When you want to take responsibility for your health, cleaning up your diet is a great place to start. Cleaning up your diet can go a long way towards improving your energy levels, mood and overall health.
I used to think
that if I shopped in the natural section of the grocery store, the food co-op, Whole Foods or the other health food stores, the food I was buying was reasonably healthy. I believed that the ingredients used to make the foods must be at least healthier than the food in the regular grocery stores. I knew some basics like, don’t eat hydrogenated oils and high fructose corn syrup. If something had words I didn’t know what they were I figured it was best to not eat it or feed it to my children. I didn’t feel like there was an alternative so I bought them anyway. What I didn’t know was this was only the tip of the ice burg.
Now I know the health food stores are full of unhealthy foods too. You have to really know what to look for and what to avoid when shopping. This is one of the things I would like to help people with here on my blog and when working with clients. I know it can be so overwhelming. There is so much conflicting information.
Nutritional Therapy is based on the idea that there are 6 Foundations to optimal health. When these Foundations are strong and in balance our bodies function optimally and we are healthy. We feel great and have plenty of energy. When our Foundations are weak and out of balance, symptoms arise which can lead to the epidemic of degenerative health problems that plague our society today.
A diet that is rich in nutrient dense whole foods provides the Foundation that all the others are built upon. What we eat is so important. It literally becomes us. Our food provides us with nutrients that are necessary for our bodies to function, build us, and sustain us. Our modern diet is not doing this for us. It is actually harming us.
It is only relatively recently in the history of humans that we began to eat foods that aren’t whole. Today many “foods” sold in our grocery stores don’t even fit the definition of food. The definition of food is: “any nutritious substance that people or animals eat or drink, or that plants absorb, in order to maintain life and growth.” Chemical additives, copious amounts of refined sugar, hormones, toxic pesticides, foods that have been taken apart then have vitamins (usually synthetic) added back, GMOs and heavily refined oils are simply not food. They are not maintaining life and growth. They are actually destroying it.
When choosing what to eat to clean up your diet and support your health, here are a few guidelines (in no particular order):
1.Think about what you eat. Read ingredients. If you don’t know what an ingredient is, look it up. We are so fortunate to have almost constant and instant access to information at our fingertips.
2.Eat more whole foods and less processed foods. In most grocery stores, the whole nutrient dense foods are around the perimeter of the store. Most of the food in the middle is full of non food ingredients and are best avoided. Processing is great for storing food longer but not so great for health. During processing nutrients are removed, damaged, destroyed and often altered to the point of being toxic.
3.Cook more and eat out less. I love eating out, and when I do I relax and enjoy it. Eating out is not inherently unhealthy. It would be possible for restaurants to use healthy ingredients, and there are some that do, but they are the exception. One of the biggest problems with eating out is that the majority of restaurants use the unhealthy kinds of cooking oils (the subject of a future post) because they are inexpensive. Healthy fats are essential to health but the unhealthy ones are damaging to health.
4.Eat a variety of foods in a rainbow of colors. There is no one perfect food. We need a variety of nutrients that we can get from eating a variety of foods. Think about colors when you shop. If you are eating a rainbow of colors, you are getting a wider variety of nutrients. Try new things! It’s fun!
5.Drink water. Water is a very important component of a healthy diet (also one of the foundations and subject of a future post). Soda, fruit juice, coffee, sports drinks, milk, nut and grain milks, alcohol, etc. do not count as water.
6.Cut down on the amount of sugar you eat. Most Americans eat more sugar than our bodies are capable of handling. This is causing a myriad of health problems including heart disease, metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes. Many forms of sugar are hidden in our food. Look at nutrition labels to see how many grams of sugar something has. Less is better.
7.Do the best you can and don’t stress about the rest. Get the best quality ingredients that you can afford, but don’t stress and worry if your diet isn’t perfect. Make changes as slowly or as quickly as you need too, just keep moving in the right direction. If needed just make one little change at a time. Little changes over time add up to big changes in the long run. For example: If you currently eat margarine, switch to butter. The cost will be about the same but the health benefits will be enormous in the long run.
8.Take time to sit down, relax, chew and really taste and enjoy your food. This simple step can go a long way towards health. Eating delicious food, especially when with your loved ones, is one of the greatest pleasures in life. Enjoy it!
We have a choice. Every bite we take is up to us. We can vote with our dollars and show food manufactures that we want change. They keep making the foods because we keep buying them.