The food connection
Over the years we’ve all seen news reports and TV programs, or even read articles, about different diets designed for improving our health. I’d be willing to guess that at one time or another, you might have picked up a pamphlet in the waiting room at the doctor’s office and seen a similar type of suggested foods list for better health. I have also seen many of these lists, while reading or researching different health related topics. I began to see a common thread in all of these diets and lists, and I began to make a connection. It was my aha moment.
Whether the food list was for better nutrition, heart health, colon health, having more energy, weight loss, or even if it was for coping with a disease like diabetes, all of the lists were generally the same! Eureka! They all included things like whole grains, fresh fruits, cruciferous vegetables, leafy greens, beans, and legumes. Furthermore, they all had the same don’ts on them, things like white flour, sugar, and trans fats.
I had made the food connection. I saw it. I got it.
So let me assure you right now that food is not the enemy. I cannot emphasize this point enough.
After all, we all need to eat to survive don’t we? But food not only gives life; it can make us better, healthier, and stronger.
You might be surprised to know that there is a bounty of beautiful, colorful foods available to us that can help us build muscle, boost our immune systems, aid in keeping our hormones balanced, and even promote a healthy heart. You might be even more surprised to find out that many foods and beverages may also help us prevent cancer, and reduce the odds of getting certain cancers by startling percentages! For just a few examples, studies have shown that:
- Drinking four cups of Oolong tea a day may reduce a woman’s chance of getting ovarian cancer by an amazing 82% (Black tea, green tea, and many other types of teas have other, proven health benefits)
- Drinking 3 cups of coffee a day may cut your risk for getting liver cancer by 50%
- Women who eat the equivalent of 2 peaches a week may have a 40% lower risk for breast cancer
By the way, eating 1 oz of dark chocolate (72% cacao) a day is good for the body and the soul. So is a glass of red wine. Dark chocolate and red wine, like blueberries and coffee, contain strong antioxidants. So a little bit of dark chocolate and a glass of wine now and then, or even daily, is more than OK!
I’ve got your attention now, don’t I? You might just find out that it will be more difficult to fit in all of the food heroes (the beneficial, healthy, and amazing foods that you want in your body) than it will be to cut out the villainous foods that damage your body. Follow my posts for recipes, tips, and more about these food heroes. There is no reason to ever go hungry in an effort to feel and look your best, ever again. The fact is that depriving yourself of the nutritious array of proteins, fruits, vegetables, healthy grains, and heart healthy fats (like nuts, avocados and olive oil) would be counterproductive. You wouldn’t get too far in an automobile with no gas, and the engine would seize up with no oil. Similarly, your body can’t function properly without the right fuel, and your heart and body need certain essential fats like Omega 3’s.
Now that I’ve told you a little more about the foods you’ll want to eat plenty of, let’s discuss the villains.
Just as so many foods can be Heroes in promoting our good health; there are food villains which viciously attack our bodies, damage our hearts, and wreak havoc on our organs, ultimately stealing from us our good health. We all deserve to feel good. Why should we ever be the victims of these food villains?
Sugar is one of the worst food villains there is. Eating too much added sugar can cause heart disease, as well as obesity, and it can lead you down the path to diabetes and other potential illnesses. According to the American Heart Association, women should have a maximum of six teaspoons or approx. 100 calories of added sugar a day. Men should have no more than 9 teaspoons or approx. 150 calories of added sugar daily. Remember that these numbers represent the maximum amount of added sugar that you can have a day, not the recommended amount. The problem is that added sugar is in almost everything we eat and buy from the grocery store. You would think that of course added sugar would be in desserts, cookies, and candies, but you’d be astonished by how many innocent-looking foods you can find it lurking in. It’s in ketchup, mayonnaise, pasta sauce, salad dressing, and fruit juice. It’s added to snacks, and it’s often added to packaged meals and frozen dinners. In packaged foods, it is inescapable. Even if you think, “well I don’t eat many sugary treats” you may be consuming a lot more sugar than you realize.
Sugar is sugar by any other name
Sugar is sugar: corn syrup, molasses, honey, maple syrup, fructose… you get the drift; these are all sugars. While some forms of sugar are a little better for you than others, you should still only use them sparingly. I don’t use any added cane sugar, myself. I like to use honey* instead because it has some limited benefits as compared to cane sugar (anti-inflammatory properties, vitamin B6, and riboflavin), but I only use it occasionally, and when I do use it I use the smallest amount possible. I drink my coffee and tea black. I also advise against using artificial sweeteners; they can be addictive and they are chemicals that our bodies were not meant to process.
Processed food is not real food
It is ill-advised to eat anything that is processed, because it is not real food. Processed and packaged foods are laden with sugar, artificial sweeteners, artificial colors & flavors, unhealthy refined oils… the list goes on and on. That’s why it is so important to buy whole, real foods and cook your meals for yourself. It may be a little extra work, but in the long run it is well worth it. Now, I’m not saying that you can’t splurge occasionally on a nice dessert, or by going out for a good meal in a restaurant. We are, after all, only human. What I am saying is that if 90% of the time we make good healthy choices, which support our body’s good health, the damage from an occasional splurge will be minimal.
White flour, white rice & refined carbs…
Personally, I have omitted all refined carbs including white flour, cereals, baked goods, and white rice, from my diet. With the recent, well documented controversy in the news, about arsenic being found in disturbing levels in most types of rice, I opt for other whole grains, like quinoa.
Refined carbs and flours convert quickly to sugar in your bloodstream. This causes your sugar levels and insulin levels to spike and dip. These spikes and dips leave you tired and hungry. They can also lead to some serious health issues down the road. Whole grains have more fiber, which helps keep you full, and they convert to sugar more slowly in your body, so you avoid those nasty spikes and dips. Whole grains also offer your body more nutrition, and they taste great. Your body also require the nutrients found in fresh fruits, vegetables, and dark leafy greens. These unrefined types of carbohydrate foods contain phytonutrients, fiber, vitamins, and minerals which are needed by our bodies for function and health. We want to have an abundance of these incorporated into our daily dietary plan.
As with carbohydrates, not all fats are created equally. While omega 3, and omega 9 fats are healthy and anti-inflammatory, eating certain refined oils and too many omega 6 fats, can cause unhealthy, dangerous inflammation. Certain oils should be avoided altogether these include: Trans fats, hydrogenated oils, and refined oils. Vegetable oils like: soy, corn, canola, cotton seed, sunflower and safflower, are all refined oils. Refined oils have been treated with high temperatures, and caustic chemicals, which make them an unhealthy option.
Do the best you can, and if you foul up don’t give up. We all fall off the wagon sometimes; if you do, forgive yourself and move forward. Too often we make a mistake and think “wow I’ve really blown it, I might as well go wild”. Don’t fall into that trap. Instead tell yourself “I goofed, but I’ll do better from here on out”. Even if you goof it will be okay, just start fresh in the morning and let it go. Remember, if 90% of the time we make good healthy choices to support our body’s good health, the damage from a splurge or a fall off the wagon will be minimal.
*Because honey can cause a dangerous disease known as botulism in infants, children under the age of one should never consume honey, raw or pasteurized.
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