As the old adage goes, we are what we eat. Yet, most of us consume far too many processed foods and struggle to maintain a balanced, fulfilling diet, either because we lack the time to plan our meals or because we simply don’t have a strong enough understanding of how we should be eating. I recently sat down with Stefan Goehcke, Executive Chef of Six Senses Laamu in the Maldives – an award-winning eco-friendly luxury resort by Six Senses Hotels Resots Spas recently rated “World’s Best Hotel Brand” by Travel & Leisure, which boasts five restaurants, three bars, private dining, an ice cream parlor, chocolate room, and alchemy bar. Goehcke also runs an organic herb and vegetable garden and a mushroom hut, and implemented the “Eat with Six Senses” program as part of the brand’s “integrated wellness” philosophy. Here are his top four wellness tips that anyone can use: in the workplace, in the home, or lounging on a private beach in the Maldives.
You have pioneered wellness at a new level and have spent years researching the field. What’s the key to good health?
Good food is the key to good health. It’s my passion to work with the best possible ingredients because we feel better, have more energy and less health complications when we eat well. We can all start with healthy ingredients and stop buying foods that are processed. Good health also does not have to come from drastic changes. We do better when implementing small changes consistently. For example, in my current role, we offer a layered approach to wellness where guests can chose their experience, according to their level of participation. Even if a guest doesn’t take part in one of our wellness experience programs, they still benefit from our wellness approach to eating, and are able to experience better quality food made from cleaner, healthier ingredients that are responsibly-sourced and thoughtfully prepared.
Some foods are now being classified as harmful because of their environmental impacts. Can you explain this?
Yes. Shrimp is the perfect example. They look innocuous and taste great, but shrimp and prawns are some of the most environmentally damaging seafood you can eat. Bottom trawling with fine mesh nets for wild prawns causes habitat destruction and enormous losses of non-target species, many of which are already seriously threatened. Prawn farms often destroy valuable wetlands, and the animals are often fed on wild fish that have been caught using some of the most destructive fishing methods on the planet. Until there are truly sustainable alternatives available, there is no question that we should avoid eating shrimps and prawns. Whether wild or farmed, they are produced at immense cost to the environment and other wildlife. We also stopped serving shrimp at our property because of this. Six Senses Laamu is truly committed to making a difference through sustainable tourism.
Are there any ingredients or foods that everyone should avoid?
We try to avoid nightshades completely in all our wellness dishes. Many people may not know this, but vegetables such as tomatoes, cucumber, eggplant, okra, and beans contain lectins. Lectins are a natural defense mechanism that protects plants from being eaten, but eating too many high lectin foods can result in digestive problems, inflammation in our gut, joint pain, obesity, autoimmune disease and other damaging health problems. . If you do want to eat these items, try to remove the skin and seeds, just as the Italians have for hundreds of years, which significantly reduces the lectin content. Pressure-cooking of beans and okra also helps reduce lectins in nightshade vegetables. That being said, there is no problem with occasionally eating some fresh tomatoes from time to time. I also do not recommend anyone use MSG, which many say can cause us headaches, migraines, nausea, numbness, food sensitivities or allergies and seizures. I also see the reduction of gluten and lactose in most of our dishes as a very positive challenge. There is no restriction at the resort when it is about creativity and this is the same for all of us. I love to move away from mainstream cooking, which you usually find in most of the resorts worldwide. A weak or boring dish would never make it on any of our menus.
Any other favorite wellness tips?
Take your time to eat and make sure you really enjoy food as gift from nature. Respect food and food will respect your body. Consume only the best products and natural ingredients. Accept that good products can be a bit more expensive. Cook from scratch and use seasonal ingredients from local market. Good native oils, fresh herbs and many spices make cooking so much more fun! I recommend including ginger more in your recipes, it is among the healthiest and most delicious spices on the planet. It is loaded with nutrients and bioactive compounds that have powerful benefits for your body and brain. Always think about a good balance!
What’s a simple recipe you love that readers can try?
I would like to share with you a recipe of a Garudhiya, one of the oldest traditional cuisines of the Maldives. We prepare it in a very traditional way and it works perfectly for all our guests, particularly those who are on our Trim, Sleep or Detox wellness programs.
200 gm fresh tuna or reef fish
4 cup water
1 pcs Maldivian chili
20 gm red onion cut into pieces
2 pcs garlic cloves cut into pieces
1 pcs curry leaves
40 gm fresh bilimbi or young mango
Salt to taste
½ pcs lime
Boiled the water in a medium pot and add the fish and cook about 20 minutes. Skim the scum from the top of the broth until the soup appears clear. Add onion, bilimbi and garlic, and cook 2 more minutes. Add Maldivian chilli, curry leaves and salt and check the seasoning. Serve with lime, and enjoy.