I’m very excited to have had the opportunity to interview Nicky Halliday, a nutritionist and a natural chef based in Dublin. I am fascinated by her work and her opinions on food and nutrition. Nicky’s website is www.nickyhalliday.com. Thank you Nicky for taking some time to answer questions for us.
Nicky, for those who haven’t heard the term before, what is a natural chef?
A natural chef is a nutrition based therapeutic chef who cooks to help people heal or to sustain one’s health. We also learn how to cook with alternative ingredients for people who have intolerances.
What are the benefits of eating all natural ingredients?
Our bodies should recognise natural ingredients when consumed and know what to do with them so they can be easily digested, absorbed and assimilated. As they haven’t been processed in any way they should have all the beneficial nutrients our bodies require to maintain health.
Do you think there is an increase in people going back to basics and trying to avoid processed foods as much as possible?
I believe people are becoming more aware about the connection between food and health, and therefore, making smarter choices when choosing what themselves and their family consume. I realise that there is a lot of conflicting information out there about what is healthy and what is not, which makes it difficult for consumers to be aware about how healthy a product is. That is why I believe education in nutrition and cooking from a young age is extremely important for our children.
What is your opinion on organic foods? Should we be eating these as much as possible?
I would love to live in a world where everything was organic. I hate to think I am consuming chemicals, which can be damaging to our health, while I’m eating my vegetables or consuming traces of antibiotics, which disrupt our gut flora, while I’m eating farmed fish or other animals.
I try to buy organic where possible, I also choose wisely what I buy organic and what I don’t. For example, here is a list called the dirty dozen. This list tells us which crops are spayed the heaviest
7. Sweet bell peppers
11. Cherry tomatoes
12. Hot peppers
I feel it is not as necessary to buy organic when the item has a thick skin on it, for example oranges, pineapples & avocados.
I do advise choosing organic meats, eggs. Animals raised organically are not allowed to be fed antibiotics, growth hormones, or other artificial drugs. Animals are also not allowed to eat genetically modified foods. The animals are raised in a healthier environment, fed organic feed, and often eat a wider range of nutrients than those commercially raised.
Do you have a dairy free diet yourself?
I try and consume as little dairy as possible. I do not believe myself to be intolerant to it, but it is difficult to find a decent product on the market. Commercial milks are pasteurised to kill off any harmful bacteria that could be in the milk, unfortunately this heat treatment also kills the beneficial enzymes (to help us digest it) and beneficial bacteria that are in raw milk. Many people who cannot tolerate pasteurised milk can tolerate raw milk. Unfortunately it is very difficult to buy raw in Ireland, so if buying milk which is very rarely I would chose organic.
We were always led to believe we should be drinking milk to receive the calcium for our bones growing up, but this is in fact not true as milk can acidify our bodies and in order to balance the ph calcium is taken from the bones to neutralise the blood. So it can actually leech the calcium from our bones. It also has growth properties which can encourage growth of some cancers. So, with all this in mind I try to avoid consuming dairy.
As a nutritionist do you get clients coming to you with intolerance and allergies?
I get many people coming to me with intolerances and allergies. Many people know what they are intolerant to when they come to me and many people are coming to me to find out. I would usually recommend an elimination challenge diet. This works by eliminating the food for about 3-4 weeks and then consuming a lot of this food in one go and observing how you feel. It usually lets the person know if they have a problem with this particular food.
I do believe we can cure our intolerances by healing our guts and repopulating our guts with beneficial bacteria. It can take a lot of time and effort but I believe it is possible. It is extremely important for us to populate our guts with beneficial bacteria, as so much of it has been killed off from medications, antibiotics, poor diet choices and stress. I also believe that this is one of the reasons why we have such an increase in allergies and intolerances in our society.
What are your thoughts on eating fermented dairy?
When we ferment dairy and make yogurt, crème fraise & some cheeses we are basically letting the milk digest itself before we consume it and has much less lactose content in it which makes it much easier for us to digest.
Fermented dairy can be healthy for us as it has many of the beneficial bacteria we require in our guts. Again unfortunately commercial yogurts can be heated after fermenting and this will kill off the bacteria, but if we ferment milk ourselves at home we will get the full benefits from it. It is actually very easy to do!
Do you have any advice for someone just starting on a dairy free diet?
There are many options out there and you just really need to experiment yourself to find what you like the best. I would be careful if choosing a store bought milk substitute. Always read the ingredients as there might be added sugars, many preservatives, artificial sweeteners or flavours. Try oat milk, almond milk, coconut milk and rice milk. My favourite and healthiest choice would be coconut and almond.
I would try making your own almond milk as it is so much nicer and nutritious than store bought. You can also experiment using nuts to make sauces for meals instead of dairy.
I would stay away from soya milk as too much can damage your thyroid and it is also high in phyto-oestrogens which have been linked to certain cancers.
Thanks again Nicky for taking the time to do the interview for us. Check out Nicky’s website for more information.