by Lauren Swanger
A very health-conscious friend of mine once remarked, “People can spend thousands of dollars on diet books, diet pills, shakes, high protein bars, whatever. The bottom line is: you are what you eat. I believe that the closer to the ground you eat, as nature intended, the better off you will be. Rely on foods in their natural form; that’s the key!” She wasn’t a fanatic, she wasn’t trying to be ironic or facetious, and she certainly wasn’t exactly ahead of her time, either. She had just spent so many of her adult years struggling with various food issues – we all have them – that she finally decided to play detective to the types of foods that were giving her problems. It was her contention that the many highly processed, manipulated foods she had been eating were the ones which created most of the physiological troubles she had experienced throughout her life: headaches, indigestion, fatigue, irritability, not to mention being several pounds overweight. It didn’t take her long to realize that the convenience foods she used every day were the root cause of many of her health problems. Well…duh!
People eat fast food every day. But do you know what’s in that chicken sandwich you are about to eat? This is a list of ingredients for a chicken sandwich from a popular fast food restaurant: Boneless chicken breast with rib meat, water, seasoning (salt, chicken stock, flavoring, maltodextrin, and autolyzed yeast), partially hydrogenated soybean oil and sodium phosphates. Glazed with water, seasoning (maltodextrin, salt, chicken stock, hydrolyzed soy protein, flavors, modified food starch, methylcellulose gum, monosodium glutamate, soy sauce (wheat, soybeans, salt) chicken fat, hydrolyzed wheat gluten, xanthan gum, natural smoke flavor, partially hydrogenated soybean oil, butter (cream, salt) hydrolyzed corn gluten, autolyzed yeast extract, buttermilk, corn syrup solids, thiamine hydrochloride, citric acid, latic acid, caramel color, disodium inosinate disodium guanylate vegetable stock (carrot, onion, celery), paprika and tocopherol) and partially hydrogenated soybean oil.
Tocopherol, xanthan gum, and disodium inosinate disodium guanylate vegetable stock? Yum!
What you eat is, obviously, very important. How you eat is important too. Food is fuel for the body. It is to be enjoyed, savored, lingered over. When you eat, eat without distraction or stress. The smell, taste, texture, and temperature of your food should be noticed and appreciated. Slooooow down…. Take a breath… Relax…
Getting “closer to the ground” in your food choices simply means enjoying your food in the most original, and natural, form possible. There is a school of thought that certain foods in nature resemble the very bodily function they support. Take the unassuming walnut, for example. A walnut looks just like a little brain; a left and right hemisphere, with upper and lower cerebellums. Even the wrinkles or folds are on the nut just like the neo-cortex. Walnuts have been shown to help develop over 3 dozen neuron-transmitters for brain function, and provide you with your necessary daily Omega-3 dose.
All raw foods that have come from nature have properties that are beneficial to the animals that eat them, humans included. A diet rich in vegetables can keep you healthy and ward off many diseases. Vegetables in their most natural state are those with the highest nutritional density and are best for you. Fruits are generally high in antioxidants which are not only beneficial to brain health but may also improve certain neurological conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease.
I grew up with convenience food, pre-packaged dinners, frozen meals, powered drinks. So did you. It’s become a part of our culture, and it can be a tough little monkey to shake off one’s back. But because we are so used to this aura of convenience we have convinced ourselves that cooking our own foods, without preservatives and additives, is somehow very mysterious and complex. It isn’t at all! It may take some planning on your part, sure, but the results you will see in your health will be well worth it. Even better, include your family in the planning and preparation. Planning a week’s worth of meals together will take the stress out of dinner time for everyone involved.
Human beings survived by being physically active and hunting for their own food. While it’s good to know that you won’t have to grab a bow and arrow and bring down a bison for dinner tonight, you will have to make thoughtful choices at the grocery store for optimal health. Shop the perimeter; look for fresh vegetables, fruits, and meats that were free range, and who developed without added steroids Giving more thought to what you are eating each day, and how you are eating it, are both very important to your overall health. How you look and how you feel will be a direct result of what, and how, you eat.