When you put ‘3 meals to get all vitamins and minerals’ into Google, the search results tell you how overwhelming the amount of information out there is. How do we ever make head or tail or that? This is one of the problems that the idea for my app Hearth sets out to solve.
Asking this question means you are near the Holy Grail of nutrition and nourishment. However, like Dawn of the Daytreader or whatever you call your own voyage of discovery and adventure to find the best nutrition for you, the closer you get, the bigger the obstacles seem to come. There is definitely a game in that.
In conclusion to this research, I have an update for my app Hearth. It will help users get nutritious meals three times a day, which contain single ingredient real foods, either cooked together or in a salad.
Information about nutrition isn’t just what nutrition is, what it does and how we get it. It is a huge topic, puffed out by opinions, assumptions, projection, vested interests, lobbies and politics amongst other agendas. Not many people study food to get these simple answers: how it works for human health, what is tasty and satisfying without flavouring, adding salt or sugar or combining fat with sugar?
The less naturally nutritious the food, the more people eat. How do we find foods that are nutritious, not just in their own context, but in context with other foods on the same plate?
There is an ocean of understanding between different types of people, organisations, healthcare, scientists, food manufacturers and retailers, nutritionists, natural healers and dietary supplement manufacturers.
After discovering that people in the UK do not get enough sunlight for half the year to make enough Vitamin D, I looked at the NHS Vitamins and Minerals page and found information about each vitamin and mineral, how our bodies used them, how much and what foods they came from.
Somewhere hidden in ancient wisdom or oral traditions in all our cultures are the clues to a good diet. Like an old family photo, though, they have become warped, faded and, more recently, Photoshopped through time.
Here are the clues I have been following:
Breakfast Like a King, Lunch Like A Prince, Dinner Like a Pauper.
OK, that one is out of date. But you get the gist, right? Breakfast: royal. Lunch: Rich person Dinner: Poor Person.
This one, despite its terminology has best stood the test of time. However, it leaves many questions as to how this is realistically done. This blog shows that it is part of the answer but doesn’t leave a good trail.
Little and Often
To me, this is half right, half wrong. Perhaps because it has become a Chinese Whisper and wasn’t originally about food. Little and Often Makes Much. Little and Often Fills the Purse.
In food terms, there is a clue. A friend found a way to slowly and healthily lose weight and he also became very healthy. He created a set of rules but I don’t believe he knew why they worked.
For each meal, he had a main item, meat or fish and sometimes a carbohydrate, which he ate with a variety of single ingredient whole foods. It made meals very nourishing, tasty and satisfying, which meant he stopped snacking and craving fast foods.
This leads us onto the ‘official advice’ from the NHS repeated throughout their minerals and vitamins page as if to say ‘nothing to see here’. (That will be in the market stall in Marrakesh scene in my Raiders of the Lost Truth about Food game). However, there is a clue in this:
Eat a Varied and Balanced Diet
Balanced? What’s that? What the hell is a ‘balanced’ diet if the two sides of the seesaw are not named? However, it is a clue to nutrition if you look closely.
If we eat 3 meals a day, big breakfast, medium lunch and small dinner, each one could be ‘varied and balanced’ to get all the vitamins and most minerals too. Each meal, ideally, wants to contain only nutritious, single ingredient, real foods. By sticking to these we can find out:
Any essential nutrition we are not getting in our diet to supplement. This makes the single ingredient, real food idea work for vegans, vegetarians, pescatarians and omnivores equally as we all vary genetically in how we absorb vitamins and minerals, which is what nutritionists are qualified to tell us individually. To get to that level of the game, we need to bridge the knowledge gap first.
Not getting too much as, for example, liver more than once a week packs too much Vitamin A punch, as we store it and do not need it every day, or at least not too much. Therefore, if you did have liver this week, perhaps reduce other high vitamin A foods, such as one smaller egg instead of 2, for the rest of the week.
Cravings for Healing
This is, of course, a general rule. If we are ill, our bodies will want more vitamins A, E and C plus a little copper to fight us back to health. However, any additional vitamin A is not beneficial during pregnancy, nor is liver.
Therefore, the varied and balanced diet, basing your meals on one main item (either meat, complete plant proteins such as quinoa or soy beans. Not, as the Eatwell Guide says, a starchy carbohydrate). Official advice ought to specify for people who do not eat eggs, fish or meat as well as those that do. A jacket potato or brown rice are best digested in a separate meal from fats and proteins, which our bodies cannot deal with simultaneously, which means unused energy will be stored as fat. There is also the matter of good and bad cholesterol as this video shows:
Let’s bring the clues together so far:
1. Big breakfast, medium lunch, small dinner
2. Little portions often on the plate of different flavours – whatever is to hand, cucumber, artichoke, asparagus, chard, steamed spinach, brocoli, courgette, olives stuffed with garlic etc
3. Variety of items and either animal protein: meat, fish and/or egg, plant protein, soy or quinoa, or a jacket potato or brown rice. These options balanced with vegetables and salad.
Let’s move on to what various diets tell us:
Keto and Atkins.
These say dietary fats are good and to cut out the starchy carbohydrates. That’s useful for people who eat meat, fish and eggs as they, particularly, do not require starchy carbohydrates such as jacket potato or brown rice. No one needs pasta, bread or pizza or anything glutenous, starchy or stripped carbohydrates.
Fortified and enriched foods are simple processed foods with dietary supplementation, justified by research into essential nutrition funded by food manufacturers for their own benefit. The American Dietary Guidelines were not the general public’s information but to advise food manufacturers on how to use nutrition for profit by continuing to work over people’s heads to get government funding to reduce malnutrition and malnourishment. In my view, the only way to reduce those is to raise health literacy about food. We need The Sesame Street Nutrition Edition.
This leads to another clue given to us by the NHS delivered without full context. What do you understand by the NHS’s advice on their vitamins and minerals page?
“You Should Get All The Vitamins and Minerals You Need in a Varied and Balanced Diet”
When you look at items on the Eatwell Plate, it suggests snacking away to your heart’s content on crisps and bread. This is not what it could mean, if there weren’t so many conflicts of interest in funding public health information. It would make it much more difficult to get the right amount of vitamins and minerals if we relied on dietary supplements and enriched or fortified foods.
Instead of deficiency, this causes toxicity. Having too much of certain vitamins is the biggest clue to food allergies there is. People from an Afro Caribbean background may be able to eat fruit til the cows come home but not require the extra nutrition from, say, fish, eggs nuts, legumes, beans, grains or pulses. A big culprit there could be vitamin A, which is toxic in high doses, as well as trace elements and minerals that we do not require as much of in our diet.
Anything that grows with carbon and water is a carbo-hydrate including leafy greens and tree fruits. I am calling white pasta, rice and bread ‘stripped carbohydrates’ while couscous, potato, quinoa and brown rice provides fibre as well. These do not digest well with protein and fat on the same plate, but the carbohydrates, containing sugar, are the culprits for unhealthy cholesterol, not the dietary fat from olives, avocados, cheese, yogurt, eggs, meat and fish.
What about fruit?
Different races respond to these differently, but they pack a lot of sugar in. Particularly as today we get all fruits all year round. This has only been the case since our parents were young. No wonder our grandparents didn’t have food intolerance.
My favourite use for fruit is flavouring for cooking meat. A plum or apricot with the roast lamb roast combined with the cooking fats, juices from vegetables sprinkled with herbs, spices, onions and garlic will not cause a sugar spike but increases taste.
Genetically, the modern diet is not ideal. Luckily, in most European countries, single ingredient real foods are available. In some parts of America, these are expensive and tricky to get hold of. This increases the exposure that poorer people face to fast and junk food outlets in rural areas in the USA.
The Mediterranean Diet
In fact, when you look at foods from around the world, there is are so many varieties of small portions in one meal, for example Indian Thali, Greek Meze, Spanish Tapas and Caribbean food lends itself very tastily to tapas.
When you have had these dishes, do you remember how quickly they fill you up compared to a large plate of fish and chips? Thalis do not look more filling than a large curry, rice, puppadoms, daal, and naan bread, but they deliver a range of vitamins and minerals, which our bodies say a big happy yes to once they have what they need.
Therefore, the idea behind Hearth is to get our essential daily nutrition from real, single ingredient foods. When cooked from scratch, say; chicken with onions, garlic, herbs, spices, oil and some greens, this could be spread out over a week with other dishes with salad. The quicker our bodies get what they want, the less we need to eat. This means we do not need to weigh, measure, count, report and test all the time. The clues are out there.
We can all enjoy food if we know these basic truths. Then, to find out more, there are nutritionists, intolerance tests, DNA wellbeing tests and specialist caterers, who base their meals on good nutrition. When did you last eat out in France? It seems the most popular cuisines in the world are based on many small courses instead of just one type of protein, a starchy carbohydrate and a vegetable.
Meze – Thali – Tapas. Tasty – Satisfying – Nutritious
The idea of eating three nourishing meals a day is what Hearth is all about. Whether you are cooking from scratch or putting leftovers on a plate, these ideas could provide you with optimum health for your body, mind and organs to perform at their best. With modern day storage, we can spread cooking out over many meals, which makes it economical, tasty, satisfying and nutritious. Ever found yourself getting full quickly when you eat a variety of small portions or bites?
This also means we can get creative in the kitchen with whatever foods are in the house or cooking interesting meals for the family or with friends. This also makes food easy to upscale for buffets, parties or picnics.
Additionally, this could reduce the cost of groceries, stress from following recipes and time. The result is nourishing, nutritious meals to look forward to, easier weight management, less sugar spikes, inflammation, food intolerance, toxicity and, importantly, taste, flavour and satisfying our appetites and our bodies saying when they have received the nutrition they need without eating too much.
Meals On Wheels
As well as nutritionists, caterers for parties or – a type of business which grew in the 1980s around Surrey – cooking for the freezer, particularly to help people recovering from cancer treatment or an operation. During the COVID-19 pandemic, housebound people were sent boxes of junk food, potatoes, bread, pasta etc. Long gone are the days of Meals on Wheels, when people were delivered a hot nutritious meal by volunteers.
If anything like Meals on Wheels ever happened again, the updated version could be a variety of hot and cold foods, which can be kept for up to a week for a selection of ‘balanced and varied meals’, based on international cuisine – meze, thali, tapas – which are tasty, satisfying and nutritious.