Thursday, September 8, 2011

12 Steps to Whole Foods

As though I wasn't already healthy enough, I still continue to research and find other good nutritional habits to adopt into my family's life. I have always been pretty good at incorporating whole foods into our family's diet--Eric and I were never the frozen pizza-packaged dinner-kind-of-family,nor do we eat out often. We have always made things from scratch too. Whole grains are integral-whole wheat bread and pasta, brown rice, quinoa, oats, etc as well as lean meats or animal proteins, lots of vegetables and fruits, and small amounts of dairy, sugar, and processed foods. The thing is though--nobody is perfect and upon reading more about nutrition, specifically how it affects cancer prevention or growth--I want to do more.

Since being diagnosed with cancer, I have become EVEN MORE aware of the foods our family eats. For instance, eating more organic vegetables and fruits, especially the Dirty Dozen (which contains the most pesticides). Also, we try to buy grass-fed meat and range-free chicken as much as possible to reduce the hormones that are often in meats. Lately though, I have been researching raw food diets. There is a lot of science that backs up the idea of eating a mostly raw whole foods diet. Basically the premise behind it is that when we cook our food, we are taking out the enzymes that our body needs to properly digest and absorb all the nutrients. Especially vegetables and fruits, which are best consumed when ripe and raw (or uncooked). The majority of produce that we eat is raw fortunately, but we could do better. Like for example, I juice and make green smoothies. I generally juice everything from carrots, beets, apples, oranges, lemons, wheatgrass, cucumbers, grapefruit, and celery. Having all those nutrients condensed into a 16 oz glass is so nutrient-dense and combined yields 5-8 servings of vegetables and fruits per day! I also make green smoothies almost daily as well, which yields another 8+ servings. Those are more centered around leafy greens, which are the most nutrient dense food on the planet. I use fruit in those too, to make them taste good. I usually put 2 fresh fruits (for example, a banana and a pear) mixed with a few large handfuls of greens--spinach, chard, kale, and collard greens are my stapes--and then I add 1 cup of frozen fruit like berries, some ground flax seed, and sometimes a scoop of protein powder. That is often my lunch and I usually drink a quart.

So, I already feel like I'm doing a lot of really good things. BUT after doing more research on eating raw, I would like to gradually increase the amount of raw foods that I eat a day (right now it's probably around 60%) to 80% a day. I also want to decrease the amount of animal proteins and dairy that I eat. Because I'm not ready to be vegetarian yet (mostly for the sake of my family and not cooking 2 meals), my husband and I have compromised on having 2 vegetarian meals/week with other plant proteins like beans, lentils, brown rice, or quinoa. The other days we will most likely cook chicken, but also do fish once a week, and a lean, organic red meat once a week too. The reason I want to cut down on animal proteins is because it is highly acidic when it digests in the body thereby creating a more acidic environment, for which cancer and other diseases can grow and thrive. The same goes for dairy. Luckily for me, cutting back on dairy isn't that difficult because I really only eat cheese and yogurt occasionally. For milk, I do almond milk.

As for other highly acidic foods-- like soda, refined sugar, and processed foods, I don't eat those often or at all. on. Now, that's not to say that I won't have the occasional treat or dessert from time to time, but I have cut out sweets from my diet for the most part and to be honest, I feel better not eating them anyways. Soda and most other processed foods aren't a problem for me.

The book above, 12 Steps to Whole Foods, is a great resource to incorporating more raw and whole foods to your diet and has amazing, easy, and delicious recipes in it. I am learning how to sprout foods, like nuts and beans, which makes them "live" and aids in better digestion. In the future, I want to get a wheat grinder so I can first sprout my wheat, and then grind it to make my own whole wheat bread (as well as quinoa and almond flour). I also want a food dehyrator to make snacks like crackers, fruit leathers, dried fruit, toasted nuts, etc.

It can be a bit overwhelming to do all of this, but I have decided that it is best to pick one good habit to adopt at a time, like making green smoothies everyday, and then move onto another habit. It makes it more do-able long-term. I am a firm believer in this principle, especially when it comes to nutrition. You have to make small steps and make it lifestyle change in order to be successful in the long run!

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