Thursday, July 8

Reality Check- Clearing Up Food Myths

I've noticed something funny. People love to talk about how something that was previously thought to be good for them is actually bad for them, and how something that was previously thought to be bad for them is actually good for them. When this trend combines with our cultural demand for a quick fix, have-your-cake-and-eat-it-too approach to food and health, we can really be led astray. First and foremost, let's bring it back to common sense and instinct, both of which are tools that are essential but sorely lacking in the modern day answer to the eternal question of what to eat .

If a food grows out of the ground provided by nature and is eaten in it's original unaltered state, does it make sense that this food would be bad for us? Likewise, if we take something that has traditionally been treated as an occasional indulgence food, such as cake or cookies, and twist and augment that food to be low fat, low calorie and low carb by altering the nature of all of the ingredients, do we have any reason to think that food is "healthier" than the original version?

It's time to get rid of the nonsense and get back to eating REAL FOOD. So I am here to help you clear a few things up, starting with the undeservingly maligned foods below:

Avocado- the myth is that it's too high in fat to be healthy. WRONG. The fat that avocado provides is a healthy, unrefined vegetable fat that helps to lubricate tissues of the lungs and intestine, build the blood, and soften hair and nails. The fat in avocado is easily digested and assimilated, making it a good choice for those who have trouble digesting heavier fats. Avocado is also high in protein, fiber, potassium, vitamin E, and copper, which assists in red blood cell formation. Thinking cap alert: avocado is a natural souce of lecithin, a known brain power food. Use the extra brain boost from eating avocado to help you to determine whether or not it makes any sense that a fruit that grows on a tree would be unhealthy for your body!

Peas and Beans- the myth is that they are too high in carbs to be healthy, valuable sources of protein. WRONG. The carbohydrates in beans and legumes are in the form of complex, slow burning carbs that deliver valuable, long lasting energy due to the fact they they are accompanied by high levels of protein and a powerful dose of fiber. When we digest carbs, they are converted into sugar and passed into our bloodstream to be used as energy. Which means that when we eat refined carbohydrates, such as products made from white flour and white rice, the protein and minerals and fiber have mostly been stripped away in the refinement process. So this means that those carbs are mainly only giving us glucose, and are therefore going to be converted into blood sugar very quickly, more quickly than most of us can use them- meaning that excess sugar in the bloodstream will be packed away and stored as fat. Whereas when we consume a complex carbohydrate such as a whole grain or a bean or legume, we have to break down all three components together- protein, fiber, and carbohydrate- which means a much slower, steadier release of sugar into the blood and therefore a much greater chance of using it before it's converted into fat for storage. It also means staying full and satisfied for longer, and no nasty energy peak-and-crash cycle. Best of all, by incorporating beans and legumes you can get all this healthy carb power AND satisfy your protein needs for your meal.

Carrots- the myth is that they are too high in sugar and/or carbs to be considered a healthy vegetable. WRONG. The sugars in carrots are arrive in a seriously vitamin packed parcel, delivering high doses of eye-healthy Vitamin A as well as supplying Vitamin B, phosphorous, iodine, calcium, and additional nutrients that provide anti-cancer properties. Carrots assist in digestion and elimination of waste due to their high fiber content, they also support the lungs, spleen-pancreas, and liver, and they strengthen the kidneys. Perhaps best of all, they actually aid in the lowering of blood sugar in the body while purifying the blood. I don't like to quote TV personalities but I'm gonna have to call on Oprah here: "Nobody ever got fat from eating carrots!".

Grains and Grain products- the myth is that they only provide calories and sugar in the form of carbohydrates and are therefore an enemy of weight loss and "unhealthy". WRONG. In addition to the way which they break down in the body stabilizing blood sugar and minimizing fat storage as described above, whole grains provide an impressively complete amino acid (protein) profile as well as rich content of minerals such as magnesium, which helps with loosening of tight and stagnant tissue (i.e. mitigating migraines, constipation, joint stiffness) and selenium, which assists in brain function and focus and mood stability. They are a powerhouse of fiber, protein, and healthy carbohydrates, providing us with energy to burn along with a whole host of strengthening and grounding nutrients. Best bet is to eat whole grains in their original form for the bulk of your carbohydrate intake, but foods like pasta and bread and other baked goods have been part of our culinary culture for a long time, so enjoy these products on a moderate basis but buy/make the whole grain versions to get the most benefit.

The point is to return to traditional wisdom about food. Does it make any logical sense that a fruit or a vegetable would be unhealthy for us, given what we know about fruit and vegetables and their role as vitamin and fiber providers in our diets? No. Is there any use in cutting valuable complex carbohydrates out of our diets when they have been the most basic, consistent and steady source of energy in the human diet for most of our history? Nope. Does it stand to reason that beans and legumes are inferior sources of protein when in many areas of the world they are and have been a traditional building block of protein consumption that can feed more people for less money using less resources and providing in some cases superior health benefits due to their plant based nature? I think you see my point.

So what about the things you always thought you should consume in moderation but are now being touted as "good for you" either because a study has been released saying so or because they've found a way to twist and tweak it to change whatever was considered indulgent about it in the first place? Ask yourself what makes sense. Coffee is being touted for it's antioxidants, and yet the caffiene in coffee is known to tax the kidkeys and adrenal glands, while dehydrating the body and creating an overly acidic environment. So does it make sense to start drinking coffee more than occasionally for antioxidant purposes, or to keep it as a sometimes-indulgence when you really want it and get your antioxidants from vitamin packed vegetables and fruits? I would go with the latter. Or what about the low-fat, low-calorie, low-carb versions of foods that were traditionally higher in these areas and were therefore used as accessory foods or special occasion foods? Consider this: switching to the fake version to save yourself the calories, carbs, or fat just means you're getting a fake food, and that in most cases the difference has been made up by adding unecessary refined sugars, chemicals, additives, preservatives, and flavoring agents, all of which are at best unnatural and and at worst toxic for your body. So why not skip the low fat low carb cake, and instead wait for someone's birthday party or a dinner out and have a small, real piece- savor it and enjoy the indulgence, because it is one. Or, take it a step further and make your own baked goods using whole grain flour, natural sweeteners like honey and maple syrup, and fruit for extra moisture rather than loading up on the heavier fats. Don't bother with fat free cheese or butter substitutes- if you really want to partake of those foods, have the real thing and have less of it and less frequently, knowing that it's more satisfying, and much more natural, to eat real food.

So take a break from all the hub-bub and contradicting theories out there, and go with your gut. We all have an instinct about food and what to give to our bodies in order to fill our needs, it's how we've always known how to eat as a species, and it's only recently that our commercial culture and "food science" industry is leading us away from that. We do need to empower ourselves with information, but we also need to trust ourselves to use our common sense and instinct to choose our food. It's time to bring it back to basics: real healthy food that makes real healthy sense.

Go Forth and Eat Real!!!

Interested in finding out more about what foods are right for your own body and why? Looking for personalized information and support to help you change your eating and lifestyle choices in order to achieve your own specific goals for health and wellness? Contact me to set up a consultation: