I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately, and it occurred to me that there are two completely different philosophies when it comes to food. Of course there are those who don’t think much about food at all, which I find rather sad. Yesterday I listened to this presentation by Joel Salatin called Dancing With Dinner, where he expounded upon that exact topic. If you haven’t heard him speak you are in for a treat, I’m telling you!!! Listen to it. I just had it playing in the background as I worked around the house.
But this post isn’t about our lost reverence for food.
What I’ve been contemplating lately is how those of us who take food issues seriously take one of two basic approaches to the topic :: Food Safety or Nourishment.
Safety is crucial of course — although what that means varies from person to person. I am all for safe food and I commend those who are fighting to keep our food supply safe, even if I don’t always agree with the methodology.
But those of us who buy into this “real food movement” — which is really just about getting back to a more traditional way of eating — believe that food should be much more than just safe.
I propose that food should be nourishing. In fact, I would go so far as to say that food should be our medicine — or at least our first line of defense.
Food shouldn’t just keep us from starving. Food should nourish our bodies and minds. And it should be cherished and enjoyed. That is what it was designed for, after all.
But with the industrialization of our food supply, it seems we have lost all appreciation for what food can do. Instead, we’ve reduced it to the lowest common denominator, and our chief goal is to make sure it is free of bacteria and foreign organisms — and by so doing, we eliminate most healthful benefits it might have ever had.
I am still learning. I’m a product of a typical American home, although my mom was more conscientious than most when it came to our food. But I still didn’t really have an appreciation or even a basic understanding of the depth and breadth of the benefits of whole foods until I discovered Nina Planck and Joel Salatin and Sally Fallon.
For example, did you know?
1. Onions boost good cholesterol, help thin blood & ward off blood clots, help prevent coronary heart diseases, lower high blood pressure, and protect against cancer.
2. Raw garlic reduces risk of cancer, thins the blood (who needs an aspirin a day??), boosts good cholesterol, helps control blood sugar levels, acts as a decongestant, and kills infection-causing bacteria.
3. Carrots boost the immune system and fight lung, colon, esophageal & skin cancers. By the way, carrots are better digested and absorbed when they are cooked and eaten with butter.
4. Cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage, and Brussels sprouts are cruciferous veggies. These little wonders fight breast, uterine & colon cancers; help ease asthma, arthritis, and hyperthyroidism; and prevent stomach ulcers, osteoporosis, and even morning sickness. (Word of warning: cruciferous veggies are best digested when cooked lightly.)
5. Yogurt and other fermented foods work as antibiotics and immunity boosters, sooth ulcers, and fight yeast infections.
6. Red peppers have twice the vitamin C of an orange, and their high levels of antioxidants that help protect against lung cancer. They also help prevent high blood pressure and coronary artery disease. (These are also highly sprayed and part of the Dirty Dozen, so buying organic is very important. Yes, they’ll set you back a pretty penny. Stock up when they are in season.)
7. Olive oil lowers high blood pressure, helps regulate blood sugar levels, lowers the bad LDL blood cholesterol while boosting good HDL cholesterol, an protects against heart disease. (Quality and a clean source is important.)
8. Brazil nuts have high levels of the important mineral, selenium, which protects against lead and mercury toxicity, and also helps thyroid function. (Some say you should soak your nuts to break down anti-nutrients.)
9. Cinnamon has antimicrobial qualities and combats nausea and upset stomach. It also can stimulate the performance of insulin, helping the body process sugar.
[source] I don’t agree with everything this article says, specifically about replacing animal fats such as lard and butter with olive oil) but there is a lot of great info in here!
10. Butter is rich in an easily absorbable form of Vitamin A, which helps maintain good thyroid and adrenal health. It’s a great source of vitamins E and K and the mineral selenium and helps prevent tooth decay. Add to that, Vitamin D found in butter is essential to absorption of calcium. So butter your veggies! [source]
11. An apple a day keeps the doctor away. FOR REALZ. Apples are rich in dietary fiber, which helps keep you regular. *grin* They also have antioxidant properties, protecting the body from cell damage that leads to heart disease and cancer. They may even protect brain cells against Alzheimer’s. [source] (Also, #1 in the Dirty Dozen. BUY ORGANIC, please. They are easy to find.)
12. Coconut oil benefits the hair and skin, provides stress relief, and helps maintain healthy cholesterol levels. It also aids in digestion and helps the metabolism function effectively. Due to the presence of lauric acid, it has antimicrobial, antioxidant, antifungal, antibacterial, soothing properties. [source] Quality is key. I buy Nutiva Organic Extra Virgin Coconut Oil*. In fact, I have it on subscription through Amazon.
13. Raw milk . . . I know. Hold onto your hats! Clean, raw milk from grass-fed cows was actually used as a medicine in the early part of the last century to treat, and frequently cure some serious chronic diseases. I’m dead serious; it is well documented. Read more at The Milk Diet.
14. Organ meats from grass-fed animals are one of the most nutrient-dense foods available and are packed with vitamins, minerals, amino acids, and other nutrients. Liver is an excellent source of folic acid and iron as well as vitamins A and B; and it contains CoQ10, which is important for cardiovascular function. It protects against cancer adn emphysema, boosts the immune system, provides bone and colon support, improves vision and enhances joint mobility. [source]
It wasn’t that long ago that organ meats were considered a delicacy. I am always amazed at what foods our ancestors prized. I wonder if they knew instinctively how nourishing they were.
15. Fish high in Omega-3 fatty acids help reduce inflammation, lower heart disease risk, improve vision and neural development, and help fight cancer. [source] They may also may also protect against symptoms of depression, dementia, cancer, and arthritis. [source]
16. Chicken stock (ideally homemade from organically raised, pastured chickens) can help reduce inflammation in nasal cells, supports muscle building, and possibly helps reduce abdominal fat. [source] There’s a reason your momma made you chicken soup when you were sick! I try to keep some on hand at all times.
There are SO many more foods that I could mention. I could go on and on and on.
You might notice a theme:
There is no sugar in this list, no processed foods, no imitation or low-fat foods. These are by in large foods that can be found in nature and require very little in the way of preparation.
Don’t get me wrong, we eat our fair share of processed foods in my house. I’m of the opinion that we all have to pick and choose what we are willing and able to do and then come to peace with the rest of it. Very few of us are “doing it all” when it comes to the real food lifestyle, and those who are probably do little else.
Here is what we try to do.
I cook most of our meals from scratch, but there are those nights when I just don’t have it in me to cook so we order a pizza or hoagies. This happens at least once a week.
When I buy processed foods, I buy organic whenever possible and try to select products that have short, recognizable ingredient lists such as tortilla chips and pretzels and Triscuits and pasta.
I make my own bread, but I buy crackers.
I make my own granola, but I buy granola bars and an occasional box of cookies.
I make my own popcorn but I buy cheeses and spreads.
I make my chicken stock but I buy the beef.
I often make my own ice cream but sometime I buy Breyers.
I have a yogurt maker but I’ve never used it. (I buy our yogurt from a local farm.)
I DO refuse to buy soda or fruit juice. You’ve gotta draw the line somewhere!
But I don’t ferment my foods, soak my grains or grind my own wheat. And I don’t cook with organ meats.
Would I like to do all of those those things? Sure!
COULD I do all of those things? Of course I could. But I haven’t made them priorities, and I am at peace with that. For now. Only time will tell.
It’s a process, and we’re all at a different point, and we all have different priorities. I don’t write this post to sound like I have arrived, or to make anyone feel like lesser of a wife or mom or person because they aren’t where I am on this journey.
But I do think this information is important and worth thinking about.
And I do think we can all stand to do better (myself included . . . oh how I am included!!!)
With so much prepared food readily available, why bother?
I have seen so many of my family’s medical issues improve with our diet changes over the past couple of years, that I just can’t keep quiet about it. It has been gradual . . . so gradual that I almost forget how sick some of us were.
My son’s asthma is pretty much gone. There was a time when he was almost hospitalized for it every winter.
My digestive issues are in remission. (I don’t dare say cured . . . every time I say that, they crop up again, but they have been NO WHERE NEAR as bad as they once were . . . when I was so debilitated that some days I was unable to care for my family.)
My depression issues are gone. (I believe this is due largely to exercise, more so than our eating habits.)
I used to be sick off and on throughout the winter. I caught every respiratory bug that came down the pike. I also battled chronic bronchitis. These days I only get sick once or twice a year, and it’s usually fairly mild and short-lived — but nothing like the severe, prolonged viruses that would keep me home from work for a week at a time. (Why do I have this horrible feeling that I am jinxing myself here?)
With the notable exception of my husband’s bout with Lyme’s Disease last fall, we haven’t had an antibiotic in this house for years.
Not only does eating well help build a healthy immune system that fights off those nasty germs we come in contact with ever day. But sugar actually depletes the immune system! Seriously. It works AGAINST you. (Not to say that I avoid sugar at all costs, she says as she swallows the last of her Udi’s chocolate muffin . . . ) But it’s a good thing to keep in mind, especially during cold and flu season.
All this to say, I believe our eating habits have SO VERY MUCH to do with our general health and well being. We would all do well to make food purchases and preparations a high priority in our lives.
I’d love to hear from you.
Do you eat for nourishment or just to make it through the day?
If you’re on this real food journey with me, how do you make time for the preparations that are necessary to keep it up? How do you fit it into your budget?
Have you noticed a difference in your health and overall quality of life since making changes in your eating habits?
I’m always encouraged when I hear stories about how food has healed people or improved their quality of life in some way.