I’ve been getting questions lately from my readers about how to actually transition to a real foods diet. What does it actually look like, and where do you start? It can sometimes be daunting, and even discouraging. Different people say some foods are good while others say they’re bad. There’s the fight between those who say local produce is better than organic produce, and more and more people talking about how our soils are depleted and we aren’t getting as many nutrients from fruits and vegetables as we used to. Do you have to find a farmer in order to get quality meats? What if there isn’t one near you? Or you can’t afford it? Today, I’d like to talk about some easy, practical steps to take on your health journey, and encourage you that you don’t have to totally revamp your diet overnight in order to reap the benefits.
Use High Quality Fats
This is a simple step that will pay off in HUGE dividends for your health. Industrially produced oils are unnatural and lead to the development of heart disease. Since heart disease is the number one killer of Americans, (and rising rapidly in other industrialized countries), this is a great place to start. For cooking and baking, its best to stick with traditional fats that can withstand high heat, such as coconut oil, butter, ghee, lard, and beef tallow. These fats don’t become carcinogenic when heated, and they provide so much more nutrition than trans fats and unnatural oils. If you’re need something for a cold dish or a salad, olive oil is a great way to go, just don’t heat it, as it can’t withstand the high heat without molecular damage. If you can, try and stick with organic sources of fats and oils. Chemicals, hormones, and lots of other nasty substances are concentrated much more heavily in the fat of conventionally raised animals than in the actual meat. If you can’t find organic animal fats, coconut oil works well for anything you’d use butter for, including baking and sauteeing.
Switch to Sea Salt
It’s sad to think that modern agricultural practices have depleted our soils, and that as a result, we’ve become deficient in many of the minerals that we used to get from produce. It’d be great if we could all have a backyard garden that we fertilized with homemade compost and planted with heirloom seeds, but to be honest, most of us don’t have the time. My own garden has been a bitter disappointment this year, as its been ravaged by pests that I haven’t had the time to try and eliminate. Switching from table salt to sea salt will help you regain some of the minerals you aren’t getting in your produce. Table salt is just sodium chloride, and a little iodine. Sea salt has a much wider variety of minerals in it. You can buy it coarse or fine, and it’s great for cooking and putting in your salt shaker on the dinner table.
Eat in More, Out Less
I’m not suggesting you give up eating out entirely, how boring would that be? However, unless you’re going to a restaurant committed to local foods and traditional cooking methods, you’re probably going to get more nutrition from something you make yourself. Not many restaurants make everything from scratch these days, they use a lot of processed ingredients and mixes in order to streamline their service. Would it be doable to start eating in one more night a week than you do now? Make a list of your favorite foods, or things you’ve always wanted to learn how to cook, and start with those. They may not come out perfect the first time, but the more you cook, the better you’ll be. Before you know it, you may find that the food you make yourself actually tastes better than what you used to get in the restaurant.
Pay attention to the dirty dozen and the clean fifteen
Let’s be honest, organic food is more expensive than conventionally grown food. While I do make it a priority to buy organic when I can, there are times when the budget is just too tight. I’d rather buy more conventional produce and whole foods than buy a few organic vegetables and have to fill the rest of my cart with ramen noodles and pop tarts in order to stay within budget. There are some people out there who may disagree with me, but that’s ok. We don’t all have to agree on everything, do we? If you want to buy organic but you can’t afford it for everything, the dirty dozen is a list of the most highly sprayed crops. These have been tested and have the highest pesticide residues. Then there’s the opposite list, the clean fifteen. These have tested relatively low on pesticide levels. So, if you have to make a choice, these lists are very useful, and I’ve referred to them quite often.
Cut back on your sugar intake
Sugar is one of the main culprits that contributes to intestinal permeability, otherwise known as leaky gut. By cutting back on sugar, you’ll not only help heal your gut, avoid autoimmune disease, and limit inflammation in your body, but you’ll also be better able to utilize nutrients. It takes a lot of enzymes, minerals, and vitamins to process all that sugar and those carbohydrate rich foods. Cutting back or even eliminating sugar for a period of time will allow your body to replenish its stores and use fewer minerals and enzymes for sugar digestion, thus freeing them up to do other important things in your body. When you do use sugar, choose something other than plain white sugar. It’s like table salt, it doesn’t have any additional minerals or nutrients in it. Try using maple syrup, coconut or palm sugar, honey, molasses, etc.
Remember, health is a journey, and everyone’s path to wellness looks a little bit different. You may make choices that are different from someone else’s, and that’s ok. Every small step you take is still a step in the right direction. It’s much more important to make small, lasting changes, than to try and overhaul your life overnight and get burned out a week later. Take it slow, and one day you’ll be amazed at how far you’ve come.