People often ask why I don’t eat certain things. I jokingly mention “religion” because that’s easier than throwing around 6-syllable words. Here is a brief explanation, without the usual references (as befitting a religion).
Why does this matter? We are, quite literally, what we eat. Our cells are built from – and run on – components derived from the food we eat. When eating high-quality food, I feel happier, more alert and fit. That requires avoiding or at least reducing four problematic foods, in decreasing order of importance:
Gluten (a protein in wheat/barley/rye)
- Intestinal permeability (via zonulin).
- Inflammation and brain damage (from immune over-reaction).
- Higher glycemic index than sugar (due to branchy amylopectin).
- Addictive (acts as an opiate).
- Toxic sodium azide (used to induce gene mutations).
Although grains lack nutritional value, I love baked goods (cakes and muffins) and use almond flour, buckwheat and coconut flour. Other grains are acceptable but harder to find: amaranth, quinoa, sorghum and teff, or arrowroot/tapioca/corn (but beware their high glycemic index). Note that whole grains do not solve the above problems. A mill is useful for grinding flour from gluten-free (and non-oily) grains.
Vegetable oil (sunflower, corn, soy, canola, peanut, cottonseed, grapeseed, margarine)
- Chemical solvents (petroleum/hexane).
- Unstable polyunsaturated fatty acids.
- Bleaching, deodorizing to mask rancidity.
- BHA and BHT preservatives (carcinogens).
- Inflammation and cell mutations.
- Strong link to cancer and heart disease.
- Omega-6 imbalance (interferes with DHA conversion).
- Pesticide residues.
- Genetic modifications.
Cheap vegetable oils are in just about everything we can buy in stores or eat in most restaurants. This alone is a powerful reason to do our own cooking; avoiding these oils is a huge win. Safe and beneficial alternatives: ghee or non-UHT cream from grass-fed cows, coconut oil, extra-virgin olive oil, avocado oil, palm oil, non-hydrogenated lard rendered from grass-fed pig fat. Note that Ghee is ‘clarified’ butter without the often problematic milk proteins, and can easily be made at home.
Simple carbohydrates (sugar, juice, bread/rice/pasta)
- Blood sugar dysregulation (insulin and glucagon roller coaster).
- Adrenal burnout and pancreas exhaustion (diabetes).
- Painful gout from uric acid (by-product of fructose breakdown).
- Loss of tooth/bone calcium (to neutralize acidity).
- Protein damage via glycation.
- Imbalance of gut bacteria, possibility of candida overgrowth.
- Decreased dopamine sensitivity (indicates addiction).
- Strong link to Alzheimer’s and atherosclerosis (heart disease).
It is best to reduce our hunger for sweets, but there are somewhat better alternatives. Date sugar, molasses, honey and maple syrup provide at least some nutrients. Stevia, erythritol and xylitol are the only acceptable non-sugar sweeteners. Note that citrus fruits and berries are fine, because their fiber content blunts the sugar rush. Juicing obscures the quantities and breaks apart the fiber. We should also avoid high-fructose fruits: mango, grape, watermelon, pineapple, banana, and apple.
Soy (most soy sauce, tofu, soy milk, edamame)
- Phytoestrogens (equivalent to multiple birth control pills per day).
- Phytic acid (reduces bioavailability of minerals).
- Goitrogens (suppresses thyroid function by interfering with iodine metabolism).
- Lower quantity and quality of sperm.
- Decreased testosterone and fertility.
- Increased calcium and Vitamin B12 and D requirements.
- Link to Alzheimer’s, dementia, ADHD and breast/prostate cancer.
Soy was traditionally only eaten after fermentation, which reduces the above problems. Nowadays it is a waste product of soy oil production and cheap filler found in almost all packaged and fast foods; yet another reason to avoid them. “Naturally brewed” soy sauce and natto are acceptable.
Enough food for thought? I understand that this is a lot to swallow. For today, we’ll limit ourselves to these top four, though there are further common food sensitivities and additives to discuss.
Making these changes will drastically reduce risk of cancer and heart disease. Expect increased energy levels and mental clarity after a week. “Come to the dark side – we have cookies” – fine and good, or we can instead make cookies that do not destroy our health and happiness, nor drag down our vitality. Is the additional awareness and effort worthwhile? For me personally, having experienced both, the answer is yes.
Interestingly, these were all non-issues until the disastrous drive towards industrial, high profit margin agribusiness. I wish our food sources were trustworthy, but we are instead forced to choose between convenient, low-cost (or rather: the true costs have been externalized/hidden) toxic sludge, or more mindfulness and quality. What will it be?