From Issue 6 of Life's News Newsletter
Bringing Simplicity back to Healthy Eating
by Nicole Lange LicAc MAOM
It’s next to impossible to go online, read a magazine or watch TV without being inundated with the latest food craze or newest dietary recommendations. Often these recommendations are in direct conflict with one another:
Are artificial sweeteners healthy substitutions for sugar or cancerous chemicals? Low fat or low carbs? Does eating fish supply healthy omega oils or heavy metal poisons? Will milk lead to weight loss or lactose intolerance? Can soy improve hot flashes or increase the risk of breast cancer?
Through wave after wave of new dietary guidelines I am thankful for the history and consistency of traditional holistic food therapy. Not only has it remained virtually unchanged for thousands of years, it is simple to follow:
Eat Real Foods
One of the most basic distinctions to make when it comes to healthful holistic eating is, “is this a naturally occurring food?” Michael Pollan author of The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals offers this simple advise: “Don’t eat anything your great-great grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food.” This includes foods with unfamiliar, unpronounceable or chemical ingredients.
Focus on food, not nutrients: Often times we are sold on the idea that specific nutrients are good for specific concerns: Omega-3s decrease inflammation, calcium strengthens bones, zinc treats colds, the list goes on and on. This is a very reductionistic view of foods that closely mimics our reductionistic view of the body. This sort of mentality often leads people to choose unhealthy foods under the guise of them containing one or two healthy ingredients. It is now possible to get soda with vitamins, cookies with omega-3s and greasy chips with soy protein! Instead, try to eat good old fashioned whole foods. While they won’t have flashy packaging boasting, “Now with extra _____!” they have always had all the nutrients we really need, with none of the junk. And, like Chinese medicine, these foods have been around for thousands of years. We know they are safe, unlike many new foods.
Practice Moderation & Balance:
Eating a variety of naturally occurring flavors and colors in moderate and balanced amounts is key. If it is a natural occurring food, it shouldn’t be off limits. Meat, dairy, fruits, vegetables, fats, sweets and grains all have a part. Balance sweet, salty, aromatic, sour, bitter and bland (not just sweet and salty!). Eat foods in a rainbow of colors.
Eat Cooked foods, Slow Down & Chew Well:
Chinese medicine views the digestive system as a great big cooking pot. Whatever you put in needs to be cooked down and transformed into all the energy and nutrients you need to live. If you eat primarily cooked foods, slow down, and chew well, it makes the food you ingest easier to “cook down.” And, when the body has to put in less energy to break things down you get more energy out - net gains!
When you focus on any task mindfully, more of your energy can go to that task. This definitely makes a big difference when it comes to digestion. Try to smell and taste your food, see the colors and feel the textures. Avoid eating on the go, while doing other tasks or while you are emotionally upset. See what a difference it can make when all your energy goes to digesting your food.
I hope you’ll try these suggestions and feel good sticking with them for the long haul (no matter what the latest trend). Not only will these tried and true tips help you avoid food confusion, they will help you feel better and be healthy too!
Food for Thought
"In a year 98% of the atoms in us now will be replaced by other atoms that we take in, in our air, food and drink... That means 98% of [you] is new every year. This is the very profound rule of nature, 'You are what you eat.'"
-Annual Report for Smithsonian Institution ear. This is the very profound rule of nature, 'You are what you eat.'"
Food for Thought
While most Americans think of eating fewer calories and exercise when they think of weight loss, Chinese medicine focusses on another aspect that is often at the root ... how efficient is digestion? When you eat higher quality, real foods and make them easier to digest through cooking, chewing and slowing down often times digestion becomes more efficient and weight loss is a natural outcome -- No diet needed!
Food for Thought
In Chinese medicine the digestive organs are responsible for digesting food AND thoughts. If you tend to over think, obsess, or feel anxious, improving your diet may actually help you improve these emotions
Tips from Michael Pollen’s Unhappy Meals
Eat food. Not too much. Mostly Plants (especially leaves)
Avoid food products that come bearing health claims
Avoid foods with ingredients that are a) unfamiliar, b) unpronounceable c) more than five in number
Avoid high fructose corn syrup
Get out of the supermarket whenever possible
Pay more, eat less
Eat according to the rules of a traditional food culture (Chinese, Italian, Greek, etc)
Eat a greater diversity of foods
Michael Pollan is the Knight professor of journalism at the University of California Berkley. His book, “The Omnivore’s Dilemma,” was chosen as one of the best 10 books of 2006 by the New York Times Book Review.