How our food system is making us fat, sick & old.
It is no coincidence that we are fatter, sicker and dealing with more chronic disease today than ever before in our history. According to the National Council on Aging, 92% of seniors have at least one chronic disease; 77% two or more. And chronic disease drives up inflammation and accelerates aging. Ugh!
“The emergence of chronic diseases as the predominant challenge to global health is undisputed. . . non-communicable conditions—including cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, cancers, and chronic respiratory diseases—accounted for nearly two-thirds of deaths worldwide.”
But there’s a bright side: approximately 90% of chronic disease is driven not by our genetic makeup but by our lifestyle choices. In short, chronic disease is largely preventable and can be avoided and even reversed with diet and lifestyle choices. Making these choices, however, is not so simple anymore. Our food system has changed and you need to know how to navigate in a system that is stacked against you.
We have created the perfect storm fueled by politics, big business, conflicting interests, greed and ignorance and it is making us sick.
Food is the foundation of your health.
It becomes your blood to nourish and support every function in your body. And when it comes to food, there is no neutral. The food you eat either helps you or it harms you. Period. And over the last half century our food supply has changed in ways that are not helping us.
In our desire for fast and instant supplies, we now live in a world of processed and fast food that delivers excessive refined sugar, growth hormones, dyes, chemicals, GMOs, toxins and second-hand antibiotics into our blood stream. The body doesn’t know what to do with these “foreign” invaders so they store them away in your cells, soft tissues, muscles and fat, over time driving up internal inflammation – the precursor of every chronic disease you can name.
Don’t get me wrong, this doesn’t mean that you can’t have some of your favorite indulgences now and then. The body is incredibly strong and regenerative and built to handle some chips and sugar now and then – but not a consistent intake.
We’ve been given the wrong information
Government guidelines – adhered to by schools, hospitals and institutions, are upside down and often driven by private interests with more concern for profit than health. They instruct us, for example, that grains should be the foundation of our diets, while this is the one food group that may not be essential for the human diet.
We’ve also been given advice by reputable sources that have turned out to be dead wrong, like: eat margarines and processed spreads instead of real butter, avoid fat because it makes you fat, switch to chemical sugar substitutes, and on and on.
We are lacking nutrients essential for the body to function.
We’ve depleted our soils of nutrients. We routinely use commercial fertilizers which, contrary to what you might assume, diminish the micronutrient content of the soil. Most of the fruits and vegetables grown today under factory farm systems have as little as 50% of the nutrients of those farmed on conventional farms, starving us of the nutrients our bodies needs to properly function.
Genetically modified foods have quietly entered our food chain.
And this has taken place without much consideration of the consequence to the human body. Animal studies on GM products have shown organ damage, gastrointestinal issues, immune disorders, infertility and accelerated aging.
In 2009, the American Academy of Environmental Medicine called for an immediate moratorium on GM foods, indicating that they pose a serious threat. “There is more than a casual association between GM foods and adverse health effects.”
And, a side note, the DARK law which recently passed the House, but was just defeated in the senate was intended to block any federal or state action to require labeling of foods made with genetically engineered ingredients. It seems even our government doesn’t have our best interests at heart.
We live in a toxic environment
We spray our lawns, our plants, our fruits and vegetables. We drink and store our foods in toxic plastics. We are prescribed medications for chronic diseases that often do not cure our disease and introduce more foreign substances into the body.
We are exposed to hundreds of chemicals every day, many of which are banned in other countries, and it starts before we even set foot on this earth. A report by the US Department of Health and Human Services identified nearly 300 chemicals in the umbilical cord blood of newborns.
“Toxins, far from being invisible agents floating somewhere ‘out there’ in the environment, actually enter your body and corrode it from the inside. As toxicity accumulates, your body systems are damaged one by one . . .” Alejandro Junger, M.D., author of Clean.
What should I eat!?
Given all of these nutritional landmines, I am often asked: what should I eat to keep my body strong, vital and ward off chronic disease. Here’s my list:
- Eat whole, real, healing foods as close to the earth and as possible. If it walks, swims, grows, you’re good. Generally, if it comes in a box, leave it on the shelf!
- Up your intake of greens – Have at least one very large salad a day and mix all kinds of greens in it from romaine to beet, kale, parsley, and arugula. This is an easy and inexpensive way to load up on your nutrients. Put your eggs on a bed of greens in the morning – the French do! Have some with your chicken breast at dinner, etc.
- Eat Organic Cage-Free Eggs – If you can find a local source where the chickens run free and eat naturally, that is the best possible egg you can get and loaded with nutrients that factory raised chickens do not provide. Plus they will not contain the residue of antibiotics. I buy from a local chicken-raising friend, or cage free, organic in the grocery store.
- Eat organic whenever possible or stay with those fruits and vegetables shown to have less toxic load. Organic will diminish your exposure to pesticides.
- Eat grass-fed meat and game free of growth hormones, antibiotics and extreme stress, and higher in vitamins and minerals. Although organic costs more, consider downsizing portions slightly. 4 ounces of meat contains about 30 grams of protein, a perfect helping size for most people. Buy from a local farm or CSA. Many grocery stores are now offering it and that is increasing as demand grows. Wild game is also a good choice.
- Eat wild caught fish and sustainable sea products, line-caught tuna, sardines and canned fish.
- Eat raw nuts and sprouted seeds in moderation: Pumpkin seeds, almonds, walnuts, cashews, sunflower, Brazil nuts, pistachios, and macadamias. Peanuts are not included as they are not nuts, and are not recommended by many health experts.
- Protein shakes can be a great economical meal replacement if you’re on the run and the quality of product is high. I use grass-fed, low-heat processed whey protein sourced from New Zealand where cows live and feed on grass.
- Eat good fats (they’re the body’s best source of energy): real pastured butter, olive oil, ghee, coconut oil, avocado oil. Eliminate margarines, butter substitutes or processed spreads
- Push in superfoods and spices like cinnamon, turmeric, cumin, cayenne, paprika, spirulina . . . whenever possible; cinnamon on your fruit, turmeric in your shake.
- Add fermented foods to your diet – things like sauerkraut, pickles, kombucha (a fermented drink that you can now find in most grocery stores). Fermented foods help support the health of your gut, your digestion, and your immune function.
For the things I can’t find locally, I go to an on-line market called Thrive. This beautiful new store gives you the highest quality foods at a fraction of the regular price and ships to you free, anywhere in the US.
For more information about good foods to eat, grab my e-book: What Should I Eat?
Have questions or want to connect? Email me at email@example.com