I am excited to introduce our new Luxe Provence Slow Living series, a healthy space that I have had in mind for quite some time. Considering the COVID-19 pandemic we are all currently facing around the world, there’s really no better time than now to get started. My goal is to provide interesting content in collaboration with hand-selected experts I know and trust, to inspire your own journey in finding better life balance, and improved health and wellness. Each feature will include timely resources on relevant topics such as: daily immune boosting rituals and stress-relief tools, nutrient-dense and gluten-free recipes, along with plant-based remedies you can make at home… inspired by slow living in Provence.
While these forced quarantines and social distancing can be very challenging, maybe these tips and simple guides will help you to truly slow down, focus inwards and perhaps come away with a more balanced approach to living, wherever you may be, from this tragic period in our shared history.
To keep things interesting, I will be bringing you 1:1 interviews with some of my favorite and local Provence experts, from inspiring nutritionists, doctors and chefs, to international herbalists and holistic wellness professionals. Plus, discover regular inspiring recipes and plant-based healing designed to strengthen your health and overall wellbeing during this difficult period. Perhaps through at least one recipe, or useful tip shared, may help us all to navigate these uncertain times with a bit more ease together.
Since most of us around the world are now fully confined to our homes, sheltering in place, you may be spending more time in the kitchen than ever (my kids and I seem to be in the fridge every 30 minutes, lately..), so let’s start with food.
Meet the Expert: Rachel Baker, Nutrition & Lifestyle Medicine
Today, I am kicking off with Q/A with Provence-based, Nutrition & Lifestyle Medicine expert, Rachel Baker (picture above). I love Rachel’s highly-visual and inspiring Instagram account, for when I need a nutrient-rich recipe pick-me up. I have asked her to share a bit about her journey in self-healing, along with one of her go-to delicious recipes specifically designed to strengthen our immune system. Plus, she’s graciously shared some insider Provence market tips.
(TK) First of all, can you tell us a little bit about what brought you to Provence?
(RB) We first came to Provence 10 years ago for a family holiday. It really was love at first sight – the daily outdoor markets, bursting with fresh fruit and vegetables, the best olive oils, and the traditional hill top villages, vineyards and orchards. By the end of the first week my husband and I knew we wanted to move here. It was a question of engineering backwards to make it happen.
(TK) I love your slow living approach to sharing on Instagram stories, I find your recipes so inspiring! What inspired your current path as an expert nutritionist and your contagious passion for healthy eating?
(RB) I’ve been interested in nutrition since my teens when I first became a vegetarian and started experimenting with plant-based food. I’ve always cooked intuitively with the seasons, with a belief that Mother Nature sets the rhythm for what my body needs at certain times of the year. Seasonal cycles have a profound influence on the needs of my body and aligning myself with the seasons in this way connects me with what I’m eating and helps me to tune back in with my body. Taking the time to appreciate the simple pleasure of looking forward to the first tender sweet peas or the first punnet of strawberries reminds me that there really are things in life worth waiting for. So, in this way, I’ve always known, perhaps intuitively as well as from our ancient forefathers, that food is medicine.
Then around six years ago, my health took a serious nose dive. My adrenals were totally burnt out and over a period of weeks and months my symptom list continued to grow, until one day the batteries literally ran out and I struggled to put one foot in front of the other. After seeing an entourage of different specialists, I decided to take back my power and make my health and well-being a priority. The more I researched, the more convinced I became that I could reverse my loss of health by nourishing myself with nutrient dense food and changing my lifestyle practices. As my health slowly started to improve I discovered that restoring my own health was not at odds with helping others achieve theirs. My desire to increase my learning led me to enroll on a Master’s degree in Personalised Nutrition. That was four years ago and I can honestly say that it was a pivotal moment in my life. Since then, I’ve studied Biological Medicine with Swiss physician Dr. Thomas Rau, director of the world renowned Paracelsus Clinic, who single-handedly strengthened my belief that natural healing is possible without pharmaceuticals. Just over a year ago I launched my online business, 3 Sources Mind Body Nutrition, to support and empower others to live optimally, no matter where they are on their health journey.
(TK) That’s such a powerful approach to take in spearheading your own healing. I am so glad you have been able to achieve results with your own health and must feel so good to take back that control. It is so important for us all, to really listen to our bodies, even if the doctors don’t believe you or understand at first. I, too, have been battling with my health and visited over 12 specialists in two years, before we were able to finally identify the core issues I was experiencing. Despite making progress on gut health, I am still currently battling multi-system Lymes and persistent co-infections, which leaves me feeling a bit vulnerable, immune-wise. The current COVID-19 pandemic is certainly causing a lot of stress particularly for those who are already navigating health issues or feel immune-compromised. What sort of tips could you offer to us all, to help us boost our immune systems at this very stressful time?
(RB) It’s helpful to think about the immune system as something that you want to be balanced, rather than boosted. You can support a strong immune system with nutrition, herbs, lifestyle, and mindset. Now is a good reminder that it’s hard to “make up” for loss of health. Rather, you want to work towards a balanced regime that you can maintain all year round. My approach relies on a daily fortification of the immune system that begins from within.
Since almost 80% of your immune cells are located in the gut, your digestive tract is the first place to start when thinking about immune strength. This is because the gut is home to the trillions of bacteria that make up your microbiome and these bacteria play a critical role in maintaining a strong immune system.
(TK) Now more than ever, I believe people are looking for not only immune support but daily stress relief tips, and are truly open to living healthier. This is perhaps the silver lining on our current pandemic. Describe your recommendations, or first steps to someone looking to create a healthier lifestyle for themselves.
1: Simple ways to integrate immune boosting now
(RB) To support immunity, you want to heal the gut and provide it with good nutrition. Prebiotic plant fibres contain compounds that ‘seed’ the gut and promote the growth of beneficial bacteria. You can be sure you’re keeping your microbiome happy by eating healthy sources of prebiotics such as: chicory root, Jerusalem artichoke, dandelion greens, garlic, leeks, onions and asparagus. Probiotic foods ‘feed’ and promote the growth of beneficial microorganism communities. Good options to include are fermented foods such as: kimchi, sauerkraut, coconut milk yoghurt, water or coconut kefir, kombucha, or raw unpasteurised sheep or goats milk cheeses.
2: Stress and anxiety reduction techniques
(RB) Increased levels of stress increase susceptibility to viral infections. In order to get yourself from a place of stress activation to one of calm, the key is to work with the body from the outside in. There are many ways to bring your nervous system into a state of regulation in the moment as well as part of a practice. A regular, consistent meditation or breath work practice is one of the most effective (scientifically proven) ways to bring your system into regulation. When practiced over time some of the benefits are a toned, flexible nervous system, which enables you to have the capacity to move through your life with greater awareness, ease, and resilience.
3: Easy actions for beginners to integrate into their diet
(RB) Here are some of my easy-to-implement immune warriors:
- Fresh raw garlic – add to food
- Fresh ginger juiced or blended and strained. Take it as shots, add it to water or tea and lean in during a viral season
- Medicinal mushrooms are immune modulating, meaning they help your immune system work at an optimal level. In particular, reishi and chaga, which also improve your microbiome’s health. Even eating regular mushrooms will help, but shiitake mushrooms are a great source and easy to find in dried form
- All the spices – think turmeric, cinnamon, cayenne, chilli pepper – anything that makes you warm and sweaty, flushed and well circulated. Many of these increase T-cell function, which you can think of as your bodies fighter cells
- Fresh herbs: oregano, rosemary, parsley, thyme, coriander, mint, etc. – these are potent medicinal plants that provide immune supporting and antiviral properties
- My Miracle Broth (see recipe below) is the perfect vehicle for all the ingredients mentioned above.
(TK) Wow, thank you for so many great nutrition tips. I am a bit obsessed with adding raw garlic and ginger to everything, good to know I’m not alone! Now for some fun insider Provence questions. Your homebase here is in the Luberon, one of my favorite regions of Provence. Give us a snapshot of your ideal day.
(RB) A trip to one of my favourite outdoor markets to buy fresh salad leaves and raw goat and sheep milk cheeses for lunch, perhaps some fresh figs and a bouquet of beautiful flowers, such as sunflowers or anemones. A simple market lunch enjoyed in our garden overlooking the Luberon hills. A late afternoon walk to Lacoste, through the ancient vineyards and cherry orchards. An evening meditation at sunset followed by a favourite book, listening to the sound of cicadas and the warm gentle breeze coming in through the open window. This would be my ideal day, not a working day I might add!
(TK) What are your top Provence market towns for sourcing the best produce, or that you find inspiring?
(RB) I absolutely love the Coustellet Sunday morning market for the best fresh produce bought direct from the famers. The local market of Apt, one of the best in the region, for local cheeses, honey, artisan breads and cut flowers. And Lourmarin market for its stunning backdrop and ambience – the perfect place for people watching!
(TK) Finally.. could you please share your favorite immune boosting recipe, for our readers? I love watching your Instagram stories for new recipe ideas. I am certain my readers would appreciate!
(RB) I am sharing my all-time favourite plant-based broth recipe, aptly named “Miracle Broth,” because it’s exactly that, miraculous. And here’s just some of its incredible benefits:
Reduces inflammation – the root cause of most disease
Alkalises the body – ideally our diet should be 80% alkaline and 20% acidic
Supports the adrenal glands – the organs that get hit the hardest when we are tired and wired
Supports healthy digestion – full of plant based fibres to encourage beneficial bacteria
Thyroid supportive – rich in iodine. I like to add a boost of Chinese herbs – known as adaptogens – to balance the hormones and the adrenal glands, but you don’t have to. I highly suggest using a good quality, heavy based pot to make the broth as the key is to keep it at a simmer for the entire cooking time to extract all the nutrients. It’s very important to use organic or unsprayed vegetables as you don’t want chemicals leaching into your broth. For overall health benefits, I recommend drinking 1 cup per day. I like to drink it in the morning to alkalise my system. Salt is as you serve it with pink Himalayan salt for an added mineral boost.
MIRACLE BROTH RECIPE by Rachel Baker
- 2-inch piece of Kombu or handful of wakame seaweed
- 1/2 cup dried shiitake mushrooms
- 1 whole onion, skin on, sliced in half
- 5 garlic cloves, skin on, halved
- 3 carrots, unpeeled, cut into thirds
- 3 celery stalks (with leaves), chopped
- 1/2 medium red kuri or kabocha squash, skin on cubed
- 1 medium leek, cut into thirds (white and light green parts)
- 1/2 small bunch kale, leaves only
- 2 unpeeled red potatoes, quartered
- 1 medium fennel bulb with fronds, quartered
- 2 inch piece of fresh turmeric, unpeeled and grated (or 1/2 tsp dried ground)
- 2 inch piece of ginger, skin on and grated
- 1 handful parsley sprigs (including stalks)
- 6 black peppercorns
- 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar (unpasteurised)
- 3 slices dried astragalus (optional)
- 1/2 tsp reishi powder (optional)
Add everything to pot. Add water to cover. Simmer for 1.5 hrs. Strain. Once cool, decant into glass bottles and store in the fridge for up to one week.
Thank you so much, Rachel! Let us know if you have any comments or questions below. And hopefully you have enjoyed this first post in our new series!
Rachel Baker is a registered Nutritional Therapist (CNHC), Nutritionist (BANT) and certified NLP (Neurolinguistic Programming) practitioner. She holds a Master of Sciences in Personalised Nutrition and has fulfilled the criteria for Applying Functional Medicine in Clinical Practice (AFMCP) with the Institute for Functional Medicine (IFM). In 2019, Rachel received certification in Biological Medicine at the Swiss Biological Medicine Academy.
Rachel believes food is medicine and she is passionate about helping others achieve their health goals though online courses and programs. Drawing on the wisdom of natural medicine principles and nutrition science, her mission is to provide others with a clear framework that will help them to live life optimally. You can subscribe to the 3 sources newsletter and weekly mind body nutrition focused articles at www.3sources.com.
Photo credits: Tarik Koivisto (lavender, villages, landscapes) and Rachel Baker images by Photographer, Joanna Maclennan.
Post and Interview By Tarik Koivisto, Founder & Creative Director, Luxe Provence and mother of two living the good life in Provence.