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Healthy Food Tips

Photo of Maureen Smith

What should I eat? Working through the maze of food information.

The importance of eating good, healthy, nourishing food cannot be overemphasized. A great many of all health issues and concerns stem from either not providing the nutrients that our body needs, or from the challenges that occur in the stomach and intestinal tract that result from poor food choices.

Sound food choices are difficult to make. Do we eat for pure pleasure, or to fulfill our body’s needs, or both? We are constantly being bombarded with medical claims of research that purport health benefits of specific nutrients that have been ‘studied’ and supposedly ‘proven’ to prevent disease. It is important to question who is funding these research studies, and what consumer gains will someone receive from this research. While all nutrients are important and vital for the smooth functioning of our body, focusing on one or two nutrients that ‘research’ has highlighted is not enough. All the nutrients need to work together and come from the whole food.

Another challenge we face is that we are exposed daily to a barrage of very expensive food advertisements that tempt us to buy certain products because they have ‘added this, and added that’. These advertisements are powerful and very persuasive. These advertisements may even claim to make us popular and trendy in the eyes of others when we buy and consume these products.

So where do we begin and to whom should we listen? There are no quick and simple answers to these questions; however, I would like to offer some sound, simple advice to help you begin your own journey on discovering the best foods for you to eat.

First of all, I suggest focusing on eating fresh, whole, real foods to obtain the complete package of nutrients that they contain. This is plain old- fashioned food that comes from a hard working farmer and not from a big conglomerate that is receiving a great deal of the profit. All foods in the supermarket are not created equal! Michael Pollan in his latest book, In Defense of Food, (I definitely encourage you to read it) suggests to:

  1. Eat food
  2. Not too much
  3. Mostly plants

In the supermarket you need to go hunting to find real food. That means food that is fresh, alive, and food that will go bad in a few days, and not have a shelf life of several months or years. Be suspect of anything in a box or container or can. Even frozen vegetables and fruits have been tampered with and their life enhancing enzymes are destroyed.

Real foods are:

Fresh fruits and vegetables

Local fruits and vegetables are best especially if organically grown. Local farmers are starting to use fewer pesticides. At least local foods are not traveling thousands of miles to get here at the expense of consuming large amounts of oil. While organic is best if you can obtain it, fresh locally grown is better than frozen or canned.

Meats, fresh fish and chicken.

Meats are best if pasture fed- meaning they have been allowed to eat grass in the summer and hay in the winter as they were meant to do since the beginning of time. This is opposed to grain fed that means the animals are ‘taught’ to eat corn because it is cheaper for the farmer. That ‘food’ is often supplemented with antibiotics to prevent the spread of disease that results from improper farming practices.

Fish is best if wild as the fish have eaten sea plants and other smaller fish, as opposed to being ‘farmed’ where fish are fed corn or soy products that are sometimes laced with antibiotics. There are also some concerns about the cleanliness of some farming areas and the handling of the fish’s waste products.

Poultry and eggs are best if free range that means the chickens are pushed outside to roam and peck at grains as there were meant to do. Battery caged hens are housed in layers and layers of tiny cages that they share with five other hens without any opportunity to move and exercise. Feces continually accumulate in these cramped cages along with the eggs. Lack of exercise causes the hens’ bones to become weak and break easily – one in every 3 hens has broken bones by the time they are slaughtered. Some battery chicken ‘houses’ claim to provide the chickens some access to roam outdoors – as if they could! Also chickens are creatures of habit, and they will not go outside unless or roam around unless they have been taught to and provided opportunity to do that. These battery birds often are fed antibiotics that you then ingest. In short, avoid these ‘battery’ birds and their cheap eggs and try to source out free range chickens and eggs.

Clean dairy products are more challenging to find. The best milk is un-pasteurized and un-homogenized. However, that is almost impossible to obtain unless you have a. contact with a local farmer. Milk in its natural state has enzymes that assists your body digest the proteins in the milk that cause so many problems for the majority of consumers. Modern treatment methods destroy these valuable enzymes, and only make it easier for storekeepers to transport and shelve the milk for very long periods of time. A great deal of money is spent by the Milk Marketing Board to convince you that you ‘need’ their pasteurized and homogenized products. If you cannot find un-tampered milk, try using rice or almond milk instead. Goat milk and sheep milk is becoming more widely available and is another good choice. Avoid soymilk, as soy products have become known as an estrogen disruptor.

While yogurt has many glitzy advertising that claims to provide probiotics, it may have sugar added to the yogurt that interferes with the body’s ability to utilize the probiotics. A wiser choice is a high fat plain kefir that continues to provide probiotics even in the small intestine. It is sold in large glass bottles in many health food stores.

Buy the best butter that you can find, for the benefits of eating butter- fat have been known for centuries. Organic butter comes from cows that ate green grass and contains excellent sources of fat-soluble vitamins A, D, K, and E that is easily absorbed and utilized. Butter’s ancient food value has been widely denounced by the farmers of corn, safflower, and soy products who have supported researchers that promote and encourage you to eat their ‘butter like’ margarines. These spreads ‘supposedly’ reduce heart problems’- a very good marketing program that has no concrete evidence of efficacy, but one that has garnered a great deal of profit for the corporations involved.

If you do not have an intolerance to cheese, eat good quality ‘real’ cheese and not cheese slices wrapped in plastic or spreads that are artificial.

Not too much

If you buy the above fresh foods you will probably complain that it costs much more than artificially packaged foods. This is a good sign! It will ensure that you will not eat too much, but instead will learn to savor each mouthful rather than gulping it down mindlessly.

Michael Pollen in his book, In Defense of Food, comments that most North American people do not sit down and eat a meal together. Rather they ‘inhale’ food while driving in the car, mindlessly watching television, or grabbing a quick bite standing up or on the run. We all would be much healthier if we ate less food, and food of good quality, and took the time to sit and enjoy it with friends and family. While many people think that they cannot afford healthy food, if they examined the money they are spending on poor quality food that has little or no nutritional value they may find that they can make wiser choices.

A good rule of thumb is not to fuel your body with the type of food that is sold from the same place where you fuel your car!

Mostly Plants

There has been much debate as to whether we should eat meat or vegetarian meals. Meats, fish and poultry have special nutrients that some vegetables may not have. My feeling is that how the animals have been raised and slaughtered is the most important factor to consider. If you can find well raised and carefully fed animals that have been humanely treated and slaughtered, then a small amount of their flesh is very beneficial. If you cannot obtain ‘clean’ meat, then do without for the time being until you find a good source. There are countless dishes that you can serve that focus on vegetables. In any case, even if you eat meats, at least ¾ of your plate should be covered with vegetables.

Grains are another interesting challenge to consider. In the Canadian pioneer days of farming, wheat was grown without pesticides and fertilizers, and then carefully milled to preserve the essential nutrients in the bran. Today this is no longer true. Modern farming practices produce huge quantities of wheat that is shipped great distances, stored in mountainous grain elevators, and milled in such a way that most of the valuable nutrients are destroyed. Such enormous supplies of grain produces mold ,and this must then be treated with chemical inhibitors. Poor quality commercially available wheat, (as well as dairy and sugar), are the most allergy producing foods among the North American population today. Try replacing wheat with less commonly known grains such as quinoa, whole brown rice, and wild rice. Breads are readily available made of these grains, as are breads made from spelt that is somewhat less allergy forming.

Some final thoughts

  1. Be suspect of any food product that you see advertised. A great deal of money has gone into making this ‘food’ a commodity. If it is advertised then avoid it!
  2. Allow yourself time to cook and prepare the food you eat. There is little or no food value in convenience food. Food that has been lovingly grown and lovingly prepared will impart its goodness to you.
  3. The food we eat is our lifeline. It is more that just the sum of nutrients and calories. It feeds our soul as well as our body and our mind.
  4. Only select foods that your great-great grandmother would recognize if she were here today and would have used in her meal preparations.
  5. It is especially important to serve whole fresh foods to children to avoid the health problems and weight gain that come from eating overly processed, sugary, and chemically laden foods.
  6. By eating whole foods you may avoid developing allergies at a later date. If you do have allergies or intolerances now, be tested to determine the foods that cause your sensitivity. Have allergy corrections so that gradually you will be able to slowly and safely re-introduce those foods back into your system. I can help you do this.
  7. Remember the old food adage:

Eat foods that go bad,
Eat them before they go bad,
Eat foods in season.

Then add Michael Pollan’s advice:

Eat food
Not too much
Mostly plants

Be well, be happy, and be healthy!

Fondly, Maureen Smith