Ariel recently shared a TED talk called "Why Dieting Doesn't Usually Work" by Sandra Aamodt. My response was too long and tangential for the comment box, so I thought I would shape it into a post.
When it comes to eating, I am a strong believer in the body's intuition. Not only can our bodies tell us when to eat and when to stop, but which nutrients we are lacking and how we might obtain them. Sometimes we have to get our meddling minds out of the way so as not to miss the prompting. I try hard to model this and teach it to my children. (As a result, they occasionally refer to themselves as "my body" instead of "I" when stating a need, or, for more convincing power with Mama, they'll use the phrase, "my body is telling me..." Funny kids.)
Ms. Aamodt alluded to this in her talk, but I think it should be clearly stated that which foods we eat is of utmost importance (not just when and how much). A body with optimal nutrition is more likely to function optimally. It is equally crucial that we source our food mindfully. Where did the food come from? How was it grown or raised? When buying a packaged product, I am a habitual ingredient-reader, seeking to know what each ingredient is, where it likely came from, and how it might affect my body.
Radiance Dairy jerseys
Following are a few examples of harmful food choices, sanctioned under USDA guidelines, that are contributing to our collective declining health:
Touted as "healthy polyunsaturated fats," these volatile oils become rancid through high-temperature chemical extraction and cooking. As a result, free radicals are formed, causing damage in the body and contributing to a host of serious ailments. They are completely untraditional, never having been accessible until the industrial revolution. Partially-hydrogenated oils are even worse, containing highly toxic trans fats that wreak havoc. (For a thorough discussion on fats, read this article by lipids researcher Mary Enig. To give credit where credit is due, the FDA has acknowledged the serious risk of trans fats.)
- We do not buy vegetable oil, or anything containing it, specifically: canola, soybean, corn, cottonseed, sunflower, safflower, rice bran, or grape seed. Instead we choose healthy, nourishing fats such as coconut oil, butter, olive oil, lard, and tallow.
Besides being addictive, sugar is the primary culprit of weight gain. It also depresses immune function, disrupts hormones, leads to anxiety and depression, and generally contributes to inflammation. Containing zero nutrition in itself, refined sugar taxes the body's nutrient stores in order to get digested, leading to a deficit. Sugar consumption causes blood sugar imbalance: energy highs followed by intense lows. This is a good overview of the effects of sugar in our every-day lives, and some tips on how to beat it!
- In our home, we do not buy any type of refined sugar, and use natural sweeteners in moderation.
Most people know that refined flour is a nutritional no-no. Unfortunately, even whole grains are taxing on the digestive system unless carefully prepared using traditional methods like fermenting or soaking. Sprouting is also a fine choice. With these pre-digestive preparations in place, several things occur: 1) phytic acid is neutralized, freeing nutrients for assimilation, 2) proteins (like gluten) become more digestible, 3) enzyme inhibitors are also neutralized, allowing beneficial enzymes to increase vitamins in the grain, and 4) and the carb count is reduced, lowering the amount of sugar released into the bloodstream.
- For these reasons, all the grains we use at home are freshly-ground, then soured or soaked. We also sprout and dry grain regularly so we always have some on hand.
Indigenous cultures thrived on dairy in its whole form without suffering any of the ills prophesied by the low-fat peddlers. We need stable saturated fat for many vital functions: building cell membranes, protecting from toxins and harmful microbes, strengthening immunity, carrying certain vitamins (A, D, K, and E) into cells, assimilating calcium into bones, protecting reproductive health, and certainly building a healthy baby. (I am so tired of seeing recommendations that pregnant women consume low-fat dairy!) Mainstream media sources are starting to recognize the unjust slander against saturated fat.
- We consume dairy products in their whole form.
Pasteurized, homogenized dairy
Pasteurization kills digestive enzymes that help break down the milk sugar and the probiotic bacteria that contribute to healthy gut flora (and thereby strong immunity). People who have trouble digesting pasteurized milk are often fine on raw milk. Homogenization crushes and damages the fat and cholesterol of the milk. This kind of milk differs from it's raw counterpart at the molecular level.
- We consume high-quality raw dairy products. (Remember, there are two kinds of raw milk: that intended for human consumption and that intended for pasteurization. Never drink the latter!) If I do have to buy pasteurized dairy, I buy full-fat, cream-top, organic, and grass-fed if possible (and never ultra-pasteurized).
Chemical-ridden foodWe have strayed so far from the days of clean food. Claims that the fertilizers, pesticides, antibiotics, and hormones applied so heavily to our food have minimal effects on our bodies are erroneous. It's a mess. Here are ten reasons to eat organic from the Organic Consumers Association.
- We buy organic dairy, meat, eggs, and produce directly from farmers we trust. If we eat out, we consider paying the extra bucks to patronize restaurants who share our values.
Whole real foods, prepared for optimal digestion and nutrient absorption are a top priority in my home. It takes a huge amount of mindfulness, commitment, and planning to make it happen, but I see—no, I feel—that it is worth the effort a hundredfold.
It feels welcome. It tastes delicious.