Friday, 20 June 2008

Mono Eating (Or Just Eat An Apple or Five)

'Cook not, neither mix all things one with another, lest your bowels become as steaming bogs.'

This graphic description comes from The Essene Gospel of Peace, one of my favourite sources of dietary instruction.

The Teacher goes on to say: 'For I tell you truly, if you mix together all sorts of food in your body, then the peace of your body will cease, and endless war will rage in you.'

Hope I haven't put you off that slice of raw pizza...

Mono eating is a very simple way of eating; it means making a meal out of one type of food only. For example, when you feel like eating a banana, eat one, and then continue to eat bananas until you have no desire to eat any more. That may come at the second banana, or after 15+. Banana mono eating is popular with many on high-fruit diets, particularly sporty ones. I know men who run who eat a lot of bananas! But, of course, mono eating doesn't just mean bananas. Any plant food can form the basis of a mono meal.

Now I know many of you are already habitual mono eaters. But I can imagine others seeing the title and thinking, 'oh-oh, she was telling us to fast last week - now she wants us to live on lettuce.'

Not the case. I do believe that mono eating may well be the healthiest type of eating for us. However, after decades of eating all sorts of combinations of foods, most of us (me included) are neither ready nor willing (yet...) to embark on an exclusively mono eating raw diet. We make tasty raw concoctions because they remind us a little of the cooked food we left behind; 'rawgourmet' food can help enormously in the transition from cooked to raw, and also of course if offered to non-raw people it can help to make them feel more receptive to raw food.

But, if you're at the stage where you'd like your raw food diet to be a little simpler, and to move towards a more natural way of eating, try making some of your meals (perhaps breakfast, or lunch) in the coming weeks mono, as there are plenty of good reasons for doing so.

But first, let's look at the...
Objections to Mono Eating

'It's boring.'

Well, most of us have been brought up on complex combinations of lots of different foods, and just eating one food doesn't match with what we've been taught is a 'meal', but, if we scale the complexity of our eating down a little, we may find that a mono meal of ripe, juicy, sweet mango when we truly desire it is the very opposite of boring.

'I won't get all my nutrients if I don't have a balanced meal.'

Even if you mono eat for many of your meals, it's likely that you'll be receiving adequate variety in your food, but, rather than within one meal, over days, or weeks, or longer. If you lived on bananas and nothing else, you might well run short of nutrients - even those figures from history we're told lived on few foods ate at least two or three, and probably varied their food over the year. But your body is never going to let you live on bananas only - after a while you would naturally start feeling desire for another food - perhaps a citrus fruit, or some leaves, or avocado. Mono eating allows the body to become more finely attuned to what it actually needs, rather than the foods that our minds trick us into thinking we need.

Reasons to Mono Eat

No preparation time!

Just eat fruit as it is, completely naturally rather than pulverising it into a smoothie, or eat spinach from the garden (or the bag!). And mono eating is a convenient option when travelling.

A 'taste change' tells us when to stop eating

After we've mono eaten a certain quantity of a food we may find that the taste becomes unattractive. That's the signal that our bodies have had enough of whatever that food supplies us. David Wolfe ('Sunfood Diet Success System') describes it thus: 'When the organism has filled its need for that particular food, it no longer wants any more and the taste of the food changes...This is called an aliesthetic taste change.'
(I've looked up 'aliesthetic'; it's not in the dictionary - let's just take David's word for it!)

Well, that's the theory. The possible problem here is that some believe that this taste change is less likely to occur if we eat hybridised food, and a lot of our plant food is hybridised. Bananas in the shops are a long way from wild bananas, and weren't even yellow originally! On the other hand, David also says that 'pineapples can give a very strong taste change and can actually burn the mouth if one continues to eat past the signal', and pineapples are certainly hybrid fruits.

So, seems we can look out for that 'taste change', whether food is hybridised or not, but what is definite is that the food we mono eat must be raw. 'Instinctive eating' theory says that any food in its original, undenatured form interacts with our senses of taste and smell in a dynamic manner, and that cooking, fermenting and/or seasoning - in fact, anything that changes the food destroys the taste-change properties. The theory goes on to say that when foods are mixed, our bodies cannot detect the individual taste-changes of the component foods.

Maximises the chances of activating the mechanism for detecting satiation

Even if we don't experience the 'taste change', if we eat just one food rather than piling all sorts in, confusing our bodies from taste buds downwards, we are more likely to be able to notice when we've eaten enough.

Easier on the digestive system

Have you ever experienced 'fruit belly'? The 'six months pregnant' look when you're not? Not great whatever sex you are. This can happen when you mix fruit with, or eat it soon after, a slow-to-digest food like nuts. The nuts stick around in the digestive system for a while, the fruit piles in on top, wants to get out quickly, because it digests quickly, but - it can't - the exit's blocked by the nuts. What does it do while it's hanging around in that warm environment? Ferments, causing acidity and...gas!

And when we combine foods that are high in fat and high in sugar, the fat can interfere with the sugar getting out of the blood and into the cells (not good for those with 'sugar issues').

It's not the fruit that's the root of these problems - rather it's our insistence on mixing it with other sorts of food when it should be eaten alone.

Also, although the enzymes in raw foods help us digest them, we are reliant on our own digestive enzymes to break down the food into the nutrients our bodies need. Now, each type of food needs a specific type of digestive enzyme to break it down, and each of these enzymes needs a certain level of alkalinity (or acidity) in which to thrive and do its work. If we mix together lots of different foods, at any one time the environment is not going to be optimal for many of the enzymes that are needed, which is all taxing on the digestive system, and can deplete our energy.

How much simpler it is for the body to be given the task of digesting one sort of food only. And that is why, when we mono-eat, the food generally moves through our body very smoothly.

I first read about mono eating in Shazzie's 'Detox Your World' and she describes the plusses for the digestive system so beautifully that I remember it made me want to go and mono eat straight away! So I'll try it on you:

'After you've eaten like this, you notice something happening. Your gut moves! It's called peristaltic action: your gut literally starts to spasm and passes out the food that it's finished processing. This rarely happens with food that's combined, cooked or processed. It nearly always happens with raw eating. When this happens your gut can finally start pushing out waste, rather than (while it's having to work hard digesting all sorts of different foods) rely on you stuffing in more food in order to create enough pressure to force the other end open! Eventually, your poo will smell pleasant, you will go without straining, and it will look different.'

More natural?

With the exception of Jane Goodall's chimps (who were seen wrapping fruit in leaves) the animals around us generally eat one food at a time.

Mono eating experiences

Celery - I remember one day having an intense desire for celery - not something I normally crave! Bit into it, and it tasted amazing. Remember thinking, 'wow, now I'm raw, celery tastes so good!' So I chomped my way through a stick. Then, on the second stick, it tasted quite unpleasant. An excellent example of 'aliesthenics' in action.

Sweet potato - this happened when I was grating sweet potato for raw 'koftedes'. I started eating it, and it tasted so...sweet! Marvelling at how many years of my life I hadn't even realised sweet potato could be eaten raw, I ate...and ate! I don't remember getting the taste change, but what I do remember is - the experience Shazzie described. Around an hour later I went to the loo and emerged feeling...very light.

Bananas - I didn't experience a taste change, although lost appetite after three (the 'stop' signal) and 'peristalsis' occurred within half an hour!

Apples - I ate five apples yesterday as preparation for this article. I didn't get the taste change, nor the signal to stop eating, but at the five point began to feel quite uncomfortable. However, it later occurred to me that I hadn't given the apples a fair chance. As, I hadn't actually had the desire for an apple in the first place, rather I was just eating them mechanically as an 'experiment' for this article. Thinking back to when I'd experienced the aliesthenic taste change with the celery, I realised that it must be the case, that, for the taste change to operate, desire has to be present before eating. No wonder my body wasn't playing ball.


When mono eating...

Make sure you truly desire (have appetite for) the food

To give yourself the best chance of experiencing the 'taste change' that tells you when you've had sufficient, only experiment when you feel a genuine desire for a particular food. If you have a banana just because that's all you have in the kitchen, or you eat lettuce because you think you 'should' have some, aliesthenics probably won't kick in.

Buy in quantity a few foods that you know you regularly experience desire for

You know the sorts of foods that you enjoy eating most (mine would include oranges, cherries, olives, spinach and papaya, which gives me a great excuse to pop in a lovely picture of lots of them!)

Experiment on an empty stomach

'Instinctive eaters' say that appetite will ensure your instincts are sharpened.

Then, see if you experience the 'taste-change'. Some people report subtle changes, others more dramatic. With some foods, you may, as I found, experience no taste change at all. If not, stop at the point at which you have no true desire to eat any more.

And, whatever the case, your body will thank you.


Mila said...

great article, deb. Thanks!
i have a about seasonal eating? for example, for me, due to financial constraints, i am only eating what is available from the garden. beet greens, lettuces, tons of herbs, baby beets. (carrots, beets, and berries coming in soon).
i was wondering what your take is on that?
also, do you know if you can consume Rhubarb raw?

Debbie Took said...

Hi Mila

Seasonal eating from your garden...the VERY best way to eat! When I eat from the garden (currently lettuce and spinach) I just shake the leaves a little and pick off any bugs I can see, but I don't wash it - need all the B12 in soil microorganisms I can get!).

Rhubarb - I've never tried it raw. I believe that no food is better for us cooked than raw. And if a food tastes bad raw then we shouldn't be eating it all. My hunch is that rhubarb's acidity might make it a non-no. Try a little..your taste buds will give you the answer. (Don't eat or juice the leaves though - they are poisonous).

Mila said...

i do the same thing! my dad does not use any i just brush off the stuff and then eat it. the soil is good for us. little dirt never hurt us.
we have soo much in the garden..that i cannot eat it i have been juicing like crazy. It is amazing the difference when i go to even get a juice from a healthe shoppe as compared to straight from the garden.
thanks for the input.
yeh, i know about the rhubarb leaves being poisonous. ^___~

Anonymous said...

Hi Debbie -

Thanks for another great article :-) Maybe a great idea for lunch . . . It won't be fresh from the garden but perhaps I can wonder around Sainsburys and see what calls out to me . . .

Debbie Took said...

For me right now, papayas just KEEP calling out!

E*phi said...

Thanks for another interesting article, Debbie!
I personally don't mono-eat "intentionally" but generally realise a tendency towards simpler combinations, especially when I'm relaxed and in holiday mode :) (less "emotional" craving for "variety" and "a treat"...?!), and I often find myself only wanting this ONE thing, like... watermelon for breakfast :D Still one of my favourites. Even though I usually only get those strange seedless (sure heavily hybridised or whatever)ones (although organic), I always feel a point of sudden "not-tasty-anymore" change.
However, the most intense stop-signal I ever felt was when eating fresh wild figs in Greece! I haven't even heard of raw back then (that's been about 8 years ago I guess). I used to go for a walk to indulge in figs every afternoon an couldn't stop, so delicious were they, but all of a sudden I remember my mouth started to "burn" (after quite a lot though ;) )... Ah, I wish I had fresh wild figs for free here in Austria (but I shouldn't be ungrateful - I'm back in my garden, running around barefoot the whole day, with over 32°C!!... :))) )...

Debbie Took said...

That's fascinating, Evie, and I'm sure it has a lot to do with the fact that they were wild, and you ate them straight from the tree - I would love to have that experience. Lucky you in Austria -although the calendar's saying June here, the weather's saying April...

blacfemme said...

I'm so glad I found this article! It was exactly what I needed to read after a very negative reaction to some gourmet raw food after a few days of mono eating. It confirmed everything I already knew in my gut, literally. Thank you!

Debbie Took said...

Hi Bliss

I enjoy gourmet raw sometimes, but the last time I went to a raw restaurant I couldn't finish the meal it was so salty and stodgy.

Since writing the article, my favourite food for mono-eating is melons. Try a 'melon' day (I'm enjoying a beautiful canteloupe now!).

Anonymous said...

Hie debbie, i am abit confused with how to eat mono, do you only consume the food you desire for a day, then change foods, or is it everytime you have digested the food. What would be a reasonable dayly or weekly consumption?
ps. thankyou so much for all your helpful info and blog posts!

Unknown said...

How very exciting:) I'm beginning this new way of life tomorrow morning!