Interview by Caroline, founder of the alternative lifestyle blog "Alt + Green"

While everyone's still on the healthy theme, I wanted to share the secrets of Naturopathy with you.  And I thought who better to do this than the fabulous Claudine of Bespoke Health .  I have used her a couple of times and can recommend her as a very knowledgeable, practical advisor,  and all round helpful lady who really loves what she does :) Claudine lived in Oxon for many years and continues to serve clients in Oxon and across the globe (via Skype/phone/email).

Interview with Claudine Martin, Naturopath:

In a nutshell, what is naturopathy and why is it good for us?
Naturopathic nutritionists are trained in the detailed workings of the body and its metabolism. This enables us not only to explain to individuals how their illness may have started but also to design a tailor-made nutrition and health program, explain how it works, and guide the client through it, adapting it as necessary and working through any problems that may arise. By understanding the cause of your symptoms, you can then address it directly rather than simply taking a medicine, for example, to mask the symptoms. Nutrition can often lessen or entirely alleviate specific issues reducing the need for conventional medicine which has many side effects.

What inspired you to turn to naturopathy?
I first became interested in alternative therapies, and nutrition specifically, when I was pregnant with my first child- unbelievably 20 years ago! I was concerned about my environment, the modern medicines, testing procedures, etc. that I was given and started to question things that seemed unnecessary to me. I had many interesting tutors along the way and noticed how changing things in my environment, specifically my diet, lessened my own symptoms without too much effort, but more importantly without any side effects.

You've mentioned to me in the past that people ate better back in the olden days.  How is modern day life affecting eating habits?
The nutritional value of food has lessened since the industrial age. Due to the processing, long distance travel, packaging, environmental impact, pesticides, etc., our food simply does not provide all the vitamins and minerals that we need. The longer your fresh vegetables take to get to the supermarket, sit on the shelves and later in your refrigerator, the less nutritional value they will have. Unfortunately supplements are now necessary for most people even with the best diets. Secondly, we live in an age when people expect everything immediately, quickly. Very few people can or want to take the time out to cook a proper meal. We are eating more fast food, more processed foods and less truly healthy, nutritionally rich foods. Our bodies, no matter how overfed, are often starved of proper nutrition!

What are your top 3 healthy eating tips?

+ Cook your own food as often as possible.
+ Buy organic if you can’t grow your own.
+ Make vegetables the main part of two meals a day. That is probably the hardest, but if you try to do this, you will see that you lose weight, feel healthier, have better skin, etc. We rely far too much on carbs such as pasta, bread and potato products.

What are the common mistakes people make when trying to eat healthily/change their habits?

+ Counting calories – it’s really not necessary if you eat a balanced diet.
+ Avoiding sugar, but then replacing it with artificial sweeteners – a definite No-No! Even agave, honey, maple syrup, etc. need to be eaten in very small quantities (regardless of their GI)
+ Eating low-fat foods – your body and its metabolism require health fats to burn calories (among other things)
Skipping meals – especially breakfast

In your opinion, what are the benefits of eating a plant-based diet?
First and foremost, it is environmentally the right way to go. Having spent a lot of time on the continent, I appreciate how many in the UK eat vegetarian and vegan meals regularly – it’s not so easy in countries like Germany and France. The UK is more advanced in this regard. Studies have shown that a plant-based diet (not always considered to be 100% vegan, however) may prevent type 2 diabetes, lower heart disease, contribute to weight loss (or maintenance), support healthy vision, skin, etc., etc.

There are a few issues with plant-based eating, however. Many vegetarians and vegans rely on carbs as their main food – bread and pasta being the favourites. It’s then very easy to get children especially hooked on eating almost nothing but breads, cakes, biscuits and pasta – not a very healthy start for them and a very bad habit to get into.
Also, if you are vegan, you need to be aware that you may need extra supplements such as B12.

Please check out Caroline's regular blog on eating a plant-based diet and cool things to do in the Oxfordshire area!