By Jeanne Peters RD
Nourishing Wellness Medical Centre
Yes, 2008 is just around the corner and you can make it the healthiest year of your life. To begin, call in your inner magician and let’s transform your kitchen into a place to support your highest health. These steps will help you get started making the kitchen transition by getting rid of 5 ingredients that compromise your health. You’ll also learn why these foods should be eliminated from your diet and what foods to replace them with. Pick a day for your kitchen makeover. Get out a big trash can and then open up the refrigerator and all your cupboards. Now you are ready to begin! If you need more support, don’t hesitate to call me for a free 30 min nutrition consultation to help you evaluate how to integrate sustainable eating choices into your week with ease!
REFINED SUGAR & ARTIFICIAL SWEETENERS
In today’s over-processed, sugar-crazed society, the average person consumes 154 pounds of sugar per year! That’s 53 teaspoons of sugar per day!
Trash It: It’s fair to say that no other food contributes to as many health problems as sugar. So if you want to achieve your optimum health potential, avoiding sugar is the best place to start. You can begin your kitchen transition by throwing out that big bag of sugar and all those little packets of artificial sweeteners. Then get rid of all the products in your cupboards and refrigerator that are made with refined sugar (sucrose, high fructose corn syrup, dextrose, maltodextrin). This will include all commercial brands of cookies, candy, pop, ice cream, pastry, cakes and pies. It may seem like a good idea to pass these foods along to family, friends, neighbors, or coworkers–but considering the problems caused by excess sugar consumption, it’s best just to throw them out. Even if it seems like a waste of money at the time, the savings in your health, and the health of those you care about, will be well worth it.
Stash It: The best sweeteners to use are those that occur naturally such as raw cane sugar (Rapadura), pure maple syrup, raw honey or molasses. These are best used for baking. Stevia, an herb that is much sweeter than sugar but does not affect blood sugar levels, can be used for sweetening beverages (if necessary in the initial stages of transitioning your diet). Keep in mind that even natural sweeteners can affect your blood sugar and contribute to cravings for sweets. For this reason it’s best to avoid eating sweets by themselves; instead include dessert made with whole foods as part of a balanced meal, no more than 2-3 times per week. Good fats and protein help to stabilize blood sugar and reduce cravings for sweets. A steak with some steamed veggies and butter, a salad topped with a dressing based on olive oil and a couple of naturally sweetened cookies would be a healthy and balanced way to include dessert. Avoid having dessert with a meal that is high in carbohydrates like pasta, bread or rice.
Now that you’ve eliminated the sweet sugar from your kitchen, your next step is to get rid of the “other” sugar–white flour. White flour breaks down just like sugar in the body and can lead to many of the same problems as white sugar. During the process of turning whole wheat into white flour, the B-vitamins as well as vitamin E, calcium, zinc, copper, manganese, potassium and fiber are removed. Due to the lack of fiber in white flour, it is a major contributing factor to constipation and other bowel problems. Wheat and gluten ( the protein found in wheat and other grains) are major allergens and can cause reactions such as headaches, fatigue, malabsorption, irritability, upper respiratory congestion, nausea, thyroid issues, diarrhea and other bowel disorders like celiac and Crohn’s disease. In my practice, I have discovered that over 70% of all people are gluten sensitive so that probably means YOU! If so, eliminating wheat, rye, barley and commercial oats will probably improve your health in more ways that I can share in this article.
Trash It: Search for anything in your kitchen made with enriched wheat flour and toss it out. That includes most commercial breads, crackers, pasta, bagels and stuff like pancake mixes. While you’re at it, you can throw out white rice and all other processed grains such as corn bread mixes, instant oatmeal, and all processed grain cereals–even if they are organic. During the extrusion processing of whole grain flakes and puffed cereals, high temperatures and intense pressure destroy nutrients, cause fragile oils to become rancid, and make the processed cereals very difficult to digest.
Stash It: Although many commercial brands offer “whole grain” breads available at the grocery store, there are none that I really recommend. In most cases, the bread is still made from enriched wheat flour with a few whole grains added in. And even if the bread is made purely from whole grain, it most likely still contains unhealthy ingredients like high fructose corn syrup and partially hydrogenated oil. To get good quality whole grain bread, you’re going to have to take a ride to your local health food store. Look for bread that is made from whole grains, even better organic, sprouted whole grains. My favorite brand of bread is Alvarado St. Bakery, which is available at most natural food stores. If yours doesn’t carry it, ask them to. It’s a light bread with a chewy texture, a perfect sandwich bread! You can also find whole grain pasta and bagels, however, they are extremely high in carbohydrates and have a major effect on blood sugar. So unless you can use control to limit the portion of those foods and eat them sparingly, it’s best not to eat them at all. Focus on brown rice,quinoa, starchy vegetables like yams, sweet potatoes and pastas made from quinoa or brown rice as a healthier alternatives.
HYDROGENATED VEGETABLE OILS
For many years the media have told us to replace saturated fats with unsaturated fats, like those from vegetable oils. This is not very good advice considering that, in the process of producing vegetable oils, toxic chemicals and high temperatures are used to extract the oil from the seed or bean. In this process virtually all of the nutritional value has been destroyed, not to mention the fact that high temperatures turn the oil rancid before you even bring it home.
Even worse, most vegetable oils in processed foods have been hydrogenated, a process that rearranges the fatty acid molecules and creates trans fatty acids. Not only are trans fats difficult to digest, but they have also been implicated as a cause of cancer, heart disease, diabetes, obesity and sterility.
Trash It: Since most packaged food that contains sugar and white flour, also contains hydrogenated oil, you should have already eliminated those foods from your kitchen anyway. Hydrogenated oils are found in almost all processed foods, commercial salad dressings, sandwich spreads and, of course, margarine. Rather than just throw away these items, rinse out the containers and recycle them–at least it won’t be a total waste.
Stash It: A “must have” in your kitchen is healthier fats like real butter! Butter is a rich source of fat soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K. and contains important minerals like manganese, zinc, chromium, and iodine. The saturated fat in butter enhances our immune function, protects the liver from toxins, provides nourishment for the heart in times of stress, gives stiffness and integrity to our cell membranes, and aids in the proper utilization of omega-3 essential fatty acids. Butter will add extra nutrients and flavor to your vegetables, whole grain breads and sautéed dishes. Organic butter produced without the use of hormones, steroids, and antibiotics is available at natural food stores and even many grocery stores. Another important oil to stock in your kitchen is olive oil. Olive oil is a rich source of antioxidants, relieves the pain and inflammation of arthritis, normalizes blood fats and cholesterol, stimulates strong gallbladder contractions, and is known for increasing longevity.
Another fat you may want to try is coconut oil, a once-maligned but very healthy fat that is making a come back. Coconut oil is a rich source of medium-chain saturated fatty acids, especially lauric acid, which has strong antifungal and antimicrobial properties. Coconut oil is extremely heat stable and can be used in baking, frying, sautéing, and especially for making popcorn! I recommend unrefined, organic coconut oil from Garden of Life–available online or at many natural food stores.
The salt that you find in table salt and most processed foods is sodium chloride. Salt in this form has been processed at high temperatures, which changes the molecular structure and removes vital minerals from the salt. Table salt also contains additives, anticaking agents, and even sugar. Excess salt consumption is associated with high blood pressure, fluid retention, heart and kidney disease.
Trash It: Dump out your salt shaker and toss out all other packaged or processed foods with a high sodium content. This should be pretty easy for most people.
Stash it: We have been told for years to avoid salt, but following this advice can lead to even more problems. We are all salty on the inside–our blood, sweat, tears, and even our urine–it’s all salty. It’s important to replenish the salt in our body, using the right salt is what makes all the difference in the world. The best way to put salt back into your body is to use Celtic sea salt. This high quality salt contains over 80 balanced minerals from the sea. Celtic sea salt is essential for maintaining proper fluid balance and utilization in the body. It also normalizes blood pressure, enhances digestion, and nourishes the adrenal glands. Celtic sea salt is available at many natural food stores or can be ordered through The Grain and Salt Society, call 1-800-TOPSALT.