Wednesday 21 February 2018

Olympian Mind and Body: Count nutrients, not calories

Dieting doesn't work, says Susan Jane White, who prefers to count nutrients instead of calories. Nourish your body with the right foods and your body will nourish you

Nourish your body with the right foods and your body will nourish you
Nourish your body with the right foods and your body will nourish you
Susan Jane White

Susan Jane White

Food is information. Every bite we eat contains software that tells our genes how to express themselves. Scary, right? Food literally has the ability to turn our "good" genes on and our "bad" genes off, says best-selling MD Alejandro Junger.

By nourishing your body with the right nutrients, your body will nourish you. It makes a lot of sense to count nutrients, not calories. If any of the calorie-controlled diets worked, we'd all be thin (and about as exciting as George Bernard Shaw at an orgy).

So what counts as nourishing? Raw, unprocessed food like fruit, quirky beans, vegetables; groovy grains such as buckwheat and quinoa; weird-sounding flours from chickpeas and rye. Fat is your friend - chia, olive oil, flaxseed, raw nuts, avocados, oily fish and virgin coconut oil. These choices will service your body like a first class Formula One pit stop. We want to perform, right? Let's not sabotage our own fuel supply.

The amount of white flour, white sugar and dairy we eat is borderline pathological, isn't it? Cereal and milk for breakfast, sandwiches for lunch, scones, cake, toast, biccies, pasta - the same old circus day in and day out. My body needs a break. Maybe yours does too.

I'm not against wheat, sugar and dairy. They're all delightfully alluring. But my energy levels feel a whole lot better when I cut back on their mindless consumption; when I open up my food choices to all the other exhilarating ingredients around me. And suddenly I find that eating less wheat, less sugar and less dairy is not restrictive at all. It's the exact opposite - my food choices are suddenly liberated and I discover loads of fabulous stuff I didn't even know existed.

We are excluding so many outrageously tasty foods when we're stuck in the dairy-wheat-sugar love triangle. Fan of pancakes? Wait until you try buckwheat crepes. Fudge brownies? They're way better made with sticky dates and ground walnuts. Love pasta and couscous? Not when you discover at least a dozen better choices in the Asian supermarket ranging from black sticky rice to sophisticated red rice.

Figure out what makes your body feel good. Pizza, ice cream and soda can be like a two-faced friend - kind to your face, then stab you in the back. Your body won't function properly on poor food choices. Spicy black bean chilli? Hummus and pistachios? Maple and sesame halva? Now you're listening. That was your body talking.

Work with your appetite, instead of fearing it. You already know what your body needs.

Derval's Toasted Pecans

10 portions.

"I don't diet and exercise," three-time Olympian Derval O'Rourke assures us, "I eat and train." Sage words from a seriously cool athlete.

Be good to your body. You're the one who has to live in it.

You will need:

100g (4oz) pecans

2 tablespoons agave syrup

Pinch of sea salt

Fire up the oven to 160°, 320°F, Gas 3. Spread the pecans across a roasting tray, preferably lined with baking parchment. Let the nuts get giddy with the agave syrup and some sea salt, and pop the roasting tray into your oven for 12-20 minutes.

Toss the tray halfway through to prevent burning and tantrums, in that order. Remove from the oven before browning (golden is perfect) and give the pecans a decent chance of cooling before plundering the entire batch. Pecans taste much crunchier and sweeter upon cooling.

Store in a jar and sprinkle onto porridge, salads, pasta and thirsty fingers throughout the week.

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