Since it is the day after Christmas I thought this would be a good time to start outlining what good nutrition really is. There is a lot of discussion out there on what a good nutrition plan consists of and omits. The problem with nutrition is that everyone wants to be told 'this is the exact plan you should follow at all times in order to be healthy and reach your goals.' Unfortunately that plan doesn't exist. Nutrition is not black and white but an ever changing sliding scale of better and worse. In this post I want to start with a very basic concept and outline a basic scale of better and worse to get the ball rolling. In future posts I will dive into more complex concepts.
To begin, the most basic concept you need to understand for optimal health as it is related to nutrition is to adopt a "real food" plan. But what does that mean? It refers to the concept that you want to avoid anything that is processed. So let's dive into that term. What is processed?
Anything that heated, altered, preserved with chemicals, genetically modified, or sprayed with chemicals has been processed. So that orange juice you had with breakfast that you thought was good for your health…turns out it is heavily processed through the pasteurization process and the good enzymes and vitamins are denatured. That salad dressing made from a olive oil that you bought off the shelf…look at the ingredients. Most of them contain high fructose corn syrup and/or monosodium glutamate. Both are processed chemicals that are toxins to your body. Starting to get the idea?
So now look at the flip side. What is not processed? Fresh fruits and vegetables that are preferably organic (don't worry there are options here that we will cover later), fresh meats that are not packaged in preservatives (preferably meats that come from animals that eat what they are supposed to eat), raw nuts, seeds, and freshly juiced fruits and vegetables. Don't worry coffee also falls into this category but you have to watch where it comes from. Sorry there are NO GOOD soda products.
So this means that when you go into the grocery store you should stay away from the inside aisles as 99% of it is processed and stick to the outlying areas including the produce department. But now this is where we move into the sliding scale of health.
Let's take a simple concept and see how complicated it can become (I will try to keep it from becoming too overwhelming). Let's use vegetables for this conversation. So, vegetables are good for you, right? Well that is true to a degree but once again it is not that black and white. First GMO vegetables are designed to either be able to secrete their own pesticide or be able to be sprayed with large amounts of pesticide without dying. Therefore GMO foods have at least 10x the amount of pesticides on and in them as compared to non-GMO (not organic) produce. So if you buy non-GMO veggies they are better for you than GMO. Now the big question…is organic that much better for you? Yes it is! They have done lab testing on organic vegetables to compare their nutrient value to their non organic counterparts and what they found was the nutrient density of the organic produce was at least 31% higher. Add that to the fact there are no pesticides that you will be ingesting with it and yes they are far superior. So now we are starting to see that sliding scale take form. Non-GMO is better than GMO but Organic is better than both. If you want to take it even further then grow your own organic produce and you will know for sure exactly what was used on the produce and how good the soil quality is.
We can do the same thing with meat. Grass fed beef is superior to corn finished beef that is superior to feed lot beef.
Back to the veggies and fruits. There is a great list that you can find by clicking here that shows the produce that has the highest pesticide loads. So if you can only afford a small amount of organic produce then focus on buying organic forms of the produce highest on the list.
In summary, we are starting to see the complexity of nutrition with an understanding that there is a sliding scale of health that even applies to fruits and vegetables. But if you stick to a few basics by starting to phase out a lot of the processed foods in your kitchen with fresh "real foods" then you will start to enjoy many of the benefits of improved health. Then if you can incorporate the sliding scale of health to the fresh foods you are now buying you can increase the healthiness of your food and your family even more. In the next post on nutrition we will look at common food sensitivities that many people have and how it falls into our concept of avoiding processed foods.
Please ask your questions in the comments section and I will do my best to answer them.
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