Sugar's Real Deal

I was lucky enough to chat to one of the leading nutritionists in Australia, and indeed in the field of nutrition, yesterday. Cyndi O’Meara is a wealth of knowledge when it comes to optimizing your health with a ‘real food’ diet.

I’d heard that Cyndi takes a practical approach to eating, that she allows sugar and dairy in her diet and is OK with eating meat as well.

With so many mixed messages out there about what we should and shouldn’t eat, I was curious to get Cyndi’s take on the human diet. And what I found out, is that Cyndi is all about ‘real food’ and finding what works best for you

Sounds like the ideal philosophy to me, and one I try to live by daily.

Cyndi’s website is not only full of nutritional information, she tackles confronting issues such as obesity, anxiety, depression, allergies and parenting. She also offers a podcast every week, and real food products to stock your pantry with.

And her 21-day healthy weightloss program has helped numerous people turn their lives around.

Here’s our chat – I really hope you get something out of it. Mostly, to rid yourself of processed foods and learn not to limit yourself with real foods from the earth.

Have a fantastic day!

Cyndi, I’ve heard that you’re OK with so-called ‘cheat foods’ like sugar and dairy products?

I don’t see them as cheat foods, I see them as part of a healthy diet. But, it all depends on the quality that you’re eating. If you said white sugar and raw sugar, I would say no they’re not quality. There’s this whole thing now about sugar, like salt and like fat, we’ve gone off the deep end about (eliminating) it. Glucose is a really important part of the brain’s food. It needs glucose in order to function.

So, we can eat chocolate without feeling guilty? 

I make chocolate, (but) I make it from scratch, I make it from maleo which is the syrup of the sugar cane, raw cacao, coconut oil and I might add lime oil or chillies in it

So, it’s not chocolate from the supermarket?

No. We are eating plastic fantastic food all the time. People don’t know what’s healthy and what’s not anymore. Because of marketing and advertising people believe it’s OK.

There are so many mixed messages out there..

The mixed messages are there because we have been given a lie and that lie is creating a lot of sickness and illness so people are grasping for the one-bullet wonder and there is no one-bullet wonder. Except, to eat real food, to have a one-ingredient pantry. Do not buy any packaged foods whatsoever. And then by trial and error, once your body gets used to eating real foods again, you’ll know what works for you.

Our bodies are so numb from eating crap food, and it’s not even food, it’s chemicals. Your body then doesn’t know how to tell you, ‘That wasn’t good for me, that didn’t make me feel good.’

So I never ever ever cheat. Cheating to me is eating chewing gum, or a cake from Coles, but a treat is treating the body with absolutely healthy food and giving your body the best you can.

People are turning to extreme plant-based, raw food and Paleo diets and they’re still not feeling good..

Let’s say you’ve got a 25-30 year old woman who decides to go on a diet, it might be vegan, vegetarian, a protein diet, any of those. First of all she feels like crap because she’s getting rid of the toxicity from the other food but after some time if that diet doesn’t suit them they will start to get sick. If they go gluten-free and they are eating gluten-free products that may be laced with additives, preservatives and flavourings, then she’s not getting to the crux of real food.

I’ve been a vegetarian, it’s the worst thing for me, I get sick on it. What works for me is a strict Paleo diet but I can eat dairy, but only fermented dairy. So I can’t sit down to a glass of milk but I can sit down to half a cup of yoghurt… that I made myself. Not commercial yoghurt. There are so many diets out there at the moment, but the real food diet is the most important one to do.

In the beginning let’s go real food but then let’s do our tweaking.

What do you think of calorie counting?

I think it’s a waste of time! It’s not the calories in your food it’s the quality of food in your life. Let’s put it this way, say a typical female eats 2000 calories of lollies, chips and chocolates a day, then the other female eats fruits, vegetables and meats. In 12 months, what’s the difference in those two females? To me it’s common sense. The one who’s eaten 2000 calories of crap is going to be fat, sick and nearly dead and the one who’s eaten fruit, veg, meat and nuts and seeds, a ‘real’ real food diet, will be brimming with life and energy, and feeling fantastic.

What are the most common reasons people come to see you?

Everything; And everything that diet and medicine has created. Not emergency medicine, I’m talking about when you’ve got high cholesterol and the doctor puts you on a diet and puts you on drugs, what bull**** is that. I get so angry when I see someone doing that, but I can’t blame the doctors because their knowledge of nutrition is often minimal. The diet that has been recommended by the Heart Foundation or Diabetes Australia or the Nutrition Foundation, and it doesn’t work. They are actually believing in a system that’s not working. So the people that come to me are victims (because they haven’t educated themselves) of a system that is not working and they’ve got allergies, asthma, autism, Aspergers, they’re on every medication, they’ve got heart disease, had breast cancer, on the brink of diabetes, they’re tired, lethargic, depressed, they’ve got anxiety, you name it.

There’s a great article on your website about allergies, and how when you were younger no one was allergic to peanuts for example. Do you think people are becoming more educated and aware in terms of avoiding chemicals and processed foods?

I think so. I’ve been doing this for 30 years. When I was going to university there were 20 girls studying it. Nobody was interested in nutrition, but I just had a love for food. It was really controversial when I wrote a paper 25 years ago, they were like here’s this woman who says eat butter, don’t touch artificial sweeteners, don’t eat bread – I was saying this stuff 25 years ago. I say it now and it’s mainstream. I used to have 40 people come to my talks and now I have 600 or a 1000. Science and medicine took over our health, but there’s a real awakening now – we have to go back to our roots and that is food. It’s a growing momentum. It’s really exciting.

What about the ‘superfood’ craze – you sell a lot products on your website like chia and camu camu and coconut oil. How important is it for people to use those foods but not think of them as the solution?

I’ve written a whole article on superfoods and superfoods are the foods that you grow in your garden like herbs, fruits and vegetables. They’re, for me, the ultimate superfoods. The foods that I sell, and I use all of them, are there to try and bridge a market that is used to eating bad food and supplements. I’m trying to get them eating real food again. I don’t take any supplements, I don’t take any medicine, I eat purely from my garden, from the farmer’s market… I’m a ‘localivore’ and a ‘seasonivore’.

What’s one thing Health Birds can do today to help optimize their health?

Stop listening to marketing, advertising and propaganda, and start reading, start listening to podcasts, reading blogs. Start reading basic books. Educate yourself. And search for local produce, go out there and get real food.

Interview Kelli Armstrong