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Epicurious

Back to the basics

Getting healthier with whole, natural foods

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Have you checked out the nutritional information on the back of a box of your favourite cereal recently? No? Well, go ahead — take a look. Chances are, you’ll need a few minutes to sound out the polysyllabic ingredients that are in those Lucky Charms.

I don’t know about you, but I certainly wouldn’t dream of dubbing myself a health nut of any kind, and the idea of going totally organic sends shivers up my spine. But I’m equally terrified of what niacinamide and pyridoxine hydrocloride may be doing to my body. Magically delicious, my ass.

There has to be some sort of balance between loading up on sugar and chemicals, and transforming into a Birkenstock-clad granola cruncher. So I decided to call Adam Hart, a fitness trainer and nutrition enthusiast based out of Squamish. He offers one-on-one nutritional advice and group seminars, and is scheduled to speak during the upcoming Whistler Wellness Week on the Power of Food, his system of health and wellness through nutrition.

Hart advocates whole foods — that is, foods that have not been broken down, altered or transformed in any way, focusing on six basic dietary staples: nuts, seeds, grains, legumes, fruits and vegetables.

“Within those kinds of foods, the whole foods… you can do pretty much anything as far as feeding your body the nutrients that it is, most of the time, starving for,” Hart explained.

Hart was spurred to change his own diet when he discovered, at the age of 26, that he was pre-diabetic and had high cholesterol.

“I got heavy into mountaineering, alpine climbing, rock climbing, ski touring, all that kind of stuff, and I couldn’t keep up in the mountains.”

During a trip home to Toronto, he looked through his grandmother’s pantry and noticed something strange: the cupboards were lined with glass jars full of nuts, seeds and other natural foods.

“I started putting two and two together, and then I did a little research on the rise of processed foods and the rise of obesity and diabetes, and I saw a huge direct correlation between the two.”

Hart didn’t want to resort to fad diets and supplements, so he decided he needed to learn more about how our bodies process food. The knowledge he gained through his research transformed his relationship with food, and eventually led him back to the same whole foods he discovered in his grandmother’s kitchen.

He refers to foods laden with artificial additives and preservatives as part of the “North American effect,” which conditions us from a very young age to crave these rich, unhealthy foods.

“Our tastebuds are conditioned towards sugar, salt and fat right from a very young age, based on the idea of many of us getting food as a reward as children,” Hart explained, adding that we need to recondition ourselves to crave natural foods.

But before visions of bowls full of nuts and beans start dancing in your head, don’t panic — Hart doesn’t advocate completely abandoning everyday items from the grocery store. Rather, he says the key is to boost your intake of natural, whole foods to help achieve a balance between items that contained refined sugars and flours, hydrogenated oils, sweeteners, and flavourings.

“Really, it’s not about eliminating any of the dairy or the meat,” said Hart. “Everything I teach is how can you increase the nutritional value of whatever it is you’re already choosing to eat.”

According to Hart, simply incorporating these staple ingredients into your diet doesn’t necessarily involve making drastic changes to your lifestyle, and the addition of these items can help boost energy levels, control your weight, and even reduce stress levels.

And it isn’t overly difficult or expensive to incorporate things like beans, nuts and seeds into your diet — you can find them in the bulk section of just about any grocery store. Hart admits that it can be hard to find affordable produce in the corridor, but says in-season fruits and veggies shouldn’t be too hard to find.

If you’re interested in learning more about the Power of Food, visit www.poweroffood.com or check out Hart’s seminar during Whistler Wellness Week on Wednesday, June 4 at 7 p.m.

For those of you tempted to try out this new (old) way of eating, here’s one of Hart’s recipes designed to satisfy the sweet tooth and your nutritional needs.

 

Flourless Hemp Peanut Butter Cookies

 

Ingredients:

1 cup hemp seeds

¼ cup raw cane sugar

2 organic eggs

1 cup all natural peanut butter

½ teaspoon baking soda

¼ cup chocolate chips

 

Additional variations:

Substitute ¼ cup dried fruit, ¼ cup almond butter, or add 2 tsp of cocoa powder for a chocolate version. You can also add ¼ cup ground flax seeds to increase fibre content.

 

Preparation:

Mix all ingredients together in a large bowl. Spoon out small ball-sized portions and flatten onto parchment paper. Cook in the oven at 350 degrees Celsius for 10 to 15 minutes or until golden brown.

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