Does this picture bring memories to mind of what you ate recently? Maybe you think your diet is just fine. Or, perhaps you are thinking your diet needs some adjustment. If you regularly eat “foods” such as those shown in the picture, it’s time to change your thinking about food and your eating habits.
Here’s something you may find surprising though – even if you don’t eat the foods pictured at left much or at all, you could still be lacking in many critical nutrients that your body desperately needs, and worse – you could be eating foods that you believe are perfectly healthy but are actually a detriment to your health. Even if you make home-cooked meals, you may be mislead in thinking that the foods you are using to create meals from scratch are healthy to eat when in fact they aren’t healthy at all.
We often hear about malnutrition in underdeveloped countries. Those of us living in first-world, developed countries rarely associate this phenomenon with our own population. But the truth is, we are some of the most overfed and undernourished in the world. The nutrients we will discuss in this article are a few important ones that many people in developed countries are lacking in, across the board. Deficiencies in these nutrients can cause degenerative disease to occur – diseases that people often seek to “cure” with drugs and surgery from conventionally-trained doctors. Some of the most prevalent diseases that are caused and/or worsened by nutritional deficiencies are heart disease, cancer, auto-immune disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, and lupus.
The reason we are so deficient in these important components of diet is because of the way our food production has evolved in growing, manufacturing, sales, and eating habits. In developed countries, we have food available anytime of day or night – and much of it is toxic, processed “food” with little nutritional value. Cooking is something we do less than ever before in history due to our stressful lives and busy schedules. Even people who cook food at home are using processed, convenience foods to prepare their meals. These foods include the meat and dairy products you eat, grains and grain products, fruits and vegetables, nuts, drinks, and foods containing fats such as oils. Do you know if your food is truly healthy?
No amount of drugs or surgery will cure disease. Even if you take drugs for a disease, the disease will still be there. It just might be the case that the drug or surgery will cause one or more of the symptoms to disappear for awhile, making the person who is taking the drug believe they are cured. But those drugs also cause side-effects as well – side effects that can be harmful or fatal.
If you treat your health problems naturally with lifestyle and proper diet, the body is able to begin the important process of changing the conditions where disease exists. Given the proper tools and nutrients, the body is incredibly resilient and possesses a great capability to eliminate disease and heal itself. The following are some critical elements in nutrition that you may be deficient in (and remember, many of these nutrients will actually prevent disease from occurring):
- Iodine – Much has been written and stated about the lack of iodine causing goiter during the earlier part of the 20th century. Iodine deficiency is actually a major cause of disease in developed countries due to the inadequate consumption of iodine-containing foods. Cysts in the breasts and ovaries can actually be caused by deficiency of this vital nutrient in the body. Many patients suffering from hypo and hyperthyroid conditions who take medications or have surgery can benefit greatly from iodine supplementation to alleviate symptoms and repercussions of thyroid disease. Because iodine deficiency can also cause problems with the adrenal glands and thyroid system, it is a good idea to seek the advice of a health care professional in dealing with this syndrome. Other conditions caused by lack of iodine include Graves disease, Hashimoto’s disorder, fatigue and other auto-immune disorders. Infertility and miscarriage can also result in women trying to conceive, as well as reduced IQ in children born to mothers who lack sufficient iodine, which can result in mental retardation. Iodine also helps aid the body of ridding itself of heavy metals such as mercury, bromines, chlorines, and fluorides. All of these harmful substances are present in our conventional food system and municipal water systems, the air we breathe and soil. Good sources of iodine in the diet include seafood and sea vegetables such as kelp (seaweed), dulce, and nori. Because most people do not eat enough of these foods, a supplement is usually necessary. Iodoral and Lugol’s are both reputable brands and can be obtained from a knowledgeable health care practitioner.
- Vitamin D – another nutrient we are severely deficient in, Vitamin D is something we are generally unable to obtain from our diets. We must obtain Vitamin D from the sun. Sun exposure has come under tremendous criticism in the last 40 years, and we have been repeatedly advised against prolonged sun exposure and told to use copious amounts of sunscreen. Sunscreen can be harmful in and of itself because it blocks important rays needed by our bodies to synthesize critical nutrients, and most sunscreens on the market contain dangerous chemicals that can actually cause health issues. Our skin is the largest organ and absorbs substances 10 times greater than our digestive tract. That is why sun exposure is so important. If you are concerned about being sunburned when you are outside, limit your direct exposure in any given day to about and hour and use long sleeves, pants, skirts, dresses, hats, and scarves to cover up after that time period. Repeated, short span exposure to the sun will allow your skin to become acclimated to exposure to reduce burning and increase your Vitamin D intake that is so critical in lowering your risk of many different diseases. Foods with saturated fats like grass-fed meats/poultry/pork, eggs from pastured hens, raw dairy products, and Fermented cod liver oil from Green Pastures are your best bets for obtaining enough Vitamin D through diet – as well as Vitamin A and Omega 3 essential fatty acids – if you fail to receive daily adequate sun exposure.
- Omega 3 essential fatty acids – in developed countries, most people have a deficiency in Omega 3 EFAs, while they receive too many Omega 6s due to consumption of processed foods. Omega 3s are responsible for proper brain, eye, and cardiovascular function. If this important EFA is missing in the diet, serious health consequences can occur. The over-abundance of Omega 6s in the diets of people in developed countries creates and inflammatory response in the body which leads to many health problems – obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart disease, depression, premature aging, and many auto-immune disorders including Diabetes. Omega 3 EFAs can be found in grass-fed meats and dairy products (raw is best), cold-pressed flax-seed oil, fermented cod liver oil, lacto-fermented foods like sauerkraut and other vegetables, eggs from pasture-raised hens and other fowl,
- Vitamin B complex – in the United States, we live very stressful, demanding lives. Our bodies become depleted of nutrients easily when under strain. Among other things, B vitamins are essential for our adrenal glands, handling sugar, and dealing with stress. Take the average American who has no time for enough sleep, rest, a healthy diet, and add in the pressures and stress of modern life and what you’ve got is an invariable deficiency in all the B vitamins. Health problems that can develop range anywhere from mental disorders to heart palpitations to sleeplessness to chronic fatigue and panic attacks. Good sources of B Vitamins include bananas, tempeh (fermented soy), potatoes, real, whole grains, lentil beans, eggs, green vegetables, dairy products from grass-fed animals, pasture-raised poultry, and healthy grass-fed meats (especially organ meats). Vitamin B is water soluble (is not stored) and must be replaced in the body daily, so obtaining an adequate, natural source of Vitamin B complex regularly is really important.
- Iron – when you become low on iron, the amount of oxygen which reaches your cell is limited. The result is fatigue, poor mental and physical performance, and lowered immune function. An iron deficiency can cause you to feel tired and appear pale in the complexion. Iron is essential in the natural fat burning process in the body as well. Good sources of iron include grass-fed meats (especially dark and organ meats), eggs from pasture-raised hens, wild-caught fish like tuna and salmon, oysters, . Vitamin C is necessary for absorption of iron, so be sure to eat plenty of natural sources of Vitamin C such asorganic citrus fruits and green leafy vegetables (which also contain trace amounts of iron from the soil minerals).
- Vitamin E – many people have a deficiency of vitamin E which causes weakening of the immune system (like Vitamin B deficiency) and the breakdown of vital red blood cells. Vitamin E is one of the most important fat-soluable antioxidant nutrients. It is essential in elimination of free-radicals in the body. It can also reduce the risk of cancer, immune system disorders, dementia, cataracts, and Diabetes. This critical nutrient also aids in keeping the cardiovascular system healthy by reducing artherosclerosis. Good sources include healthy nut oils like olive oil, peanut oil, carrots, avocadoes, hazelnuts, peanuts, and almonds, real whole grains, spinach, and wheat germ.
- Saturated fat and cholesterol. Yes, I said saturated fat and cholesterol. You may be thinking, “but the medical community frowns upon saturated fat!”. It’s true, they do. If saturated fat and cholesterol are such a problem, why do we have so many rampant health problems in our country? Problems like heart disease, obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes…I could go on. Sure, we eat a lot of meat and fat, but the issue is that we are consuming the wrong kinds of meats and fats. The average citizen eats factory-farmed meats and dairy products, and processed, rancid fats from genetically-modified oils to obtain their so-called nutrients and nutritional value. These products are the actual reason we are seeing so many health issues today at such staggering rates. Fats and cholesterol from industrial meat and dairy products and processed, rancid oils are one of the main culprits behind our health woes. Traditionally, people who consume healthy fats from grass-fed meats and pasture-raised animals, their eggs and milk and milk products, are some of the healthiest people on the planet. They have very low incidence of heart disease and obesity. So yes, eat plenty of real organic butter and other healthy dairy from antibiotic-free, pastured-cows (raw is a bonus!), eggs from pasture-raised hens, cold-pressed olive oil, cold-pressed coconut oil, cold-pressed flax seed oil, meat, tallow & lard from healthy animals who are on open pasture and not administered chemicals in their feed or antibiotics, and fermented cod liver oil.
The solution for health problems and nutrient deficiencies is to change your lifestyle and improve your diet. What should you be eating? Let’s start with some of the things you might be eating which can likely cause deficiencies in the first place:
- Processed foods such as cereals, breads, pastas, crackers, food bars, nuts, desserts, soda pop, soy and soy products, juices, coffee, teas, and many others. These foods are the lowest of the low. They are not real food nor do they contain any value to the nutritional needs of your body. These should be eliminated completely and replaced with real, organic, nutrient-dense foods.
- Conventionally grown produce – vegetables and fruits. These seem like they should be healthy, but the reality is that these foods are grown in the most contaminated soils that are depleted of minerals and other vital nutrients. Damaging farming methods as well as chemical fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides strip the soil and ultimately crops of nutrients. These dangerous chemical substances also deplete nutrients from our bodies and cause health issues.
- Commercial and industrial meats and dairy products – these are some of the worst offenders because in addition to lacking the proper balances of Omega 3 EFAs, they are too high in Omega 6 content, contain many chemicals/hormones/antibiotics/steroids/other harmful chemicals as used by agribusiness to cause animals to grow bigger in a shorter amount of time (to maximize profits). Our bodies store fat in our cells, which means these foods are some of the biggest problems we have that affect our health. The chemicals come from all angles in the form of medications administered to the feed given to the animal to the environmental conditions where the animals are raised. All of these substances are toxic to the body (the animal’s and yours), and contribute to an overall inflammatory condition where nutrients are lost or not properly absorbed, and stress is placed on vital organ systems and cell structures.
So if you think your diet is healthy enough, compare what you are eating to the items listed above. Here’s what you should be eating for optimal health:
- Grass-fed meats, poultry, and dairy products – meat and dairy products from animals raised on pasture and who are not administered chemical substances in the form of medications or feeds that contain pesticides, fertilizers, or are genetically-modified. Cattle are meant to eat grass. Their digestive systems are not designed to handle corn, soy, and grains. Animals eating grass have higher levels of protein in their meat and are lower in fat and calories.
- Eggs from pasture-raised hens. Eggs that come from hens who are allowed to roam around, forage, and eat plants and insects are healthier. This is not the same as cage-free or free-range, as these terms are virtually meaningless and often only mean they are still crammed together in small spaces and let out to wander very seldom.
- Wild game animals and birds that are raised naturally – either domesticated and living out on pasture or wild caught (with no chemicals, pesticides, hormones, or antibiotics, of course).
- Safe-source, wild caught fish from a deep sea source – deep sea fish and animals contain less mercury and other harmful substances. Salmon, sardines, mackerel, oysters, shrimp, some tuna, and anchovies are good choices.
- Real, organic fats that are free from chemicals and toxins – cold-pressed extra virgin olive oils, coconut oil, sesame oil, cold-pressed grapeseed oil, flax oil, pumpkin seed oil; real butter, lard (from pork), fermented cod liver oil, tallow (from chicken or beef) or other real fats from a healthy, grass-fed source.
- Raw, organic nuts and seeds. Choose selections that are not processed, roasted, altered, or cooked in any way. Nuts are best if soaked and/or sprouted as well.
- Organic fruits and vegetables in their whole forms. Stay away from organic fruit juice, as this product is just another way to deliver a shot of sugar without fiber, vitamins, or minerals.
- Moderate amounts of soaked, fermented, and sprouted organic grains. You do not have to avoid gluten in grains if you eat them properly prepared. Soaking and sprouting any good quality grain renders the grain more available to the human digestive tract and increases nutrient absorption. One reason so many people are grain intolerant, gluten sensitive, or celiac-ridden is due to the fact that most of the grains and grain products we consume are processed, ground into flour (which goes rancid), and full of dangerous chemicals such as pesticides. Most are also genetically-modified. And these grains comprise a hefty percentage of what people in in their diets. When those factors are all present, what occurs is digestive disease and intolerance or allergies to foods.
Eating healthy can be a challenge, and it certainly takes some effort to obtain real foods from a healthy source. But, if you believe eating healthy is too much trouble and too expensive, then consider how much it costs to treat diseases and health conditions that are already in progress!
Prevention is the best course of action to keep your health on track. For more information about urging our government and health agencies to be proponents of healthy eating and prevention, read ACTION NOW! An Open Letter to the President and & Other Decision Makers Regarding Preventative Health Care.
This article is part of Kelly The Kitchen Kop’s Real Food Wednesdays Carnival. Please read the other informative real food articles listed there.