Image c/o Connor Mollison
We won’t tell you to diet.
We won’t make you feel guilty about certain foods. In fact, we won’t even ask whether you binged over the Christmas period. Because you know what? It’s irrelevant. Done and dusted. You and us, let’s focus on the present.
Forget about restriction – how boring! Let’s focus instead on optimisation. Maybe, if we spent our energy on what to include in our diet, rather than what to leave out, we’d naturally progress to a healthier state.
If you’ve followed our Human Optimisation series, you know by now that we believe in a diet made up of locally sourced, seasonal produce, with the addition of organic supplements for functional purposes and convenience.
You may also be aware of Veganuary – a campaign to promote plant-based eating through January. This is an excellent chance to get a feel for a completely vegan diet, and decide whether or not this will work for you (it’s a personal thing, and we recommend seeking out professional guidance prior to undertaking any particularly restrictive diet).
So our first recommendation may come as a bit of a surprise. The thing is, venison has more iron than any other red meat. It is an excellent source of Omega 3. Venison has less fat per gram than a skinned chicken breast. Not to mention the rich flavour, venison is without a doubt one of the finest sources of animal protein out there. Hind season covers November through February, so this is prime time.
And know that deer hunting is an essential part of Scotland’s reforestation efforts. Indeed, overgrazing from high deer populations (Scotland’s red deer count rose from 160,000 in the 1960s to around 400,000 today) makes it extremely hard to create new forests – natural habitats for thousands of ecosystems and an important factor in Scotland’s climate change targets. In fact, Scottish venison may be one of the few meats that actually has a positive bottom line impact on the environment. Wild, right?
Not that we would assume any overzealous eating and drinking over the last few weeks, January may be the best time of year to start a course of high quality probiotics. Alcohol, sugar, refined carbohydrates – these can all cause havoc to your gut flora. There is no need to feel guilty about any of this, but the facts suggest the time is right for a supply of good gut bacteria.
While we weren’t too sure what to expect from a course of probiotics ourselves, we recently went through a 3-month supply of Symprove probiotics (we recommend the unflavoured version to avoid sucralose). We can report a wide range of benefits – from easier digestion to the disappearance of athlete’s foot. Indeed, a healthy gut promotes healthier and stronger immune defences, meaning you’ll give your body a better chance to fight off nasty bacteria, including the fungi between your toes.
January Produce: Munch on Cruciferous
In the cruciferous family of vegetables, it can be easy to overlook the pale white cauliflower. Don’t be fooled: cauliflower may not look as interesting as a Romanesco Broccoli, but it is an excellent source of vitamin C and choline, essential to good brain health. British cauliflower is at its best from January through April.
Grapefruit, oranges and lemons
Alright, citrus fruits are imported to the UK, so they’re not exactly locally sourced. Still, if we are to indulge in their sweet flavour and great health benefits, now’s the time.
Know that the vitamins contained in these fruits deplete rapidly when exposed to air. Want to get the most out of your oranges? We suggest slicing and munching them straight up, rather than juicing – which will mainly result in you drinking the sugars but missing out on most of the nutrition.
We’ve said it before – kale is one of the only leafy greens which actually gets better in the colder months. If you’re going to use raw kale in your smoothies, we suggest buying a fresh bunch and freezing it immediately. Chuck pieces into your blender straight from frozen to maximise on the health benefits.
Purple sprouting broccoli
Sprouting broccoli is another cruciferous veg packed with phytochemicals and it’s coming into season now. As soon as you see these beauties pop up at your local market, be sure to grab a bunch.
Tip: precious micronutrients are best preserved by steaming, rather than boiling your sprouts. Try a gentle steam rather than a harsh boil.