I don’t know about you but when someone tells me to do something because it’s good for me, it doesn’t necessarily inspire me to do it. I need to know the “why” before I’m spurred into action.
I’ve been told to eat my greens as far back as I can remember but sometimes eating a piece of broccoli or a plate of spinach doesn’t quite have the same pull as a piece of pizza.
During the six-week Refinery programme I recently completed with GetRunning, one thing nutritionist Sarah Sinclair kept saying to me after analysing my food diary was ‘I want to see you eating more greens, more vegetables’.
She encouraged me to start making Green smoothies as a way to get more greens into my system. And I know this sounds like a poor excuse but I’ve always had an aversion to juicing because I hate cleaning the blender, and pulped up spinach just doesn’t sound appealing.
So as you can imagine, when we were given the challenge to add a vegetable smoothie to our daily diet, I failed miserably. I managed just one, pathetic, unimaginative smoothie of green powder mixed with water in a shaker. It was, as you would expect, rather awful.
Sinclair explained that vegetables were important because they offered a number of health benefits due to their nutrient dense nature.
“Yup, I get it,’ I said, not really getting it. “Greens are healthy.” ‘But so is lean protein, lots of water, oily fish and quinoa’ I thought. What I didn’t stop to consider was the different roles each of these healthy foods plays in keeping our bodies in good working order.
It wasn’t until I met juice guy Joe Cross (of film fame Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead, and Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead 2, and author of Fully Charged: 7 Keys to Losing Weight, Staying Healthy and Thriving) that the difference between macronutrients and micronutrients finally smacked me in the face like a giant cream pie. I couldn’t ignore it!
Put simply, macronutrients bring energy to the table in the form of protein, carbohydrates and fat. Micronutrients bring vitamins and minerals which are required in small quantities to ensure normal metabolism, growth and physical wellbeing.
Cross likes to describe micronutrients as “information”. Communicators within the body. “Micronutrients are information that our cells need to function properly. If you ignore putting in the micronutrients and only put the macro you’re going to have trouble. Macronutrients are in all food. They’re in processed, they’re in animal and they’re in plant. But the micronutrients, the information, is only found in plants,” says Cross.
“So if you are going to have an imbalance in your diet of 95 per cent macronutrients coming from animal and processed food, you are really having a 95 per cent imbalance of not having the micronutrients,” Cross explains. “You are missing out on the information, and if you do that over a long period of time guess what happens? You cannot ignore the biological laws of cause and effect and you will break. And I broke. And so many people break.”
Cross, a former financial investor, was overweight and on medication when he began juicing in desperation to get off the meds. He embarked on a juicing diet of vegetables and fruit and in 60 days he successfully rebooted his system, was able to come off his medication and he also shed 45kgs in the process.
As Cross points out micronutrients don’t get much of a say in the modern day thanks to the invention of processed food. What he is thankful for is the body’s number one goal, irrespective of whatever abuse is thrown at it, which is to stay alive.
“Your body takes a lot of hammering to keep you alive. You can do a lot of damage. I did it for 20 years. I trashed myself for 22 years from 18 to 40 and luckily my body was resilient enough that I didn’t go too far but some people go too far,” he says. “But when you do the math, 70 per cent of disease is caused by lifestyle choices and 30 per cent is bad luck. Seventy per cent! Get out of your own way.”
Cross did just that and decided to do two years “in the fruit and vegetable prison” to see if he was in the 70 per cent camp or the 30 per cent camp. “I thought, if I’m in the 70 per cent, fantastic, I’ve got a shot at fixing myself. It took five months,” he says.
His advice is to use the time machine that we have right now. Go forward 30/40 years, think about the quality of your life and realise that that destination starts with choices today.
“It starts with what are you doing today about planning for the future? You don’t want to be incapacitated. You don’t want family and friends coming to visit you in hospital on their weekends. Ruining their day. Who wants that? Do you want to be one of these people on a little machine being driven around? Do you want assistance at the airport to get to your gate?” Cross says.
And, as he points out, when it comes to getting enough micronutrients it’s up to us because our modern diets have evolved far too quickly for our evolutionary instincts to assist.
He uses this analogy. If a tiger came into the room our in-built instinct is to protect ourselves from danger but we haven’t developed the same ability to warn ourselves that we’re not getting enough micronutrients.
“We haven’t developed this ability to go, ‘you know what, we didn’t get enough micronutrients today. Warning, warning, warning’. We haven’t got it,” Cross says. “But we’ve created this new processed food, something in the food supply. We’ve created something that you can do every day that is going to cause you pain in the future but there’s no warning system. So you have to bring a consciousness to the table. You have to bring in alertness. You have to practice this mindfulness and realise that unless you get plants in today you’re going to pay the price in the future.”
Since meeting Cross, who’s now 48, guess what? I’ve started juicing. We’ve installed a new blender at the office, and I’m embarrassed to admit but happy to discover that modern blenders have evolved in their design (mine, which I’ve just retired, harks back to the dark ages). Yes, I’ve discovered that making a smoothie in 2015 is not messy, it’s super easy and there are delicious smoothie combinations, and as Cross and Sinclair both say, it’s a great way of getting more greens/micronutrients.