I remember the first time I went to a “health food” store. I had recently come to the conclusion that just about everything I was eating was death. So I trolled each aisle for about an hour…scrutinizing ingredients and scratching my head. It was so confusing. What is gluten and why would I want something to be gluten free? Is a product containing ”organic cane sugar” really any better than one containing “sugar?” One of my favorite stores had about 10 aisles worth of supplements. Pills for my hair, pills for my liver, pills for my intestines, pills for my mood. I was convinced that I needed them all. Everything was trial and error and therefore I spent A LOT of time and money trying new things. So I want to save you the headache. After thousands of hours of research, after using myself as a guinea pig for various supplements, I have come to this conclusion: Natural Health has become a big business. And no, you really don’t need every single supplement on the shelf.
So here are my recommendations when getting started:
1. Eat real food.
Most of the food you will find in the supermarket is not real food. Sure, it looks like food… but it’s not. These are processed food like substances filled with chemicals. So, your first step is to eat less (a lot less) foods that come in a package. Instead, opt for whole foods such as fresh vegetables, fruits, nuts, and meats. If you happen to buy something in a package, look at the ingredients list and avoid chemical additives.
2. Ignore the food pyramid you were taught in health class.
At least half of your diet should be vegetables! Some raw, some cooked. And grains are not good for you. Phytic acid is present in the bran of all grains and it inhibits the absorption of necessary minerals. Also, gluten is found in most grains and excess gluten can damage the small intestine, which also leads to poor nutrient absorption as well as other problems such as celiac’s disease, autoimmune issues, and infertility. More on this later. If you eat grains, prepare them properly by soaking or fermenting them, and eat them in moderation!
3. Eat organic whenever possible
If you eat organic, you will dramatically cut down the amount of toxins you are ingesting- whether it be food additives or chemical pesticides/fertilizers. Also, you avoid genetically modified foods. The most important foods to buy organic are meat and dairy. You don’t even want to know what is done to factory farmed animals. Not only are the animals treated poorly, but they live in filthy conditions. If you don’t care about the animals, at least understand that the health of our animals has a direct effect on your health.
4. Avoid sugar
Sugar suppresses the immune system and feeds cancer cells. And it’s highly addictive. Sugar is sugar, so avoid organic sugar too. Small amounts of fruit are ok. Oh, and fat doesn’t make you fat. Sugar and chemicals make you fat.
5. Take a good quality, whole food multivitamin
You can eat all the organic whole foods you want, but unfortunately, our water, soil, and air are polluted. Organic is better, but not perfect due to the environment we now live in. Minerals are disappearing from our soil, and thus, the food we grow from our soil is deficient. I don’t believe that we can get all of our nutritional needs from food anymore.
6. Drink more water
Drinking water helps your body flush out toxins, keeps you hydrated, and makes your skin healthier. I have found that I have less headaches when I drink lots of water.
I know this post is about healthy eating, but I have to mention these things because they go hand in hand with eating healthy:
7. Get plenty of sleep
I go to great lengths to make sure I get 8 hours of sleep. It doesn’t always happen, but I try. When you get enough sleep you will feel better, have more energy and better focus.
8. Get some exercise
I am not a fan of going to the gym every day for an hour. Totally unnecessary. I get plenty of functional exercise like walking to the store, going up and down 4 flights of stairs (in my apartment complex), playing with the baby, etc. I also do a little bit of resistance training throughout the day when I get a few minutes to spare.
This is just a starting point. Whenever people ask me how to get healthy I always ask if they are doing to basics first. However, some people are struggling with serious health issues and probably need to go beyond what I have listed. This is not intended to diagnose or cure any disease, so talk to your doctor before trying any of the above…I recommend finding a naturopathic doctor If you are struggling with serious health concerns, he or she should start with a blood test to see what you are missing- this cuts down on trial and error when implementing a treatment protocol.
In the near future I hope to write a brief guide to understanding specific vitamins and minerals and how they work. Till then, just remember to eat real food!