The Most Important Nutrition Tip You’ll Ever Need
Gluten-free does not mean healthy…
The next time you go to the grocery store, take a moment before getting in line at the register to examine what you’ve chosen. How many of the items in your basket or cart are whole foods? How many of the items in your basket or cart are processed foods? How many are somewhere in-between?
The most important nutrition tip you’ll ever need: eat more real, whole foods.
Whether you want to do low-carb or vegan or gluten-free or paleo or Weight-Watchers doesn’t matter nearly as much as what you’re actually eating.
- A gluten-free diet isn’t necessarily healthy just because you took out the gluten. Gluten-free cookies and gluten-free pizza are still highly processed foods…they just happen to have highly processed ingredients that aren’t made with gluten. If your effort to remove gluten simply means you swapped Kraft Mac n’ Cheese for Annie’s Gluten Free Mac n’ Cheese, you’re missing the most valuable part of removing one of the most common ingredients in most processed food: reducing how much processed food you eat. What are the best gluten-free foods? The ones that don’t need a label that say “gluten-free” because they are natural whole foods: more vegetables, nuts, legumes, fruit, oils like olive/sesame/coconut, and high-quality grains in their natural form like quinoa/brown rice, etc.
- A vegan diet isn’t healthy just because you’ve replaced steak and chicken for tofu and all your cow’s milk for soy milk. “To emulate the Japanese, Americans started making all kinds of soy products, and it became an unnatural product,” explains Tara Mayo, a student of the Institute for Integrative Nutrition. “The Japanese don’t eat soy products, they eat the beans and they make their own tofu, but it isn’t the overly processed product we have in America. To get milk from an almond is easy: you soak almonds in water. But to get milk for a soy bean? It requires a lot of processing and unnatural additives.” In fact, soy milk contains an ingredient named phytic acid, which is known to actually prevent the nutrients of other foods from being absorbed, explains Mark’s Daily Apple.
- Counting your calories is pointless if the calories still come from processed junk. Sure, you can keep within your calorie goal by getting your calories from “whole grain” breads sneakily loaded with corn syrup, frozen diet-dinners with dead whole foods void of nutrition, and protein bars with ingredients’ lists that look like a creepy science project. But your calories are still coming from processed junk. Oh, and even further, calories have shown in research to be far less important for health and weight-management compared to where your calories are actually coming from!
- A paleo diet that’s low-carb but consists of meat and more meat is not a healthy diet. Sure, low-carb can do wonders for folks, especially those with diabetes, but a diet of all meat is lacking some crucial ingredients: whole foods that came from the earth! In fact, a true paleo diet was designed to be 70% vegetables and nuts and legumes (freshly properly cooked, not canned)…with plenty of room for some protein. If paleo is based on how caveman ate, it’s pretty safe to assume they stopped now and then to check out the edible plants around them! Get some veggies with that steak!
Why do so many people skip this simple and easy step to better health? Because it takes some effort. It takes a step of acknowledging what you’re currently eating and how processed it is. And learning how to fill your day’s worth of calories with whole foods. And let’s face, if you’ve been eating those processed foods for most of your life, your body is used to them and continues to crave them!
If you’ve been struggling with changing your relationship food, struggling with weight-loss and yo-yo dieting, try this: skip the diet and just focus on real food. Does that mean everything in your grocery cart has to be vegetables and cashews? No. But what if the greater percentage of that cart was whole, natural foods, and a smaller percentage was the breakfast bars, cans of soup, and frozen dinners?