In Chinese Medicine, one of our most basic principles is that food is medicine. By this we mean that we can use food for healing and for prevention of illness and disease.
But what exactly is a healthy diet?
We receive strong messages on what to eat and what’s healthy from a variety of sources: books, television, magazines, facebook, and even our favorite celebrities.
We often hear about the latest exotic “superfood” with amazing benefits to increase energy, lose weight, improve sleep, and have a better sex life. Newspapers have headlines with the latest research on the benefits or dangers of foods. On top of all of this, we also receive conflicting information from these same sources.
Do you ever feel confused or overwhelmed?
Today in my three part blog series, I want to share my approach to nutritional medicine and how I navigate through all of this overwhelm and confusion.
Part 1: It all comes down to the basics. Eat real food.
In ancient times, what constituted a healthy diet was a lot easier to understand because everything came directly from the earth. There were no factory-farms, packaged foods, take-out, or convenient foods. In these times, there were no foods with health claims on the label. Even up until the past 100 years or less, everything was naturally organic and non-gmo (genetically modified).
Today’s modern foods are a whole different story. Packaged and processed foods have a lot of issues, including:
- they contain pesticides, artificial ingredients, genetically modified ingredients, synthetic hormones and chemical preservatives
- they contain processed salt, refined sugar or artificial sweeteners, and artificial and natural “flavors” (which could really be anything, including MSG)
- they contain ingredients that have been shown to contribute to degenerative disease like hydrogenated vegetable oils and high fructose corn syrup
- they are highly refined and devoid of beneficial nutrients (Many processed foods add synthetic vitamins to the products since the refining process destroys the natural vitamins. Our bodies can’t truly utilize many of these synthetic vitamins.)
What I come back to over and over again is to eat real food. Eat organic fresh foods in their most natural state, preferably grown locally and in season. We really can’t go wrong if this is the majority of our diet.
It really is a simple concept, although it can get a little challenging to identify real foods when they come in a package. A good rule of thumb is that real foods have little to no added ingredients. Butter should contain just cream, not vegetable oil and coloring. A bottle of olive oil should just contain olive oil. You get the point.
Real foods include:
- fresh vegetables and fruits
- meats from animals raised on pasture (like grass-fed beef, pasture-raised chickens, etc.)
- traditional fats like olive oil, butter, ghee, coconut oil, fatty fish, and fats from naturally raised animal foods
- whole grains (in their actual grain form for example rice, barley, quinoa, amaranth, oats, etc.)
- beans and legumes
- nuts and seeds
- eggs from chickens raised on pasture
- wild-caught fish and seafood
- dairy products from grass-fed cows (milk, cheese, yogurt, kefir, etc.)
Eating real foods is the best place to start to create a strong foundation of health.
If you need further guidance, I would suggest Michael Pollen’s book, In Defense of Food. His book is valuable in offering a very simple and clear definition of what constitutes real food and why this is so important for our health.
Stay tuned for more information on my nutritional approach.
In Part 2, I will discuss the importance of observing how food affects our body and how we can identify food sensitivities that might contribute to health issues.
In Part 3, I will discuss how we can use foods to heal and re-balance the body according to Traditional Chinese Medicine.