The link between diet and health is proven. What we eat is the most powerful factor in determining our health outcomes. But what should we eat? The first principle of eating to support health rather than to undermine it is to eat real food. But what is real food? Read on to find out.
There are essential healthy fats and there are disastrously unhealthy fats; there are healthy meats and there are very unhealthy meats; there are healthy foods packed with nutriets and there are unhealthy foods packed with poisonous toxins. The difference is typically the degree of processing involved and the methods of production.
Eating for the human genome
Do you drive a diesel or a petrol engine car? Whichever it is, you know that it’s crucial to put the right fuel in. Otherwise, it will not take long before you come to a grinding halt and need roadside recovery. It’s the same with your body, only the time frame is a little longer. Eating real food to which the human genome is adapted is essential for a healthy lifestyle. Here is a whole new opportunity for you to claim health.
Instinctive knowledge of what to eat and what to avoid is not something that we humans are born with. Animals seem to have it, but we need to think, to reason and to work it out. Mankind has no innate knowledge, it must be acquired by rational thought. I disagree with those who say “listen to your body”. As many people have discovered, listening to our tastes buds without thinking through values and priorities will lead us all to chronic disease.
The basic principles
The foundation of your eating habits must be a proactive and conscious decision to be healthy. Once we have made this choice to value our long-term health we have a firm and secure platform upon which to start. We can then seek out the healthy food options designing them into our lifestyle and avoiding the poison will become easier. If we focus on optimal health and the satisfaction of doing the right thing in moving towards that goal, many of the things we once enjoyed putting in our mouths will begin to loose their appeal. Not only will your taste buds accommodate your conscious shift in values, but you will also discover many new delicious taste experiences. The short-term pleasure of a nice taste is far outweighed by the long-term happiness achieved in knowing you are doing the right thing for your body, and thus serving your values of health and longevity.
Getting back in the kitchen
Eating real food means focusing on ingredients and preparing food as opposed to buying highly processed food-like products from the supermarket. However it doesnt need to be complicated or unduly time consuming. It means gathering ingredients and assembling them into something nourishing. It doesn’t require that much effort but you will have to spend a little time in the kitchen.
Instead of buying a ready meal and putting it in the microwave oven to warm it up, let’s prepare some real food! Here’s one example. Fry some onions and garlic in a little raw butter or Ghee, then add in some organic minced lamb, and then some chopped carrot, pumpkin or courgettes. Pour in a little previously prepared bone broth and add a little Himalayan crystal salt and a quick grind of pepper to taste. Potatoes can be boiled up and mashed with more raw butter, then spread over the meat mixture and finally, grate some real (not processed) cheese on top before baking it in the oven. Presto, some real food! You could even pour the meat sauce portion over a bed of mixed salad for a low carb option. Yes it takes time, but the processed ready meal is going to undermine your long-term health interests, the real food option will serve them.
Fibrous organically grown vegetables should be the backbone of your real food preparation because they provide so many of the vitamins enzymes and micronutrients our bodies need plus the indigestible fibre that becomes food for those all-important gut bacteria. Examples include Broccoli, cauliflower, peppers, collard greens, spinach, kale, chard, brussel sprouts and cabbage. The root vegetables such as carrots, parsnips and beets are fabulous to grate up and ferment. Eating them fermented avoids the sugar, releases more of their nutritional content, avoids destroying the enzymes and provides beneficial bacteria for the gut.
Whole unprocessed fruits are a great real food option, but not the kind full of fructose. Remember that a fruit is a seed-bearing structure that develops from the ovary of a flowering plant. Vegetables are all other plant parts, such as roots, leaves and stems. Some of the fruits I eat include Avocados, cucumbers, tomatoes, nuts, beans, pumpkins and butternut squash. Organic sweet fruits can be eaten occasionally, but it is worth keeping the amount fructose you consume to a minimum.
For meats, the real food options must be from organically raised and grass-fed animals. Meat from animals reared conventionally in Confined Animal Feeding Operations (CAFO’s) is not fit for human consumption. Up to a third of the muscle mass of these animals is attributable to the routine use of antibiotics – and the consumer ends up eating the residue! Grass fed animals are eating their natural diet and the profile of the fats subsequently contained in the meat is far healthier. Lamb is a great choice even if it is not organic because sheep only eat grass and cannot be ‘finished’ in a CAFO.
Fish is another healthy real food ingredient. Fish such as wild caught Alaskan Salmon, mackerel, sardines, herrings and anchovies are a great way to get Omega-3 fats into the diet. Focusing on the smaller fish lower down the food chain means less toxicity too, because they have had less time to bio-accumulate toxicity such as mercury from contaminated waters. The simple sardine is a favourite of mine along with Anchovies as they combine so well with salads.
Salads can combine many healthy real foods and can be delicious, but they need to be redefined. Most people immediately think of a leaf of iceberg lettuce a slice of cucumber and some tomato, but a salad can be much more than this. I consider a salad my nutritionally dense main course, with a meat or fish dish added on top. With salads, the imagination is the limit.
Real food is Organic
These days it is essential to eat organically grown fruits and vegetables as well as organically reared animal products. I recommend making sure everything that you consume is organically certified since by definition this means that it contains less toxicity than any conventionally produced foods or food products. From my research, the Soil Association offers the most stringent set of organic standards and therefore they are the certification I look for when buying organic here in the UK.
Non-organic fruits and vegetables will by definition be exposed to far higher levels of toxicity in the form of pesticides, herbicides, fungicides and insecticides than their organic counterparts. Monsanto’s herbicide Glyphosate contributes to the breakdown of the tight junctions in the gut lining as well as in the blood brain barrier and the kidney tubules that filter the blood. It is essential to avoid ingesting this pernicious and life-destroying compound. You won’t be able to avoid it completely, but making sure you always buy organic is your best bet for reducing exposure.
Buying organic also means you express your choice of ‘not wishing to be poisoned’ in the marketplace and voting with your purchasing power. Healthy soil management techniques are thus supported by your consumer choice when buying organic It is a significant way to express your desire that farmers cease to poison the landscape. If you are choosing health you must choose organic.
Eat some foods raw
Cooking destroys enzymes and the nutritional content of food, especially vitamin C. Much of our cooking is unnecessary and is simply a cultural habit. If we bring conscious consideration to bear we can massively reduce the amount we cook our food and bring raw foods into our diet.
Tomatoes are one of the exceptions where nutrient availability is increased by cooking. Carrots also can be cooked as they benefit from cooking to some degree. Brassicas such as broccoli, sprouts and cabbage also benefit from cooking due to compounds they contain called goitrogens that can disrupt thyroid function. There are some foods such as beans (especially red kidney beans) that must not be eaten raw due to toxic lectins. These must be saoked over night and cooked at high temperature before eating. Potatoes also shouldn’t be eaten raw.
Generally, you do not need to cook vegetables in order to break down the fibrous cellulose structures of plants to make them easy to digest. A healthy human gut contains the bacteria to do this for you. If you suspect you have an unhealthy gut with diminished bacteria diversity you may benefit from cooking these foods. If you maintain a healthy gut cooking is less important. There is an argument that since a lot of the nutrients in vegetables are stored in its tough fibres, unless we break down these vegetable fibers, our bodies will not be able to use these nutrients. This is where a healthy gut populated with a diverse bacterial microbiota is key. The essential bacteria not only release the nutrients but perform many other essential functions as well. Overcooked meat is worth avoiding due to the putrefactive bacteria that will begin to dominate the microbiota.
Raw milk and butter from organically raised and grass-fed cows is a nutritional powerhouse and a worthy component of a healthy real food diet. Raw milk simply means not subject to the 70 degrees of heat for 30 minutes in the pasteurisation process. This kills off many of the beneficial bacteria and robs the milk of much of its benefit. There was a time when it was a sensible process for hygeine reasons, but not today. It is interesting that many people who are casein sensitive from conventional dairy products find no problem with consuming it raw. If you are lactose intolerant (the sugar content of milk) you can ferment the milk into kefir with all the additional benefits that this offers. I get my raw dairy from Hook and Sons dairy in East Sussex. A weekly courier delivery works fine.
Raw and organic nuts and seeds are real foods that can be great as snacks and put in salads, but some care needs to be taken with overnight soaking in some cases to break down the phytic acid which can otherwise be a problem.
I personally eat about 75% of my food raw. A glorified salad containing green leafed vegetables, chopped peppers and herbs is a great way to increase the amount of raw food you eat. You can add nuts (e.g. macademia, pecans and pine nuts), seeds (e.g. hemp, chia, pumpkin and sesame) plus things like nutritional yeast for useful Vitamin B group supplementation, and even raw cheeses. The dressing is a perfect opportunity to get healthy olive oil (or avocado oil, macadamia nut oil, walnut oil) into your diet along with raw apple cider vinegar and other delicious additions.
Two fuels for your body– sugar and fat
It is interesting to note that the food we eat is useless to our body in the form that we eat it. Whatever we put down the hatch the actual currency of energy used on a cellular level is Adenosine Triphosphate (ATP). This molecule is made by the mitochondria that live inside each body cell. So we actually feed the mitochondria inside our cells that in turn, feed us.
The two fuels mitochondria can use are sugar and fat. Although it is widely believed that there are three essential macronutrient groups for human survival this is not strictly true. Proteins composed of amino acids form the main building blocks of the body and consumption of proteins is essential. Fats have a similarly important role. They are used to make hormones and in the structure of cell membranes. The brain itself is about 60% fat and 25% of your body’s cholesterol content is in the brain. Fat is also an essential component of the human diet. The only macronutrient that the human body does not need to ingest is carbohydrate. Because all plant structures are made of carbohydrate in varyingly digestible forms, and also because animal muscle meat contains sugar (carbohydrate in the form of glycogen), it is impossible to avoid eating it. But never the less it is a non-essential component of our diet.
The confusion stems from the fact that the brain requires a small amount of sugar to function. However, it is not widely appreciated that this requirement is met by the liver which stores sugar in the form of glycogen and even produces it when supplies are exhausted by a process called gluconeogenesis. The body’s requirement for dietary sugar and/or carbohydrates is zero.
The level of sugar in the blood of the average adult is about one teaspoon full. In contrast, a can of fizzy drink such as Coca-Cola or lemonade contains the equivalent of 9 teaspoons! When we eat or drink sugar or refined carbohydrates that break down immediately into simple sugars, our blood sugar level rises quickly. The pancreas must then produce insulin to bring down the blood sugar level. Usually, the blood sugar level decreases below the optimal level and we experience a sugar craving about 2-3 hours after a high carb meal. If you eat 3 meals a day all high in refined carbs and sugar your body rides a kind of metabolic roller-coaster every single day. This eventually leads to insulin resistance increased systemic inflammation and a whole basket full of modern chronic diseases. A diet high in sugar and refined carbs leads to disease and will literally kill you.
There is a wealth of information and evidence supporting the benefits of the human body burning fat as opposed to sugar as its primary fuel. I will explore this along with nutritional ketosis in a later post. The takeaway point here is that almost everyone eats far too much sugar, too much protein, and not nearly enough healthy fat. Sugar is not real food.
Welcome back the healthy fats
There have been decades of misinformation around the health implications of eating fat. I wish I could say that it was all a terrible mistake but it wasn’t. Check out the fabulous book by Nina Teicholz “The Big Fat Surprise” for the whole story and a wonderful education. The truth is that saturated fat doesn’t make you fat and it’s not bad for you, in fact, it’s an essential real food for optimal health. The trick is not to eat fat with carbs. Humans have been eating fat for the past 2 million years. We are all potentially well suited to burning fat as fuel. The problem lies in the continuous high carb and sugar consumption which triggers insulin 3 times a day to store it as fat.
Oils are fats that are liquid at room temperature. Saturated fats are solid at room temperature: Butter, Ghee, tallow, coconut oil, or lard etc. Monounsaturated fats are generally liquid at room temp, solid when refrigerated – olive oil, peanut oil and canola oil, avocado oil. Polyunsaturated fats are generally liquid even when chilled and include soybean oil, corn oil, safflower oil, sunflower oil. For the complete guide to knowing all about fats check out the amazing reference book by Mary G. Enig called “Know Your Fats”.
It is important to balance your intake of omega-3 fats with omega-6 fats to a ratio of about 1:1. Most people eat way too much Omega-6 fat due to it being widely used in processed food and commercial mayonnaise, and they are deficient in the Omega-3 fats found in fatty fish.
Good fats Bad fats
Good fats are found in real food, bad fats are found in processed food-like products. The healthy fats include eggs from organically raised pastured chickens, raw butter from grass fed organically raised cows, unprocessed raw cheeses such as Roquefort, Brie de Meaux, and some raw varieties of Camembert, avocados, red meats, olives, olive oil, coconut oil, fish, nuts and seeds. The fats to avoid are margarine and most vegetable oils like safflower oil and rapeseed oil (canola). Trans fats and hydrogenated oils found in most processed foods should also be avoided. Hydrogenating fats/oils makes them solid at room temperature for the convenience of the food manufacturers. Food appearance and shelf life are enhanced but the health of the consumer is compromised. The process distorts the molecule into the ‘trans’ configuration.
Feed your gut
Your lower intestine, or gut, comprises 80% of your immune system with the same percentage of antibodies being made there. It is very important to feed the beneficial bacteria that live in the gut with plenty of fibrous vegetables. Fibre is a key component of a real food diet. If you struggle to access enough fibre consider supplementing with Psyllium husk from Organic India.
Fermented foods made with the starchy root vegetables such as carrots, parsnips and beets are a fabulous real food. Along with Sauerkraut, Kefir, Kombucha, and homemade condiments, they are great to re-introduce beneficial bacterial communities into the gut. For full details check out my post “Maintain a healthy gut” but clicking on the link.
Avoid processed foods
A key part of eating real food is simply to avoid processed food. If you didn’t consume anything with a bar code on it that was produced in a factory you wouldn’t go too far wrong! Processed foods contain all the wrong stuff. They are generally not organic and are packed full of additives such as MSG and other flavour enhancers, stabilisers, binding agents, preservatives, emulsifiers and food colourings. They are also high in those unhealthy hydrogenated fats and trans fats.
If it is health you value, you have to reject convenience foods and junk such as fizzy drinks, sweets, pastries, cakes, biscuits, crisps, most chocolates (except organic high cacao content chocolate), pizza, chewing gum, energy drinks, sandwiches, and all junk ‘food’. When you go into a shop like WHSmiths or and petrol filling station, virtually all the edible products in sight are unhealthy. I call all of this stuff Matrix food. Junk food and sugary snacks are not real food.
Reduce sugar consumption
Sugar tastes good but eating it in excess does nothing but harm. If we consider our evolution over the past 2 and a half million years, most hunter-gatherers in temperate climates would only have consumed small amounts of sugar in the form of organic fruit during late summer and early Autumn. If we consider the evidence of our physiology and cellular metabolism, there is no argument for eating sugar at the rate that most people do. Don’t let the devil get you by the taste buds! Sugar is not real food.
Note that cancer cells can only metabolise glucose (sugar) and not fats. Sugar is their only food. This fact demonstrates that a low sugar/low carb diet with a commensurate increase in healthy fats renders the body an inhospitable environment for cancer. A diet high in sugar also harms the beneficial bacteria and feeds pathogenic bacteria in the gut, further compromising health. For those serious about wishing to avoid almost every modern chronic disease including cancer, diabetes, heart disease and dementia, a Ketogenic diet is the way to go. This means a well-formulated diet of real food low in carbs, moderate in protein and high in healthy fats.
Most people are carbohydrate intolerant in the long term. This means that they tend towards insulin resistance over about 4-5 decades. This explains the creeping waistline and general accumulation of abdominal fat as middle age is approached. It also explains diabetes, heart attacks and dementia. It cannot be overstressed that the modern diet is not one to which the human genome is adapted. This information is easily testable – avoid sugar and refined carbs and replace them with healthy fat and watch all your testable biomarkers improve over a 3-month period. Refined carbs are not real food.
An excellent summary of the reasons to avoid sugar is presented by Gary Taubes in his most recent book called “The case against Sugar”.
Wheat has been a staple of the human diet for several thousand years now, but this does not excuse it from close examination of any alleged health benefits. Here at lawfulrebel.com all assumptions are up for re-evaluation and it turns out that wheat is of questionable merit. Along with all grains, it is a simple carbohydrate that is digested by the amylase in our saliva into glucose by the time it reaches the stomach – assuming adequate chewing. This is one reason to avoid it as we seek to prevent insulin resistance and other dangers of chronically elevated blood sugar levels.
A protein in wheat called Gliadin activates a molecule called zonulin, which is the gate-keeper of the gut lining deciding which substances pass through and which do not. Increased levels of zonulin associated with Monsanto’s glyphosate, gliadin and overgrowths of pathogenic gut bacteria, are now considered to be the primary cause of widespread leaky gut syndrome. This is a collection of symptoms caused by proteins and all sorts of undigested particles getting into the blood and triggering an autoimmune response. It is also claimed that gliadin is implicated in food cravings by interacting with pleasure receptors in the brain to promote food addiction. When you weigh up all these issues together with the sugar issue and the fact that non-organic wheat is sprayed with Glyphosate several times immediately prior to harvest, it seems that avoiding wheat products in general is an extremely good idea
These are some of the reported benefits of wheat avoidance:
- Weight loss and appetite reduction
- Lower blood sugar
- Reduced joint pain – fingers, wrists, elbows
- Reduced inflammation
- Reduced blood pressure
- Reduced triglycerides, increased HDL reduced small LDL
- Increased energy and improved sleep
- Reduced IBS and acid reflux (heartburn)
- Avoid all processed food, anything from a factory with a bar code on it.
- Avoid fizzy drinks, crisps, confectionary, cakes and sweets along with sugar in all its forms.
- Avoid processed vegetable oils in general due to rancidity of the unstable molecules and an unhealthy excess of Omega 6 oils within them.
- Avoid eating non-organic food – it’s more poisonous by definition
- Avoid eating in restaurants – the food is far more poisonous due to processed content and it generally not being organic.
- Avoid carbs such as bread, pasta, spaghetti, potatoes, rice – it’s all basically sugar.
Conclusion – Eat real food
Almost all modern diseases are caused by eating the wrong things. It doesn’t have to be like this.
Knowing what is good for us and what is not is foundational to living a healthy and happy life. Our health depends on our food choices, and our ability to enjoy life depends upon our health. A key component of this is to eat real food. None of us wants to end up in a hospital bed with a chronic disease that we have developed over decades, and nobody wants to ‘loose their marbles’ as they get older and become a burden on their loved ones. We all need to know how to nourish ourselves properly with real food.
It must be noted that no one specific diet will suit everyone. Don’t listen to me or anyone else about what you should eat. I recommend doing your own research, your own thinking, and learning to trust your own judgment. It is an essential and defining feature of adulthood to know what is good for us and what is not.
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Resources and recommended additional reading.