My Daily Permaculture Diet -Integral Health Series (1)

What is a Permaculture Diet? What is a Permaculture Principle?

By Aline Van Moerbeke

Wikipedia says the following on a Principle:

A principle is a concept or value that is a guide for behavior or evaluation. In law, it is a rule that has to be or usually is to be followed, or can be desirably followed, or is an inevitable consequence of something, such as the laws observed in nature or the way that a system is constructed.

The Permaculture Principles are a set of principles to help us “construct” or design our ecosystems based on the laws of nature. Bill Mollison’s first set of principles is only one of several sets available. David Holmgren’s set as adapted from Bill’s is widely used, as the marketing is good and the icons help to remember them easily. Anyone can make their version of the Permaculture Principles, as they all go back to unchangeable natural laws. As long as they refer back to those, you are good to go with your own descriptions, maybe even icons, get creative! Several sets are given as an example in the Permaculture Women’s Guild Online Permaculture Design Course, right in the beginning, in the module on Regenerative Foundations: Permaculture Ethics and Principles by Rachel Lyn Rumson.

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3 Permaculture Principles applied to Your Diet

As I am taking the above mentioned course myself, this writing is one of the tasks suggested in the course (free write on any three principles) and I thought I’d make my writing public (stacking functions ha!). I am currently particularly interested in our diet, having lived through a major change in mental state at the beginning of this year by taking a 5 month Anti-Candida Treatment. In the PDC courses I co-facilitate here on Mallorca through our association Permacultura Mediterránea I also love showing the little video in which Vandana Shiva says that the Revolution starts in our Plate, that this is where we reconnect with Nature, through our Food.

Starting to apply the Permaculture Principles in my life on a daily basis for me therefore starts with my diet. Here are a couple of examples, some of my thoughts.

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Observe and Interact

Make a food diary

If you want to make a change to your diet, for whatever reason (lose weight, have more energy, be stronger against infections, have a smaller carbon footprint, fight disease…), you have to first know what it is that you are eating. Know what you are working with. Whilst I was on the Candida Diet I made a note of everything I ate (apart from noting down the hours I had slept, what daily practice I had chosen that day for connection with self, the bodily reactions I was experiencing (tired, bloated, anxious…) and the supplements I was taking) during the 5 months I was on it. It’s tough going making time for this every day, but you get into a routine.

When my therapist asked me what I had eaten over the course of the last two weeks for me to have gotten gases again, I could go back, read, observe and we could deduct that I was probably putting in too many sweet carbs (figs, dates, dried apricots, raisins, etc in my breakfast porridge and dried fruit bars for on the hikes) or experiencing too much stress. Tweaking in both those areas helped my stomach settle down.

To be able to find the patterns and disrupt them, we have to be able to look into the details when we need them. We think we remember everything, but with something as mundane as your diet, we tend to forget. So, write it down. Observe your rhythms, your food choices, the amount of time you take to eat, where you were eating, how you felt whilst eating, how often you defecate and what the consistency and colour is of your stool (sorry, but yes!)… anything you can think of. Take a look at your notes at weekly or monthly intervals to see if you can spot the patterns. And then Interact to change the ones that are deducting from your Integral Health.

Other ways to apply this principle in your diet for optimal Integral Health are learning about the digestive system and the building blocks in food, observe the cycles and eat what is in season only, observe your body and your feelings and listen to your intuition…

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Catch and Store Energy

Cook up larger batches

Time is a precious thing. Many of us wish we had more of it. So when diets say you have to change to cooking your own food to know what is in it, I cringe, because I have so many other things I want to be working on! When my therapist said I should be eating cooked oat grains rather than flakes, cold cooked rice and potatoes, gluten free buckwheat pancakes etc I replied to her: when do you think I have time in the day to do all that cooking!? So she said to cook one day a week: whilst the spuds are in the oven, your oat grains and rice are cooking away on the hob, some eggs can be boiling in with the rice, and you can also mix the buckwheat that you had soaked overnight with water so that you have a pancake mixture ready for several sessions.

Catching and Storing Energy, making the most of every minute and every action. As one of Bill Mollison’s principles goes: Stack Functions! Nature also makes the most of everything: a tree gives shade and/or fruit, cools and filters the air, stores water in the ground, gives fungi and other creatures a habitat and after it’s cycle is done it offers wood for building, heating or cooking. So Catching and Storing Energy in the preparation of our food is going to be helpful in reaching our goal of Integral Health. This needs some careful design though, because the danger lies in making too much and then we will have created waste (we don’t want that, as the other principle “Produce no Waste” says)!

Other ways to apply the principle Catch and Store Energy are slow cooking to preserve resources (electricity, gas…) and also nutrients, preserve food when there is abundance in the harvest (ferments, soups, sauces, marmalade…), use solar energy to cook, filter your water, dry fruits… (this one also goes back to the principle “Use and Value Renewable Resources and Services”)

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Small and Slow Solutions

Chew each mouthful at least 20 times

There you have it. One small change. Slow eating. It makes a HUGE difference! Not only are you helping digestion along as designed by nature (mixing your food with saliva, in which digestive enzymes live, breaking it down into smaller portions for easier digestion down the line and sending the signal to your stomach to starch producing chlorhydric acid for optimum absorption of the nutrients in your food), you are also eating slower. The latter gives your brain time to receive the signal that you are full way before you have overeaten. The former makes for the nutrients in your food to become more available than they would be if they are racing down your digestive tract in large chunks, and are basically expelled as they have entered, with nutrients and all. And we are eating to obtain those nutrients, not to “just get full”!

Eating more consciously might be all the change we need in our diet, for us to become more balanced, more energetic, more healthy. By taking time to notice how we eat, I feel that flavours also become so much richer. Eating is not just for running our engine, not just a necessity. In my opinion eating is one of the pleasures of life, and a moment in which I feel that we can become much more appreciative of what we have on the table, where we can feel abundance with little, feel rich and overjoyed, no need to overdo it.

Overeating is a problem in the “developed” countries, obesity and diabetes are unstoppable, food gets thrown out all the time, whilst so many people in this world lack the food quantity needed to keep their metabolism going on a daily basis. If we want to lower our carbon footprint, our diet is a great place to start. Eat slower. Eat less. Massive reduction assured in your wallet, in your footprint, in your waistline.

Other ways to apply this principle to your diet are to take out of your diet just one type of food (gluten, lactose, processed sugar, fast food, coffee, alcohol…) for a period of time, say a week or a month and see what happens, go find a store where you can have a organic and healthy lunch or take away and treat yourself this way once a week, shop in farmers’ markets or small village grocers and observe the price and origin of the fruit and veg (you’ll soon spot the seasonal produce)…

There are endless ways in which the Permaculture Principles can be applied to our Daily Diet. I’d love to hear your examples!

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