The quality of our nutrition consists of more than just the right balance of macronutrients or correct number of calories eaten. It is nutrient dense, not calorie scarce. It is a tool, not a punishment, and should provide our body with nourishment and energy it needs to function in at optimum level.
Focusing on filling our plate with an abundance of vibrant food with a colorful phytonutrients, vitamins and minerals is much more important than minimizing the number of calories or certain macronutrients we consume. Adopting the approach of maximizing the amount of nutrients we ingest rather than minimizing the number of calories, serves to supply our bodies the nourishment necessary to thrive, not just survive.
Whole foods are the key to our health. The majority of our diet should be unprocessed and unrefined, which means real food in its naturally occurring form. Food that has been grown and nourished from the earth rather than manufactured and sold in a package. Food that our grandparents would recognize (go as far back as 50-60 years ago, to a time where type 2 diabetes was rare, and not seen in children like it is today). Our bodies are designed to eat, break down, digest, assimilate and eliminate real food. While processed foods may be enriched or enhanced with vitamins and minerals, they are rarely bioavailable to our bodies. When we eat food that is vibrant and alive, we invite that vibrance into our own body.
So, how do we ensure that our nutritional choices are supporting our health? After all, with so many products to choose from, aisles and aisles of products with overwhelmingly confusing lists of ingredients and very promising claims, making the right choices at the grocery store can often turn into a formidable task.
The products that we buy fall roughly into 3 groups: unprocessed plant-based (vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, grains, cereals, legumes and pulses), unprocessed animal-based (eggs, meat, poultry, seafood) and processed foods.
Following are five rules that will help you turn your nutrition into the most powerful form of medicine rather than the slowest form of poison:
Secret #1: Choose Organic. No Matter What.
The term “organic” refers to the way agricultural products are grown and processed. It encompasses crops as well as meat, dairy and eggs. In the U.S.- organic crops are grown with natural fertilizers (manure, compost); weeds are controlled naturally (crop rotation, hand weeding, mulching and tilling); pests are controlled using natural methods (birds, insects, traps) and naturally-derived pesticides; livestock must have access to the outdoors and are given all organic, hormone- and GMO-free feed; and disease is prevented with natural methods such as clean housing, rotational grazing and healthy diet.
How your food is grown or raised can have a major impact on your mental and emotional health as well as the environment. Organic foods often have more beneficial nutrients, such as antioxidants, than their conventionally-grown counterparts and people with allergies to foods, chemicals, or preservatives often find their symptoms lessen or go away when they eat only organic foods.
A 2014 meta-analysis, based on 343 peer-reviewed studies, published in the British Journal of Nutrition, found that the concentrations of a range of antioxidants were found to be substantially higher in organic crops/crop-based foods, with those of phenolic acids, flavanones, stilbenes, flavones, flavonols and anthocyanins being an estimated 19%, 69%, 28%, 26%, 50% and 51% higher, respectively. Many of these compounds have previously been linked to a reduced risk of chronic diseases, including cardiovascular diseases and neurodegenerative diseases and certain cancers, in dietary intervention and epidemiological studies. The study also found that the frequency of occurrence of pesticide residues was found to be 4 times higher in conventional crops, which also contained significantly higher concentrations of the toxic metal cadmium. Significant differences were also detected for some other minerals and vitamins.
Whether or not organic has greater nutritional value should be of secondary concern to the threat of ingesting poisonous chemicals such as fungicides, herbicides and insecticides.
These poisonous chemicals are widely used in conventional agriculture and residues remain on (and in) the crops- and livestock-derived products. More than one billion pounds of pesticides are used in the U.S. each year, an amount that has quintupled since 1945. This includes 20,000 products made from varying formulations of more than 1,000 chemicals, sprayed everywhere from farm fields and gardens to playgrounds and schools.
The biggest threat to our health yet is glyphosate (more commonly known as Roundup) and the genetically-modified (GM) crops that readily go with it, courtesy of Monsanto. A 2015 study published in the journal Environmental Sciences Europe reveals that U.S. farmers sprayed 3.6 billion pounds of Roundup herbicide on U.S. agricultural land since its introduction in 1974. Worldwide, 5 times as much of this chemical have been sprayed onto fields by over 130 countries. Roundup has indeed become the most heavily-used agricultural chemical in the history of the world.
Over the years a large body of independent research has accumulated and now collectively provides a sound scientific rationale to confirm that glyphosate is far more toxic and poses more serious health risks to animals and humans than Monsanto and the U.S. government admit. Diseases and health conditions that were identified by non-industry studies include: ADHD, Alzheimer’s disease, autism, birth defects, brain, breast, prostate and lung cancer, celiac disease and gluten intolerance, chronic kidney disease, colitis, liver disease, depression, diabetes, heart disease, hypothyroidism, inflammatory bowl disease, Lou Gehrig’s Disease (ALS), pregnancy problems (infertility, miscarriages, stillbirths), Non-Hodgkin lymphoma (a systematic review and a series of meta-analyses of nearly three decades worth of epidemiological research on the relationship between non-Hodgkin lymphoma and occupational exposure to agricultural pesticides found that B cell lymphoma was positively associated with glyphosate), Parkinson’s disease, obesity, reproductive problems (delayed puberty, decreased sperm production, decreased testosterone production), and respiratory illnesses.
Through Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests, Anthony Samsel, an independent research scientist and a member of the Union of Concerned Scientists, together with his co-investigator Dr. Stephanie Seneff, a senior research scientist at MIT, have been able to obtain a hoard of Monsanto’s own scientific documents (over 15,000 pages covering Monsanto’s complete glyphosate research). They have been reviewing and publishing peer-reviewed studies for the past few years. According to Samsel and Seneff, Monsanto conducted hundreds of trials on mice, rats, beagle dogs, rabbits and other life. Among the many cancers and diseases Monsanto’s own research found associated with glyphosate are: adenoma cancer in the pituitary gland, glioma tumors in the brain, reticular cell sarcomas in the heart, malignant tumors in the lungs, salivary mandibular reticular cell carcinoma, metastatic sarcomas of the lymph gland, prostate carcinoma, cancer of the bladder, thyroid carcinoma, adrenal reticulum cell sarcomas, cortical adenomas and basal cell squamous skin tumors. In female mammals there were cancers of the lung, liver, thymus, stomach, bladder adrenal glands, ovaries, colon, uterus, parathyroid and mammary glands.
Opting for organic foods is an effectual choice for both personal and environmental health. Organic food has a higher nutritional value, and it contributes to better health through reduced pesticide exposure for all – from the farmworkers, to the waterways, the air we breathe and the food we eat. Organic food can feed us and keep us healthy without producing the toxic effects of chemical agriculture.
Secret #2: Avoid GMO’s. At All Costs.
Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO’s) are the result of a laboratory process where genes from the DNA of one species are extracted and artificially forced into the genes of an unrelated plant or animal. The foreign genes may come from bacteria, viruses, insects, animals or even humans.
Since the introduction of GMOs in 1996, food allergies have skyrocketed, and disorders such as autism, reproductive disorders, digestive problems, and others are on the rise. Although there is no sufficient research to confirm that GMOs are a contributing factor, several prestigious groups tell us to protect ourselves before it’s too late.
The American Academy of Environmental Medicine (AAEM) warns that several animal studies indicate serious health risks associated with GM food consumption including infertility, immune dysregulation, accelerated aging, dysregulation of genes associated with cholesterol synthesis, insulin regulation, cell signaling, and protein formation, and changes in the liver, kidney, spleen and gastrointestinal system. The AAEM urges doctors to prescribe non-GMO diets for all patients.
To learn more about GMO’s, please visit the Institute for Responsible Technology website where you will find comprehensive GMO health information.