Eating Smart for Lifelong Health and Wellbeing
The holidays are fast approaching, and it’s a good time to revisit what eating smart means for longterm health outcomes. Sourcing, prepping and cooking whole organic foods in your own kitchen is one of the most empowering self-care practices you can develop that will have the biggest impact on longterm health outcomes for yourself and your family. So ideally, we want to eat smart not just for the holidays, but throughout the year.
As with all self-care practices, eating smart begins with perceiving risks that have become normalized in our culture, so that we can respond by making adaptive choices that lower our risk of chronic ill health. With food, risky practices that have been normalized as safe when they never were include pesticides, herbicides and fungicides. Many Americans have become accustomed to thinking these toxic agricultural chemicals are somehow safe just because the food industry markets them as such. And so we allow ourselves to eat them on our foods. But the truth is, pesticides, herbicides and fungicides have been directly linked to higher rates of cancer, including colon cancer and lymphoma, neurological disorders like Parkinsons and Alzheimer’s, and gut disorders like irritable bowel syndrome, inflammatory bowel disease, leaky gut, food allergies, and autoimmune disorders. The herbicide atrazine, one of the most commonly used agricultural chemicals, disrupts hormone production so severely in frogs downstream from farms that male frogs become feminized.
The practice of smart eating has two aspects. We want to source foods that are low in poisons, and high in nutrients. In other words, the best food to source in any situation is the food that has the highest nutritional yield with the fewest toxins that could poison you and that your liver will have to filter, metabolize and excrete. If you follow this simple, functional principle that animals practice in the wild, you would never be interested in refined sugar—it has zero nutritional value and feeds candida fungus, the excrement of which is neurotoxic to humans. Easier said than done if you have a sugar addiction or “sweet tooth,” but that is smart eating in a nutshell.
Another risky practice that we have normalized as a society that was never safe or nutritional is pasteurization. Pasteurized dairy is listed by the CDC as the most common food allergen for a reason. Avoid it. Pasteurization means cooking at high temperature. And when you cook milk, you ruin it nutritionally. That’s why you see commercial milk cartons touting "fortified with Vitamin D and calcium.” Uncooked raw milk is naturally loaded with Vitamin D and calcium, and doesn’t need fortification, because these essential nutrients, plus the good fat, are bioavailable. Commercial non-organic pasteurized dairy is also often contaminated with pathogenic bacteria (the U.S. allows more pus in grade A milk than any other country in the world) that naturally explode on factory farms that overcrowd herds and deprive them of free movement and sunshine in open pastures, as well as the herbicides and pesticides in commercial feed, and the antibiotics often added to their feed to deal with the sickness that comes with overcrowded and unsanitary farm conditions. In contrast, raw organic dairy from non-hybridized pasture-grazed Jersey cows that make milk with the kind of casein protein humans can easily digest (unlike their Holstein cousins) is a superfood with a high nutrient yield and zero toxins. If your power as a consumer lies in sourcing the most nutritious and pure foods and avoiding contaminated and nutrient-depleted ones, then you will avoid pasteurized milk entirely.
Moms should be careful introducing pasteurized milk to infants early in order to “prevent” food allergies later—a recent new trend coming from pediatricians that tries to trick the infant’s undeveloped immune system to tolerate a contaminated nutrient-depleted food source before it can launch a inflammatory immune response to it. If the real problem is that pasteurized dairy is a very poor food choice because it lacks bioavailable nutrients and is contaminated with pus, pesticides, herbicides and antibiotics, then you wouldn’t want to feed it to your infant at all. The best milk for babes is mothers’ breast milk, period. Especially if mothers are sourcing pesticide-free, herbicide-free and antibiotic-free fresh whole foods for themselves, some, like dairy, in their raw unprocessed state. The second best option if mothers run short of breast milk would be raw organically farmed goat milk. Read another blog post on food allergies in infants if you need more information on reducing the risk of food allergies in children. The smart eating principle is the best approach—eliminate the toxic nutrient-depleted foods rather than learn to tolerate them.
Okay, so to eat smart, we start by fine tuning our perception of healthy food vs. unhealthy food, and by accepting that most of the commercial food in the U.S. is contaminated. Once we accept that reality, then we know that to eat smart, we have to source strictly organic and pesticide-free and herbicide-free foods that are unprocessed. Without exception. This means the vast majority of your food will be prepared and cooked at home, and eating out must be restricted to organic restaurants. It takes a lot of discipline to only eat organic foods, but our discipline in this regard is truly our freedom. Organic foods seem to cost more, but only if we don’t calculate the cost of ill health and environmental contamination into the equation. Pesticides and herbicides are pervasive environmental contaminants, because they travel downstream from farms in local waterways, and settle in sedimental soil where they can remain for decades, even hundreds of years. Waste from factory-farmed dairy and cattle herds, pig farms, and chicken farms washes downstream too, contaminating local waterways with antibiotic-resistant bacteria. When these toxins and pathogenic bacteria get in our bodies, they wreak havoc on our natural immunity, hormone health, and gutbrain health.
If you plan to eat smart, then you’ll want to avoid processed packaged foods, because they never deliver the nutritional load of unprocessed fresh whole foods in their natural state. And processed foods tend to be loaded with additives like food colorings, preservatives and emulsifiers in addition to pesticides and herbicides. So if you want to eat smart and serve smart food to family and friends, skip the packaged food aisles at your grocery store and go straight to the organic produce section. A few organic heirloom carrots and a handful of walnuts will always give you and your family more nutrients and protection as a snack than any processed, packaged food on the market. And penny for penny, they are far more cost-effective. Remember, cost-effective and cheap are not the same thing. Always calculate your family’s health into the equation. Also carrots and walnuts leave no plastic packaging to pollute the environment, and they are just as fast as any fast food. Eat them raw, and they take no prep time whatsoever. They also travel well if you are busy and need to be out and about.
Finally, Americans consume far too much meat products, poultry and pork. Many studies show the health benefits of eating strictly vegetarian, or mostly vegetarian. Organic plants are our first and best nutrient source. Most of us can live just fine on a diet of whole organic vegetables and fruits. Blood type O might be the exception, but even Type O ancestors in the not very distant past were not eating as much animal products as the majority of Americans do today. That needs to change, primarily because the practice is unsustainable for people and planet. And unbelievably cruel to animals. So when sourcing your food, weigh your options. Source and cook vegetarian at least most of the time, or pescatarian (fish but no meat). If you’ve chosen an omnivore’s life style, such as paleo or keto, then stick with sustainably farmed organic pasture-grazed sources only. Keep portions small, and keep one or two of your three meals a day vegetarian. Also consider sourcing low-on-the-food-chain foods rather than high-on-the-food-chain foods, such as replacing burgers with sardines. Given that irreplaceable forests are being cut down to make pasture lands for raising cattle, one of those food choices is simply more sustainable.
Cooking organic whole foods in your kitchen with family members is also healing in emotional and psychological ways—beyond the physical health benefits. People have been gathering in kitchens during food prep and around dining tables throughout history to share not only physical nourishment, but also love and support for life’s ups and downs. Young children learn somatic-emotional patterns around food from copying the adults in their family, so make the kitchen the place where they learn smart eating habits before they have even mastered the language to talk about it. The earlier you start the better. It’s best if children cannot remember a time before smart eating was the norm. In addition, many a family healing session has taken place around food preparation and eating in the home, especially during holiday gatherings. Prepare for this and plan for it by serving delicious organic whole healthy foods, so you can maximize the family healing we are all capable of, and in need of. When family healing—starting with smart eating—is more common than ending up in a doctor’s office with a health crisis, we will have shifted from sickness care to self-care, and from costly treatments after the fact to cost-effective prevention of chronic illness. And that is something to celebrate with loved ones this holiday season.