Eating Real Food
Part of my journey to improving my health was understanding what “real food” was. I’ve never had a disease, but my mother battles with hypertension. One day she had a stroke while driving with me in the car. Luckily, we were at a stop light and no one else was harmed. That was a scary day for me. She recovered with no major damage and hasn’t had one since. After that, I knew I needed to take care of my health.
Most of my family battle with autoimmune diseases, cancer, hypertension, high-cholesterol, depression, or diabetes. Many of my friends are battling with the same health issues and we’re in our 30’s. These diseases are no longer reserved for the elderly. This is an epidemic and I truly believe it’s because of our diet. I’m not a doctor, but I do believe eating real food will help manage or alleviate some of these diseases.
Those close to me, know that I’m a documentary nut. I’ve seen almost every documentary about the American diet. The latest was Fed Up. If you haven’t seen this movie, PLEASE check it out. It’s on Netflix. It’s about the effect sugar has in our lives. It’s really mind-blowing.
I’m constantly educating myself with books, articles, journals and more. The book that changed my life was “Wheat Belly“, which was recommended to me by my neighbor Shawna. I became a knowledge junkie after that book. That was my awakening. I felt duped and betrayed by teachers, our government and even medical professionals. I had to learn about eating real food on my own, so I took matters into my own hands. Healthy food became my obsession. Although I enjoyed reading “Wheat Belly”, I took the information at face value. I had to do my own research. So, I started taking nutrition classes at my university. To my surprise, a few of my professors were clueless too. Can you believe I had a professor still promoting the food pyramid? In 2014? Really? Was she living under a rock?
I did walk away with some useful information. Nutritionist currently promote MyPlate. It’s definitely an upgrade from the food pyramid, but in my opinion it needs work. Most of us couldn’t follow the old food pyramid so I guess this is an upgrade. In one of my projects, we had to use this free tool to track our diets. I recommend everyone trying this for a week. This program calculates your nutritional intake. I wasn’t surprised to find I was seriously lacking in vitamin D. So, now I take fermented cod liver fish oil to make up for my deficiency. Yes, that horrible fish oil our grandparents made us swallow as kids.
From my basic pre-med courses, I’ve gained a better understating of chemical reactions within living systems. I started to piece together why certain foods are so bad. Basically, our bodies have problems digesting certain foods.
Let’s use trans fat. Our bodies are beautifully designed to break down food into nutrients that the body needs to sustain life. When we eat trans fats, it competes with good fats in our bodies and prevents the good fats from being absorbed. When too many trans fats are absorbed, it changes the structure of some of our cells in the blood which contributes to plaque build up in the arteries. This is a very simplified description, but there you have it. Check it out here.
If you take nothing away, PLEASE take this. STAY AWAY FROM TRANS FAT!!! It’s difficult task because trans fats are shady. They will sneak in your food under aliases and you’ll never know. Some code names for trans fats are hydrogenated oil, partially hydrogenated oil, and vegetable oil (YES, VEGETABLE OIL). I know, I know, it’s so misleading using the word vegetable in the name. Read the label. Legally companies can advertise products as no trans fat if it’s less than 0.49% per gram per serving. SAY WHAT?!?!?!
So you may ask, where did trans fats come from and why is it in our food? Well, once upon a time, our government thought that fat was bad for us. So food scientist came up with an idea to remove natural occurring fat from food to make it healthier. As we all know, fat tastes good. Really good. So removing it from our food, made it taste terrible. So, they set out to create a healthier fat so we could still enjoy the taste of our food. So that’s how we got trans fat. #EPICFAIL
One more thing, on the fat topic. If a product is fat-free, it’s likely high in sugar. When fat is removed, scientist replaces it with sugar so it’s still tasty.
Research is constantly changing the way we think about food. My philosophy when grocery shopping is choose products with ingredients you recognize. Check out the picture below. It’s a bit blurry, but I’m sure you get my drift.
There are so many diets out there, so which one is right? We have vegan, lacto vegetarian, ova vegetarian, lacto-ovovegetarian, pollotarian, pescatarian, flexatarian, paleo, low-carb, low-fat, Atkins, Mediterranean, military and more. Did you catch all of that? I have to admit, that I’ve tried a few of those. Nothing ever stuck. Now, I keep it simple. I limit sugar, animal protein and eat mostly fruits and vegetables.
I’m not perfect and I try to follow an 80/20 strategy. Meaning 80% of my diet is super healthy. It’s mostly organic and prepared from home with ingredients that I recognize. For the 80%, I eat fruits and or veggies with each meal. I try to am for a wide variety of foods with a lot of color on my plate. Ten percent is mediocre and the other ten percent is plain wrong. Sometimes, that 10% is not too bad but other times its HORRIBLE. I mean, day drinking and french fry bad. I’m talking sugary and fried with that God awful trans fat bad.
These doom diet days happen when I’m out with family and friends. I try not to beat myself up over them any more. I know the occasional brownie won’t kill me. However, after a bad binge, I immediately follow-up with a green juice or smoothie, tons of water and detox tea (really just green tea). I gotta flush those toxins out. If I know ahead of time that I’m going to “act crazy” with my diet, I’ll coat my stomach with one of my green smoothies. This will prevent me from over eating where ever I end up and I tend to make better decisions when I’m out.
As you can see, this is a topic that is near and dear to my heart. I hope that you learned something or maybe reinforced things you already knew. If nothing else, I hope I inspired you to eat real food and make easy practical changes to improve your lifestyle.
Oh, and so you know, I don’t promote any one diet over another. I’m not a professional yet, but I do believe the best diet is just a lifestyle change. Eat a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, limit animal products, drink tons of water, and exercise. That’s the only thing that I’ve found to improve your health permanently.