Digesting and utilising the good food we buy and cookis far, far more involved than a simplified, mechanisticapproach to good health.
There are both physical andnon-physical factors that need to be present for digestion to take place, nutrients to be released andfully utilised by the body.
Most important of all, food needsto be real. Simply put, it needs the macro and micronutrients (the known and unknown), and many of theseare scarce or depleted in most conventionally farmedproducts today. Organic food is a far richer sourceof these macro and micro nutrients. If the nutrientsgoing into your body are limited this will restrictthe ability of your cells to function.
But going further,at a deeper level, real food contains lifeforce. Wherelifeforce originates is a mystery as awe inspiring asthe universe, but it makes life fully available, enablingthe seed to grow and flourish into plants, animals andhumans. Lifeforce can only flow in the presence of thatwhich is real. It is not fully available in intensivefactory farms (if at all). It is not fully availablein depleted and damaged soil, rich in synthetic andfractionalised nutrients and poisons. It is certainlynot at all available in foods created from fake ingredients- refined chemical flavours and colours. Realness isan interesting concept to ponder. I believe that, atits core, realness is only present when more than whatis material is transferred. At the surface level, afood can impart vitamins, minerals and so forth, butto be fully real it imparts to us the mystery of lifeforceand allows us to make use of the physical. Thomas Cowanin his amazingly wonderful book The Fourfold Path toHealing (highly recommended) refers to the story ofthe Velveteen Rabbit:
"Real isn't how you are made" said the SkinHorse. "It's a thing that happens to you. Whena child loves you for a long, long time, not just toplay with, but REALLY loves you, then you become real".
I would say to you that when foodis grown in harmony with nature, more than nutrientsare available and I would call it love. When food iscooked with love that also transfers to the eater.
Secondly, food needs to be compatiblewith your body - not mine, not your husband's, not yourchild's, not your naturopath's, not the current nutritionalbuzz, but your's! There are many paradigms of eating,(vegetarian, vegan and others) but I would say the onlyone I see that consistently works and seems most relevantis Ayurveda. This ancient system known as the "Motherof all Therapies" holds that there are the elementsof earth, water, fire, air and ether, and humans, aspart of nature, reflect this pattern. People are describedas Vata, Pitta or Kapha, or a combination. Holding tothis, certain foods, cooking methods and life patternssuit different people. But beyond Ayurveda, this issueof compatibility still holds true. An issue in pointwould be raw food - great for some, especially thosewith a strong digestion and constitution, not for thosewith weakened systems (especially in winter).
Anotheraspect of compatibility is the issue of whole as distinctfrom refined or processed foods. Nature does not operatein a vacuum - many bits work together to enable andform the whole, and digestion is no different. Separatingfood from the whole, and even then rearranging it, makesdigestion very, very difficult. With regard to processedfoods - rice cakes are a great example here. A smallbowl of brown rice, soaked overnight and cooked, sprinkledwith some tamari seeds and even served cold as a snack(which let's face it, is pretty boring) will be fareasier to digest and enjoy than a rice cake. A ricecake is so highly processed the nutrients no longerexist! They're very difficult to digest, and I dareanyone to write and tell me they delight in eating them.
Enjoyment is the third key factor for our food to betruly beneficial. The "healthiest" meal eatenbut not fully enjoyed and delighted in will not nourish.It will not call forth the forces needed for digestion.Yes, there may be digestive enzymes which spring intoaction (though only real food has that ability), butnot the metaphysical vibration of satisfaction and delightthat ensures full digestion and absorption. May I sayhere, it's similar to sex. Yes, sex can satisfy, butmaking love is something much more. It not only satisfies,it enriches and calls forth who you are. Eating realfood that you enjoy and is compatible with you doesexactly that too - it enriches and enables you to callforth who you really are.
I see so many people eating what theythink they should eat, what I would call politicallycorrect health food. Yet it is not making them healthyand satisfied. It is so very important that you enjoy yourfood. Health is not about eating food that is totallybland and boring, leaving you unsatisfied and empty.It might have all the "health" goodies aplenty,but if it does match and delight you, it will not dowhat you want it to do - nourish the body and the soul.Equally, it can be delicious as, but have no nutrientsand this also will fail to nourish body and soul. Atleast one of your food times - breakfast, lunch or dinner-must be in the form of a meal. And this means sittingdown to eat something that is nourishing (has lots ofnutrients) and enjoyable (delicious) and stop doing- relax a little. It is not a snack, it's not anotherjob to rush through, it's a meal. It should be realand it should taste great. Set the table, talk, laughand be fed - this is when you open up to the forcesthat
And there are other aids to digestionwe should look at. I would say again that, first andforemost, your food should be real, but other thingshelp - and I'm not talking about digestive enzymes intablet form. Think about increasing (or introducingyourself to) Lacto Fermented foods and drinks. Thesenot only supply an abundant source of enzymes to helpdigestion, but the kind of good bacteria that promotea healthy environment within the digestive system. Soakyour whole grains (overnight in water with a bit ofyoghurt, whey or buttermilk, drain before cooking) andthey become much easier to digest.
Stocks made fromorganic bones (including fish) are rich in gelatine,and are invaluable in this role of easing digestionand ensuring better absorption of the nutrients supplied.(Use stock liberally.)
Now you might be thinking that I havegiven you the green light to go ahead and eat somethinglike Tim Tams (they delight, you love them and you wantthem, hey they fit the criteria!). My answer to thiswould be, if you are eating real food that you enjoyin a balanced way, meals rather than snacks, you shouldn'tbe craving the likes of Tim Tams anyway - they "hit"you with sugar, but not much else. Instead, you easilyinclude in your day some great, enjoyable healthy treatthat's also packed full of nutrients. You could sayto yourself, "This path is not about deprivation,so I could have a great homemade Choc Chip cookie madewith real ingredients and real chocolate". Youwill be eating a wealth of nutrients, enjoying it andhopefully digesting it. Give yourself a big hug andpat on the back, because in that thought, you've gotwhat it's all about.