The Best Way to Eat? I have been working on that question for years. I have tried all sorts of things. I have learned the question is slightly more complex than “best eating.” Best way to eat for what? and for who? Any good food plan should involve your health goals (weight loss, healing, ultimate future health…the what in the equation) and a knowledge of your own body and it’s needs and reactions (the who). For awhile, back when I cared little about real health, I tried to loss weight with those magic diets. The magic being, I didn’t want to give up any of my favorite foods (carbs and sugar). I would tell myself that anything is fine in moderation. But seriously, what is moderation in current day America? Is that the 6 meals a day type of moderation, the once a week, or the “eat it with something healthy so it cancels the bad food out” type of moderation. The reality is that moderation just 100 years ago was that you would eat a treat maybe once a month. If we stuck with that idea, sure that type of “moderation” is acceptable given no food allergies. We must tame the carbohydrate monster inside of us, because we just can’t afford the caloric load. The best way to eat real must involve our optimal present and future health and well being. Over eating, blood sugar roll a coasters and fake food just will not bring us to our full health potential, no matter how good they taste…Junk food builds junkie bodies.
Our problem is not only food selection, but nutrient density. Our current food system is less nutrient dense than days of old. Between “modern farming practices” and genetic modifications in seeds (for mostly taste, appearance, and shelf life), we don’t have the calories to spare anymore. For awhile I would take vitamins in the hopes of correcting any deficiencies. It really is easier than changing your habits. But in the end most experts agree that it just leads to expensive pee, since most of the supplements aren’t as absorbable as the food sources. Understandably there is a difference between maintaining nutrient balance and replenishing deficiencies. Still it is a concern that all people should consider. Are you getting all the nutrients you need for a healthy life? Have you had your blood work run to find out if you have any deficiencies? It’s a good idea, because it is harder than you think to maintain nutritional stability and optimal health. Where am I on this? I am climbing out of the hole of nutritional deficiencies. With celiac and crohns it is a hole with steep sides. But even so, it is possible! I was going to title this post, “Liver Lovers Live Longer,” but I thought that would be tacky. Though true, it is still a little too clicky of an alliteration. Back to my point, liver is a super food. And it was the only way I came out of my nutrient deficiencies and stayed out of them. You don’t have to eat much to maintain health, though the quality of the liver is important. The good news is that even high quality liver from good sources is quite affordable. It is much more affordable than quality multivitamins that honestly can’t begin to compete with the absorbability and completeness of high quality liver. That being said, you don’t have to taste it for liver to replenish your nutrients. So if you can’t stand liver, hide it in meatballs or freeze it and swallow it in pills. Chris Kresser has a great article on liver as a super food and dispels many of the liver myths. Link to see Liver: Natures Most Potent Super Food.
Another very important nutrient dense food is seafood or sea vegetables. If you are like me, we can’t afford seafood for 7 people. But many people can afford kelp flakes. I sprinkle them on most every meal I make. I get the benefits of sea minerals without the cost.
One thing I have noticed in my exploration of health is that many people are looking for that magic bullet to add to their diet. We are readily willing to add things to our diet. Hmmm, well that is as long as they taste good and aren’t animal organs. I’m not sure if you have noticed the increase in supplements. I remember my own delusional idea that I could eat as unhealthy as I wanted just as long as my calorie count was good, and I took supplements to make up for the missing nutrients of my bad habits. That strategy has contributed to the poor health I have now.
In the beginning I heard how fermented foods could improve gut health, so I added them to my nutrient poor diet. I quickly got over the taste, and there they where, a daily part of my ritual. Perhaps this will solve other people’s digestive problems, but for me adding was only part of the battle. In fact at the time adding wild fermentation was actually acting against my efforts. For my celiac condition, yeasts cross react with gluten. My body doesn’t recognize the difference between good and bad yeast. I have since experimented with fermenting by inoculation of certain good bacteria. I have had some success; however, by far the most impact for my health is not about what I added to my diet, but what was taken away.
I could go on with many other nutrient hacks, but more than anything else the grains and sugars need to go. Gluten free and grain free diets are not just fads, but they have scientific validity that is currently improving many people’s lives. There are many real life grain free, sugar free experiments going on that the subjects are see huge improvements with all sorts of chronic disease, skin/hair conditions, energy and mental focus. For the most optimal nutrient density and health benefits carbohydrates should predominantly come from non-starchy vegetables and fruits, not grains. Grains are seeds (along with legumes) and they have many anti nutrients to protect themselves from being eaten. The net gain in nourishment is negligible when compared pound for pound with vegetables and fruits. There is no competition. So why do we fight the idea of going grain free? How could we think we couldn’t get all we need? The deal is…there is a multibillion dollar industry that has built its empire on our addiction to carbohydrates and sugars. I was the leader of the pack. I loved carbs and sugar. Even as I started to get allergies to them, I continued to try to create junk food from any and everything I could eat. The food wasn’t my problem (The food sitting on the shelf does nothing to my health. It is only when I eat it that I have problems). My unhealthy relationship with this stuff was really killing me. Junk food is junk food. No matter if it is Gluten free junk food or Paleo junk food or vegan junk food…it is still junk food. The resulting spike in blood sugar does much damage to your entire body. And “junk food” isn’t necessarily the sweets we often think of, it is any non nutrient rich foods. What is the net nutrient gain? It is the number you get when you subtract the compounds that cause your body to use your own nutrient stores to process the food from the nutrients that are given to you by that food. (Nutrients given – Nutrients need to process food = Net nutrient gain) Some foods actually cost more to digest than they give. From breads and pastas to donuts and tweekies most of them cost us more than they give us. They just can’t compare to vegetables. And with the rise of chronic diseases, can any of us afford not to take a serious look at this? You can do all the research you want, and I’m sure you can find an expert that will tell you it is ok to keep doing what you are doing. But honestly, the proof is in the pudding (so to speak). Is it working? So what can it hurt, just try it. Where to start? If you need a little more structure check out Diane Sanfilippo’s book “The 21 Day Sugar Detox.” There are three levels for your comfort. Make the first 21 days of this New Year count! Find your Optimal Health! (Ps Costco sells the book.) Facebook has a new group starting every month. This months group starts January 6th. Check it out: Facebook 21 Day Sugar Detox.
My new goal for 2014 is to eat the most nutrient dense diet I can honestly afford. The cost is higher in the present, but lower in medical bills (not to mention pain as a cost). The total cost of a life well lived can’t be measured.
PS. One argument is pressing enough for me to mention it in a PS. “Jesus ate bread so how could it be wrong?” If this is a sticking point for you, be comforted that Jesus never ate the grain seeds being produced today. They have at least twice as much gluten. The plant it self doesn’t even look the same. Our modern day grains are cultivated for taste, shelf life and bug resistance. That is a little different than nutrient density. Not only are the seeds different, but the process of baking is considerably different. They all ate a type of sourdough bread. All the grains were sprouted and fermented before being consumed as breads. The process of fermentation breaks down a lot of the anti nutrients. In the end, first century fokes would have a hard time recognizing the product we call bread and have just as much difficulty digesting it.