Surely most of you have heard the expression, “You are what you eat.” As much as I believe this, there is still a crucial part missing…you certainly are what you eat, but what you don’t eat is just as influential as what you do.
What you eat is what you eat. Unfortunately for a large percentage of America, this means eating whatever is in front of them at the moment—including, but not limited to, meats, fried foods, dairy, and refined sugar. In my opinion, these are the four most damaging foods to the human body. Not only does the average person eat these types of foods, but he or she will eat them in exponential amounts and the inevitable results are profound and devastating. Looking past the food we see chronic conditions such as high blood pressure, depression, cancer, obesity and diabetes. It is becoming more obvious today that food is greatly connected to our well-being; unfortunately we are paying the steep price for these choices with our health. Quite honestly, I feel that even though people are becoming more aware of the food-disease connection, proactive steps towards healthier lives are being ignored. Why is this? Because we are surrounded by processed junk food, develop poor eating patterns as children, become immersed in the health-degrading culture, and then are sold hook, line and sinker by massive marketing campaigns through media that appeals to our vulnerable senses of sight, taste and smell. We are helplessly addicted to the emotional aspects of food.
Increasing your knowledge of foods’ effects may drastically change the way you relate to the food world. We all know that doughnuts are bad for you. But then we go and eat them anyway. Why? Because they taste good! Or we could be celebrating something, anything. Did you ever stop to think though, before diving into the box for the one with pink frosting and sprinkles, “This is not just a doughnut? This is what high cholesterol and arthritis taste like.” It probably doesn’t cross your mind about what long term affects your every bite will have on the version of yourself 10 years from now.
I see this world in a completely different light. I stopped eating red meat 21 years ago. I went vegetarian five years after that. Then, 7 years later at 22, I quit eating dairy products. Finally, right before my 25th birthday I became a vegan after cracking a fertilized egg. Despite my gradual journey towards veganism, let’s take a closer look at why I feel the way I do about meat, fried foods, dairy and refined sugar.
In my opinion, meat and fried foods should absolutely not enter the human body. Meat lacks fiber, is hard to digest, has aging effects, exhausts the kidneys, creates too much uric acid and has overall inflammatory effects on the system. Fried foods create foreign compounds that your body has no idea what to do with. Fried food damages arteries, inhibits your nervous system, accelerates aging like crazy, and creates polluted blood. Dairy foods are biologically incompatible, thus causing inflammatory responses in the body (think sinus, asthma, and arthritis conditions). Dairy also contains the incorrect protein and fat ratios, which shows up as stomach upsets, acne and more. Products such as cheese, milk and ice cream are just that—food products. Not even a food, but a food product. A food product is one that is processed, tweaked and unfamiliar to our bodies. A great example would be Twinkies. You would never find a Twinkie growing on a tree or bush. A real food, a whole food, is one that nature made, and may even have its own packaging…broccoli, almonds, and bananas. America pounds down such astronomical amounts of refined sugar on a daily basis, it’s almost unbelievable. 20 grams here, 35 grams there, soda everywhere, and before you know it, you’re up to well over 120 grams per day…sadly the excess sugar intake will start to look like high cholesterol, obesity, ADHD, depression, mood swings, osteoporosis, and overall demineralization of our bodies. I recommend a healthy person keep sugars to less than 20 grams per day, but of course the smaller amount the better!
If we take the opposite of these destructive foods and obsessively eat those opposites, surely we are to see some pretty spectacular results right? That’s what I decided to do earlier in my youth. That’s the key here. We need to rebuild ourselves from youth up. You can start to improve your health at any age, but the younger the better. The sooner the better; it is never too late to begin a brighter journey of health, even if you’re 80! I began my quest for healthier living pretty young. While all my friends were gorging on an endless supply of beer, chicken wings, and candy at 18, I was content avoiding meat, alcohol, and anything fried. “Is it possible to stay the same weight through college?” I wondered. Sure, all my friends thought I was the health nut, but today at 31, I weigh two pounds less than I did in high school, am a strong healthy vegan and only look about 24 (sometimes people guess younger!).
There is no doubt in my mind that eating has a strong correlation to our physical well-being. Spending your time and money on foods that build you rather than destroy you will not only make you look better, but feel better as well! Instead of meat, learn to use plant-based protein, forget the fried foods and include some good sources of Omega 3’s and other helpful fats, scratch out the dairy and experiment with non-dairy milks, and seriously begin to check every label for sugar content—reducing sugar will be one of the smartest things you will ever do for yourself!
Branch out and eat those colorful foods! Anti-aging, life-giving, energy-bursting fresh vegetables and fruits are the best thing that ever happened to me. Meat’s opposite is unprocessed plant proteins (beans, nuts, seeds, lentils, etc.). The opposite of fried foods are foods with helpful fats (olives, walnuts, hemp seeds, chia seeds, flax oil, etc.). Dairy’s opposite I feel would be leafy greens, broccoli, and fresh herbs; also substituting non-dairy milks (oat, rice, hemp, almond and soy). Of course there is an opposite of refined sugar (brown rice syrup, agave nectar, stevia, etc.) but even when using the opposites, still monitor the amount you eat with the exception of your birthday! (Every rule has an exception—I love to eat birthday cake!)
So next time you go shopping, stop and think, “What benefit can this food give me?” Fresh pineapple? It’s delicious! That is what an anti-inflammatory food good for the blood, digestion and colds tastes like. What you eat is important. Fresh, hydrating foods contain the nutrients of life. What you don’t eat is important too! Junky, fried foods will eventually zap all your energy and create more cravings for bad food. Don’t be afraid to turn over a new leaf and try a “healthy” food you may have been scared of before! Even if it’s one new thing per week, it’s a step you can take towards feeling better for yourself, your spouse or your family. Live life! Eat well! Choose health!