The celebrity nutritionist involved in Goodwood’s new health and wellbeing retreats, Stephanie Moore, on the importance of what we eat and when
The human body is a fantastically sophisticated set of systems. They work in concert with the aim of maintaining balance for optimal function. Unfortunately, much of modern life challenges this innate and ever-present drive of the body to fix itself. From poor sleep to too much stress, nutrient poor, highly processed foods, to sitting down too much, our biology is often unable to win the battle against so much adversity leading to accelerated ageing and poor health.
Below are some simple yet profoundly effective health fundamentals that can support the body in its bid to be balanced and thrive. If we can employ these core principles on an on-going and regular basis, we can bolster our resilience to the environmental, emotional and physical challenges we are all being bombarded with.
Inflammation is a lifesaving mechanism that our immune system instigates to fight off infection and heal wounds. As long as this acute inflammatory response turns on and off as needed, it is incredibly effective at preserving health. However, if inflammation endures over long periods of time, known as chronic inflammation, we can wear out our repair systems and create long-term internal damage to any organ or tissue in the body, be it brain cells (e.g. dementia), joints (e.g. arthritis) or skin (e.g. dermatitis). Chronic inflammation is considered to be at the route of all chronic diseases, including many cancers and neurological conditions. Healthy ageing therefore requires avoiding things that trigger excess inflammation.
There are several real culprits of excess, chronic inflammation…
High blood sugar
Regularly eating foods that aggressively spike levels of glucose (sugar) in the blood causes many serious downstream health issues. These foods are, put simply, sugary and sweet foods (this includes artificial sweeteners); highly refined starches (e.g. wheat, corn or potato based processed foods and snacks); ultra-processed foods; and deep fried foods. Aim to eat whole, minimally processed foods. If you do have foods in packets, check the ingredients list. Anything you don’t recognize as food, don’t buy it!
An ‘unhappy’ gut
Our digestive system is home to tens of trillions of microbes. In a healthy gut, the majority of these microbes are commensal, meaning they are working with us to create health and wellbeing. These microbes are major players in our immune and inflammatory systems as well as our digestive function. The gut microbes regulate the health of all our major systems including brain chemistry, metabolic revving and so much more. It is so essential that we tend to our gut microbes and this is easily done. The gut microbes feed on the fibre in our food. Without fibre they die! So, an absolute tenet of good health requires eating fibre-rich foods, ideally at every meal. Fibre is found in whole and minimally processed plant foods – vegetables, whole fruit (not juice), nut & seeds, beans & lentils. If you also include some fermented foods, such as live yogurt, kefir, raw sauerkraut and kimchi, you will be consuming new strains of gut microbes that can have a beneficial effect on your own healthy gut bugs.
In order to calm systemic inflammation and to supercharge our gut microbes, we need to eat less often. Giving our digestive system, blood sugar processes and metabolic pathways a chance to rest, reset and recharge, allows inflammation to calm. We need a good few hours between meals, ideally more than 4, and at least 12 hours from last calories to first calories the next day.
Quality takes care of quantity
Focusing on eating fewer calories can lead to poor choices as low-calorie foods are not necessarily healthful. If you eat nutrient dense, minimally processed foods with good amounts of protein (meat, fish, seafood, eggs, pulses, fermented soy); healthy fats (organic butter, extra virgin olive oi, whole, raw nuts and seeds, coconut and high quality dairy products); along with a wide variety of plant-based, fibre-rich foods (as above) then your body senses it has been well nourished and will switch off the drive to eat more, helping to avoid over-eating. This can help maintain healthy body fat levels. Excess body fat, especially belly fat, is incredibly inflammatory.
Chew, chew, chew
Taking time to eat slowly, chewing thoroughly and savouring one’s food entirely changes how the food is managed throughout the digestive tract. Your energy, absorption of nutrients and constitution of your gut microbes will all improve if you eat slowly and chew well. Never eat on the go or in the car.
Sit less, move more often, sleep better and smile, even when you don’t feel like!
Stephanie Moore is the expert-in-residence at The Goodwood hotel, where she explores all of these concepts and more as part of Goodwood’s Gut Health Programme; a five-day stay packed with informative health talks, restorative treatments and deeply nourishing, tasty meals based upon these principles. See more at goodwood.com