Yes, I am an herbalist, not a dietician, I know. The thing is, despite the fact that many of us don’t eat much of the plant variety, the vast majority of food available to us are in fact, plants.
The “Father of Modern Medicine” Hippocrates was actually an herbalist. He was a major player in the development and documentation of Western Herbalism. We all know he famously said that food should be our medicine and medicine should be our food. We have gotten a teensy ways off from that don’t you think?
Herbs and food overlap. Many herbs are both medicinal and food - think garlic, a supremely medicinal antimicrobial wrapped up in a package of delicious food. Ginger is another example, turmeric, saffron, onions, elderberries, nettles, burdock root, beets, chickweed, fennel, cinnamon, these are all foods AND medicines with established clinical, therapeutic uses.
One of the complaints of people trying herbal medicine is that changes may not happen overnight. Instead of seeing this as a bad thing, we can recognize it as a sign of gentleness, safety, and harmony. The plants work with your body instead of abruptly changing it. This is also why people rarely report unexpected side effects from herbal medicine. A side effect, in many ways, is the body trying to cope with abrupt and aggressive changes.
Food medicine is this way too. You can add beets to your diet on a daily basis and not even realize you are cleaning and detoxifying your liver. This isn’t because it isn’t working, the reason it is an incognito effect is that it is working so harmoniously, that your body isn’t impaired by the process.
So, if we are designed to generally consume plants with some animals, sea creatures, shellfish, honey, and nutrient dense foods like herbs mixed in. What does eating a modern diet of processed foods do to us?
Well for one, sugar wasn’t part of our diet for most of human existence. Any layman can observe from our diabetes epidemic that our bodies haven’t adapted to consume sugar to this extent. Truly, anyone can benefit from cutting or reducing sugar in their diet. It’s simple and significant.
Processed foods are full of chemicals, preservatives, stabilizing agents, fortified with artificial nutrients, and even dyed, for fun. None of these things that lace processed foods are actually food. They are what I like to call “food like substances” meaning they are not poisonous in the moment, they are ‘edible’ yet they are also not food. Food by definition is a nutritious substance that people (or plants/animals) eat or drink in order to maintain life and growth. I also like to think of food as something that has life to give. We eat to live, we kill things to eat (plants or animals) and we consume their life so that we may continue to have one. Food should give us life.
When the body is consuming too many “food like substances” it doesn’t know what to do with the parts that aren’t food. Where do I store the Red 40? What nutrients can I extract from the hydrogenated corn oil? Is the high fructose corn syrup for the brain? Trying to break down and extract nutrients from these chemicals is stressful… for your body.
We are inadvertently increasing inflammation and the stress load on our bodies by eating foods that are highly processed and void of nutrients.
When I say “we” I mean it. Just yesterday I had my arm elbow deep in a foil lined bag of white cheddar popcorn. Sure, I bought it at Trader Joes and yes, it is a non-GMO corn and the oil isn’t hydrogenated, but it is still a food like substance. Nothing in that bag is going to feed my brain, or my liver, or repair any breakdown in my circulatory system, or improve my mood. It isn’t food, it doesn’t have life to give.
I don’t believe in diets or being skinny or waiting until you lose those pounds to enjoy your body or wear a swimsuit. I think our societal weight obsession is toxic. You can be skinny and dangerously unhealthy and you can be plump and perfectly well. So please don’t mistake my rant about foods as a diet or weight loss rant.
I recommend to just about everyone that if they can change their diet to consume plants and animals 80% of the time - please more plants than animals. Then they can probably enjoy the standard American fare the other 20%. That means that 8 out of 10 things that go into your mouth CAN detox your liver, CAN feed your brain, CAN be converted into nutrients to heal circulatory problems, CAN give you life. This to me is doable and realistic.
If you do this, your body will change, in slow, sustainable ways. Your health will improve, your body will get what it needs to do its work and it will thank you.