The typical American diet is rich in calories, artificial flavors, colors, preservatives, sugar, artificial sweeteners, MSG, and trans fats. Let’s not forget pesticides, hormones, and antibiotics. The media bombards us with information about a healthy diet, much of it contradictory, much of it complicated, and most of it wrong. So how should we eat?
Eliminating toxins, additives, and sugar is a no-brainer. But once that step is taken and organic foods are chosen, what is the next step? Whether you’re a meat-eater, a vegan, or a vegetarian, the key is balance. The right balance.
For optimum health our bodies require a slightly alkaline PH, right about 7.365. A diet high in meats and grains, the typical Western diet, is acid producing. Chronic acidification wreaks havoc with all cellular activities and functions. Many naturopaths believe it to be the root cause of chronic or “incurable” diseases. So how do we maintain our PH balance short of memorizing the list of acidifying and alkaline foods? The simple way is to use the 80/20 principle; 80% of your diet should consist of fresh, raw, organic fruits and vegetables. That may sound extreme, and for some people and their lifestyles it may be difficult, but the closer one comes to this ratio the healthier one will be. And for many people there is not another lifestyle change they could make that would have as big an impact on your health.
In addition, most of us need to be conscious about increasing our consumption of the following:
Fiber has many benefits. It feeds healthybacteria, which aids in digestion. It also helps slow the rate sugar is absorbed into the bloodstream, keeping blood sugar levels stable. Fiber also helps with regularity; it speeds up digestion as it scours your colon like a scrub brush.
Enzymes are responsible for nearly every facet of life and health. Without enzymes, food is not digested and nutrients are not absorbed. Enzyme rich, fresh, raw foods are easy for the body to digest. Processed and cooked foods have little or no enzymes. If enzymes are not present in the food we eat, the body creates them. But some doctors believe our bodies can create only a finite amount of enzymes in our lifetimes. So once again, a diet high in fresh, raw, organic fruits and vegetables, adhering to the 80/20 principle, will increase your consumption of natural enzymes.
Free radicals, atoms or groups of atoms with an odd (unpaired) number of electrons, have been linked to aging and disease. They damage healthy cell membranes and DNA. Antioxidants neutralize free radicals. Again, a diet high in fresh, raw, organic fruits and vegetables is a diet rich in antioxidants.
A normal, healthy gut is home to 400-500 beneficial bacteria, all working in harmony. Remember enzymes? Beneficial bacteria produce critical enzymes and control yeast. They help us digest our food and absorb nutrients. Just one dose of an antibiotic can decimate entire species of beneficial bacteria and wreak havoc with this delicate ecological balance.
Probiotics can help restore the natural balance. Many suggest taking them (or eating them) on a daily basis, and certainly this suggestion has merit to anyone coming to an organic lifestyle from a lifetime of poor nutrition and antibiotic use. But again, adhering to a good, balanced diet and the 80/20 principle of eating 80% fresh, raw, organic fruits and vegetables will feed beneficial bacteria and aid in maintaining proper balance.
Omega 3 Fatty Acids
Essential fatty acids, omega-6s and omega-3s, cannot be manufactured by our bodies. They must come from our diet. Our bodies need both omega-6s and omega 3s for a variety of metabolic processes including healing. The ratio of omega-6s to omega-3s should be nearly equal, but the typical American diet is high in omega 6s and low in omega 3s, with a ratio closer to 17:1. And we suffer for it—with inflammation, aching, poor healing and chronic illnesses such as lupus, fibromyalgia, and heart disease. To decrease omega 6s, avoid processed foods and conventional poultry, beef, and dairy and choose organic meats—grass fed beef, free range poultry, etc. To increase omega-3s, eat fatty fish, nuts, seeds, and unrefined whole grains (it is best to soak or sprout nuts and seeds to release enzyme inhibitors and change acidic nuts to alkaline). Flaxseed, cod liver oil, or other omega-3 rich oils can be added to our diet, but we must be sure they are fresh and not overly refined.
We will go into more depth about all aspects of a healthy diet and the dangers of additives, GMOs, and conventional farming in upcoming issues. In the meantime, eat healthy. Eat smart. Go organic.