Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Food: Purpose and Choices

What is the purpose of food? The answer is obvious: to keep from starving to death! We must eat to live; these mortal bodies can't survive indefinitely without food. In America, one might think our general population doesn't have much of a problem with that: 69.2% of American adults are overweight and obese according to the CDC (and their data is 4 years old!). With such a fat population, we don't appear to be a starving nation in general, but I would argue differently. We're starving ourselves to death. Eating unhealthy food, Americans are starving themselves of nutrients, starving themselves of the healing, life-giving properties of healthy food, and the saddest part is that they don't even know it. And they don't want to know. In keeping with the self-gratification that's prevalent in our society, most people just want to eat whatever tastes good. And healthy foods, well, they just don't usually top the list.

The analogy of a car has been used before, and I think it makes sense. Our bodies are like extremely fine, high-powered sports cars, and they need the right kind of fuel to function properly. If you put the wrong kind of fuel in a car, what happens? Your car won't perform up to its capabilities, and depending on badly you erred, may break down and need seriously expensive repairs. Americans are gorging themselves on all the wrong kinds of "fuel" for their bodies, and the wear is showing. This is where the analogy should break down, our bodies are designed to repair and heal naturally. In general, though, that's not what doctors will tell you, and it's certainly true that natural repair won't happen if you're clogging your "engine" with the wrong fuel! Personally, I think it's an amazing sign of what wonderful bodies God has given us that some people can survive as long as they do while eating junk.

So, what's the right kind of fuel? To avoid starving yourself first-world style, you have to understand what your body needs. Contrary to popular belief, you do NOT need ANY carbohydrates to survive. (source) From the same source, carbohydrates to strictly avoid for health:

Breads Pasta Cereal Bagels French Fries
Chips Pretzels Waffles Pancakes Baked goods
Totally avoiding carbs isn't recommended for optimal health, but it is possible. (I didn't actually understand until recently that vegetables are carbs.) Here's a list of the best vegetables, plus the not-so-great and worst vegetables.

Highly Recommended Vegetables
Asparagus Escarole
Avocado (actually a fruit) Fennel
Beet greens Green and red cabbage
Bok Choy Kale
Broccoli Kohlrabi
Brussel sprouts Lettuce: romaine, red leaf, green leaf
Cauliflower Mustard greens
Celery Onions
Chicory Parsley
Chinese cabbage Peppers: red, green, yellow and hot
Chives Tomatoes
Collard greens Turnips
Cucumbers Spinach
Dandelion greens Zucchini

Use sparingly due to high carbohydrate levels
Beets Jicima
Carrots Winter Squashes

Vegetables to Avoid

 Just in case you're as clueless as I was (I know it's not much consolation), fruits are also carbs. Fruits are certainly healthy, and I don't know that I agree completely with Dr. Mercola's limitations on fruits due to fructose, but I do think vegetables should be a higher priority. (Click here if you're interested in the dangers of fructose, and a list of the common fruits with their fructose contents.) Coconut is one of the best fruits you can eat, and everyone's heard the saying: "An apple a day keeps the doctor away." Enjoy your fruits in moderation, but avoid SUGAR like it's poison (because, actually, it is). When I want a sweet treat, I stick with honey, pure maple syrup, and coconut sugar, in small amounts.

Now that you know what carbohydrates you should eat for health and what should be avoided, let's look at something vital to your survival: protein. Proteins are the "building blocks" for your body, providing the nutrients you need to increase muscle mass and maintain health. There are many sources of protein, but animal proteins are the only complete proteins (see more here) and for optimal health, it's important that your animal proteins come from healthy animals. Preferably, organically raised - no antibiotics or growth hormones and fed their natural diet. Grass-fed cows and lamb, soy-free chickens. Dairy should be raw, from those organic, grass-fed cows. (I wrote a whole post about REAL milk here: Illegally Delicious)

 Trivia Tidbit:
Did you know that 30 MILLION pounds of antibiotics are used every year for food production in the US? Unlike the 6 million pounds put to use by the American people every year, the majority of the antibiotics given to livestock are simply being used as a cheap way to make the animals grow faster. 
"For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil." 1 Timothy 6:10a.

Finally, the food group most commonly incriminated, and so undeservedly: Fats! Fat DOES NOT make you fat - flour and sugar do. As a matter of fact, healthy fats can help you to lose weight (I highly recommend the books "Eat Fat, Lose Fat" and "The Coconut Oil Miracle"). A tablespoon of coconut oil has 6 calories per gram, and increases your metabolism for about 24 hours. For breakfast, I like to have a big mug of green tea with a tablespoon of coconut oil and a splash of raw milk. (Yes, I drink tea with oil in it. I know it sounds weird, but it's really not that bad.) Fats also help you absorb the fat-soluble vitamins in your food.

Avocados Butter made from raw grass-fed organic milk Raw dairy Organic pastured egg yolks
Coconuts and coconut oil unheated organic nut oils Raw Nuts, such as almonds or pecans, and seeds Grass fed meats

 Contrary to the common belief that low-fat is healthy, your diet should probably contain about 50-70% percent healthy fats. Fats are very satiating, they satisfy your hunger and also give you energy, in a form that's much more healthful than most carbs. Remember, you actually DO NOT need carbs to survive, fats can more than adequately provide all the energy you need! Also, saturated fat is vitally important for your brain. Enjoy your fats! 

If you're struggling with extra body fat, don't forget, eating fats doesn't make you fat - flour and sugar do! I had to keep reminding myself for weeks before it finally sunk in. I think it's really exciting to know, because I love my fats! Breads and sugary treats were my favorite foods before, so it's nice to replace them with something that I previously mistook for being "off-limits." I'll put a whole avocado on my salad, drink a luscious glass of whole, REAL milk, or top off my fruit salad with a nice serving of yoghurt and sprinkle of pecans.

 I still slip up and eat some pasta sometimes, or cave and eat one of those delicious oatmeal cookies my brother likes to bake, but I feel much better when I cut out those carbs entirely, and eat my carbs in the form of fruits and veggies (primarily raw), with lots of healthy fats, and moderate portions of protein. Different folks are different, though, so experiment, and find out what works for you. You might not need to cut out flour and sugar entirely, like it seems I do, so don't panic if that seems impossible. 

The most important part of eating healthy is making YOU healthy, and healthy should feel great! If you're worried you won't like any of the healthier foods you start eating, just give it a while. Your taste buds DO change, and much more easily than most people believe. Once you get off your sugar addiction (almost everyone is addicted to sugar nowadays) normal food will start to taste better, and you can cultivate a taste for healthy food. You will have more energy, feel better and get sick less often. Eating healthy isn't a constantly miserable experience (although I won't promise it'll be fun at first) - it's an exciting opportunity to live a healthier life! And who wouldn't to be healthier? No one wants to "drive" around in a sputtering, sluggish "sports car" that's always breaking down. Choose good "fuel" and enjoy the ride!



  1. Eating healthy is something I think about a lot-eating organically healthy particularly which I am going to try. It is hard though as I am still at home and in school.

    I have looking around at school and have seen that many/most people are soft and squishy looking-I wouldn't say fat-quite, but most are at least slightly pudgy in some areas, myself included. It is rather sad as we are so privileged but don't eat healthy or exercise (which doesn't actually take that much time-20-30" a day).

    1. I guess I tend to take eating organic for granted - I'm so blessed that my parents are health-conscious, and have always bought organic, plus we have a garden, and grow a lot of our own vegetables. I know it can seem expensive at first, but your health is worth it! I hope it goes well for you! =)

      It is unfortunate that we don't exercise enough, too. I think it's too bad that our society has also found so many ways to avoid natural exercise. We have a lot of desk jobs, cars, and comfy couches with TV's. I'd like it a lot better if exercise was built into my life! But like you said, it's really not difficult to find a spare half hour - if we really tried. ;)