As I’ve talked about plenty of times on the blog, having a healthy, nourishing diet is SO important when it comes to healing.
Our bodies are extremely intelligent and sophisticated. The body is wired in a way that, given the right nutrients and environment, it can utilize them for the exact purposes that it needs.
A good example is exercise and food. After an intense workout, your body’s energy stores are depleted (it mostly uses glycogen, which is stored glucose). If you eat a meal filled with protein and complex carbs, will your body take those nutrients and energy and store them as fat? Of course not! It’s going to replenish the depleted energy stores first.
How does the body know how to do that? It’s not like we can control what the body does with the nutrients once it extracts it from food. The body knows what to do with the food and nutrients it receives. This is the inherent intelligence that exists in the body.
Now let’s take this concept and apply it to healing. Symptoms and disease happen because of imbalances in the body. There’s too much this or not enough that, so the body has to compensate and gets overworked trying to maintain its internal balance (called homeostasis). But if it does this for too long, it loses that balance.
Side note: Obviously there are many unique factors for each individual that contribute to the development of disease, so it isn’t quite as simple as I just described. But losing balance or homeostasis in the body is the gist of it. You can read more about what I call the disease cycle and its connection to the body, mind and soul right here.
So, just as with supplying the body with the right nutrients after a workout, when you nourish the body with the right foods for healing, it knows how to use the nutrients to heal.
What to Eat for Healing
The state of our well-being has a strong connection to the health of our gut. So healing our symptoms and illnesses will involve healing the gut on some level.
The foods that are needed for healing have a two-fold effect. First, they are nourishing whole foods filled with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and other nutrients that are needed for cells and tissues to thrive. And secondly, these foods support the growth of good bacteria in the gut by creating a perfect and balanced internal environment.
The foods that you need to eat for healing are ones that are naturally balanced, neither too expansive nor contractive. So what exactly does this mean? You see, foods have different effects on our body, energy and mood.
Some things, like sugar for example, are expansive which means that they give qualities of feeling relaxed or open. Eating too many expansive foods can make you feel confused and unfocused.
Other foods, like salt, are contractive (i.e., causing a contraction of bodily fluids and makes us thirsty), giving the qualities of feeling uptight or closed. Eating too many contractive foods can cause constipation.
Lastly, are the foods that are naturally balanced. Balanced foods keep us centred, calm and are the most ideal source of energy for the body.
I recommend that 80% of your diet is composed of balanced foods and the remaining 20% is a mix of expansive and contractive foods (which together, also create balance). Having said that, you might be asking, “well, why can’t I just eat expansive + contractive foods to create balance?”
The reason why eating only expansive + contractive foods (as opposed to eating foods that are already balanced) doesn’t work is because it puts a greater strain on the body since you’re eating from two opposite extremes; whereas eating foods that are already inherently balanced is easier to process, and has a positive effect on the body.
Another reason why eating only expansive + contractive foods isn’t ideal is because, as you’ll see below, there isn’t enough nutrients in those foods alone! All the veggies and other foods from the Earth belong in the balanced category. 🙂
So what are these foods? Let’s dive in!
Vegetables: leafy greens (kale, spinach, Swiss chard, lettuce, etc), root vegetables (carrots, turnips, parsnips, ginger, garlic, onion, potatoes, yams, etc), and all other veggies such as cucumbers, peppers, mushrooms, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, etc.
You can eat them raw, steamed, roasted, lightly sautéed or add them to your smoothies!
Nuts & seeds: almonds, walnuts, pecans, cashews, chia seeds, hemp seeds, flaxseeds, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, etc.
Have these as snacks or sprinkle on top of a bowl of oatmeal or other grain porridge.
Legumes: all sorts of beans like pinto, chickpeas, navy, black eyed peas, black. Also lentils and peas like green lentils, yellow split peas, red lentils, etc.
Grains: amaranth, quinoa, buckwheat, millet, oatmeal, rice.
These should be soaked for at least 8 hours or overnight before cooking. I recommend limiting or avoiding gluten-containing grains during the healing period, even if you don’t have any obvious signs of sensitivity to gluten. See the “Foods to Eliminate” section below for more information on gluten.
Fruit: apples, apricots, bananas, berries, grapefruit, mango, oranges, papaya, pears, etc.
Fruits are borderline between expansive and balanced.
Tea: herbal, green tea, black tea.
Coffee: limit to 1 cup per day.
Herbs: parsley, cilantro/coriander, thyme, basil, dill, oregano, sage, rosemary, mint, etc.
Spices: cumin, turmeric, paprika, black pepper, cayenne pepper, sea salt, cardamom, marjoram, saffron, nutmeg, etc.
Animal proteins: fish, poultry, beef, eggs.
Foods to Eliminate
If you follow the recommendations above and include these foods in your diet, you will have so much variety for your meals that you won’t even have a place for the unhealthy stuff. As I mentioned before, in order to heal, we must create a healthy environment within our bodies, which nourishes our cells and provides a happy home for the good bacteria that support our health.
But, unfortunately, there’s tons of “food” out there that DOES NOT support our well-being. And of course, it has infiltrated our society in such a way that people don’t even know (or care) what’s good for their bodies and what isn’t.
I know that you care, though, and that you’re ready to heal from the inside out. So here are the foods you should avoid, or at the very least, minimize and have only on very rare occasions.
Refined sugar: cookies, cakes, baked goods, etc.
Preservatives and additives
Processed foods: cold cuts, food with white flour, etc.
Gluten: As I mentioned earlier, I highly recommend avoiding gluten during the healing process even if you don’t have an obvious sensitivity to it. Although many people with gluten sensitivity show symptoms of digestive discomfort, you can also be sensitive to gluten and not even know it. Sometimes symptoms might not appear for 2-3 days, long after you’ve forgotten that you even had gluten in your meal the other night. Another important point is that gluten sensitivity is not limited to symptoms of digestive discomfort. Also watch for symptoms like joint pain, brain fog, dizziness, PMS, migraines, mood swings and/or diagnosis of an autoimmune disease.
Dairy: Similar to gluten, you may be sensitive to dairy and not even know it. Symptoms of dairy sensitivity include: frequent congestion, runny nose and/or phlegm; skin blemishes or acne; asthma; frequent colds; frequent ear infections, especially as a child; and difficulty losing weight. One type of dairy that I absolutely DO recommend is milk kefir, which is basically fermented milk. Typically, you can have kefir even if you are sensitive to regular dairy (unless you are extremely intolerant, in which case, avoid it!). This is because the probiotics that are in kefir help you digest the lactose and other proteins that you may otherwise be sensitive to.
Putting it All Together: What a Balanced Meal Looks Like
So now that you’ve seen all the foods you should be eating for healing (and what to avoid), let’s put it all together and see what a typical day on this nourishing diet would look like:
Breakfast – amaranth porridge with cinnamon, banana, pumpkin seeds, pecans
Snack – raw veggies (carrots, celery, broccoli) with hummus
Lunch – baked salmon with millet, sauteed spinach and sauerkraut (cabbage, carrots, beets)
Snack – tropical green smoothie
Dinner – red lentil stew (red lentils, green beans, cauliflower, sweet potatoes, kale) with roasted asparagus
Snack – handful of trail mix (a mixture of your favourite nuts and seeds)
The most important thing to take away from this post is to strive to eat naturally balanced foods as much as possible (80%). These foods will provide you with the nutrients and energy that your body needs in order to heal. And don’t forget to try the meal ideas to help you get started!
Now I want to hear from you! What are you favourite ways to eat the naturally balanced foods? Have you noticed a difference in the way you feel since implementing these tips? Let me know in the comments!