About Sri Lanka


Travelling around eating and drinking can wreak havoc on the health. I try to balance the scale by choosing the right foods to eat, taking a wellness spa break when possible and interviewing health and wellness professionals to glean their top tips. Here are some of the best ideas I’ve learned recently from those in the know.

The five principals of why we age, according to food and health consultant Elizabeth Peyton-Jones, centre on acid, inflammation, oxidation, digestion and hormone balance. In her recently published book, Cook Yourself Young, Peyton-Jones, an herbalist and naturopath explains her theories and offers 100 easy recipes. 

Clients such as actor Thandie Newton (Crash, Mission Impossible II) and model Claudia Schiffer love her dishes which make use of the natural medicines in foods. Quinoa porridge with pear, Thai fish curry, cauliflower maki rolls – all recipes are meat, dairy and sugar free. 

Nuffield Health in the UK (40 hospitals, 120 gyms) takes advice from her on immune boosting menus. However if you want to try her approach in a more pampering setting, go to The Coniston Hotel, Country Estate and Spa in Yorkshire. The spa’s Nourish Brasserie menu was developed in consultation with Peyton-Jones and includes such mains as “Grilled Seabass, Ratatouille, Wilted Spinach” as well as detox, cellulite mover and oxygen booster juices. 

Should you wish to cheat, their Macleod’s restaurant will happily serve you Yorkshire lamb, Dauphinoise potatoes and glazed apple tart with rhubarb ice cream. Or completely fall off the wagon with afternoon tea of scones with jam and cream, buttered Yorkshire tea bread and black forest tartlet. But remember to return to the principles of good healthy eating soon after the guilty indulgence.

Gut health has been in the news a lot lately as ever more research comes out proving the relationship between a healthy gut and overall wellbeing. Prebiotics, probiotics and fermented foods to feed and encourage your healthy gut bacteria are all the rage. You can get a start on the right path by going to Grayshott Spa in Surrey England and signing up for their Health Regime Programme (seven day minimum). 

Consultant Executive-Chef Adam Palmer has developed a meal programme that focuses on feeding your gut with delicious, nutritious dishes to take the body to optimum health. However best to start limiting caffeine, alcohol and refined sugars weeks in advance or risk a shock to the system. 

Activities in the regime include castor oil compresses, abdominal massages, hydro baths and health lectures as well as optional fitness classes, guided walks and yoga. Guests can also sign up for the more indulgent facial, mani, pedi, hair styling and body wrap as a departure package. The highlight however are the special pro-gut meals. 

For those who can’t make the trip, Chef Palmer and co-writer nutritionist Vicki Edgson have published Gut Gastronomy, a book about the fundamental rules to great gut health with 100 unique recipes. I found the recipes complicated work but fabulously tasty and worth every ounce of effort. In fact the dishes were so delicious and the concept so interesting that I’ve signed up for a week Health Regime in July. I’ll tell you more once I’ve had the full experience.

Spices are constantly mentioned for their antimicrobial (examples: cinnamon, mustard, oregano, garlic), antioxidant (example: rosemary), antiseptic (example: clove), antispasmodic (example: anise) and other pro-health properties. The best book ever to delve into spices is The Spice and Herb Bible by Ian Hemphill. 

Hemphill has been immersed in herbs and spices for most of his life. His parents pioneered Australia’s love of those botanicals back in the 1950’s and Ian (nicknamed Herbie) went on to manage a spice company in Singapore and a multinational food company in Australia before launching his own business, Herbie’s Spices. 

His books, including Spice Travels – A Spice Merchant’s Voyage of Discovery and The Spice and Herb Bible now in its third edition have won multiple awards. The 608 page “Bible” with over 100 colour photos and 177 recipes should be on every serious cook’s shelves. I can vouch for the tastiness of his dishes: you need a pantry full of spices to make them but as with Gut Gastronomy, well worth it! 

I asked Herbie, who has led groups on spice travel tours, to name the best place for spice lovers to visit. His number one country was India. He said India grows the largest range of spices in the world and the industry is so important there is a government body the “Indian Spices Board”. 

To follow his top trip, fly first to Delhi and go to Chandni Chowk, the atmospheric old spice market in the Muslim area in Old Delhi. Then fly to Jaipur, “The Pink City” the next most important place for spices. The bustling twisting streets of the market are full of the sights and smells of spices. 

From there head to Cochin (Kochi) a major port city on the west coast of India by the Arabian Sea which was the heart of Indian spice trade for many centuries and part of the original spice route. Mattancherry is a must visit place, part of the historical part of India, where the ancient Jews started their spice trading. 

Kumily would be his next stop, a plantation town on the outskirts of the Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary. Stay at the Spice Village Hotel, the essence of a mountain tribal village, re-imagined for the modern independent traveller. He would end this scent filled trip in Sri Lanka, by flying to Colombo and heading to Galle on the southwestern tip. The cinnamon farms here are the real deal. (What we get in Canada is cassia, a lesser relative of the true Sri Lanka cinnamon.)

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