There are so many philosophies on healthy eating today, it's hard to sort through the mess of information and theories floating around. When I started my journey to learn more about nutrition and empower myself by doing so...I found a lot of apposing information. This was very frustrating for me, since my only goal was to heal my sick body and raise my kids in habits that would make it easy for them to be their healthiest selves. It has been a long journey, that is no where near it's end. However, with all the reading and researching and experiencing I have done, I feel that there are a few definites' that I do my best to live by. In no way are these science based. I feel like the scientists will argue about what the ideal diet is until the world ends or their heads explode, whichever comes first! This is meant to be a practical and simple list of what I feel are universal truths about healthy eating.
-There is not ONE perfect way to eat. Humans are omnivores (this can be argued but it is my opinion seconded by an overwhelming majority of the population). Omnivore; meaning we can survive and even thrive on a mixture of animal products, grains, seeds, nuts, roots, vegetables, fruit and pretty much anything we can find to eat. However, this does not stand true today, when much of what we eat is not even food, it is chemical laden, extracted and processed into something that looks and tastes like food. Which leads to the next point.
-ALL whole foods are good for you, in their purest form and in moderation. There are some food fads out there that will disagree with this for sure. Paleo dieters believe that grains are poison. I just can't believe this when some of the healthiest, longest lived cultures, eat grains every day! Read "The Blue Zones" by Dan Buettner for more incite on that. I'm talking about cultures that we can study today, not thousands of years ago through excavation. This is not to say that grains should be the main staple in any ones diet. Especially processed refined grains. I feel that small portions of WHOLE grains, prepared in the right way (soaking, sprouting, nixtamalization or sourdough fermentation) as part of a diverse diet, is healthy! Can you be healthy without grains? I believe so. Most of us eat far too many grains, which leaves not enough room for more nutrient dense calorie sources.
In the completely opposite direction we have vegans. If you are a vegan based on ethical values, more power to you! Animals raised for food on a large scale are being treated in the cruelest manner, it truly disgusts me. Just because an animal is being raised for human consumption does not give us the right to make it's fairly short life a misery. I believe the meat we are eating in this country is slowly poisoning us. But this is due to how the animals are being raised. If an animal is sick then we will be sick if we eat it. For example, cows are fed GMO corn and soy to fatten them up, instead of grass which is what they should naturally eat. To top it off they are shot up with antibiotics and fed hormones to make them grow faster. Anyone who wants to argue that eating such an animal will not make you sick over time, bring it on! However, I believe that animal products from animals raised humanely in a way that is as close to their natural state as possible, is healthy. Can you be healthy on a vegan diet? I believe so, but it is difficult to get all the macro and micro nutrients you need. So unless you are paying very close attention to certain nutrients that could be lacking, like B12 and Zinc and also eating whole vegan foods and not the processed junk on the shelves I think a person could easily become deficient.
Okay, there are so many other food fads I cant voice my thoughts on them all at this time. Perhaps in future articles and in more detail.
-Eat your leafy greens EVERY DAY, there is no way around this. Leafy greens are the most nutrient dense food you can eat! They detox, fight cancer, heart disease, regulate blood sugar...the list is endless. Not to mention the source of all omega 3s starts with plants (primarily leafy greens). All animals must originally get their omega 3s from plants, they are the only living thing that can manufacture them, yes even fish get it first from the algae. So, if you do only one thing for your health everyday, eat a salad, or some sautéed kale or just find a way to incorporate more leafy greens into your diet. Your body will thank you!
-Eat the rainbow. NO, not the skittles variety! Eat a variety of colors of fruits and veggies, EVERY DAY. Each one has dozens or even hundreds of plant compounds, most of which we haven't even begun to understand. I'm always hearing about new discoveries with this compound or that being the key to longevity. This is clever marketing. Get your miracle plant compounds from real food, save money and get a whole lot of other beneficially compounds along with them. Then supplement if you want a boost or you feel it's necessary.
-Eat mostly whole foods. A whole food is any food in its most natural state, unprocessed, other than chopping or cooking in your own kitchen. This is easier said than done in our society. Trust me I know. Raising two toddlers, it means more planning and a little more time in the kitchen, but it is well worth the effort. When I see my girls chowing on chopped veggies and enjoying them, I feel I've done my job. Think fruit, nuts or chopped veggies for snacks instead of something that comes from a bag. Take baby steps and learn how to cook from scratch, it's better for you, rewarding, and tastes so much better in my opinion.
-Do your best and don't stress. Once again easier said than done. I still remind myself of this rule every day. If you are just starting on your journey, this is even more vital. Choosing to make your health a priority, puts you in the minority and it is never easy swimming against the current. Focus on making small changes at first and pat yourself on the back when you make a healthy choice rather than focusing on when you don't. I feel that nit picking and stressing about food can be counter productive to your health. Just do the best you can, set health goals and focus on achieving them.