While unhealthy diet regimes and food fads come and go, healer, author and television host (and Eco Beauty Editor author) Janella Purcell is guiding people back to Mother Nature in order to find balance of mind, body and soul.
From her Lebanese roots to her Ayurvedic and Chinese Medicine philosophies, naturopath, nutritionist and wholefood chef Janella Purcell is the modern embodiment of authentic, healthy living as one of Australia’s leading wellness experts—a culinary trailblazer who understands good food and good health.
Her teachings have inspired many to shift their ideas about food, realising what goes in the mouth is also medicinal if grown, prepared and eaten in harmony with nature.
While her expertise is far reaching, her message is simple: Eat seasonally, buy locally and choose organic foods in their unprocessed, whole state. Otherwise known as the S.L.O.W movement, Purcell has become the unofficial spokesperson for the approach that is encouraging people to return to what fuels the body—and supports the planet—in the best possible and most natural way.
It’s a passion that extends to all of her work, including her commitment to Connecting Hands, OXFAM and Lifestream superfoods, organisations that Purcell personally supports and believes in.
“Mother Nature knows how it’s done, so why mess with her? The over-processing of food benefits manufacturers by extending shelf life and they’re cheaper to produce—this causes harm not only to us but also the land and waterways that they produced from and will eventually go back to,” Purcell says. “Refined food also has other ‘things’ added—like sulphur dioxide and other preservatives—to keep them looking okay. By eating SLOW we are taking pressure off our fragile eco system, plus supporting our local producers and our body.”
An award-winning author of three cookbooks, the nature-nurturing chef is about to launch her fourth, and some say most anticipated: a celebration of real food and its preparation that caters to any culinary preference, from vegans and omnivores to fussy eaters and busy families.
Janella’s Super Natural Foods (Allen & Unwin) is a “one-stop cookbook” according to the Australian Natural Health and Nourish columnist, an essential guide for those wanting to rethink their nutrition and boost their kitchen repertoire.
“So many female clients in particular tell me they’re making two or three meals a night, as one person won’t eat veggies, or the carnivore in the house must have meat on their plate, or the kids only want pasta,” she says. “This book has so many variations on every recipe—some with instructions to include meat, hide the veggies, make it nut, dairy or soy free and there are many recipes for raw food vegans that can be adapted to suit even the most ardent carnivores.”
Mother Nature knows how it’s done, so why mess with her?
The sought-after healthy living advocate calls the Byron Bay hinterland her home, a community known widely for its holistic, healthy lifestyle. It’s here Purcell grows her own fruit and vegetables, scours weekend farmers markets for locally-made fare and whips up her much-adored real food recipes that have been shared across television, magazines, newspapers and online.
Once the good chef on popular food show Good Chef, Bad Chef, Purcell had a season as the nutritionist and cooking expert The Biggest Loser, after many years of sharing her expertise on Channel Nine’s The Today Show and Mornings with Kerrie Anne. Yet, despite being the well-known face and voice of natural health, she also makes herself widely accessible via her regular workshops, at her Sydney and Bangalow clinics and through her engaging social media presence.
“I believe it’s a huge blessing that I can be utilised to help others,” Purcell says. “When you can be of service to others, your life is just so rewarding and full.”
Did you always know that you would take your health message to the world in the way you have?
It’s funny, but yes I did. It has always felt like my life’s purpose – before anything else, even my own needs many times. It really has been a calling, and one that I am grateful for, daily. You can also see this strongly in my astrological chart – there is a clear connection between food, healing, teaching and the media, so I guess it truly was written in my stars.
If someone comes to you wanting to get healthy but no idea where to start, what are the essentials you often recommend?
I really do believe going organic is a no-brainer. You are immediately removing many toxic chemicals from your life, so within hours your body can start to work more efficiently; automatically allowing your organs of detoxification to perform their job better. Regarding food, I move my clients onto a wholefood diet full of veggies and some fruit, plus plant based protein like legumes, hemp, sustainable quinoa and the best basics they can afford – salt, oil, vinegar etc. Any animal products really do need to be organic, and gluten, refined sugar and grains reduced. For supplements I only choose those where the values of quality, purity and sustainability are evident, and of course sourced as close to nature as possible.
What are your biggest food indulgences?
I don’t see food as either an indulgence or a duty. It’s a part of me, and my surroundings so I eat in accordance to that. I truly believe if you deprive yourself – or feel that you do – then you will binge, at some point. I eat breakfast, lunch and dinner and am partial to a glass of organic red wine in the evening, sometimes two! I don’t have a sweet tooth and I eat what I feel like. Perhaps if anything is considered an indulgence, it’d be the great organic, spelt sourdough bread from the farmers market up here – made into a bruschetta with local tomatoes, basil, garlic and olive oil, great salt and a splash of balsamic—an Italian treasure.
What’s in your pantry and fridge right now?
I tend to pick what I need from the garden as I need it so my fridge isn’t usually that full. Right now there’s a head of broccoli, one kohlrabi, a few spring onions and half a pumpkin. Also some local, organic miso paste, hemp seeds and oil, home made fermented veggies, kefir and sprouts, coconut water, and in the lower drawers lemons and limes from my trees and ginger, garlic and turmeric from my garden. The pantry has different organic nuts, seeds, legumes, spices, oils, vinegar, some grains and noodles, raw cacao and a range of other superfoods.
Do you recommend people detox or cleanse?
Absolutely, but not in the way many people think it needs to be done. It shouldn’t be painful and horrible. It doesn’t need to be all or nothing. The idea is to remove toxins, thus allowing our elimination channels a chance to properly detox. Include a green powder like Essential Greens+ a few times a week and liver herbs occasionally or daily for a period of time. If you have a pretty clean lifestyle and diet then yes you can do a week of something stronger like veggies juices supplemented with wholefood powders, a probiotic and Aloe vera juice.
How often do you travel and what are your must-have travel foods and supplements?
I am in Sydney a week a month and do other trips quite frequently. I take a small bottle each of Lifestream Spirulina tablets and Aloe vera with me. If I’m going to be away more than a few days then I also take a few ingredients for a smoothie and a hand blender – things like Essential Greens+, and hemp seeds and then I buy some coconut water and fruit once I get to my destination. I also take some tempeh and my Seeds Crackers. This is a new recipe that I love. They’re only seeds, no grains. I use these where I once would have used bread or store-bought crackers.
What might people not know about you that you’d like them to know?
That I’m not fanatical about what I eat, anymore. My way of eating has become so ingrained in my way of life now that it’s part of me. I do believe however that food is only one part of the equation when you’re considering your health. ‘Spiritual nourishment’ covers more than just food. If you are content, happy, fulfilled and loved, are getting enough sleep and exercise, are drinking alkaline water and are creatively expressed – then food is an adjunct, not the be all and end all. Food is the first step towards wellness, which for me means health plus happiness, not the only step.