Clean Eating Rules that Enhance Health

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10 Tips for Clean Eating Rules that will help you get healthy

10 Tips for Clean Eating

One of the newest diet crazes isn’t one of the ‘avoid all carbs’ or ‘limit your calories’ type diets.  It is a shockingly simplistic concept that you would think would not actually require people to be told in order to do it. With the way we have begun eating over the last several decades, it really doesn’t come as a surprise that we need a little reminder on how we should be eating.

If you are interested in Eating Clean, here are 10 tips to help you get started.  You might refer to them as the “Clean Eating Rules.”

The “Clean Eating Rules”

Avoid Processed Foods

Perhaps one of the most important clean eating tips is avoiding processed foods. The Clean Eating movement is all about getting away from convenient, easy foods where all of the preparation has been done for us.  The Clean Eating definition is returning to whole foods – real foods – that have not been processed at all and preparing them ourselves in order to maximize nutrition.

By choosing fresh foods and passing on the processed foods, you avoid non-food products such as chemicals, dyes, preservatives, and artificial flavors that are put into processed foods.  These additives are used for everything from mold prevention to texturization to preservation – and that’s just for starters.

These artificial ingredients have no place in our diets and our bodies are not built to handle them, let alone in large quantities.  The truth of the matter is that we really don’t have any idea how much of this stuff we eat.

Can you say, for example, how many carrots you have eaten in the last week?  That’s probably a pretty simple calculation.  But, what about how much BHT you have had?  No?  What about sodium nitrite?  Also no?  Well, let’s try something a little easier – something you have probably heard of and would recognize on a food label.  How much MSG have you eaten in the last week?  Still nothing?  You see why this is concerning?  The things I just mentioned are not good for you, yet you can’t say how much of it you have eaten in the last week.  The even scarier part about this is that there are so many of these additives that it will make your head spin.

Be Aware of Your Salt Intake

One of the easier things to recognize on product labels is salt, although food manufacturers are coming up with clever ways to hide even that.  Many people pay attention to their salt intake because of health problems such as high blood pressure.  They read the food labels for sodium and try to purchase items that have less sodium than others.

Notice, I didn’t say that they purchase items with little sodium, because almost none exist.  Salt is one of the key ingredients that makes processed food taste good to us.  Without it, processed food, made exactly the same way tastes either bland, metallic, or other flavors that we find off-putting become recognizable.  Salt is here to stay so long as we eat processed food – and we can’t expect the levels to change much in a positive direction.  Companies have tried to reduce salt levels and have failed miserably.

The best thing you can do is avoid processed food altogether.  However, most people can’t do that entirely.  The next best thing you can do is limit your processed food intake and keep track of the sodium that you are consuming.  Fortunately, this is fairly straightforward.  Don’t forget, however, to count the sodium in things you consume from food you get at restaurants since they don’t come with handy food labels.

Avoid Sugar

One of the most important things in Eating Clean is to avoid sugar – at all costs.  We were never meant to eat sugar in the way that we do today.  Our bodies can handle the sugars we get from fruits, but we were never meant to process the kinds of sugar that we get from eating candy bars, drinking soda, and in things like pasta sauce.

Wait.  Did I say “pasta sauce”?  Yep.

The next time you find yourself in the grocery store head on over to the pasta sauce aisle.  Take a few minutes and read the labels.  You will be shocked at just how many major pasta sauces are full of sugar.  Oh, but fair warning…it probably won’t say “sugar” on the label.  Moe likely than not, it will say “High Fructose Corn Syrup.”  On average, we consume about 300 extra calories a day from sugar alone.

Make no mistake – sugar is bad, no matter how it is labeled.  In order to try to improve sugar’s image, manufacturers have been giving it all kinds of fancy new names like Turbinado Sugar, Raw Sugar, and Sucanat.  Don’t be fooled.  Get away from sugar, period.  It’s doing everything from raising cholesterol (yes, you read that correctly) to causing diabetes.

Avoid Wheat, Other Grains, and Simple Starches

While you are avoiding sugar, there is another food that you need to cut out of your diet:  wheat.  Today’s modern wheat is no longer “wheat.”  It is a hybridized version of wheat that bears very little resemblance to the wheat that was eaten as recently as 50 years ago.

Our bodies do not recognize this new plant that we call “wheat,” and they are fighting back.  We aren’t talking about celiac disease here, although there could certainly be an argument made for the increase in celiac cases due to the current version of wheat that we eat.

We are talking about a whole host of problems from food allergies to things other than wheat being triggered to system wide inflammation that may result in fibromyalgia-like conditions as well as chronic fatigue.

Other aggravating factors for system-wide inflammation can be from grains other than wheat such as rice, corn, and oats as well as simple starches like potatoes.  If you suffer from unexplained aches and pains, consider having your doctor perform a blood test to check your levels of C-reactive protein and homocystine.

If you live in the United States and consume the Standard American Diet, you have a very good chance of having elevated levels of these inflammatory markers.  And even if you have a healthy or restricted diet, get yourself tested for them anyway.  You might be surprised to find that your levels are also elevated.  The important thing to remember here is that it is not the quantity of these foods that you are eating – it’s that you are eating them at all.

Cut Out Butter, Cheese, and Meat

I realize that I’m not going to make many friends with this particular recommendation, but I make it with good reason.  Animal products, while full of protein, are full of a lot of very undesirable things that you probably don’t think about when you eat a burger or pour cow’s milk over your cereal.

In order to meet the steep demand for animal products and to keep costs low (in order to maximize profit), the meat/dairy/egg industries keep animals tightly confined so as to maximize the number of animals they can process in a given amount of space.  This leads to extremely unsanitary conditions (to put it very mildly).  To keep disease from spreading like wildfire through the livestock, they are given very regular doses of antibiotics as a preventative measure.

Additionally, in order to maximize profit, the faster the animals grow and the bigger they get or the more milk and eggs they produce, the more profitable they are.  To this end, animals are pumped full of growth hormones that make them grow at an unnatural pace and to sizes that are gargantuan in comparison to what they would look like without these hormones.

When the animals go to slaughter, these antibiotics and growth hormones are still in their system and are passed on to whoever consumes them.  It is doubtful that anyone would just randomly take daily doses of growth hormones and antibiotics, so why is it acceptable for it to be in our food?

Incorporate Organic Fresh Fruits and Veggies

What does your shopping cart look like when you go to check out?  A good way to know if you are getting enough fruits and veggies is how many times the cashier has to stop and key something into the register.  Does everything that you buy scan because it has a bar code?  If so, you definitely aren’t getting enough fruits and veggies.

When our diets consist of things that come from packages we are missing out on some of the most potent disease-fighting compounds available – phytonutrients.  Phytonutrients, sometimes also referred to as phytochemicals, are compounds in plants that serve to protect them from insects, disease, and genetic alteration.  When we ingest fresh fruit and vegetables, we get the protective benefits from these phytochemicals which protect us at the cellular level from free radicals and a host of other causes of disease.

Limit Your Alcohol Intake

This one of the Clean Eating Rules is fairly self-explanatory.  Lots of booze is bad for you.  It’s bad for your liver.  It raises your blood sugar.  It has lots of calories you don’t need.  Simply cutting back on your alcohol intake can help you gain weight and make you feel a heck of a lot better.

Clean eating is about reducing the number of toxins in your body by severely restricting them from your diet.  Sure, a glass of red wine now and again is fine, but a six pack of beer every night is another matter.  Use your best judgement.  Remember that when alcohol is concerned, generally speaking, less is more.

Cook Your Own Food

I know. I know.  You are busy.  You have kids, errands, a job that is driving you crazy, family problems, bills that are past due, and your mother-in-law is coming for a two week visit.  I get it.  It is hard to find time to cook when you are barely able to get everything else done when you are popping dinner for everyone into the microwave.  How on earth are you expected to find time to cook in addition to all of the other stuff you have going on?

Let’s start with carving out a day a week where you cook like mad and then freeze meals for the whole week.  Perhaps Saturday morning for a few hours or Sunday evening?  By making an appointment – just like you would for all of those other pressing things on your schedule, you are stating that this is a priority and it will get the time it needs in order to be done.

Still sound too difficult?  Yeah, without a doubt, it can be.  Let’s examine what you will get out of cooking your own meals.  Even if you can’t cook every meal for every day of the week, consider all of the crap ingredients that you will be eliminating from your diet every time you eat one of your meals instead of mac and cheese from a box.

When you start cooking for yourself and you start replacing those artificial ingredients with actual healthy food, you start to feel better.  Your mood will improve, and you will be better able to handle your impossible boss at work and your mother-in-law when she comes to visit.  Heck, you might even feel up to going to the gym or to a yoga class once in a while with all of the energy you will have.  Trust me on this.  It’s worth it.

Make Shopping Lists and Meal Plans

If you are like me, you tend to wander in a haze around the grocery store looking for things that look appetizing.  Your brain goes blank on how to combine ingredients into delicious meals, and you start looking for a quick fix – especially if you go shopping when you are hungry.  That’s another topic for another article, but you shouldn’t do it.  Not only do you buy more, but your choices are generally more impulsive and less rational.

If you spend some time picking out some recipes in advance and making shopping lists of the ingredients you will need – and plan your weekly meals so that you don’t find yourself eating lasagna every night that week, you will find that you not only will better enjoy the food you cook, but there is less waste.  Making shopping lists in advance is one of the best strategies to help you adhere to the Clean Eating Rules.

Use Spices – They’re Healthy!

When you cook your own meals and you aren’t getting all of the salt, sugar, and fat that you are used to eating in processed foods, you may find that whole foods taste a little bland to you.  This is normal because your taste buds have become so accustomed to the outrageous amounts of salt and sugar that they put in those processed foods.  Your taste buds will adapt back, but it will take some time.

One of the best tips for clean eating is: instead of reaching for the salt shaker, reach for the red pepper flakes, black pepper, turmeric, garlic, ginger, or otter spices that are appropriate for the dish you are preparing.  Not only will the spices make your food more appealing, but they also contain the same phytochemicals/phytonutrients that you can get from fresh fruits and veggies.  Recent research into spices has shown that when used regularly, spices can reduce inflammation and help fight many diseases.

Hopefully these clean eating suggestions will help you get started in the right direction.  Remember that nothing happens overnight.  Follow the Clean Eating Rules by adjusting a bit at a time and you will eventually find yourself naturally eating a healthy clean food diet.

Quinoa Nutritional Information

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Quinoa Nutrition including iron, magnesium, and 9 essential aminos

Quinoa:  “The Mother Grain”

Quinoa was first eaten by people living high in the Peruvian mountains many centuries ago.  It was considered such an important part of the Incan diet that they gave it the name “Mother Grain.”  The quinoa nutrition profile is remarkable, so it’s interesting that they knew this so many years ago.

Compared to other grains, quinoa provides far superior nutrition.  When you look at the quinoa nutrition facts, in terms of protein, quinoa contains more protein than all other grains, and it is so full of essential nutrients to our health that it has been labeled a “super food” by many health and nutrition experts.

Protein in Quinoa

In terms of quinoa nutrition values, its protein profile is quite unique.  Many plant foods do not contain all of the nine essential amino acids (ones that we cannot produce in our bodies).  Quinoa, on the other hand, is a “complete” protein, which has all nine essential aminos.  This makes quinoa an ideal choice for people who exclude animal products from their diets.

Vegans, in particular, have a very hard time getting enough lysine.  Quinoa happens to be very high in lysine, which is used for the body to help grow and repair tissues.  Additionally, in a single cup of cooked quinoa, there are 10 grams of protein which is 20% of the recommended daily value.

Quinoa Supplies Iron

Many people do not get enough iron in their diets.  Iron helps red blood cells to carry oxygen through your body.  If you are iron deficient, then red blood cells can become smaller and that reduces the amount of oxygen that they are able to carry.  In cases of iron deficiency, the heart and lungs end up working harder to supply oxygen to the body.  When this happens over long periods of time, you become fatigued.

Unlike most grains which have woefully insufficient iron content, quinoa has a high iron content.  One cup of quinoa has 8 milligrams of iron which is a whopping 80% of the RDA for men and 54% of the RDA for women.

Quinoa Helps Circulation

In addition to being a superior plant-based source of iron, quinoa is also an excellent source of magnesium and riboflavin.  Both of these nutrients help the blood work more efficiently.

People who are magnesium deficient are at a high risk for developing high blood pressure.  When magnesium deficient people begin supplementing their magnesium and it reaches sufficient levels, their blood pressure improves, they are less likely to form clots, and the heart develops a more regular rhythm.

Consuming quinoa can help raise your magnesium levels back to normal and improve your heart health.  A cup of cooked quinoa provides 90mg of magnesium which is 44% of the daily recommended value.

Learning to Use Quinoa

While quinoa has become increasingly popular in the United States, most people still haven’t tried it.  Perhaps it’s the strange looking name.  It’s pronounced “Keen-Wa.”

Quinoa tends to be bland, like rice.  It has a bit more earthy smell than rice that may taste a bit strange on its own.  Just substitute it for rice in whatever dish you normally have with rice, and voila!

Storing Quinoa

Quinoa does not store nearly as well as other grains, so be sure to keep it cold in order to preserve both the nutrition and the taste.  Try to purchase small amounts and then buy it again as necessary.  You may keep quinoa in any cool, dark place, including the refrigerator.

What is Clean Eating?

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Clean Eating

What is Clean Eating?

Clean eating means eating food that has not been refined, processed, or altered by any type of chemicals or additives.  It implies also that foods be free of both pesticides and herbicides as well as be GMO-free.

Read Labels and Avoid Long Lists of Ingredients

In order to begin eating a clean diet, you must learn to read labels – or avoid them altogether.  The easiest way to know you are eating clean is to buy items with only one ingredient.  For example, instead of buying apple sauce that may contain sweeteners and preservatives, buy apples.

If you must purchase products that are processed, do your best to limit the number of ingredients.  A good number to shoot for is no more than 5 ingredients.  It’s harder than you think.  Once you start reading labels, you quickly realize just how much crap is put in processed food.

Know Which Additives to Avoid

It’s nearly impossible to avoid processed food 100%.  At some point and time we find ourselves getting at least one item or another because we don’t have time to make it or we are on the road and don’t have another option.  Your best line of defense is to know which additives are absolute no-no’s so you can choose the best option available.

Things you should avoid include:

  • BHA and BHT (E320) – preservatives found in everything from candy, chips, and gum to frozen sausages
  • High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) – found in breads, candy, yogurt, cereals, and sodas
  • Potassium Bromate – used in adding volume to breads
  • Monosodium Glutamate (MSG / E621) – found in seasonings and savory foods
  • Artificial food dyes such as Blue #1 and Blue #2 (E133), Red dye # 3 (also Red #40) (E124), Yellow #6 (E110), and Yellow Tartrazine (E102)
  • Sodium Nitrate/Sodium Nitrite often found in processed meats like hot dogs and cured meat
  • Artificial sweeteners such as aspartame and Acesulfame-K – found in anything sweet
  • Trans fats commonly labeled as partially hydrogenated vegetable oils
  • Sulfur Dioxide (E220) – found in beer, soft drinks, dried fruit, wine and vinegar
  • Sodium Sulfite (E221) which is often found in wines and cheeses

Drink Plenty of Water

Clean eating also involves keeping the body well-hydrated in order to flush out waste.  On average, people should aim to drink approximately two liters of water per day and should limit alcohol intake.

Avoid Salt, Sugar, and Fat

When eating clean, you should avoid as much as possible sugar, salt, and fat.  These three ingredients cause you to overeat and crave more food.  They are usually found in high quantities in processed foods, but our cooking styles have adapted to mimic processed foods.  So, if you are cooking for yourself, be sure that you limit these ingredients.  Whole foods will naturally be low in all three.

Eat Five Times a Day

Space out your meals and include healthy snacks.  Although it seems counterintuitive to constantly be eating, it actually helps you maintain a steady metabolic rate.  Your body never feels starved for energy like it does when you skip meals or diet, so it tends to burn calories readily instead of storing them for the next “famine.”

Carry Your Food With You

The hardest part of eating a clean diet is being on the go.  When we are stuck in traffic rushing around trying to get between clients, taking our kids to soccer practice, or running late for a dentist appointment, we find ourselves drawn to fast food because it’s convenient.  By thinking ahead and carrying your daily meals, including snacks, with you, you will have plenty of things available when you get hungry.  Try investing in a cooler or insulated grocery bag to keep things at the right temperature in your car.

Be Physically Active

Even though being physically active is not technically a dietary measure, the goal of clean eating is to help your body be strong and healthy.  By including regular exercise in your routine, not only do you build muscle, but you also burn fat.

Why Eating Real Food Matters

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Why Eating Real Food Matters

Why Eating Real Food Matters

Over the last 160 years or so in America, the prevalence of obesity has increased dramatically.  When you compare the same time period to the amount of sugar consumption, you see the same trend occurring.  Sugary, highly processed foods lead to obesity, chronic inflammation, and disease.

It is no great secret that Americans love sugar.  Just how much do we love it? Our tastebuds require approximately 1.5 times the amount of sugar that Western Europeans do in order to feel satisfied with the taste of our food.

The Role of Fructose

Our love for sugar has actually increased significantly since the year 2000.  But why?  It has to do with the types of sweeteners we use.  Fructose, in particular is one of the most problematic sweeteners.  In the last couple of decades it has been marketed as a “healthy” sweetener with very few calories and was low on the glycemic index.  More recently, we have begun to see agave marketed in the same way, but it is up to 85% fructose.

The problem is that when fructose breaks down, we are unable to metabolize it.  Fructose is one of the key factors in the development of insulin resistance and other metabolic problems that follow along with it.

In order to reduce our risk of metabolic syndrome and diabetes, we would be wise to reduce our consumption of fructose.  Instead of consuming agave or table sugar, one might consider consuming maple syrup which is only 35% fructose.  Better still would be to reduce the total consumption of sweeteners in our diets.  But, in order to do that, we must change our tastes.  That is easier said than done.

Larger Portions

So, why has there been such a huge spike in the amount of sugar consumption over the last 15-20 years?  The Super-Sizing of colas is a good start to answering that question. It hasn’t necessarily been a change in the formulation of our soft drinks, but the mere change in “serving size” that has been doing us in.

Surprisingly, fruit juice is another cause of the increase in sugar consumption. Fruit juice is often considered a healthy alternative to soda, but in fact, it is very similar in how it is metabolized in the body.  Fiber helps to slow down the breakdown and absorption of sugar.  By removing the fiber from the fruit when juice is made, we are left merely with the concentrated sugary contents which then look to the body just like the sugary ingredients in soda.

Sweet liquids are a very rapid way for us to consume many sugar based calories.  Whether it be in the form of sodas, fruit juice, or sweetened coffee or tea, they are all the same.  Changing back to less sweet drinks likely will require more than just consumer education.  Placing “sin taxes” on sodas to make them more difficult to buy might be necessary to reduce our consumption.  So long as the cost of a Big Gulp is the same as a 12 oz can of cola, we will have a problem doing anything to reduce our sugar consumption as a population.

Processed Vegetable Oils

Over the last 50 years or so Americans have ditched traditional fats and have begun consuming processed vegetable oils in their place.  The problem with many vegetable oils on the market is that they are being turned from healthy oils to highly saturated fats also known as trans fats.  Trans fats lead to chronic inflammation, heart disease, and stroke.

A perhaps lesser known problem fat is the Poly-Unsaturated Fatty Acid, or PUFA.  The best known PUFA is Omega-6 fatty acid which can be found in high doses in anything from eggs to avocados to cashews.  Two of the most common sources of Omega-6’s in the American diet are margarine and soybean oil which has become ubiquitous in the American diet because it is so heavily subsidized by the government.  Cheap soybean oil prices mean that processed food manufacturers are more inclined to use it in their products than healthier oils like coconut.

PUFA’s are chemically unstable and when they bind to proteins and sugars in our bodies, they create toxins that cause serious damage. Not only do Omega-6 fatty acids lead to inflammation and weight gain, but they can promote cancer.

Getting people to stop eating processed foods in America is a tall order since it is what makes up most of what is in the grocery aisles.  Convenience stores carry almost nothing but processed foods.  Combine the availability of processed foods with tons of clever marketing and pretty colors to make the processed foods more attractive and the problem is nearly insurmountable.

Real Food:  What Our Grandparents Ate

If you compare what people eat today with what our grandparents ate in the mid 20th century, it would seem (by today’s standards) that they ate very unhealthy diets of carbohydrates like potatoes and breads.  However, if you compare pictures of random groups of people then and now, it is clear that obesity was much less common.

Much of what we believe about what we should and should not eat is just plain wrong.  Whether it is a diet fad – like high protein and fat with low carbs – or a sudden scare like eating cholesterol, we are being mislead.

Our real problem is that we have gotten away from eating real whole foods and have replaced them with quick and easy manufactured food product which we incorrectly call “food.”  This is the primary reason for the sharp rise in obesity and other associated chronic diseases.

Inflammation

Sugar, processed oils, and the increased ratio of unhealthy Omega 6 to Omega 3 fatty acids are combining to make the perfect storm of inflammation in our bodies.  In its primary purpose, inflammation serves as a healing response for our bodies.  However, it is meant to come and go as required – a temporary status.  Inflammation as a response to sugar, processed foods and high Omega 6 fatty acids is destructive to the human body.

Inflammation leads to a number of chronic, degenerative diseases that disable people at young ages.  Essentially, that which is designed to heal us can kill us if it is constantly active.  Chronic inflammation has been linked to coronary artery disease (inflammation of the lining of the arteries), Alzheimer’s disease (inflammation of the brain), and cancer (inflammation in various areas that lead to a simultaneous increase in cell proliferation).

Getting Back to Real Food

Not only are people dying from the diseases caused by the overconsumption of sugar, processed foods, and Omega 6 fatty acids, but they are also dying from the drugs that they are taking to counteract the conditions caused by their diets.  Everyone has heard the commercials advertising pharmaceuticals that say something to the tune of “You can take this pill and cure your dry eyes, side effects may include heart failure and death,” or something to that effect.

It goes without saying that in order to cure diseases caused by diet, that we must correct them by correcting our diets and returning to real food.  In cultures where real food is still readily consumed – like in places where the Mediterranean diet is still eaten – people are far healthier and the incidence of diet-related disease is minimal.

The Mediterranean diet emphasizes the consumption of vegetables, as opposed to fruits and vegetables like the USDA suggests.  In the American diet, fruits are more popular than vegetables because of their sweetness and their consumption is encouraged without regard to the amount of sugar they contain.

Ultimately, if we are going to make a change for the better in our health, we must completely overhaul our eating habits, overhaul our grocery stores, and reduce the amount of sweet foods that we eat.