Monday, August 03, 2009
Over my next few articles, I'm going to be talking about different properties and values of foods than you might normally think of. Over and above the more commonly discussed macronutrients (carbs, protein, fats) and micronutrients (vitamins and minerals), there are aspects to food that I'll call "Food Energy." And by that I do not mean calories, which are a tangible way of measuring the physical aspect of food energy. The type of Food Energy I'll be referring to will give you a new perspective on food to consider as you shop for groceries and prepare meals for you and your family. Any quotes you see in these articles will come from one of my favourite books, "Food & Healing" by AnneMarie Colbin. If you're at all intrigued by anything you read here, I highly recommend picking up a copy of this book. It will change your view about food, your body, and health.
And now for this article's topic:
The Life Force of Food
Imagine if you will Yoda, sitting on a rock in a deep dark cave, with Luke Skywalker standing before him. Yoda offers Luke a choice: In one hand a plate of freshly picked, lightly steamed vibrant green beans that were then sauteed in fresh minced garlic and extra virgin olive oil... Mmmmm. In the other, a plate of green beans that came from a can, that were soaking in salt water for months (if not years), without exposure to oxygen or sunlight, then microwaved and ready to go.... Can you see them there on the plate? A drab olive green, uniform in size and shape, kinda soggy. Yoda tells Luke, "The Force is with you... if you choose wisely."
Come to think of it, don't Yoda's ears kind of look like green beans? Anyhoo, I digress...
Our bodies, living systems that they are, are more than just the sum of their parts. There is an "organizing energy field" that interconnects the various systems of the body so that they work in synchronicity with one another. Vitality and health are promoted when there is balance between these systems and sufficient energy available to keep them humming; illness occurs when there is imabalance and a lack of energy.
Likewise, live whole
foods have a "force field" and when we consume them, we also consume that vital energy along with the calories, carbs, fat, protein, vitamins and minerals that comprise them. The energy of live foods nourishes our own life force.
A variety of factors influences the Vital Energy of foods, including cooking methods, heating, cooling, methods of preservation... and perhaps most critically, food processing and refining
, which in effect creates "partial foods" (as opposed to "whole: foods). Let's take the example of wheat.
About a 100 years ago or so, the process of separating the parts of a wheat kernel and removing the bran and germ off the wheat (endosperm) was found to produce flour that is whiter, fluffier, and lasted longer (ie: was cheaper for bread manufacturers to use). After some decades, it was then found that the wheat germ and bran actually contained a lot of nutrients and fibre. So while we continued to eat white bread, we started to add the germ and bran to other foods such as cereal, baked goods, etc. Meantime, studies were being done on populations that ate unrefind grains, and it was found that these people had almost no digestive tract diseases or disorders, while those populations that were eating the refined products suffered from constipation, IBS, etc.
The enrichment of flour to add back in some of the nutrients that were lost in the refining doesn't really solve the problem. It is nearly impossible for humans to try to recreate the right proportion of nutrients into the food as it would have had naturally, but what completely escapes is the life energy they contained when they were part of the original living plant. The synergy that once existed between the parts is gone, and cannot be synthetically added back in. AnneMarie Colbin draws a vivid comparison: Imagine that you've lost your arm, and you get fitted with a prosthetic one. It might have the form, and be able to fulfill some of the functions as your live arm did, but it's lacking in certain living aspects like sensation and communication with other parts of your body.
While this "juggling act" of adding parts of foods into your diet can work to help eliminate or reduce the symptoms of imbalance, it creates stress on the body as it tries to keep up with these partial foods it has to digest and assimilate. Nowadays, we have wheat flour that has been so refined, and now even genetically modified, that it has become much higher in protein than the original wheat plant ever had naturally. The protein found in wheat is called "gluten." Heard of it? More and more people are discovering that many of their digestive symptoms (gas, bloating, painful cramping, constipation, IBS, etc) and other symptoms (such as allergies, lowered immune system, headaches and migraines, etc) are in fact a reaction to the highly-glutenized grains they've been eating. Gluten intolerance and Celiac Disease have become a more and more commonly diagnosed condition, and more and more people are realizing that by simply removing wheat (and other glutenous grains such as barley, oats, rye, and spelt) from their diets, how much better they're feeling.
The last 150 years or so of food manufacturing, if nothing else positive has come of it, has definitely been a grand experiment (and we've all been a subjects in it, whether we knew it or not) and a lot of learning about food has come from it. As we learn more, it seems to become a matter of cost of production and storage, vs nutritional value, that plays the deciding factor in what we find on grocery store shelves. I'm so glad to see that consumers are demanding healthier, quality, whole foods and more and more these are becoming available to us. When choosing your foods, and trying to decide what is the best value, consider that the purpose of eating is to fuel and support your body. It sustains you through all the stresses of modern living, all the punishment we put it through, and it's the vessel that we use to experience all the joys in this world as well. What value is there in a "cheap" processed food that at best doesn't support vitality, and at worst actually sucks the life and energy out of your body and cells and leads to chronic illness? What value is there in a perhaps (but not always) more expensive food that is bursting with vital nutrients and has maintained it's own life force? To me the choice is clear: The more whole, LIVE foods I can choose, the more LIFE I will have in ME!
How many other methods of food processing exist that may affect the life energy that food can provide? Without getting into too much detail (I can elaborate in another article, if you're interested leave a comment asking me!) here are a few (note that they're not all negatively impacting, they simply AFFECT the energy quality):
- Heat (generally heating foods raises the energy level of foods, and so our's too, although it can also destroy many nutrients if we over do it)
- Cold (generally lowers the energy of foods, and so our's too)
- Preservation methods: cold storage, drying, salting, pickling & fermenting, smoking, freezing, canning, chemical preservatives and additives, irradiation, pasteurization)
Next we'll talk about the "Law of Opposites" and the Expansive & Contractive nature of foods!
Yoda photo courtesy of www.craziestgadgets.com
Wheat kernel photo courtesy of www.answers.com