We all want to eat well and use nutrition to support our health. I believe that the practice of good nutrition can address many health challenges we are faced with. There are many approaches to nutrition: Atkins, vegetarianism, macrobiotics, raw foods, Weston Price, the list goes on. It can be come very confusing to determine which are accurate and the best choice for you. The following guideline is based on my study of nutrition as well as the observation I have made of my patients. By observing my patients I get to see first hand how all the above mentioned approaches to nutrition pan out. I have used the word good several times now in this dialogue. Good and the concept of quality are what I want to talk about. In evaluating all the approaches to nutrition, be it vegetarianism or Atkins I can find both positive and negatives things about these individual approaches. After 17 years of practice I have come to the conclusion that the quality of food has more of an impact than what philosophy or approach one adopts. The concept of quality and good need to be defined. In my mind quality and good are equally important. In my exploration of nutritional fads and philosophy I read very little about the quality of our foods. While I have opinions regarding many nutritional approaches and their inherent weakness and strengths, the quality of the foods my patients consume is of greater concern to me. I would first like to address the notion of good nutrition.
Good nutrition is nutrition that supports life. It also means that it prevents disease while promoting health and well being. Common sense tells me that we are provided with all the food to support our bodies right here on our beautiful planet Earth. It makes since to me to consume the foods that are naturally provided for us. A well rounded diet will provide plenty of protein to maintain healthy tissues and immune function. It also will have an a high abundance of fresh vegetables and fruit. Fresh means as close to the vine as possible. High abundance equates to 5-10 servings per day. A serving equals a half cup. Plenty of uncontaminated water is essential for good nutrition. Filtering provides water free of chlorine, pesticides and heavy metal contamination. A rich source of good essential fatty acids from meats, fish, poultry, nuts, eggs, olive oil, flaxseeds and avocadoes, real butter and raw milk are necessary also. ( see hand-out on cholesterol and fat). Enough calories from whole foods to prevent weight loss, but not so much to create weight gain, is also necessary. Grains in the original form are healthy to eat. Brown rice, barley, millet, oats, or quinoa consumed as whole grain (not refined or overly milled such as white flour and pasta ) are healthy in limited quantities. Eat whole foods that you can recognize and identify not something found in a box, can or at a fast food stand with ingredients that you can not even pronounce. Be wary of synthetic or man made sweetners. If you are eating primarily protein, fresh vegetables, fruit, and a few grains there is no room for potato chips, cookies, cakes, candy bars, or other junk food. Please see handout Good Diet for more extensive information.
There is a wealth of information on the risk of cancer and exposure to pesticides and herbicides. For example atrazine, an herbicide, is commonly sprayed on corn. It is also used on many road sides to kill weeds. Atrazine can mimic estrogen in the body and consequently has been associated with breast cancer. Organic foods have 60% more antioxidant properties than vegetables and fruits raised with pesticides and herbicides. We are exposed to many cancer causing environmental pollutants that can be countered by antioxidants. It makes sense to consume foods with the highest quantity of antioxidants in the first place. The quality of meat, poultry, and fish should also be considered. Many toxins are concentrated in the fats of exposed animals. Anyone not eating organic grain fed animals is going to accumulate these toxins in their bodies. The toxins can be pesticides, herbicides, antibiotics, and heavy metals. How a animal is raised impacts the consumer a great deal. The healthier is animal is the more resistant to infection they will be. The mass production of milk, beef and chickens naturally lends itself to diseased animals requiring the constant use of antibiotics. These antibiotics are passed on to you directly from the animal. This does not even take into consideration the inhumanity of our current farming methods. Cows are left in six by two feet stalls for their entire lives. Chickens are packed six to a cage their entire lives. These animals are often fed inferior feed contaminated with fecal and or cancer ridden remains. Farm raised fish are given antibiotics, and red dye. The antibiotics are necessary due to confined quarters and the dye must be added as the fish do not have access to the shrimp that naturally turns their tissues pink. Consuming a sick animal in an effort to create health in your body does not make sense. Many people will tell me that organic foods cost more. Yes, they do and this is because of demand and the labor it takes to produce high quality food. I have yet to meet a person that I do not believe deserves the highest quality food available. The cost of any illness can be very expensive too. Chemotherapy can be around $2000.00 for one month of therapy.
Grains are a large part of the American diet. Unfortunately grains are consumed in essentially a dead state that can not be utilized . Obviously this does not support good quality nutrition. When wheat is milled to make white flour all the important B vitamins and fiber are removed . White flour acts like glue like in the colon ,increasing constipation and general irritation, and leading to such disease as colitis, Crohns, and possibly colon cancer. These dead foods have to be preserved with things like BHT to extend the shelf life and hide the rancid flavor. Many crackers and cereals are so processed that they can not sustain life if feed to laboratory animals. Yet we freely think these are healthy foods to give to our children. Grains require careful preparation because they contain substances that can interfere with absorption of minerals such as calcium, zinc, cooper and magnesium. Phytic acid is a natural substance found in the bran part of the grain. It is an organic acid which binds phosphorus. Other parts of the grain contain enzyme inhibitors. This ensures that seeds and grains propagate at the right time. If they sprouted early they would die. To remove the phytic acid and enzyme inhibitors, simple soaking, sprouting or using a fermentation process on grain will makes the breads, cereals and crackers we all love a nutritional food. Traditional sour dough breads are an example of this. The cook book
Nourishing Traditions has many good recipes and simple techniques on how to accomplish making grains more nutritious.
How To Eat Well In A Modern Society:
Ok, now that I have your attention (and hopefully motivation )to eat good quality food here are some suggestions on how to accomplish this.
The first thing I hear when talking with patients about improving their diet is I do not have the time to eat well. I say you do not have the time not to eat nourishing foods! What can be more important than having good health? Developing and creating a life style that supports the enjoyment of gathering good quality food is the only solution I have. If you find your self coming up with what feels like rational thoughts as to why you can not eat good quality foods then you are really just finding excuses.
I suggest you consider what your intentions are for changing your diet. Understanding your intentions can reinforce your desire to make changes. Next exploring what your beliefs are that can prevent or create your success. For example, if my intention is to learn to cook whole foods from scratch but I believe I will be too tired then I most likely will be too tired and not ever find the time. If my intention is to enjoying cooking nutritious foods from scratch to support my health and I believe I can create time, I will create the time.
There is absolutely no reason not to eat good quality food. If you do not like to garden or live somewhere with out garden space visit your local farmers market. Research and seek out local farmers who sell to their local community. Join a food buying club such as Azure. Food buying clubs allow you to buy in bulk for cheaper prices while by passing the middle supermarket mark up of food. I cook several meals on the week end so my family can warm up food during the week. That way the excuse of being tired is not used. Make a commitment to eat as much from scratch and home cooked as possible.
All in all the quality of foods are so important to create health. The avoidance of additives and contaminates found in the standard foods available is a huge step toward health. I encourage you to learn more by reading the books I have listed as references. In addition realize that your are creating a whole new way of eating. Changes will come slowly but successfully. Approach your new way of eating with a sense of curiosity and fun.
Steps To Eating Good Quality Food:
- Write down your intentions for changing your diet
- Write down your beliefs regarding what would prevent your success
- Seek out local sources of meat, chicken, lamb, rabbit, eggs
- Take cooking classes that support traditional cooking methods
- Cook ahead to prevent burnout
- Join a food buying club so you can purchase organic high quality foods cheaper
- Raise a garden
- Visit the local farmers market
- Know the source of your foods
- Use a water filter
Quality Of Foods:
The concept of food quality is complex. What determines the quality is dependant upon multiple factors. Everything from where the food was produced to how it was produced and what happens to the food after it is raised or grown must be considered. All of these factors impact the vitality and quality of the food. You may be asking why where the food is produced makes a difference. If you look at the quality of food produced on a large scale or mass production compared to a small scale production you will quickly see the difference. Many public health decisions are made based on the need to protect us when large for profit companies put profit in front of quality of product. Large scale meat producing companies fed cows chicken excrement versus fresh green grass a cow would naturally eat, this leads to out breaks of deadly e-coli infections. The mandatory pasteurization of milk to kill bacteria, destroys all the natural enzymes of milk, which leads to milk intolerance and diseases such as Ulcerative Colitis. The homogenization of milk used to keep cream uniformly mixed in the milk, increases an enzyme called xanthine oxidase. Xantine oxidase is associated with atherosclerosis or hardening of the arteries. Foods that are highly processed loose the natural vitamin and mineral content and need to be fortified. Fortified means an attempt to put back in what mother nature already provided us in the right proportions and mixture. Synthetic vitamins do not contain enzymes and cofactors which are important for absorption of nutrients , and to achieve optimal health.
Many vegetable oils are hydrogenated to extend the shelf life of the oil. The process of hydrogenation changes the structure of the oil so that it stays solid at room temperature. Unfortunately hydrogenated oils are very difficult to digest. They are associated with an elevation of cholesterol. The rancidity of hydrogenated oils can not be detected. Rancid oils cause oxidation in the blood vessels. Oxidation leads to atherosclerosis and elevated cholesterol. Countries such as Sweden will not import products that contain hydrogenated oils in them because of the high association to cardiovascular disease and cancer. Butter, an unchanged fat is a healthy food and should always be chosen over margarine which contains hydrogenated oil.
I encourage buying the majority of your foods close to home. This accomplishes two things. One you support your local farmer. Two, you are purchasing foods that have been recently sent to the market, which insures higher vitamin and mineral content. The difference between a tomatoes that is grown in the garden and what you can buy in the modern super market is shocking. One tastes sweet and succulent the other literally tastes like cardboard.
Another important factor in the quality of foods is additives. Additives can be anything from sugar, dyes, preservatives, synthetic vitamins, to flavorings. Everyone knows the danger of sugar such as increase risk of diabetes, and obesity. Aspartame is a synthetic sweetener that is highly associated with headaches and seizures. Dyes and food coloring are associated with allergic reactions and hyperactivity in children. MSG is a flavor enhancer causes headaches, and in some people seizures. Nitrosamine is a preservative used in cured meats that causes stomach cancer. Cane sugar is heavily sprayed with atrazine a pesticide known to cause cancer. Even common table salt can be a problem. Common table salt is bleached, sugar and anti caking chemicals are added. This is just a few of the additives used in mass production of foods. You can begin to see why I suggest choosing foods in their original whole unadulterated forms. Eating fresh foods deletes the need for preservatives, dyes and synthetic chemicals.
Steps To Eating Good Quality Food:
- Use a water filter to obtain pure water
- Eat simply
- Take time each week to prepare and gather your food
- Consider canning, freezing, drying, cold storage, fermenting some of your food
- Read labels and select foods with out preservatives, dyes, synthetic chemicals or unknown additives
- Make a commitment to acknowledge that your health is of paramount importance
- Enjoy the process. Do not make food preparation a chore.
Azure Standard 541-467-2230
Weston Price Foundation www.westonAprice.com
Fast Food Nation. Eric Schlosser
Traditional Foods are Your Best Medicine. Dr. Ron Schmid
The Untold Story of Milk. Dr. Ron Schmid
Nourishing Traditions. Sally Fallon & Mary Enig PhD
Healing Diet. Dr. Stacey Raffety
Cooking class with Barry and Laurie Tauscher. Nourishing Traditions 503-624-4888