1. The butter-versus-margarine debate
Organic raw grass-fed butter is a nutrient dense whole food with nothing added or taken away. Margarine, however, is made in a laboratory, lacks any nutritional value, and is damaging to our health. Avoid cheap margarines and fake butters and use organic raw grass-fed butter in moderation instead to keep your body in top shape.
2. Saturated fats are good for us
Saturated fats have an important role to play in protecting the gut, immune system, and the brain. They also have a high smoking point which makes them a safer choice for cooking with than unstable polyunsaturated fatty acids found in vegetable oils. Sources of saturated fats include raw dairy, coconuts, coconut oil, organic egg yolks, and grass fed meats. They are also found in avocados, nuts and seeds. Saturated fats, however, are calorie-dense and therefore should only be a small portion on your plate.
3. Dispelling the cholesterol myth
Cholesterol plays an important role in the nervous system, helps us cope with stress, keeps our mood stable, contributes to optimal hormonal health, and is essential for brain function. Inadequate cholesterol intake up regulate an enzyme in the liver which overproduces cholesterol from carbohydrate sources. The only way to turn this overproduction off is by eating adequate cholesterol from dietary sources and reducing excess carbohydrates in our diet.
Eggs are a perfect food containing many nutrients needed for eye health, nervous, and cardiovascular health. It’s also an excellent source of high quality protein. Make sure you eat organic eggs which are much higher in omega-3 than non-organic eggs.
5. Animal fats
Fats found in nature have been a large part of our diet for thousands of years. And there is a good reason for it. Many nutrients that are protective against cancer and heart disease are found in animal fats. We used to consume much higher omega-3 fats in our diet than we do today. When animals are fed grains and corn, and seafood is from farmed sources, they contain higher levels of omega-6 than omega-3. Excess omega-6 fats promote inflammatory processes and insulin resistance leading to diabetes and obesity. Exclusively grass-fed meat is difficult to get hold of in supermarkets today, but the fat in such meats are rich in desirable omega-3 fat. A little also goes a long way. Only small amounts of animal fats are necessary for optimal health.
6. Omega 3
Our ancestors had an omega 6 to 3 ratio of 1:1. Today western diets often have ten to twenty times as much omega 6 to omega 3 fatty acids. A deficiency in omega-3 is linked with virtually every modern disease process, weight problem, affective disorder, and learning disability. DHA found in omega-3 makes up the highest percentage of the fatty acids found in the human brain, facilitating visual and cognitive function, and essential for regulating our mood. Increase your omega-3 fatty acids by eating wild-caught seafood, exclusively grass-fed meat and game, organic eggs, dark green vegetables and herbs, and nuts and seeds such as walnuts, flax, and chia seeds.
7. Vegetarian and vegan diets
Vegetarian and vegan diets have been promoted as the new healthy and there are certainly many reasons to choose mostly plant based food, but it often lacks essential animal-source nutrients needed for long-term health. For example, Vitamin B12 is not absorbed from plant sources. It is also common that vegetarians over consume starch, sugar, lectins, phytates, and common allergens or sensitivity-generating foods which further causes harm. Careful planning needs to go into living on a vegetarian or vegan diet. Make sure you speak to a qualified Nutritional Therapist to make sure you are choosing the right foods for your optimal health.
8. Sugar replacements for weight management
Another area of nutrition that is a cause for major concern is the increase in use of artificial sweeteners instead of sugar to lose weight. The evidence proves that artificial sweeteners cause even more weight gain than conventional sugar. Aspartame has many documented detrimental health effects and should be avoided.
9. Whole grains
This is another area of nutrition that gets confusing press. The media tell us that whole grains are highly beneficial but unfortunately grains can increase insulin and leptin levels, which increases the risk of chronic diseases. Many people struggle with insulin and leptin resistance which presents itself as high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol levels, being overweight, or having diabetes. You may not have any of these problems but struggle to maintain a healthy body weight or tend to accumulate fat around your belly, which also indicates that you may be struggling with insulin and leptin resistance. You can have your insulin levels tested by your GP. The higher your insulin levels are, the more important restricting grains in your diet should be.
10. Supplementation – are they necessary?
Supplementing nutrients from food sources are always more desirable but due to modern farming methods, our soils are depleted. We are also exposed to greater levels of daily stress and environmental toxins, so some supplementation may be needed for optimal health. Certain individuals may have pronounced deficiency states of some nutrients, which may make supplementation necessary initially. But not all supplements are good for us and it is generally best to avoid generic supermarket or pharmacy brands. It is important to read labels carefully to avoid supplements that contain fillers that can be harmful. Magnesium or calcium stearate and stearic acid and trans fats are not necessary in supplements. Often hydrogenated vegetable oils are added to production lines so that manufacturing equipment can run more smoothly. You want to take vitamins and minerals in the form that the body recognises as they are found in food. Always choose additive-free supplements and speak to a nutritional therapist to establish which nutrients are optimal for your individual needs.
11. What about organic versus non-organic fruits and vegetables?
The Environmental Working Group updates a list of fruits and vegetables containing the highest amount of pesticides each year called the ‘Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen’. You can download the latest list on their website. Pesticides are not only carcinogenic, but can also cause neurotoxicity, disrupting the endocrine system, and causing immune suppression. If you buy non-organic, aim to choose vegetables on the “Cleanest 12” list.
12. Fruit juices are not healthy
A glass of orange juice can have as much as eight teaspoons of sugar, and 50% of those sugars are from fructose. We are simply not designed to eat that much sugar in one go and so most gets stored as fat. If you chew a fruit it will take you a while to get through eight oranges and the absorption of the sugar from those oranges will be delayed compared to when you drink orange juice when you will get an instant hit of sugar. Fruit juices are also a major cause of tooth decay. Freshly pressed vegetable juices, however, are great for our health, and you can add a handful of fresh seasonal fruit for sweetness.
13. Organic v.s. non-organic dairy
Organic milk has much more beneficial omega-3s than non-organic milk. Most non-organic milk is produced using routine antibiotics to prevent infection in the animals. There is growing evidence that the use of antibiotics in farming is linked to the emergence of superbugs in animals, with potential long term unknown consequences for humans. Organic farmers do not look for quick fixes and do not treat animals with antibiotics unless they actually need them. Instead they ensure that animals have a more-resilient immune system to tackle infection and diseases, and where possibly explore the use of alternative medicines like homeopathy. An even better choice of milk is organic raw milk which is loaded with healthy bacteria that are good for the gastrointestinal tract, full of digestive enzymes, rich in beneficial fats, amino acids and proteins, and loaded with vitamins A, B, C, D, E and K. When milk is pasteurised, fats are oxidised, proteins denatured and most enzymes are completely destroyed, resulting in a food that may be more harmful than beneficial for our health. People often report an improvement or complete resolution of symptoms like allergies, digestive issues, or eczema when they switch to raw milk products. Also opt for full-fat milk as reduced-fat milk contain far higher milk sugars than full-fat milk.
14. Soy is not a health food
Soy in its many unfermented forms is another food that only recently made its way into our food chain. It has been labelled a ‘health food’ but in fact in order to make soy products, highly processed chemical methods are used. Soy also contains high levels of phytic acid which interferes with our ability to absorb much needed calcium, magnesium, copper, iron, and zinc from our food. Soy has now been linked with breast cancer, brain damage, cognitive impairment, heart disease, thyroid disorders, kidney stones, immune dysfunction, malnutrition, digestive problems, reproductive disorders, infertility, and developmental abnormalities in infants. Traditional fermented soy such as tempeh, miso and natto, however, are full of beneficial bacteria (probiotics) which are beneficial for our health.
15. Vitamin D: What you need to know
Vitamin D has also made its way into headlines recently but deservedly so. Scientific studies confirms it is the single most preventative nutrient against cancer. It also reduces inflammation, prevents autoimmune diseases, supports a healthy immune system, prevents cardiovascular disease, Parkinson’s disease, maintains a healthy musculoskeletal system, helps prevent both type 1 and type 2 diabetes, supports a healthy mood, prevents seasonal affective disorders, supports brain health, and is critical for the absorption of calcium and phosphorous. Vitamin D must be balanced with adequate levels of vitamin A so supplementation should always be with caution. If too much vitamin D is given, it can cause symptoms of vitamin A deficiency. These two vitamins work synergistically and should always be balanced in the diet. Recent studies have demonstrated that too much vitamin D can actually be immunosuppressive. It is therefore incredibly important to always have your vitamin D levels tested before embarking on supplementation. Low-fat diets, fear of sun exposure, and SPF sun protection, all contribute to the deficiency of this life-giving nutrient.
Making the right food choices in our modern world can be a daunting task. You can make it easier by choosing fresh seasonal whole foods from local and sustainable sources and avoiding processed food as much as possible. Buy fresh food from your local farmer’s market or grow them in your garden. Read labels carefully and question ingredients that you do not recognise. Your health will thank you for it.