When it comes to food and nutrition, that is.
With thousands of different fad diets, diet books, and nutritional guidelines, it can seem nearly impossible to figure out what you are really supposed to eat for good health.
Low-fat, low-carb, gluten-free, sugar-free, fat-free, Vegan, Paleo, organic, grass-fed, free-range - and that's just what's on the label!
Not to mention things like eating alkaline foods vs. acidic, whole foods vs. processed, or whether or not you should avoid GMO's. Some diet books even advocate eating certain combinations of food together - or not.... For example, some authors say you should only eat carbs with fat and protein, and others say you should never eat these things together!
Is it any wonder that we are becoming a nation that is completely neurotic about food?
Well, I'm here today to clear up all this confusion - once and for all. If you've been reading this blog for a while, you may have heard my two rules for healthy eating before, but I don't think I've ever explained them fully, so today I'm going to do just that. Since I have touched on many related topics before, I will provide links below for further reading on those topics if you are interested.
Firstly, let me just say that I am not discounting any of the approaches mentioned above. I am more and more aware that everyone processes food differently, and what works for one person may not work for another. I know people who have been unhappy, miserable, and sick on a Vegan diet, and others who seem to do quite fine with it. Some people can't tolerate gluten, and others don't seem bothered by it. And so on.
However, I firmly believe that everyone can benefit from following the 2 simple rules for healthy eating that I have listed below. No matter what other dietary preferences or needs you may have, incorporating these 2 rules into your eating habits will bring you better health and well-being in the long run.
But this post is especially for those who are just confused and fed up with all of the conflicting information out there about what is healthy when it comes to food. If this is you, I give you permission to go ahead and throw out all your diet books! Don't pay any mind to the media attention to whatever fad diet comes along next. Don't worry about whether you should be eating more of this or less of that. Instead, just commit to eating by these 2 simple rules. Doing so will undoubtedly benefit your health in more ways than you can imagine.
Now I know, there are going to be some literal wise guys among you that say, "but God made everything...," but I beg to differ, and you know what I'm talking about. God did not make Red Dye #5. He did not make "artificial blueberry flavor," or even "hydrolyzed vegetable protein." Humans made these. In our grand "wisdom," and our need to believe that we can copy or even improve on God's design, we have created a whole host of "food-like substances" that humans were never meant to consume. And they are - literally - killing us.
Whether or not you are a Christian, you still know what I mean by this. However, if you would like a different way putting it, how about "if it doesn't occur in nature, don't eat it!"
Now, you may be thinking, that's easier said than done. After all, supermarket shelves are stocked from top to bottom with foods that contain these artificial, man-made ingredients.
However, there is one simple way to make sure you are eating natural foods that your body was meant to eat, and that is to prepare them yourself.
Shop the perimeter of the grocery store, and don't buy anything with an ingredient list longer than 2-3 ingredients. (One is best - e.g. meat, lettuce, pinto beans, rice, etc., but some natural food items - e.g. yogurt (which should contain only milk and active cultures) may contain a couple - which is okay, as long as they are easily recognizable as naturally occurring substances) Take these foods home, and prepare them for yourself.
Again, I'm not talking about watching fat, calories, carbs, etc., here. I'm talking about buying natural, whole foods - whatever you enjoy and will enjoy preparing for your family to eat. Throw out all those other diet rules for now!
Want bread? Make it yourself. Want jam? Get some fresh berries, add some sugar, cook for a few minutes - done! Want butter? Put some cream in a jar, put a lid on it, and shake it. It is surprisingly easy to make most of the foods that we now buy pre-made for us, from the store - and a heck of a lot healthier!
By using this approach, you will naturally be eating healthier, more nutritious foods - and yes, they will be foods God made. After all, you're probably not adding Red Dye #5 to your jam, are you? Nor are you adding hydrolyzed vegetable protein to your homemade bread, or artificial blueberry flavor to your muffins.
Cooking your own food, yourself, at home (along with growing a garden), is one of the best ways to make sure you are eating healthy.
Rule #2: Eat It the Way God Made It
Again - a word for the literalists among you, who may be asking, does that mean I can only eat raw foods? No, that's not what I mean. I'm not saying that if you eat meat, you should eat it raw with the fur still on! I'm not saying that you shouldn't grind grain, chop vegetables, or roast meat. What I am saying is that there is a natural order to things, and a natural way that things are meant to grow. As with the previous rule, humans have attempted to modify these natural ways as well.
Yes, minimal processing is a good thing to shoot for. The more processed a food is, the further away it is from the form in which God created it. (Or, if you prefer, the further it is from a natural food.) This is one issue I have with all those popular "whole food supplements." While indeed they may be derived from natural ingredients, extracting, dehydrating, pulverizing, filtering, drying, pressing, combining, and forming these ingredients into a pill that you can pop three times a day is NOT the same as eating a plate full of fresh vegetables! They may indeed be a lot better for you than synthetic vitamins, but don't tell me they're "natural." God did not make that - man did!
But what I am ultimately talking about here is more basic than that. Indeed, we humans have modified the very source of our food to such a degree that it is now not only harming our health, but destroying the planet. Our soils are being depleted, while pollution from agriculture is killing the sea life in our oceans. Manure lagoons from factory farms pollute the landscape, while sick animals await slaughter in pens of filth and disease. (Yes, I am being extremely descriptive here for a reason.)
The truth is, we are not treating our food with the respect it deserves. If you choose to eat animals, you can also choose to know where they come from, and only eat meat that was treated well. You can choose to buy organically grown vegetables from farmers who respect the soil and nurture its diversity rather than destroying it with agricultural chemicals, over planting, and monocropping.
God made plants to grow in a symbiotic ecosystem, where each animal, plant, microbe supports each other and depends on each other for continued health and vitality. He made animals to eat certain things in their natural diet. Cows, sheep, and goats are ruminants - they are made to eat grass and plants - not corn. Chickens are made to eat bugs, worms, and plants. Pigs are meant to eat...well, just about anything, but the key is a diverse diet - again - not just corn.
So yes, for Rule # 2, I am indeed, saying to eat minimally processed foods (which, if you follow my recommendation in Rule #1 and prepare most of your own food yourself, you will already be doing), but also, eat foods the way God made them to be. If you eat meat, it should be raised on its natural diet (usually grass), and all other foods should be organically grown and NOT genetically modified. (Growing your own is even better.)
A quick note here about GMOs: I debated where to put this note, as it could just as easily go under Rule #1. Man has just begun to take man-made foods to a whole new level, with gene splicing of bacteria into plants and now animals as well. This freaks me out to a great degree, and I won't go into it much here, as I have discussed this before, but whether or not genetically engineered foods prove to be safe in the long run, they are definitely NOT made by God (or nature, if you prefer to look at it that way). So if you are wondering whether or not you should care about GMOs in your food, these two rules will easily answer that question for you.
So there you have it: The only 2 rules for healthy eating you will ever need! Of course, feel free to tailor your diet to whatever special needs or preferences you may have, but if you keep these two rules at the heart of all your food choices, you will ensure a healthier future for yourself - no doubt about it. And if you've been struggling to understand how to eat healthy, this is your chance to disregard all fad diets from now on, and still be healthier than 90% of your friends - without all the stress about what to eat!
Questions? Comments? I'd love to hear how you have used these 2 rules in your life!
To your health,