Food can be curative and it can heal; I have first-hand experience of this

Holly Johnson prepares raw food dishes with Asian influences that are bursting with colour. We talk healthy eating, the curative properties of food – particularly for skin disorders – and she shares a delicious breakfast smoothie recipe…

Holly May Johnson, 36, lives in Battle, east Sussex. Her healthy eating journey began when she stopped using steroid cream for a skin disorder and discovered that nutrition could be the key to feeling better – inside and out. She now has a food blog – Holly’s Wholesome Kitchen – with recipes and beautiful photos of her dishes. (This interview was originally published in February 2016).

How do you start your day?
The first thing I do in the morning is chant. I have been practising nichiren buddhism for almost five years and my morning and evening gongyo is paramount to my wellbeing. I love a bit of ‘bend and snap’ too, a good stretch gets my energy flowing.

What’s for breakfast?
At the weekend, when I have a bit more time in the mornings, scrambled egg with avocado and spinach is always a bit of a treat. Most weekday mornings, I’ll whizz-up one of my smoothies; I try to make a large batch so that I can take some to work with me.

It’s healthy to eat a proper breakfast…

Why is breakfast so important?
For me, breakfast has always been the most important meal of the day as I usually wake up feeling very hungry. I like to get my metabolism fired-up and by nourishing my body with the right food first thing in the morning, I am motivated to eat healthily for the rest of the day.

How a raw food diet helped me

How did you come to working with food?
I have always eaten healthily and I love to experiment with new foods. My real healing journey with food however began about five years ago when I stopped using topical steroid cream on my face. I had been prescribed steroids to treat seborrheic dermatitis and for four years I used it twice a day to alleviate the burning and itching. My skin became very sensitive, thin and reactive to heat so I went to see a dermatologist who advised that I stop using it immediately.

During the withdrawal period, my skin erupted. I knew that I had to nourish my body from the inside in order for it to heal. I sought the help of a nutritional therapist who prescribed various nutritional supplements to help my body through this time. I ate lots of raw food, cut out dairy and wheat and to my delight, my skin began to heal. I wrote a blog ‘the skin I’m in’ a few months after this which has enabled me to help others going through the same thing.

From this came Holly’s Wholesome Kitchen, a platform for me to share my recipe ideas for optimum health. My motto in life is to ‘turn poison into medicine’ and I hope that this can help others on their journey.

Is food your profession or a hobby?
It’s more of a passion. But I would love to see the Nama kitchen in full flow. Their raw food restaurant looks truly scrumptious and it is exactly the type of food I would love to be creating for people all of the time. To keep food in its most pure form, with no tinkering, is the key to unlocking its healing potential. I truly believe in the curative transformation that can be achieved through food and that’s the ethos behind my website.

Alongside the blog, I work in a school. I’ve done this for many years; I love to think that I am having a positive impact on the lives of the children I work with. I am hoping to start an after-school smoothie club when the weather warms up.

Where do you find foodie inspiration?
I find food inspiration everywhere I go. I am attracted by colour and I think that’s why I love creating new smoothie and juice recipes. I think my main inspiration comes from all the beautiful food I was lucky enough to try during my travels. I love Thai and Indian food especially and I love making curries. The aromas are gorgeous and the fresh ingredients really are marvellous for the immune system.

As well as being healthy, should food be colourful?

Your website is full of beautiful colourful images… how important is it to eat different coloured foods?
I believe that it is important to eat as many differently-coloured foods as possible (eat the rainbow, so they say.) I feel more energised, more alert and more grounded when I eat the right foods. I believe that we instinctively know what our bodies require to function properly. Food can be curative and it can heal; I have first-hand experience of this, thankfully. When we nourish our bodies with nutritious, healing foods, the positive health ramifications can be extraordinary.

What are your childhood memories of food and eating?
I’ve always had a large appetite, being quite an active child allowed for me to eat lots of hearty food in abundance. I remember our Sunday ritual of a big roast dinner and during the week there would be lots of healthy vegetables as the main part of all meals. I thank my parents for this as it has enabled me to sustain healthy eating habits as an adult.

And as an adult – how does food enhance your life, socially?
I think that food is the medium through which I can bring family and friends together and share a bit of love and my passion for cooking. I don’t go out to eat that often, for birthdays and special occasions mostly. I really love to create a delicious meal from scratch, sometimes it can take me all day to get it all together. When it finally reaches the table and the meal is enjoyed, I love it.

If you had to eat just one item of food for the rest of your life, what would it be?
That’s a tricky one but I think that it would have to be Thai green curry. It is just the most beautiful, aromatic dish and I feel refreshed and revived after eating it. I love all of the fresh ingredients; Kafir lime leaves, galangal, lime, coriander, ginger, coconut milk, the list goes on…..mmm I might go make it now.

Summer berry breakfast smoothie

Can you share a recipe for a delicious, healthy breakfast with us?
I think my Summer Berry Breakfast Smoothie is a really lovely way to start the day and it’s nice to be reminded of the warmer months especially when it’s so cold. It is nutritionally-balanced and it is bursting with healing, immune-boosting, anti-inflammatory ingredients.

Hollie's berry smoothie - healthy eating -

You will need:
Blueberries, strawberries and raspberries (a small handful of each), Vitacoco coconut water, a few almonds, half a teaspoon of organic raw cacao powder, a banana, 2 tablespoons of coconut milk and some ice. Blend until thick and creamy and serve over ice.
Follow Holly’s Wholesome Kitchen on Instagram