way to do this.
Speaking of seasonal eating. it’s almost Maple Syrup time, This nutrient-dense sweetener is right in our proverbial back yard in the Carolinian Forest Biome.
Maple syrup has been used for centuries. It was first collected and used by indigenous people before they introduced it to early European settlers.
Traditional; medicinal uses of maple syrup include combining it with other herbs (such as juniper berry, catnip and ginger), teas, lemon juice and/or apple cider vinegar to improve insulin sensitivity, help combat metabolic disorders such as diabetes, improve digestion, and increase immunity against colds and respiratory issues. Because of its natural harvesting method and history as a healing sweetener, this is one reason why today many people still choose maple syrup as their sweetener of choice.
Maple Syrup boasts a lower glycemic index than other natural sugars, therefore it doesn’t raise blood sugar as much. It contains phenolics and phytochemicals that have been shown to be anti-inflammatory and antioxidant. It contains beneficial nutrients such as; zinc, manganese, potassium and calcium, which are all crucial dietary components affecting immunity, bone health and other metabolic functions.
I like to use Maple Syrup as my main sweetener in baking and on Wild Pacific Salmon. Most recipes work with maple syrup substitution. It is naturally less sweet than sugar or honey so keep that in mind. I have tweaked a few recipes but my absolute favourite is a corn muffin. Corn muffins are so versatile in that they can be sweet or savoury or spicy or cheesy. It’s your choice!
Enjoy this low sugar/high fibre recipe for savoury Maple Corn Muffins.
Yours in Holistic Health,
Cherie Elliott BSc.(Hons.)
Registered Holistic Nutritionist (RHN)