When I became a nutritionist ten years ago, I had a big goal: Improve the health of America one plate at a time! I work toward this goal everyday through the classes I teach, my corporate wellness program, and the many clients that I work with on a day-to-day basis. I love to explain how stress affects health, what happens when you don’t sleep well, and how vitamins, minerals, and other phytochemicals improve resilience to chronic disease.
The problem is, sometimes I get a little over zealous and my clients or students can get a little glassy-eyed. That is when I remember Barbara (name changed to protect the innocent).
Barbara is one of my typical clients; older than she wants to be, a little overweight, dragging around instead of conquering the world, and in general just feeling yucky. Toward the end of our first appointment (which is an hour and a half and can be a little like drinking from a fire hydrant) she looked at me and said, “I know you know your stuff…I wouldn’t have come to you if I didn’t think that. But I am tired and my brain is tired. Can you just tell me one simple thing that will change how I feel and give me back a little of my old self? Once I can get there, I will be able to listen better to your pearls of wisdom.”
Wow, that made me stop and think about the tidal wave of information that I give to people every day…all with the intent of convincing them to change their lifestyle, and now she wants me to boil it down to one thing! I looked at her and I said, “Yes, I can…Eat Real Food!” Once I said that, I realized that this idea is actually the most important component of diet and lifestyle improvement.
If nature made it, eat it… if she didn’t, don’t!
Real food; food which is unprocessed, unadulterated by chemicals and additives, and well grown, is the basis of health. Here are a few ways in which eating real food can change everything from the quality of your sleep to how well you fend off chronic disease:
The fiber in fresh vegetables keeps your digestive track running like clockwork. Having efficient elimination reduces toxicity in your bloodstream, lymph system, and liver. Modern life exposes us daily to a myriad of chemicals and toxins that need to be taken out with the trash on a daily basis.
Fresh fruits and vegetables provide a plethora of vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients that tune up the immune system, provide the “spark” that runs our biochemistry, and create the electrical signaling that allows our cells to carry out their important functions. These are the “additives” that we want in our food, not dyes, preservatives, and pesticides that come in processed/packaged foods.
Well-grown, pasture-raised, wild-caught animal products provide the body with all of the amino acids that are the main building blocks for all of the 100,000 biochemicals that we make in the body. Eating healthy animal-based proteins improve our mood and sleep as they contribute to the production of hormones and neurotransmitters like serotonin and melatonin.
Healthy fats from unprocessed oils, well-grown animal products, and whole-food fats such as olives, coconut, avocados and nuts and seeds improve brain function, provide a clean long-lasting fuel, and create healthy cellular membranes. Human health has steadily gone down hill since we began the low-fat recommendations. The trend toward healthy fat can turn that around.
Real food, in all of its forms, is the main component of healthy weight maintenance. Our reliance on convenient, nutrient poor and energy dense foods is a major contributor to the obesity epidemic in this country. Eating nutrient dense foods that come from nature will improve metabolic efficiency and decrease body fat storage signals such as high insulin and nutrient deficiencies.
Lately I have been starting off all of my presentations and client consultations with this statement:
"If I were to give you one fool-proof suggestion to improve all aspects of your health, energy and well-being it would be…Eat Real Food, just as nature intended."