Mood Foods

It seemed very apt that, prior to an evening hosted by one of Bristol’s ‘know it alls’ when it comes to what not to eat and what to eat, I was up-ended in the loo having a violent reaction to a mixture of what I had consumed that afternoon.

Wild Oat’s Michael Abrahams hosted an evening called Mood Foods which incorporated a talk from nutritionist Jamie Richards who in short advocated reducing meal frequency and increasing movement (exercise). Nothing new, in our society in particular, where being overweight is widely known to be a major clinical issue and precursor for disease. However his argument against the ‘little and often’ line was that the most abundant amino acid in the body, glutathione, breaks down to form gaba which in actuality serves to sedate the body. Whereas if we effectively starve the body until it feels hunger, glutamine breaks down into glutamate which speeds up bodily functions making you more pro-active and clear-headed. Hence why he advises businessmen to serve a huge lunch before sealing a deal, or to minimise consumption prior to presenting.

A second reason for not eating regularly is that each time you eat the pancreas effectively breaks down to cope with the food intake and needs up to 5/6 hours before it is ready to aid digestion again. Ultimately he reasoned that to avoid the food coma’s and the need for coffee to catapult us into the morning, we should be eating nutrient dense food (quality) rather than energy dense food (quantity). Along with the right supplements in our diet and enough exercise we should be able to get a lot more done in our day, on far less.

Other useful tips shared were –
Turmeric, fresh if possible, should be a daily supplement as it contains curcumin which benefits the immune system, liver function, bone strength and skin!
Water should be taken like food, all in one go and at prolonged intervals. You waste energy consuming water if sipping on it throughout the day.
Expressive free writing in the morning aids a more balanced mood throughout the day.

Some of these ideas seem contrary to popular assumption so I thought it was interesting to share – at least some more food for thought.

One more thing – our brain size is shrinking. In the last 10,000 years our brain size has decreased by 10%, and more noticeably since Nixon introduced high fructose corn syrup in 1976


Soil is so cool

Dirt, mud, the earth from where all life has sprung is miraculous stuff, and perhaps where a lot of the answers to the mysteries of the universe reside. It often takes repeated exposure to what sometimes appears very mundane information, until there is suddenly a light bulb moment which permanently alters your perspective. I had one of these moments today which has finally rammed home a deep, profound respect for plain and simple soil.

I had already heard that 5g/1tsp of healthy soil contains more living organisms than humans on this earth. But I hadn’t really considered the implication of this until I saw a 3D graphic image of 1g of soil spinning round on a big screen, illuminating all the porous spaces (said to contain up to 10,000,000 cells, 5km of fungi, 10,000 different species). It was a wake-up call to visually see how much life is simply taking place under our finger nails! (soil traceability being a very important part of forensic evidence in criminal investigations)

Helen Browning of the Soil Association introduced the speakers at the Soil Symposium this year, with some astonishing facts. No news to the organic farmers and growers present but perhaps of interest to people like myself who don’t come into daily contact with soil and aren’t conscious of its vital importance to our survival.

  • It takes 500 years or so to create an inch of fertile top soil and only a decade or so to deplete it
  • Worldwide we have damaged over 15% of our land, destroying soils 10 times faster than creating them
  • In the UK 2 million tonnes of soil is lost each year, which is £150-250 millions worth of soil damage

The talks that followed all upheld the importance of bio-dynamic farming, which use organic methods in soil cultivation to essentially feed the soil and maintain high levels of bio-diversity, creating more nutritionally dense, fertile and high yielding soils.

Professor Dr. Urs Niggli from the Research Institute of Organic Agriculture, advocated a new approach for farmers to prevent soil depletion called ‘eco-functional intensification’ rather than the over-used meaningless term ‘sustainable intensification’. In 2002 a report showed how this sort of farming, using reduced tillage and organic fertilisers, doubles the physical and microbial properties of soil – data which even the pro-GM Avery clan of this world couldn’t refute. The soil becomes more porous-retains more water, carbon and biomass which creates healthier, high yielding soils.

The underlying truth to highlight is that much like the universe, our brains, uncharted ocean depths, we understand very little about the life of soil at the microscopic level. It still remains to be discovered but one thing is clear that biodynamic farming is the way forward to ensure a thriving planet that can sustain us.