To a very large degree we are what we eat. (And, most importantly, absorb.) Most of us do not eat enough fresh vegetables and fruits, and eat too much sugar (of various kinds), red meat and processed foods. Further, what we eat (and get exposed to) regulates what genes are turned on and off, leading us to illness or to health.
What we eat and drink can also lead to emotional problems such as depression. Coffee is a depressant. Refined sugars depress our immune system and our fog our brains. Foods can also boost our moods (see further down).
As a result of our typical North American diet our blood becomes too acidic, an ideal environment for cancers and other diseases, and leading us to weight problems and other health issues such as diabetes, heart conditions, strokes and more. (Elevated levels of uric acid is especially a result of consuming sugar and fructose -even too much fruit and honey.)
While whole-wheat can be wholesome, increasing numbers of people are having difficulty with it and other gluten grains. Modern wheat (introduced in 1960) has about 19-28% less of important minerals like Magnesium, Iron, Zinc and Copper. It appears this wheat is harder on the guts of many, including being more likely to invoke histamine reactions (which may be confused with "allergic" reactions but messing with our health).
Those who have "leaky guts" will end up with gluten proteins in their blood, leading to many illnesses, not only those suffering from celiac disease. For more information check out this source. Secondly, most whole-grain breads contain 20 - 40% refined white flour, which is not good for us. Lastly, some gluten-containing products also contain relatively rapidly fermentable carbohydrates, such as oligofructose, arabinoxylan and polyols that may be responsible for the increasing numbers of people who suffer with foods containing gluten. (Read the whole article below.)
Thankfully, the protein and nutrient value of grains are increased if the grains are first soaked, sprouted, or fermented, simultaneously lowering the components our bodies struggle with (components the plants use to avoid getting eaten such as anti-nutrients [gluten, lectin, phytic acid, etc.]) so that our digestive systems can best absorb the plants nutrients.
How food can make us well or sick is explained on the Real Food Channel.
For a very critical review of the dangers of putting our health into the hands of pharmacology read this. (Note that we do not necessarily agree with all content of this or other eternal links.)
Eating organically is one of the most important choices you can make. Organic foods can provide cancer-fighting components and are far less likely to contain pesticide residues that are linked to health issues such as cancer. Read, for example, this report or this one. If you value your health, organic is best.
Can food heal auto-immune and other diseases? This medical doctor provides plenty of evidence that it can!
Do you love your sweets? You are not alone! Unfortunately sugar and other artificial sweeteners are harmful
to your health. If you want to be healthy you need to greatly reduce or eliminate them. See more on this page.
White flour is processed by our bodies in much the same way as is sugar: we get a
quick 'high' from the taste and sugar spike. Table salt, too, has been refined (and chemicals added, yum!) so that it is less healthy for us. Try truly whole grain flours, older wheat varieties,
grain-like seeds such as amaranth, buckwheat, millet, quinoa, sorghum,
white), teff and sprouted grains.
Conclusion: If you wish to be healthy, severely reduce or eliminate processed sugar and fructose consumption, and limit the intake of white or modern wheat refined carbohydrates.
GMO's (Genetically Modified Organism)
Even though the manufacturers of GMO crops deny permission for outside organisations to do independent research on their products, increasingly studies are revealing the potential or real dangers to human health arising from the consumption of these foods. The list is growing: cancer, auto-immune diseases, allergies, diabetes, weight problems, digestive disorders and more.
For more (very important) information about this go to the next tab: GMO's.
Here's the good news! What we eat can ward off diseases. Yogurt containing live probiotics, for example, has been shown to greatly reduce the incidence of C. difficile (a bacteria that kills 10% of those infected). See this CBC article. Broccoli is one of the most potent foods available for fighting cancer, lowering blood pressure and repairing cell functions! (Read more here.) Apple cider vinegar (best if raw, with bits floating in it) kills cold germs, aids digestion (reduces heartburn, for example!), helps with weight loss, whitens teeth, is great for the heart, alkalizes the blood (important for most of us), and more. Turmeric is one of the best spices for health promotion and disease fighting. Check out this link!
Food choices can also improve health in other ways. For example, studies are
showing that the western diet, especially eating fast foods and fats, leads to asthma in children and adults. Eating more colourful vegetables fruits, and nuts, has been shown to reduce the
severity of asthma. Organic fruits high in anti-oxidants, consumed in moderation, can reduce the risk of cancer. Organic mango's are also helpful in reducing (bad) cholesterol
and lowering blood sugar (especially helpful for hypoglycemics and type-2 diabetes).
What foods are best to eat? The answer often depends on who you ask! A variety is better, and organic is preferred, especially in regard to the "dirty dozen" of the most contaminated foods. Here are some good tips on food:
1. The basics are vegetables and fruit, preferably fresh, local, and especially when eating the skins, organic. Raw food contains the enzymes we need to digest food; try to start every meal by having something raw (such as a salad, carrot, piece of fresh fruit, etc.). Vegetables are difficult to digest well without the presence of oils. Choose better oils (such as olive, coconut, and almond), or proteins containing oil (the majority do). The best fruits and vegetables contain lots of colour. Greens are most important. Kale has the highest count of nutrients of them all! (But kale should be organic; see the dirty dozen link above.) Try actively fermenting sauerkraut for an added boost to your digestion! Washing, freezing and then grating whole organic lemons not only adds great flavour to salads and other foods, the peel has considerably more beneficial properties than does the fruit. Some say it can cure many forms of cancer. Organic blueberries are high in anti-oxidants and are shown to improve memory function in older people.
2. Healthy proteins are essential. The list includes such things as nuts, beans, lentils, fish, fowl, dairy and (very little) red meat. Avoid meat that has been treated with antibiotics (organic meats are antibiotic-free). Dairy is better if made into kefir and live-bacteria yogurt. Beef that is grass fed (as opposed to grain fed) is considerably healthier for us.1
3. Grains must be whole (avoid white rice and flour). Increasing number of us are gluten-intolerant (or related), suggesting that there is a problem with our food. It is possible that wheat consumption in particular (and others containing gluten) is leading to illnesses of many kinds (kidney failure/cancer, auto-immune illnesses, leaky-gut syndrome, and more). It is possible that another source of distress opens us to more problems when eating gluten. Try a diet free of gluten for a couple of weeks and see if any health issue clears up or improves (watch for the presence of wheat in supplements!). The best grains and pseudocerials are the ancient ones (true grains: kamut & spelt; pseudocerials: quinoa, amaranth and buckwheat) and are made much better for our health, especially if they have been sprouted before being ground (true of all grains). Try limiting the amount of non-sprouted grains you eat for a while; you could be surprised at the results! (Most of us consume larger amounts of grains than is optimal.) If you are diabetic or have high blood pressure some researchers say you are best to come off of all grains until your condition improves. Sweet potatoes are a healthy source of starch as they are packed with other nutrients!
4. Others such as seeds, nuts, sources of omega 3's (such as hemp, chia, & flax seeds, and especially fish, red meats and algae), peppers, and spices and herbs such as cinnamon, basil, oregano, turmeric, onions, and garlic are all very important immune-boosters and blood sugar regulators. (Reducing omega 6 oils is very likely important for heart and brain health.) A little dark (organic) chocolate and red wine also have their benefits! Read more about helping your brain and heart in this blog.
A good summary of the best foods for our health can be seen on this TED talk, presented by a medical doctor who overcame her MS using healthy foods. Hint: eat mostly colourful vegetables and fruits!
The eight worst foods (apart from junk food) according to food scientists? Read about them here. Here's a link to "11 Graphs That Show Everything That is Wrong With The Modern Diet." Empower yourself!
As Hippocrates of Ancient Greece, the "Father of Medicine" wrote, "Food is medicine and medicine is food." Health and well-being relies on the types and quality of the foods we eat.
The quality of the water we drink is also of vital importance. Our bodies are mostly made up of water. Are there plastic residues, copper, chlorine and other contaminants present in your drinking water? What is the pH level? If it is not alkaline it may be harming you. Using regular water filters often leaves your water devoid of vital minerals and/or acidic. None of these are good for our health! Our bodies especially require minerals found in natural sources of water, including magnesium (vital for heart health), iron, zinc and calcium. The world health organisation (WHO), after examining more than 80 studies, has concluded that magnesium and calcium are especially important for health (see the study below).
Unless your water system provides you with alkaline, mineralised water without chlorine you are wise to purchase from sources such as VIP water (Nanaimo; distributed elsewhere). (Feel free to let them know how you found out about them!) Some filters can also be purchased that provide these.
Also, evidence is increasingly revealing that water picks up the energy and activity around it! See this brief film about water.
Chlorine found in our municipal bath, shower and drinking water is meant to kill (is toxic) and needs to be filtered out before bathing, drinking or washing our food.
Something to ponder: Why is it that the quality of oil used in our motor vehicles is often more important than the quality and content of the food we eat and the water we drink or use?
The World Health Organization (WHO) did an extensive study on heart health and the mineral content of water. This is what they found:
More than 80 observational epidemiological studies were collected from the worldwide literature published since 1957 which related water hardness and cardiovascular disease risks.
These studies were conducted in more than 17 countries, primarily in North America, Europe, and Japan... Most, but not all, of the studies found an inverse (protective) association between cardiovascular disease mortality and increased water hardness (measured by calcium carbonate or another hardness parameter and/or the calcium and magnesium content of water). The associations were reported in numerous countries, and by many different investigators, with different study designs. Both population and individual-based studies have observed benefits.
The most frequently reported benefit was a reduction in ischemic heart disease mortality. The strongest epidemiologic evidence for beneficial effects was for drinking water magnesium concentrations; there was also evidence - but not as strong - for drinking water calcium concentrations.
Our bodies are built and maintained through the adequate absorption and manufacturing of some 80 minerals and vitamins. A lack of any of these will often lead to ill-health, poor energy levels, difficulty with concentration and learning, poor mental health, and more.
The plant kingdom offers us all that we truly need. While foods are our primary method of absorbing needed nutrients other sources such as moderate amounts of sunshine, high quality supplements and pure essential oils can be beneficial (Canadians need to take vitamin D in the colder months, for example).
Eating more fresh fruits and vegetables is essential to keep our blood pH levels in a healthy range. Many diseases, including cancers, love an acidic environment. Avoid sugars, white flour and rice, too much meet, coffee and other foods -as these foods form the basis of the typical unhealthy North American died. A list of preferred foods can be found here. Heart health: Eat root vegetables and sweet potatoes, onions and crushed garlic, consume fewer grains and sweeteners, add magnesium supplements and hawthorn herb. Brain health: read this blog. We also recommend a pure essential oil blend called "Brain Power."
Supplements: It is essential to get enough vitamins and minerals. Most of these can be provided in our food intake, but most Canadians require vitamin D supplements, especially in the fall, winter and spring seasons. Taking a good-quality multi-vitamin is often recommended, but be careful not to be taking on too much. See this brief introduction on the CBC's website. If your drinking water doesn't contain magnesium then you should supplement your diet with this heart-health mineral.
The form in which we eat foods (raw, cooked, microwaved) also affects what we can absorb. Cooking destroys the enzymes and many of the vitamins and minerals. Microwaving food is said to alter the proteins with potentially negative consequences for our digestive system. Eating raw, drying vegetables and fruit at low temperatures, and mixing these with cooked foods is the best.
The source of our foods is also crucial. Were they sprayed with chemical pesticides, grown organically, or Genetically Modified (GMO) are important questions to be asking.
Foods can improve our moods and ability to sleep well. Dopamine production is vital for our over-all health, heart function, weight control and more. Dopamine can be boosted by eating proteins (animal as well as vegetable sources), vegetables such as beets & avocados, fruits such as ripe bananas, blueberries, apples, prunes and strawberries, seeds such as pumpkin, almond and sesame, and herbs such as peppermint, milk thistle, fenugreek (also good for regulating blood sugars) and ginseng.
Equally important for our mental wellness is the presence of helpful flora (bacteria) in our digestive systems, provided by foods such as active yeast yogurt, sauerkraut, kimchi and miso soup. Bad bacteria love our typical western diets of sugar, processed foods and high fat content. For more information read this CBC article and interview.
On the flip side our emotional state also affects our ability to absorb nutrients and thus our health. We offer a list of recommended avenues through which you can improve your emotional and relational well-being.
Working with other professionals we can assist you to improve your health and wellness in all of its dimensions.
After all, health is true wealth and an important aspect of having a meaningful life. Isn't it worth investing in your well-being?