I have worked with many doctors, health coaches, nutrition consultants, and other various health professionals who are baffled with a client’s inability, or their own inability to get over certain health issues. Ninety-nine percent of the time, the problem is sugar. We eat so much sugar! But it’s not just sugar. If you’re struggling with your health, and you feel like you’ve learned so much about health but still are unable to reach homeostasis, take a look at these common mistakes people make with their diet.
The sugar within a whole apple will not feed pathogenic gut flora or spike most people’s blood sugar when eaten as an apple. Apple juice, on the other hand, is a refined sugar. Juicing removes fruit sugar from its natural state, which is inside the fruit, surrounded and bound with fiber. If the juice gets hot enough the enzymes are getting destroyed too.
How to Juice For Health
Use a slow juicer to preserve enzymes and other delicate nutrients. Drink immediately; don’t store it. Use vegetables and herbs. This will not be that refreshing burst of sweetness fruit juicers are accustomed to. Spinach, lettuces and other lighter leafy greens make for a pretty easy transition. Kale, cabbage, and collards can be difficult to work with (or drink) depending on the juicer and their palate. Try adding them in slowly. Personally, I cannot make collard work to save my life, but I’ve grown accustomed to kale and spinach.
Cayenne, turmeric, garlic, ginger, and cinnamon are a healthy juicer’s best friend. The herbal antimicrobial properties and some other factors help balance out the effects of the sugars from juicing.
The food pyramid is not our friend. Meat and grain industries have influenced dietary regulations for decades. How a food pyramid is done right depends on whether one is vegan, a raw foodist, or an omnivore, but the commonality is raw vegetables as the base for a balanced diet.
Grain has been consumed for thousands of years, but modern wheat is making people sick. There are a few likely reasons for this, including genetic engineering through hybridization (not to be confused with GMOs), glyphosates, unnatural harvesting practices, and the way we handle the modern processing that make the food products. Many who cannot consume wheat are able to eat spelt, Kamut, Einkorn, and some other ancient grains that contain gluten, but anyone with severe gluten issues would be wise to stay away from all wheat and gluten until the gut is balanced and healed.
A proper food pyramid would have raw herbs and vegetables as the most important items, with cooked vegetables and herbs being shown as the second most beneficial, with fruit following close behind. Meat and grains are not necessarily bad for you, but they don’t do nearly as much to heal the body (unless you’re severely deficient in nutrition). Cooked vegetables, meats, and grains have many benefits and can help sustain and build our body, but raw fresh produce and herbs produce the best ecosystem in our gut which equates to a healthy body.
Gluten-Free Grains and Grain Substitutions
- Amaranth is an ancient grain that is very easy to absorb and assimilate and is rich in protein, as well as calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, and potassium. It’s also the only grain that has been documented to contain vitamin C.
- Buckwheat is technically not a grain; this fruit seed is related to rhubarb and sorrel. It’s a good source of antioxidants, fiber, manganese, magnesium, and tryptophan.
- Corn can be problematic for those dealing with inflammation, but it’s a much better choice than wheat for anyone who’s not feeling their best. Corn is a good source of vitamins B1, B5 (pantothenic acid), and C; folate; and phosphorus.
- Millet, “with its many nutrients, has been shown to support the cardiovascular, gastrointestinal, and respiratory systems. It has the potential to protect against diabetes and cancer.” – Click to read more about millet here
- Montina is flour milled from Indian ricegrass (which is not to traditional rice). It’s rich in protein, carbohydrates, and fiber and is typically used as an additive to primary gluten-free flours.
- Quinoa is an ancient grain that’s very popular right now. It’s often is used in place of traditional starches, such as pasta, rice, couscous, and cereals. Quinoa is rich in amino acids, manganese, magnesium, iron, copper, and phosphorous.
- Rice. But not white rice. Brown rice contains the bran and germ portion of the kernel and is higher in fiber and other nutrients. Rice is rich in B vitamins, calcium, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorous, potassium, and zinc. Rice flour is commonly used for baking with gluten-free products.
- Sorghum is an ancient millet like cereal grain that’s used in baking.
- Teff is an ancient grain that is similar in size to poppy seeds. Teff has a nutty, molasses like flavor is somewhat mucilaginous. It’s can be eaten uncooked, as a cooked grain, or ground and added as part of the flour used in recipes. Teff is rich contains all eight indispensable amino acids, and it’s chock-full of thiamin and contains significant amounts of the minerals phosphorus, magnesium, aluminum, iron, copper, zinc, boron, and barium.
- Wild rice is an aquatic cereal grain that grows wild in isolated lakes and riverbeds in the cold regions of North America. It contains protein, phosphorous, potassium, and magnesium and the B vitamins thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, and folic acid.
And of course, there are also beans and lentils for gluten free meals. Did I miss any? Comment!
Should I Be Soaking My Grains?
Phytic acid is an enzyme inhibitor of concern for many. Studies on phytic acid reveal that the phytic acid in whole grain can block calcium, zinc, magnesium, iron and copper absorption. It doesn’t happen with everyone; some seem immune to these adverse consequences because of a favorable ecosystem of gut flora. In addition, when animal fats that provide vitamins A and D accompany whole grains the effects of phytic acid are lessened.
Despite its potential drawbacks, phytic acid is similar in some ways to a vitamin, and metabolites of phytic acid may have secondary messenger roles in cells.” – All About Phytates Phytic Acid
For those with healthy gut flora, it’s probably not necessary to soak grains before cooking. For anyone suffering health issues, soaking grains and grain flours in an acid medium at very warm temperatures reduces or even eliminates phytic acid. I don’t generally soak grains or grain like products. I also tend to eat grains with raw herbs and vegetables, and I eat more vegetables in a day than I do grains. If you consume lots of grains you may do better with soaking them first.
I do soak legumes and I typically soak most nuts and seeds. I sprout them if I can.
Nuts and seeds have enzyme inhibitors, including but not limited to just phytic acid. That’s why they last so long. Nuts and seeds will not break down into their simplest forms during digestion when their enzyme inhibitors are present.
Our pancreas produces our enzymes. Enzymes cause chemical reactions in the body. Enzymes break things down. Enzymes break down food, clots in the blood, they remove waste, break down fibrin, break down proteins and other food components to allow assimilation of nutrients, destroy foreign proteins, destroy viruses, and they are necessary for all bodily functions. Without enzymes we’re dead. Not having enough enzymes will equate to a stroke, heart attack, or some other catastrophic failure very soon.
Our pancreas only produces a finite amount or enzymes. Enzyme inhibitors are hard on the pancreas. Our modern diets are as a whole are very unfriendly to our pancreas. Chemicals that don’t breakdown, food that can’t be properly, fully digested for any reason, and to a lesser but still significant extent, any food that is void of enzymes put a burden on the pancreas. Think of the pancreas as the clock that our life is counting down from. If everything else is as healthy as it can be, the pancreas will still, eventually, stop producing enzymes no matter what else we do. We know that the quality of food can impact our DNA degradation, and enzymes are the other big piece of the longevity puzzle.
The more enzymes we get from our food, the longer our body will be able to produce our own enzymes, the longer we live.
Heat destroys enzymes. Pasteurized nuts are unlikely to sprout. The few that do still have some enzymes, but most do not.
Nuts, seeds, and legumes have natural enzyme inhibitors. Some are worse for us to consume than others, but all enzyme inhibitors inhibit certain enzymes from working. This is great for nuts and seeds so that they can be stored for years without breaking down, but these enzyme inhibitors disrupt our body’s functions.
How To Do Seeds Right
Pumpkin seeds, almonds, hazelnuts, hemp seeds, pecans, walnuts and a few of other nuts and seeds are chock full of enzymes while in their raw, natural forms. Provided they are raw, chewing them well enough can mix the enzymes with the inhibitors, effectively canceling each other out, but soaking and sprouting these nuts and seeds will remove the inhibitors, turning the nuts into enzyme rich, life-giving superfoods. Other nuts, and many legumes, really should be soaked and sprouted due to the nature of their enzyme inhibitors. There’s no need to sprout flax or chia seeds.
Enzyme supplements can also help to properly digest nuts and seeds, and eating them with raw vegetables can provide extra enzymes for digestion too.
Cooking can destroy many enzyme inhibitors but does not destroy all of them. Ideally, cooked nuts and seeds should be sprouted first.
Soaking and Sprouting Nuts and Seeds
I use warm filtered water and a pinch of sea salt. The warm water will neutralize many of the enzyme inhibitors, but not all of them. I dump the water half way into it, refill, and then dump and rinse well before use. The salt also helps to activate some of the enzymes that deactivate the enzyme inhibitors.
I soak for 12-24 hours, depending on the nut or seed.
What You Need
- 2-3 cups of raw, organic nuts or seeds (I don’t mix them, one kind per container)
- 3-4 cups of warm water (cover nuts +15% for expansion)
- 1 tablespoon of salt
- Place the warm water in a medium bowl or jar that accommodates 2 liters or more
- Add salt
- Add the nuts or seeds
- Leave uncovered overnight.
- If you’re not sprouting, it’s time to dehydrate them. If I’m sprouting, at this point I soak them for one more round, another 8 hours or so, and then I lay them out on a towel and leave them overnight, damp. Wait until you see sprouting, and then you dehydrate the nuts or seeds.
Here is an article that goes into more depth on how to sprout using a mason jar.
There are preferred individual soaking times, but I just tend to go by size. Bigger nuts get a little more water time.
Sprouting goes a step further reducing the levels of enzyme inhibitors and unlocking other nutritional benefits, even more. But not all seeds sprout. Pine nuts, macadamias, pecans, and walnuts will not sprout, at least in my experience. Don’t even bother with soaking flax or sesame seeds. I like to sprout pumpkin, sunflower, almonds, broccoli, alfalfa, and clover. I can’t get brazil nuts to sprout, but I always treat them as if I could. Judging by the chia pet, it would seem you could soak and sprout chia seeds.
If you give a squirrel a raw nut, it will always bury it. The squirrel will only dig it up when the nut has sprouted. They have found sensors in squirrels’ noses that can identify a sprouted nut. Raw, unsprouted nuts have digestive enzyme inhibitors that prevent animals from digesting it easily. Only when it sprouts are these inhibitors deactivated. Smart squirrels!” – Diana Herrington
Apparently, our ancestors understood this very well, because grains, beans, nuts, and seeds in their natural form were never consumed without being soaked or fermented first. It was a time-honored tradition of food preparation that kept agrarian cultures thriving. It wasn’t until food mechanization took the reigns and the processing of food became an industry, that soaking and fermenting became a dying tradition.” – Kim, Yogitrition
Do not buy canned beans. Do not trust companies to cook your legumes. Legumes can have intolerable quantities of enzyme inhibitors and dangerous types of lectins that need to be resolved with soaking (and cooking). Check out All About Lectins for more on lectins. Always soak your beans, legumes, and lentils before consuming.
Soak lentils and peas for about 5 hours, and I soak other legumes overnight.
Soy contains a few enzyme inhibitors including a trypsin inhibitor, that won’t allow nutrients to be properly digested. More than 90% of our soybean crop is genetically engineered. The GMO variety contains 27% more trypsin inhibitor. Soy should be consumed in a fermented form such as miso, tempeh, natto, and tamari sauce. Fermentation reduces soybean’s enzyme inhibitors. Sprouted soy and edamame (green soybeans) are easier to digest.
Asian women have very low rates of menopausal complaints, heart disease, breast cancer and osteoporosis. The soy industry, with sketchy evidence to support their claims, attributes this to soy being a regular part of the Asian diet. These claims, which have become widely accepted due to massive media campaigns, disregard extensive research that shows otherwise. They also disregard other dietary and lifestyle factors at play in Asian cultures. For example, there are many Asian populations that don’t eat soy as a regular part of their diet, yet still enjoy low rates of the chronic diseases mentioned. Among those who do eat soy regularly, fermented soy products are what is consumed the most. Asians aren’t downing quarts of overly-sweetened, highly-processed soy milk or popping supplements containing concentrated soy isoflavones, which has become popular in the U.S. Soy. In addition, the traditional Asian diet consists of primarily whole, fresh, natural foods including sea vegetables, which are packed with vital nutrients and one of the richest sources of absorbable calcium. They also eat a lot of fish, small amounts of meat, and little to no dairy products or processed foods—in stark contrast to the Standard American Diet, which consists of mostly processed foods high in sugar, fat, sodium, and excessive amounts of meat and zero sea vegetables.” – Family Wellness First: Nutrition
The Glycemic Index measures how quickly sugar from food enters the bloodstream. Fructose does not raise blood sugar or insulin levels in the short-term. This is why high fructose sweeteners are often labeled as “healthy.” Agave nectar’s low GI is because the sugar in it is fructose. The harmful effects of agave have little to do with the glycemic index. Glucose is an incredibly important molecule, found in many healthy foods and our bodies produce it. We need it. Every living cell does. The liver metabolizes fructose. When the liver cannot process all of the fructose it turns the fructose into fat, which gets shipped out of the liver as VLDL particles, fatty triglycerides, which raise our triglyceride levels. Eventually, much of the fat lodges inside the liver, which can cause fatty liver disease.
The sugar in agave also feeds pathogens. It doesn’t take much agave to overwhelm the liver. Agave is probably no healthier than white table sugar and could be worse.
A little bit of raw honey is good for you. While there’s no scientific determination as to how much is too much, I reckon a tablespoon a day is just the right amount for those who are healthy, and far too much for those without a healthy gut.
The biggest two problems with consuming honey are:
- It’s not always real honey, and it’s almost always pasteurized
- People tend to cook it even when they buy raw (like when you put it in that coffee or tea)
Cooked honey loses too many of its beneficial properties to still be healthy. Honey should only be consumed raw with the natural enzymes intact.
Coconut sugar, evaporated cane juice, apple juice, and brown rice syrup are all refined and processed foods. The sugar in fruit juice will have different results than the sugar in whole fruit. You can’t sweeten foods by adding sugar without the consequences of added sugar.
There are also sugar alcohols like maltitol, sorbitol, erythritol, and the most well known, xylitol. Manufacturers of xylitol market the sweetener as derived from xylan, which is found in the fibers of many plants including berries, oats, beets, sugar cane and birch. Sugar alcohols are naturally occurring substances but manufactured xylitol is another matter entirely. Xylitol can be derived from the xylan of birch trees, but xylan is also found in corn. Thanks to our tax dollar subsidies, corn is cheap. Xylitol typically comes from GMO corn to make matters worse.
Sugar alcohols do not break down like food does through digestion. The fermentation of undigested xylitol in the gut disrupts our flora. Studies have shown health issues with mice.
It appears that xylitola may be ok as a sweetener in small amounts, especially for those addicted to sugar. But it’s not healthy. It’s not at all beneficial to our bodies. And in large amounts, sugar alcohols are clearly toxic. For those sweet-tooth’ed ones looking to replace their sugar, there is not substitute without consequences. Sugar, in nature, is hard to come by. We just weren’t meant to eat foods that are so sweet.
But there is one. The holy grail for health nuts: Stevia. But even this sweetener is not without its problems. True health does not come with a sweet tooth.
Speaking of sugar, dried cranberries almost always have plenty of it. Lots of dried fruit has this problem. Why do dried bananas need sugar? Double check those ingredients. Ideally, there should only be one. We suggest making your own.
First of all, the whole probiotic craze negates the fact that our stomach acid is designed to kill bacteria. Most yogurt is made with weak bacteria that would be killed within the stomach before reaching the gut. “Would be…” Most conventional yogurt does not have enough of this beneficial bacteria and what little bit it did have was killed off in the processing.
Sugar, cooked, processed, soy and other sticky ingredients make bars a no-no for anyone trying to heal. I’ve found a few bars that I like, but they aren’t healthy. They are a treat. A much better choice than conventional food, but when you’re not well, you shouldn’t trust a company to make your food. Another common problem with healthy food bars, besides soy and sugar, is they tend to add healthy fats that are highly susceptible to degradation, like chia and flax seeds.
Smoothies are typically too sweet, thanks to fruit juice and lots of fruit. But smoothies can be done right if they are made at home. Check out How to Make the Healthiest Smoothies.
Packaged Health Food
The health food section of any grocery store is where the fresh produce is. That conventional, pesticide laden, perfect looking, 4 month-old apples is going to do most people a lot more good than a box of organic, all natural, free range, grass-fed, non-GMO, small farm, locally grown box of cereal. Healthy people eat lots of fresh, raw produce, and cook food from scratch. Pretenders buy their junk food in the organic section. It’s better than the conventional aisles, but it’s not healthy. Get to know your farmer’s markets and the farmers there. Grow your own. Take things one step at a time. And listen to your body. Forget the health food section, and stick to the produce and bulk sections.
When I do eat foods that aren’t the healthiest choices, I take Abzorb with it. It’s an enzyme and a probiotic. It works well. I use it to help digest the food and keep the gut eco system in check. It’s also useful for beans that maybe didn’t soak long enough. Also, it’s very important to get a wide variety of foods. Try a new food every day. Check out my salad recipe here. I’ll bet you’ll find a few new ones in there. Those salads are better than any supplement on the market. Good, large, diverse salads are the foundation of a healthy and powerful immune system.