Updated: May 27
Nutrition is a cornerstone of health. Processed and unnatural foods wreak havoc on the body, whereas real foods support true health. But how do we know what makes a diet truly healthy?
Real Foods Research
Weston A. Price was a dentist who traveled the world trying to figure out why so many of his patients in the United States had such prevalent tooth decay and cavities. Price learned that people who ate traditional foods had virtually no cavities or tooth decay, nor even cancer, diabetes, or heart disease. When the same people started consuming modern foods (including refined white flour, pasteurized milk, canned foods, and sugar), those health problems did develop.
Price found that the nutrient-content of traditional foods was up to ten times that of the nutrients found in the "modern" diet. For a healthier diet today, we need to go back to the wisdom of traditional diets by eating foods with higher nutritional content than modern foods.
5 Easy Changes for a Healthier Diet
Changing your family's diet doesn't have to be hard or stressful. Here are 5 simple ways to boost your family's nutrition:
1. Use butter instead of margarine or vegetable-oil-based spreads.
The best, healthiest butter is from cows that have been grazing on their natural diet of grass, rather than grains. The easy way to tell if butter is nutrient-dense is to look at the color. While conventional butter looks almost white, nutrient-dense butter has a beautiful yellow color. This color indicates the presence of nutrients, especially carotene and vitamin A. Butter has a deeper yellow color (and therefore more nutrients) in the warm months when the grass is growing rapidly. During the cold months, butter tends to have a lighter color, indicating that there are fewer nutrients present.
The three brands of grassfed butter I typically buy are Kalona Supernatural, Organic Valley, and KerryGold. During the winter, I find that KerryGold butter has the most dark yellow color, followed by Organic Valley and finally Kalona Supernatural. From late-spring through Fall, all three of those brands have a nice yellow color, but the Kalona Supernatural butter has the deepest yellow color.
2. Eat plenty of healthy fats, including butter, coconut oil, tallow, and extra virgin olive oil. Switch to full-fat dairy instead of fat-free or low-fat dairy.
Contrary to popular belief, fats are an essential part of a healthy diet. The government's low-fat diet recommendations have led to worsening health, and were based on erroneous theories about fat and heart disease. A truly healthy diet should include plenty of healthy fats such as dairy fat, butter, beef tallow, coconut oil, and extra virgin olive oil.
I generally use butter and coconut oil for cooking. Unrefined coconut oil has a coconutty flavor that is nice in baked goods and curries, but for most of my cooking I use refined coconut oil for its neutral flavor. Because extra-virgin olive oil has heat-sensitive phytonutrients and antioxidants, I prefer to use extra-virgin olive oil only in uncooked foods such as salad dressings or hummus.
3. Use unrefined sweeteners such as sucanat, honey, and maple syrup instead of white sugar, high-fructose corn syrup, or agave nectar.
Refined sweeteners such as sugar and high-fructose corn syrup have been stripped of their healthy nutrients and minerals. Artificial sweeteners are even worse, and have been found to trigger overeating. Instead, use unrefined sweeteners such as sucanat, raw honey, and maple syrup.
Using unrefined sweeteners is easy! Sucanat can be used as a 1:1 replacement for sugar in baked goods. I like to use raw honey for sweetened whipped cream and smoothies, and generally use a combination of maple syrup and honey for homemade ice creams.
4. Eliminate sodas and breakfast cereals.
Sodas are loaded with refined sugars, and breakfast cereals are highly processed foods that are nutritionally inferior to their real food counterparts. Healthier drink options include the following:
filtered water, perhaps with a squeeze of lemon or lime juice
whole milk or milk kefir
Healthier breakfast options include the following. Foods such as granola, porridge, and muffins can be made ahead of time over the weekend for easy weekday breakfasts.
eggs with sourdough toast and/or sauteed veggies
There are many more healthy breakfast options here.
5. Avoid GMO foods by buying non-GMO, organic, or checking the PLU#
Genetically modified (GMO) foods have no place in a healthy traditional diet. Many GMO foods have been modified specifically to allow the crop to be sprayed with Roundup herbicide, which has been linked to many health problems including cancer, heart disease, autism, and liver disease.
Avoiding GMO foods is fairly simple. Look for the non-GMO label on boxed foods, buy organic, and check the PLU# on non-organic produce. Here is an easy tip for produce: make sure your produce does not have a 5 digit PLU# unless it starts with a 9. A 5 digit PLU# that begins with 9 means the produce is organic, but 5 digits beginning with any number other than a 9 means the produce is GMO.
Pay special attention to foods containing the most common GMO ingredients: corn, soy, rice, sugar beets, tomatoes, zucchini or yellow summer squash, canola, and potatoes.
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