Back to Basics
We live in an excess information era that most of the time makes us feel lost. Thousands of nutrition and diet books with different trends and quick fixes are published around the world every year. While we wait for the next controversy about the Keto diet to be released, we keep walking the path of least resistance and feeding our kids that Happy Meal. However, deep inside we know nothing fancy or complicated is needed. The essence of true health lies in the simplicity of embracing a real food diet. But what does “real food” mean? After all, what is the best diet?
A Food Revolution
I’m a big fan of The Food Revolution Network (FRN) and the work founders John and Ocean Robbins do. I’ve shared many of their recipes, research, and articles in my newsletter because I feel very much aligned with their mission. FRN is committed to inspiring and advocating for healthy, ethical, and sustainable food for all through education about plant-powered foods. Mamma Terra’s mission doesn’t differ much but focuses on the outcome of getting people educated on ways to be healthy. Which is a future where ailments are scarce.
Yale-Griffin Prevention Research Center founding director David Katz MD assembled a global coalition of more than 450 world-renowned doctors, scientists, researchers, and health advocates to fight fake facts related to diet. The so-called True Health Initiative is a non-profit that aims to create a world free of preventable diseases, using the fundamentals of lifestyle as medicine. I share the initiative’s vision of communicating an emerging consensus that there is a way of eating and living that massively promotes longevity, vitality, and overall health.
Dr. Katz is a specialist in Preventive Medicine and Lifestyle Medicine, with particular expertise in nutrition. He has written more than 25 titles including the famous Disease Proof – The Remarkable Truth About What Makes Us Well, published in 2013. I had the absolute pleasure of watching him speak at one of my Health Coach Training lectures. His poetry recitation kind of speech about the dark woods of modern epidemiology was jaw-dropping. I was astonished by his compelling blend of expertise and clarity in saying that 80% of premature deaths in the US are attributed to lifestyle – or as he says, the bad use of our feet, forks, and fingers.
For more than thirty years, Michael Pollan has been writing books and articles about humans’ relationship with food. At least six of his books have been New York Times bestsellers and some of them have been adapted for television. When asked for nutrition advice, Pollan summarized it in a seven-word sentence: “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” That’s the consensus recommendation from Food Revolution Network, Dr. Kratz, and True Health Initiative members, as well as countless functional doctors. The best diet is a Real Foods Diet!
Embracing Nutrient Density
Real foods are whatever nature provides, that are minimally processed or unadulterated by processing and as such, packed with essential nutrients. From vibrant fruits and vegetables to legumes and whole grains, these foods provide a wealth of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Such nutrient density fosters optimal bodily function, supports immune health, and enhances overall well-being. Although some of them are convenient and easy to consume – like most fruits, some are not so much. This leads us to reflect once again that the path of least resistance quite often is not the best one.
What Isn’t Food?
I keep saying that we must avoid eating highly processed foods. In fact, we should refrain from even calling them food as they are best categorized as food-like substances. In this bucket we can place everything that is man-made, comes in a package, and can be consumed right away or with minimal prep, straight from a box or a can. Some examples are store-bought bread, crackers, chips, cookies, cereal, granola bars, pre-made cakes and pasta, frozen meals, all kinds of lunch meat (ham, sausage, turkey), soda, juices, and all kinds of candy and snacks. Amazingly, that is the majority of what is on American’s table every day.
A Fatal Convenience
In his book and homonym Podcast Fatal Conveniences, Darin Olien talks about how the food industry has been tricking us by making convenient products for our modern busy lives. For 30 years after the creation of powdered milk, the food industry giant Nestle brainwashed mothers all over the world. Using breastfeeding liberation as a hook, they massively convinced new moms that all their babies needed was a bottle of their powdered milk – that could be given by anyone.
Ever since the Industrial Revolution, the food industry has been creating a path of least resistance for us to feed our families. From Kellogg’s cereal for breakfast, Lunchables for kid’s lunch boxes, and Kraft Mac&Cheese for dinner, the grocery stores and the streets are full of easy and convenient options. When we don’t have clear information or education about all the risks associated with eating those highly processed food-like substances then, they become fatal conveniences.
Highly processed foods are designed to be addictive. American market researcher and psychophysicist Howard Moskowitz is known for his successful work in product creation and optimization for the food industry. Moskowitz created the term, bliss point, to describe “that sensory profile where you like food the most.” The bliss point means the “just right” combination of salt, sugar, and fat to make it impossible to eat just one Cheetos. It’s not by chance that kids reach for chips instead of apples, it’s by design.
Beyond the Bliss Point
Besides being addictive, and rich in sugar, salt, and unhealthy fats, food-like products are also full of a wide variety of chemicals. All of these are necessary to make them look, smell, and taste good and also last the longest on the shelves. As our bodies don’t know how to digest and process them, those additives are treated as toxins. They become fatal over time by overloading our detox system and contributing to chronic inflammation – which leads to all kinds of diseases. Needless to say, the detrimental effects of excessive sugar, unhealthy fats, and excessive salt intake on one’s health.
I don’t know when our society turned cooking into a hated house chore. I’d rather outsource house cleaning! Besides being therapeutic, home cooking is the best way to make sure what you are putting into your body. I also believe cooking is at the heart of family living as it is at the core of all relationships. Feeding the offspring is the primary way to demonstrate love and care. That’s what we observe in the whole animal kingdom, not only in mammals. As nothing will ever replace breast milk, nothing will ever replace a homecooked meal.
Fostering Lifelong Habits
Beyond immediate health benefits, a real foods diet sets the stage for a healthier planet. By instilling an appreciation for the inherent goodness of whole foods, we create a foundation for sustainable living practices that extend well into the future. By creating a caring and welcoming home cooking environment, we’re teaching our kids far beyond healthy eating. There are environmental benefits that arise from the conscious choice to eliminate sugar and highly processed foods while embracing the nourishing richness of nature’s offerings.
“In today’s society, a multitude of competing agendas and motivations obscure the fundamental, simple truths of healthy living. If we don’t create enduring, sustainable change, we submit to a world where chronic disease and premature death are the norms, not the exception.” – True Health Initiative.
I know it’s not easy or convenient to make good choices but, I strongly believe the payoff is worth it. Focusing on eating the right real foods will set you forever free from calorie counting and will make you feel great.
If you need help navigating the turbulent waters of excess information about food choices and preparation reach out to me. I’ll be honored to help you!
After all: Good is what makes you feel well!
For more about the benefits of a Real Food Diet read Beat Cancer is Possible.
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I’m excited to share that I just published my first e-book
A Weekend of Feeling Great!
In this book, you’ll find all the steps you can take to feel great. Besides all the foundational principles of multidimensional health, it has a sample of a productive daily routine and a two-day menu with 10 healthy recipes for you to try.