Optimum Food Choices: Part One
Though I am not a licensed nutritionist, I do consider myself to be a nutrition researcher. Really, we all are. We hear stuff all the time from the media, our doctors, our mothers, etc. about nutrition and we either listen and adhere to what we've heard or we opt not to act on that information. Whichever is the case, our research is really hands-on and we are the guinea pigs. What we put into our bodies does affect us tremendously. I found out how true that is when I "listened" to what "traditional food" resources were saying, started eating traditional food and got better all the way around.
If you have not read the first two posts, Real Food - Not to Fear, and Real Food Recipes - Baked Oat Breakfast Pudding, it would be helpful to read them before diving into this one.
But we are all experimenting with our bodies every day concerning food, so we really are food researchers in a sense. I've just taken it one step further by purposely seeking out pertinent information. Now that I know what real food is, I continue to read about optimizing the diet my husband and I eat.
For the next six or seven weeks, I will be posting what I've learned in a sort of practical way, with "food reviews" and also nutritional information about the foods that we commonly eat. The review will concern optimum food choices, why these foods are the best choices and where to find them.
For the first lesson, I want to give you a picture to grab onto that will help you understand why some foods are better than others.
This is really simple. We all know what happens to an apple when it is cut it in half and laid out on the counter for a while. Of course, it starts to turn brown on the cut sides. This is called "oxidation".
...when you eat damaged food with its free radicals, it causes damage in your body.Wherever an apple is exposed to air, heat and light, it starts to deteriorate and succumb to"free radicals". Food of this nature is damaged and when you eat damaged food with its free radicals, it causes damage in your body. For lack of being able to repeat the technical, scientific jargon, I think of free radicals as out-of-control, marauding rebel cells that go about causing harm to healthy cells. That is actually exactly what they are and what they do.
...think of free radicals as out-of-control, marauding rebel cells that go about causing harm to healthy cells.Now that you have that picture, think of the old t.v. commercial about "horrid age spots" that appear on an older person's hands. I have them. (I don't like the way that sounded!) Those brown flecks are what free radical damage or oxidative stress looks like on the outside of our bodies. This same kind of damage happens on the inside our bodies also. Granted, age spots appear as we age. But we can age faster or slower depending on the foods that we eat or don't eat. Free radical damage not only ages us, it causes weight gain and also degenerative diseases such as arthritis, diabetes 2, heart disease, cancers and more.
You have probably heard or read recently about "antioxidants". An antioxidant is a component in foods that prevents oxidation, so that is a good thing. If we squeeze lemon juice onto the cut surface of the apple, the vitamin C in the lemon prevents the apple from turning brown or from damaging oxidation. Hence vitamin C is an antioxidant - one of many. It's good to eat lots of antioxidants, for they reduce the free radical damage done in your body, just as vitamin C does for the apple.
...antioxidants reduce the free radical damage done in your body.Now translate that simple lesson into all of the food we eat. Processed food undergoes damage in the processing phase. When foods are exposed to high heats, oxygen and light for sustained lengths of time, they become very damaged - full of free radicals.
Polyunsaturated vegetable oils are some of the worst culprits. Just like an apple, when the seed - let's say corn seed - is broken open and exposed to air, heat and light, all parts of it begin to oxidize. The oil from the seed is extracted by high, prolonged heat. Then the last 5% of the oil that still remains in the seed is pulled out by a solvent called hexane gas (similar to gasoline). When all of the oil is extracted, the hexane gas is boiled off (residues always remain, however, and it is found in human breast milk).
After this destructive process, the oil looks gray and murky and smells rancid, as it is, so it is deodorized and bleached, for no one would buy it if it was not. This is the pretty, sparkling golden corn (soybean, safflower, etc.) oil that you pick up and pay money for at the supermarket. When you take it home and heat it in a pan, it is further damaged.
Anyway, as I begin to share info with you about specific foods, one of the food reviews coming soon will be more about fats and oils. Though I may not specify when I refer to the foods in the food review, it is a given that they are in the best state possible - organic - without the dangers of pesticides, chemical fertilizers, genetic modification, steroids, antibiotics, etc. Also when you see a #1 or #2 listed, the number one refers to the optimum-most form of the food with number two being the next best choice and so forth.
With that in mind then, let's consider the following:
Beans, legumes, grains, rice, nuts – buy them organic and whole. If you buy these out of bulk bin containers, make sure to get them in a store where the turnover of the bins is good, such as Whole Foods Market or Raley's. Otherwise buy them in vacuumed packages if you can find them as this will keep the oils from turning rancid.
Most all beans, legumes, grains, and nuts (not rice) need to be soaked for 8-24 hours to remove phytic acid and other anti-nutrients. Note: For more information about phytic acid, please refer to Real Food Recipes - Baked Oat Breakfast Pudding.
Soybeans are never a good choice because of the extremely high phytic acid content, anti-nutrients, carcinogens, goitrogens (cause thyroid goiter) and phytoestrogens.
WFM; TJs; FC; R*
1) sprouted, 100% whole grain breads or sour dough whole-grain breads (Alvarado Street Bakery makes delicious sprouted whole grain breads, hamburger, and hot dog buns as well as dinner rolls and sourdough bread.)
If you decide to make your own bread, soaking the flour for 7 hours in the water called for in the recipe removes the phytic acid (this robs the body of minerals and locks away the nutrition of the grain).
WFM; TJs; FC; R*
There will be a post in the next few days for a recipe for easy slow-roasted nuts (so yummy!) Look for that soon. Also, for the next food review, I will cover butter (and other fats and oils), breakfast cereals and cheese.
*WFM = Whole Foods Market
TJs = Trader Joes
FC = Food Co-op (email me about this if you want more info)
R = Raley's Food Stores