Tuesday 25th October 2016

Eating local food improves health

Eating local food is not only better for the environment, it’s also better for your health.

Local foods are ideally suited to their climate and the season they grow in, thus helping us to adapt to that environment and sustain good health, explains founder of the International Macrobiotic School Oliver Cowmeadow.

“Eating tropical foods is just what is needed in a tropical climate, as they cool the body, but they are not what is needed in the south of England, particularly in the winter,” he said.

“At this time of year, we need foods that will create warmth and that help strengthen our immune systems. Eating a lot of tropical foods will lead to health problems. ”

Oliver, a teacher and health counsellor for more than 30 years, explains that the ideal diet in our climate is plant-based, centred around whole grains, pulses, and a wide variety of vegetables, seeds and fruits, with some optional use of fish or other animal foods.

“This creates warmth and physical and mental strength, combined with physical and mental flexibility,” he said.

A ‘tropical diet’ high in potassium, and sugars, creates coldness in the body, muscular weakness, low vitality and poor immunity, leading to a susceptibility to colds and other infections, diabetes, varicose veins, asthma and hayfever.

A ‘polar diet’ high in sodium and saturated fats from animal food creates arteriosclerosis and heart disease, high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol and strokes, and contributes to the growth of cysts and tumours.

What to eat in what climate:

Temperate climate

Barley, wheat, millet, rice, maize
Aduki, kidney beans, chickpeas
A wide variety of vegetables
Apples, pears, plums, strawberries
Herbs like parsley, basil, thyme


Polar climate: 

These foods are higher in sodium and have a contracting, or ‘yang’ affect on the body:

Bilberries, blueberries, cranberries
Meat, fish and birds

Tropical Climate:
These foods are higher in potassium and have an expanding, or ‘yin’ effect on the body.

Millet, rice, sorghum
Mung beans
Vegetables like eggplant, cassava, peppers
Fruits like bananas, oranges, pineapple
Spices like nutmeg, chilli, cumin

History of food transportation:

Now more than half of the UK’s food is imported, with more than 2/3 of the land needed to grow our UK food being abroad – this puts pressure on developing countries to grow enough food for themselves. The environmental impact of growing food for people in Britain is displaced overseas.

In the UK, we mainly import tropical, high potassium, more yin foods – sugar, potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, aubergines, spices, tea, coffee, oranges and bananas.

There is a reason this, explains Oliver: “Living in northern Europe, we would historically have eaten high sodium more yang foods, so people became more yang, that is very energetic. So they could not sit still, and travelled out around the world, and were naturally attracted to high potassium Yin foods (as a balance out the Yang). So they brought these foods back to the UK, and these have now formed a staple part of the average British diet.”


Creamy Barley Pottage

Barley has been a staple grain in Great Britain for at least 6000 years, and this is a traditional way of cooking it with vegetables.

1/4 cup barley
1 leek
½ fennel
100g horse mushrooms
rape seed oil
2 tbsp white miso
sea salt


1. Bring the barley to the boil and simmer on a low flame for 2 hours, until soft and creamy.

2. Cut the leek and fennel up finely, and dice the mushrooms. Fry them in 1-2 tbsp oil with a pinch of salt, until they are tasty and sweet.

3. Add the cooked barley and cooking water to the vegetables, add more water if necessary, add 1-2 pinches each of sage, thyme and sea salt. Simmer for 20 minutes.

4. Dissolve the white miso in a little cold water and add to the pan, cook another 5 minutes, then serve!