Many of my patients often tell me they feel confused about what to eat. This is a complicated question based on the individual patient, but I have a couple of recommendations that are across the board and apply to just about everyone.
- Eat a diet that is based on whole foods. Technically a whole food is a food that isn’t processed and has no parts removed. OK, so you’re going to chop and cook your food – that’s fine. But eat food! Start with as close to the whole food as possible and avoid packaged foods. Shop around the perimeter of the grocery store.
- Eat less sugar. By sugar I mean anything containing sweeteners (sugar, agave, honey, brown rice syrup, maltodextrin, fructose, corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, maltose, malt, fruit juice sweetener, evaporated cane juice, etc.) Generally if you’re eating a whole foods diet, this will happen naturally. Baking and sauces is where we tend to add sugar if we’re cooking at home, so watch out for this. If you’re buying any premade food assume that it is sweetened unless you read the ingredients and see otherwise. This is true even if you’re at a restaurant and even if you’re shopping at the local natural foods co-op or Whole Foods. When I ask my patients to really break the sugar habit, meaning I ask them to read ingredients on everything they consume, typically they are shocked by the amount of sugar in everything. I cannot emphasize enough the degree to which sugar intake is implicated in almost every chronic illness on the rise in this country. That list includes (and is not even remotely limited to): cancer, diabetes, heart disease, digestive complaints, hormonal imbalance, anxiety, insomnia, fatty liver disease, depression, and arthritis.
- Stop eating chemicals! Maybe you’re thinking: “I’m reading a blog by a naturopath about what to eat; of course I wouldn’t eat chemicals!” Maybe that’s true. Take this challenge: go home and look in your pantry. Pull out anything that has an ingredient that you don’t really know what it means. This includes the statement “natural flavors” and “artificial flavors”. Ever wondered what those terms mean? So do I. Unfortunately they are so vague, I can’t even tell you. What I can tell you is that a typical flavor includes around 100 ingredients and about 80-90% of those ingredients are synthetic chemicals that companies are not required to report. One known ingredient even in “natural flavors” is propylene glycol, which is no longer allowed in pet food due to the fact that it causes anemia in cats. I think I’d rather leave it out of my food as well. The fact is that we really don’t know what a lot of food additives and preservatives do. We often discover later that some of them contribute to cancer and other illnesses. My general rule is stick with eating things that humans have been eating safely for thousands of years and avoid chemicals and additives with unknown or harmful impacts on the body.