Humans are seekers, we love solutions that make life easier. And of all things in history, the quest for the optimum human diet is like finding the holy grail! Believe it or not fad diets have been around for well over 100 years! Although their methodologies have changed with time, the thought that one particular way of doing something would work for all has remained the same. Science and research have also been at the heels of fad diets strongly (and easily) disproving the 1920's Cigarette Diet, as an alternative to sweets, the 1950's Cabbage Soup Diet, with flatulence as its main side effect and the 1970's Sleeping Beauty Diet, where individuals were heavily sedated for days to reduce their food intake! Clearly, these are ridiculous and to varying degrees, unsafe and short-lived.
Fast forward to today and we are still in the great debate as to what is the ideal human diet. We have come far from the Grapefruit Juice Diet and many of the current day protocols have good science, which may make them more of a spring board then a rigid box to stay within. We have the various camps of paleo, vegan, vegetarian, keto, the carnivore diet, and more, plus the spokespeople, books and documentaries that may all have convincing points and notable results. Do I have the answer as to what is best? Well I can only answer for myself, and so can you.
I cannot stand for any one particular way of eating because through years of study and experience, it became apparent to me not one diet fits all. In fact, I have come to realize that there is only one diet that fits each body and it is based on your personal history with food, environment, trauma, experience, DNA, and life-stage. What worked for you as a child may not work for you now and what genes have expressed may change what foods heal you or hurt you.
So what now? If you let go of playing the diet game, where do you get the answers? Let me tell you a story first and maybe this will be relatable. I was a fairly healthy child with unhealthy habits. My parents made good meals, but even my mom would say, I was addicted to sweets and avoided veggies like the plague. Through college, I lived on canned tuna, ramen noodles, saltine crackers and cereal. By my mid-twenties I found yoga and decided to evaluate my health and food choices. The vegan diet appealed to me the most being an animal lover and assuming it would keep my weight in check. It did and honestly, served me well for years and I was convinced this was the way for everyone to eat. Then a funny thing happen and I was diagnosed with an autoimmune condition in my thirties. I was told by doctors that diet could not help my condition. I didn't buy it and rather than look for the standard diet protocol for autoimmune, I evaluated what nutrients I needed for myself and my condition. I needed minerals like selenium, zinc, iodine, the fatty acid omega-3 and vitamin A. For many of these, it's really hard to get from plant sources and I didn't want to live on pumpkin seeds and Brazil nuts. I also didn't want bottles of supplements. All of these nutrients were rich in fish and shellfish, and so there came another phase in my diet journey and a renewed love for seafood. I also had to evaluate how food made me feel and found gluten caused a flare in my symptoms and decided to remove that from my diet. I have come to understand that nothing is fixed, I am not married to dogma. And although I had to ask the questions and learn from others, I really had to look within and discover my personal needs to sustain a healthy life.
This is a journey and much like a yoga practice, the teacher may teach the flow, but we all fit into it in unique ways. We all look different, have varying range of motion and levels of strength - which can change day-to-day and year-to-year. As one of my teachers Jonny Kest would say, "everything is impermanent."
So no, there is not a quick fix, there is no perfect plan and there is no ending point. If we don't have health, it makes all other joys in life duller. And so your journey continues, listen to your body, evaluate your choices and distinguish what is working for you or against you. Be brave, do the work and ask for help when you need it. Set your goals, but forgive yourself when you need to.
HALIBUT AND COCONUT LASKA
(adapted from healingfamilyeats.com)
When I seek nutrient dense foods, along with the season change, I turn to soups. They are an easy way to eat your veggies and gain the benefits of fibers, minerals, vitamins and antioxidants! Plus, you have the opportunity to boost the nutrient content with a mineral or bone broth. Added bonus is one of my new favorite fish, halibut, rich in selenium, B-12, B-3, B-6, phosphorus, magnesium, potassium and omega-3 fat.
1 packet kelp noodles (I have used spaghetti squash noodles and that was amazing too).
1 medium onion, chopped
1 inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
1 stalk lemongrass, chopped
1 tbsp coconut oil
1 tsp ground turmeric
2 cups broth (chicken, mineral, bone, or vegetable)
2 cups coconut milk
4 green onions, sliced on the diagonal
3 small bok choy, leaves separated
generous pinch sea salt
4 2-3 oz pieces halibut, skin remove
cilantro leaves to garnish
salt/pepper to taste
1-2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar or lemon juice (adds the acid tang)
Start by rinsing the kelp noodles thoroughly. Put them into a large pan of filtered water and bring up to a boil. Turn off the heat as you make the laska. This will start to soften the noodles.
Put the onion, ginger and lemongrass into a high speed blender with 1/4 cup filtered water and blend to a thick paste. Heat the coconut oil in a large pan or stockpot and add the paste. Cook for a couple of minutes until fragrant and any excess water has evaporated. Stir in the turmeric, cook another minute then pour in the broth and coconut milk. Bring up to a simmer and cook gently for 5 minutes to let the flavors infuse. Drain the kelp noodles and add to the pan with the green onions and bok choy. Cook for another 3-4 minutes until the greens have wilted. Add sea salt to taste.
Meanwhile, put a couple of inches worth of filtered water into a large sauté pan and bring up to a simmer. Place the halibut into the water, turn off the heat, cover with a lid and gently poach for 8-10 minutes until just opaque.
Divide the laksa between four bowls. Remove the halibut from the poaching liquid, break into large chunks and add to the laksa. Garnish with the cilantro.
A couple of notes: * If you wish to try with spaghetti squash, cut the squash in half, drizzle with olive oil and bake at 400°F until soft and the noodles scrap out with a fork, set them aside.
* You can also use zucchini noodles. Many stores now sell the noodles pre-cut. Or, cut the ends off 3 large zucchini and peel the skin if you wish. Using a spiralizer or a julienne peeler, make long ‘noodles’ from each zucchini. Drop into a large pan of boiling water, remove from the heat and allow to cook through for about 3-4 minutes until tender, or however you like to serve them, being careful not to overcook or they will break up.