after many years of personal experience and after having helped countless others to achieve vibrant health for themselves, that the plan I devised in The Natural Way is the single most effective route to abundant health, well-being and balanced weight.

The Natural Way lifestyle is based on a handful of extremely simple principles which, when harmonised, result in optimum levels of physical, mental and emotional health. In other words, through sound daily living habits such as natural nutrition, regular exercise, adequate sunshine and sufficient rest, it is possible to prevent illness, achieve the perfect weight for your build and enjoy unimagined levels of vitality.

WHY DO WE GET SICK OR GAIN WEIGHT IN THE FIRST PLACE?

Diet plays a tremendous role in maintaining or destroying our health. Don’t try to pretend that stress and pollution are the root cause (these never result in dental decay, obesity or blocked arteries), for diet, and diet alone, is to blame. In addition to eating badly, we also live incorrectly by ignoring our need for sufficient exercise, fresh air and sunshine.

So incorrect dietary and living habits combined, result in many common health problems such as fatigue, eczema, cellulite, excess weight, tonsillitis, insomnia, dark circles under the eyes, pre-menstrual tension, frequent colds and flu, and a host of more serious diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and cancer, to name but a few.

BUT WHAT IS WRONG WITH OUR DIET?

Modern living has a lot to answer for! We tend to pack far too much into each day, and most of our food choices are determined by how much time we have available to prepare and eat our meals rather than by their nutritional quality. We cope with life in the fast lane by trying to survive on fast food, giving little thought to the toll this takes on our health.

Many of us are also confused by the host of conflicting theories on health and weight loss that bombard us on an almost daily basis. In a sincere effort to improve the quality of our meals, we may turn to the traditional dietary principles. However, we soon find that we revert back to our old eating habits simply because these traditional principles are too difficult and too time consuming to implement (they frequently entail a complicated system of weighing and measuring our food, which is not only impractical but can easily lead to obsession).

Let’s take a good look at our eating habits. A typical breakfast might consist of tea or coffee with milk, sweetener or sugar; a bowl of cereal with milk and sugar, or a muffin (we think blueberry and bran is the really healthy choice!), or a slice of toast with egg. Come mid-morning we might opt for some more tea or coffee with a doughnut or chocolate, or even a canned cold drink and a toasted sandwich. Lunch might be a burger on the run, and for supper we might pull a pizza out of the freezer. If we’re organized we might cook a ‘proper’ evening meal and put some steak or chicken with chips and vegetables on the table. This will inevitably be followed by more tea or coffee, and some days there might even be some dessert. Sounds reasonably healthy?

No! This is a good example of a disease-forming diet as it makes the following common dietary mistakes:

It is a predominantly acid-forming diet

It is a diet too high in animal fats and proteins

It is a highly processed diet that contains many harmful additives.

So what is an acid-forming diet and why is it so unhealthy? Certain foods (for example all animal products and, to a lesser degree, all grains) have an acidic reaction on the blood. In other words, meat, chicken, fish, eggs, milk, cheese, yoghurt, wheat, rice, maize and barley, are all acid forming or leave an acidic ash in the bloodstream. The blood, however, is slightly alkaline (7,35 – 7,45 on the pH scale) and to maintain the correct alkalinity in our blood for perfect health, energy and homeostasis (balance), we need a 75 per cent alkaline-forming diet. The acid-forming component of our daily intake should be reduced to a maximum of 25 per cent.

We also need to reduce our intake of animal fats and proteins. All current independent research shows that if you eat a plant-based diet you are less likely to suffer from a host of serious disorders including heart disease, diabetes, cancer, arthritis, gout, arteriosclerosis and osteoporosis.

The saturated fats found in animal products have no nutrient-bonding ability in the body. In other words, they are usually only empty calories that contribute to a fat build-up or weight gain. What’s more, animal fats are always accompanied by cholesterol, one of the major contributors to heart disease when consumed in excess. But the real problems start when we eat heated fats. We quite simply do not have the enzymes to break down fats that have been heated to over 160 C. These heated fats become carcinogenic or cancer forming as they cannot be processed by the body and are left to accumulate in the body tissues. It is for this reason that fried foods and foods containing heated fats (like margarine) are out of the question from a health point of view.

Protein is needed mainly for growth and repair, but the average adult in western society consumes far too much animal protein. As mentioned earlier, all animal products are highly acid forming. The body needs to neutralise the acidity in some way and does so by creating a buffer. The main ingredient of this buffer system is the mineral calcium. How does the body obtain the calcium it needs? Why, it leaches it from the teeth and bones, resulting in dental decay and osteoporosis. The danger in this society then, is not that we don’t get enough protein, but ensuring that we don’t get too much.

Our diet is also highly processed, laden with artificial additives, colourants and flavourants, which not only drain our energy, but also have an adverse effect on our central nervous system, our immune system and our hormonal system. This often results in a sluggish metabolism (stubborn weight and cellulite too) and impaired immunity. The consumption of these chemicals has been linked to many ailments, ranging from the common cold to far more serious conditions like heart disease, cancer and diabetes. They also have a negative impact on the proper functioning of the endocrine system and as such are implicated in problems relating to blood pressure, and brain function and development. They are also linked to conditions like hypoglycaemia, and to fertility problems and pregnancy-related disorders.

We tend to think that correcting our diet is far too complicated and expensive and that fast food is easy food. But in the long run we (and our families) pay the price and suffer from low energy levels, fluctuating weight and general ill health. What we need is the knowledge to make better choices.

NOW THAT WE KNOW WHAT’S WRONG WITH OUR DIET, LET’S CORRECT IT

How do we overcome the problems associated with the modern fast-food diet? Simply by returning to a more natural way of living and eating. As I have already mentioned, we need to ensure that our diet is at least 75 per cent alkaline forming, and that we reduce the amount of animal protein, fat and processed foods we consume. The way to achieve this is to follow five basic steps:

Eat at least one fruit meal per day.

Snack only on fresh or dried fruit or raw vegetables.

Do not eat protein more than once a day.

Start all cooked meals with something raw.

Do not eat a concentrated protein with a concentrated starch.

Let’s take a closer look at this simple but highly effective plan.

Eat at Least One Fruit Meal per Day

Fruit is the most important food in your diet and you should try to have a minimum of one meal a day consisting of fruit only. Fruit is Nature’s wonder food; fast, convenient and perfectly designed to ensure optimum health. Fruit is easy to digest because all the nutrients it contains are already in their most simple form, ready to be absorbed and assimilated. Not only are all uncooked fruits alkaline in the bloodstream, but all fruits contain the essential nutrients we need for good health. Fruit is low in fat and it contains the best source of glucose to maintain your blood sugar levels correctly. It also contains plenty of water-soluble fibre, as well as all the antioxidants that prevent cancer and slow down the ageing process. Fruit is high in magnesium, which helps your muscles relax, and this in turn helps you cope with stress.

It is a good idea to have your fruit meal in the morning, as this is the time when your body steps up its elimination function, ridding your system of the accumulated waste products of the night. To facilitate this function, you need to feed the body something that is easy to digest and that won’t direct energy away from its cleansing efforts. This food is fruit.

If you find that a fruit meal isn’t filling enough, then eat a combination of acid or sub-acid fruits (see charts at the back of the book) together with a 1/4 to ½ a cup of raw nuts or seeds. Try blending the fruit and nuts into a shake for a most satisfying meal. (For more ideas refer to The Natural Way Recipe Books.)

Snack Only on Fresh or Dried Fruit or Raw Vegetables

We all snack between meals from time to time and fruit is the ideal snack food, particularly if you crave sweet things. In fact, a craving for sweets is just the body’s way of telling you that you are not eating enough fresh fruit and therefore not getting enough glucose.

Listen continuously to your body's messages and satisfy the normal cravings with healthy alternatives. For example, substitute chocolates and sweets with fresh fruit or sulphur-free dried fruit (raisins, dates or figs are good). Dried fruits are low in fat, chemical-free and packed with nutrients. Cut out the carbonated cold drinks and opt for natural alternatives like fresh fruit juice with sparkling mineral water added for the fizz, or reach for a glass of filtered water instead. Cut down on tea and coffee and ultimately replace them with herbal infusions and fruit teas.

If you find that you crave salty foods, your body is simply running low on the essential fatty acids. Potato crisps won’t do much good as your body needs foods containing healthy, natural fats, like avocados, raw nuts or seeds, olives, sweet corn on the cob and cold pressed vegetable or seed oils. Your metabolic rate and therefore your body weight is controlled entirely by the endocrine or hormonal system, and this system needs these essential fatty acids on a daily basis to function at an optimum level. Make sure that you eat at least one of the natural plant-based fat sources listed here.

Do Not Eat Animal Protein More than Once a Day

Eating animal protein more than once a day will promote growth (usually in girth) exactly where you do not want it. As I have mentioned before, animal products are totally unnecessary in our diet. Research shows that the more of these foods you eat, the more likely you are to suffer from heart disease, diabetes and cancer – the three biggest killers in Western society. As animal protein is acid forming we need to restrict our intake, particularly if we are aiming at a health-promoting diet that is 75 per cent alkaline forming.

Nuts are our family’s main source of protein. Raw almonds are a particularly good choice as they are the only nuts that leave an alkaline residue in the bloodstream. They are higher in protein and calcium than any other nut, and they also contain high levels of iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium and zinc. They are relatively low in fat and are easy to digest when eaten in small quantities. How much do you need to eat? You only need approximately a ¼ to ½ a cup per day a minimum of three times per week if you are a total vegetarian or vegan! This will meet your protein requirements adequately.

Start All Cooked Meals With Something Raw

The more raw plant food you eat, the more you will be feeding your immune system. Raw vegetables are extremely high in antioxidants, vitamins and minerals, and are completely alkaline in your bloodstream. Whenever food enters the stomach, white blood cells rush in to perform their job, which is to protect the body against foreign substances and to produce antibodies. When you eat a cooked meal many of these white blood cells are destroyed as soon as they enter the stomach. It is important to start all cooked meals with something raw – a salad or freshly extracted vegetable juice – as this prevents the destruction of the white blood cells and thereby strengthens the immune system.

More than that, from a weight point of view, starting your meal with raw vegetables will take the edge off your appetite. More often than not you may find that a delicious avocado salad satisfies you and that there is no need to move on to a cooked meal. Not a bad thing at all!

Do Not Eat a Concentrated Protein with a Concentrated Starch

By sticking to this basic principle you will enjoy a better breakdown and absorption of nutrients, more comfortable digestion and a lot more energy. As a result the appetite actually decreases (due to the increased availability of nutrients) and many people find that just by implementing this one simple step, weight loss is promoted.

But what exactly is food combining and why does it work? Very simply, it is not eating a concentrated starch with a concentrated protein at the same meal.

A concentrated starch is usually a food with a 20 per cent or more carbohydrate content. Potatoes, rice, bread, pasta, corn or maize and all grains fall into this category. These foods need to be chewed very well so that ptyalin (the digestive enzyme secreted in the saliva) can start acting on the starch. Further digestion takes place in the small intestine (once the food has left the stomach) with the aid of starch-splitting enzymes. The ultimate aim is to break these starches down into simple sugars, which is the only way that they can be absorbed into the bloodstream.

Concentrated proteins are those foods which contain 15 per cent or more complete protein, such as meat, chicken, fish, eggs and many cheeses, in fact all animal products other than the fats (like butter, some cheeses and cream). Most nuts and seeds also fall into this category. These foods digest somewhat differently to concentrated starches. When the protein enters the stomach, hydrochloric acid is stimulated in direct proportion to the amount of protein present. The hydrochloric acid in turn activates pepsin, the protein-digesting enzyme, which breaks the protein down into amino acids (the building block of protein). Further digestion takes place in the small intestine. The ultimate aim is to break the protein down into amino acids, which is the only way that the body can absorb protein.

Now here’s the interesting bit - protein digests in a more acid environment than starch (protein prefers a pH level from three down, whereas starch prefers one from four upwards). So, what is the significance of this? Well, if you combine the two at the same meal, the hydrochloric acid has a neutralising effect on the more alkaline ptyalin, and in turn this suspends the digestion of the starch midway. The partially digested starches then start to ferment, thus causing the protein to putrefy. The result of this fermenting mess is alcohol, acetic acid (stronger than vinegar) and ammonia. These substances are all poisonous to the body and do end up in the bloodstream, resulting in a host of unpleasant symptoms like flatulence, heartburn, spastic colon, allergies and headaches, to name but a few.

As a result of the suspension of the digestive process caused by poor food combining, food is not broken down completely and the maximum amount of nutrients cannot be absorbed. This results in various deficiencies. From a weight management perspective this is significant because the body will communicate this lack of appropriate nourishment at cellular level loudly and clearly - through hunger. So, although you may be eating large, regular meals, you will never seem to be satisfied, and very quickly a pattern of over-eating but under-nourishing is established with excess weight being the obvious consequence.

It can also take double the time to digest a poorly combined meal so that the body has to expend a lot of energy and time on trying to sort out the mess in the stomach. The result is, of course, lethargy or lack of energy.

One of the most immediate benefits of correct food combining is the increase in energy levels. You wake up in the morning feeling rested and refreshed, never groggy or listless. In fact, if you have any digestive problems, any allergies or suffer from low energy, the best thing you could do is to try combining your food correctly. (See my book The Natural Way for more detailed guidelines on the subject.)

EATING CORRECTLY MAKES THE WORLD OF DIFFERENCE

When you start eating more healthily, you will find that the improvement in the overall quality of your life is well worth the small sacrifices and discipline involved. The results will be evident immediately: you will feel better than ever before, you will enjoy better levels of health than you ever imagined possible, and, as an added bonus, you will look good too.

Simply by following the five steps that I outlined in some detail earlier, you will automatically be taking in a lot more vitamin A, C and E - three vital antioxidants that help the body destroy and eliminate so-called free radicals or toxic substances that cause a lot of damage to the tissues and organs in the body. These free radicals are responsible for early degeneration or ageing, cancer and poor health in general.

By cutting out fried foods and switching to natural fats instead (found in avocados, nuts and seeds, olives, maize and cold-pressed vegetable oils) you will be getting all the essential fatty acids your body needs for the optimal functioning of the hormonal system (the pituitary, thyroid and adrenal glands, the pancreas, the testes and the ovaries). At the same time you will be getting plenty of vitamin E, an essential antioxidant. All of these nutrients are vital to good health and well-being, and will keep you looking younger too. Without them you would not be able to manage your weight successfully and your family would not be able to grow up unscathed by health problems.

By including these healthful foods in your diet you will find that cravings disappear (this is because your system has what it needs at a cellular level) and you will tend to eat only when you are hungry. Better still, you will find that excess weight melts away, even though you eat avocados, nuts and bananas (forbidden fruits for traditional dieters!)

By eating simple meals that are easy to digest, a lot more blood is available for brain function and one of the many benefits of eating correctly is a clear mind. Another automatic benefit is a cleaner, more efficiently functioning system, with a much higher energy output. This energy is the type that gives you endurance, yet has a calming effect.

A HELPING HAND

Over the years many people have voiced their concern about family members who do not eat as well as they should. I have also come to realise that even on a good diet, there may be times when we may need something more to help us cope with the stresses that environmental pollutants place on our bodies. Here are several products that I have found to be most beneficial, and throughout this book I mention them. I do not consider them supplements as such, but rather necessary foods will assist you in attaining better levels of health and vitality.

The first of these is Barleylife. This is not a supplement but rather a concentrated food, made from organically grown, sprouted barley. The leaves are juiced and then dehydrated into powder form by a unique spray-drying method, which takes place at room temperature and therefore retains the complete array of nutrients, much in their original form. It contains such a wide variety of nutrients, that it has become a regular part of my family’s diet.

Most people do not eat enough dark green leafy vegetables. Barleylife is the answer as it satisfies so many nutritional needs: it is high in chlorophyll; it contains most of the vitamins we need and is particularly rich in the B vitamins; it is an excellent source of minerals, including calcium and iron; and it contains valuable antioxidants, among them SOD or superoxide dismutase, a powerful anti-ageing antioxidant. I have found that Barleylife is suitable for every member of the family, regardless of age, and it is particularly useful for picky eaters as a nutrient safety net. Barleylife also contains some kelp, which is a valuable source of iodine needed to help control your metabolism and thyroid function (and therefore particularly important for anyone trying to achieve balanced weight).

This is the one product I would include on a regular basis in everyone’s diet. Barleylife is as much a whole food as any fresh juice and as such the nutrients are fully absorbed by the body, unlike those in vitamin or mineral supplements (due to the processing required to formulate them into tablets, there is an absorption rate of only about four to ten per cent)

Two other very beneficial products, also dried juices from organically grown vegetables, are Redibeets (beetroot juice) and Just Carrots (carrot juice). Their nutrient content is high and they are particularly useful if you experience loss of appetite. I always keep them in my kitchen, as I prefer using these two products to making juice from vegetables that are not organically grown. They are also very convenient, particularly if you do not have the time or equipment to make freshly extracted juices.

The company that markets these dried juices locally, AIM International, also has a few other products that I find useful. Herbal Fibreblend is a combination of plants and herbs that is excellent for regulating bowel movements and getting rid of common parasites. It not only softens hard stools, but also helps form stools when there is diarrhoea. In fact, it benefits any digestive problem, from a sore tummy to food poisoning.

Prepzymes assists anyone who has problems secreting certain digestive enzymes, and Florafood is one of the best natural sources of intestinal flora or bacteria. This is particularly helpful if you have been following a diet of highly processed and refined foods or have subjected your body to several courses of antibiotics.

Cold-pressed Flaxseed Oil is considered to be one of the most concentrated sources of essential fatty acids (vital for the correct functioning of the entire endocrine system). I include flaxseed oil in my diet on a daily basis, as do my husband Mark and our children. This is a great aid in weight management and covers most bases regarding essential fatty acids.

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