By Carrie Brown Reilly

Oscar Wilde said that “life imitates art far more than art imitates life.”

This notion that events in the real world are inspired by creative works gives me hope for my “artistic side,” which is admittedly sparse if you are talking about gallery showings. You definitely won’t find my work hanging on any walls around town, but I have been known to create some transcendental moments in the kitchen. For mouthwatering inspirations, I like to start with a blank canvass. That can be hard when it comes to modern foods that dominate the Standard American Diet. Big food companies load the shelves with bright, artfully rendered packaging that disguise highly engineered food products aimed at the consumer’s bliss point of “you can’t stop at just one.” The chemically heightened taste leaves us wanting more and more. This artificial experience also leaves our sense of taste a bit dull for the real flavors of delicious, whole, nutrient-dense foods and can actually leech vitamins and minerals from our bodies.

The first step to clean and clear your palate is to remove everything in your kitchen that is a cheap knockoff. All artists want to create original works, so anything that was produced in a factory is escorted to the curb and eighty-sixed. Once your kitchen has a makeover and there are fresh, whole foods at the ready, you can start thinking about what to create.

Although diet and nutrition are up to the individual, there are some general guidelines for both omnivore and herbivore. I live in Eugene, so I like to use the rainbow. The vibrant colors of fruits and vegetables come from naturally occurring micronutrients, such as vitamins and phytonutrients, which are essential for good health. One key part of these nutrients is antioxidants, which include beta carotene, lutein, lycopene, and vitamins A, C, and E. Not all antioxidants impart color, but eating a colorful range of foods helps you get them all. Healthy, organic proteins and fats at every meal are essential to vibrant health as well.

Maybe more important than setting the space and choosing the right foods is thinking about how your foods are consumed for optimal digestion. The old adage of “you are what you eat” is not as true as “you are what you digest.” You can check all of the boxes with a nutrient-dense meal, but if your body is not in a parasympathetic state, then the actual process of digestion and absorption is fighting a losing battle.

You have to “rest to digest.” I am not suggesting the two-hour European meal, although that would be nice. Start with calming your mind and body before eating by taking some deep belly breaths. Also, try to avoid eating with the distraction of driving or watching television. One good reason is that carbohydrates that don’t digest end up in your belly too long and actually start to ferment while you sit. Thit is one cause of bloating. Undigested proteins will putrefy and fats will deteriorate, wreaking havoc on your gastrointestinal system.

For optimal digestion the pH of your stomach should be highly acid at a range of 1.5 to 3.0. You can take a digestive enzyme to increase your belly fire, and you should also make sure you get good mechanical breakdown by chewing your food thoroughly.

Never settle for a cheap substitute. You are the beautiful, unique masterpiece. Take your time and taste the colors of the rainbow.