The "Natural" Choice

Article written by Daniel Max, Holistic Health Counselor, Yoga Instructor, Shiatsu Practitioner, owner of Sense of Self

Triathlon Nutrition When walking down the aisles of a supermarket it can be very confusing to figure out what we should eat in order to be maximally healthy. The shelves are stocked with edible food-like substances packaged in pretty boxes and decorated with endless amounts of “health claim” advertisements.

A box of cereal can have up to 15 health claims on its box while the unpackaged vegetable has none. Am I to understand from this that a processed cracker is by far the healthier choice?!

While the poor silent carrot sits in silence in the produce section, the sugary cereal is screaming in aisle four about its whole grain goodness. This might be good for business, but is it good for us?

If you’re concerned about your health, you should probably avoid most food products that make health claims. Such claims on a food product are a good indication that it’s not really food, it’s a scientific invention. Food is what you want to eat.

As a general rule of thumb: the more a food needs to be advertised, the less healthy it probably is for you.

To make things simpler, forget the advertised nutrients and look out for the hidden anti-nutrients. If nutrients help us live a healthy life, anti-nutrients are the substances that cause the opposite effect.

These anti-nutrients include:

  • Poor quality fats: Most packaged foods contain fats such as hydrogenated oil, partially hydrogenated oil, cottonseed oil and olestra. These are the fats that have given all fats an unjust reputation.
  • Poor quality sugar: Look out for ingredient names such as high fructose corn syrup, white sugar, glucose, Florida Crystals and ALL artificial sweeteners. Sugar is a cheap and addictive ingredient that some companies add to their products in order to boost sales.
  • Poor quality white flour: Most mass-produced breads, cookies, muffins, bagels, crackers, pastries, donuts and breakfast cereals are made from this highly processed flour. Similar to processed sugar, this food-like substance provides no nutrients. When we eat, we use some of our stored nutrient resources to digest our food. When eating white sugar and flour we get no nutrient resources in return. This leaves us more depleted of energy than we were before we ate.
  • Poor quality dairy: The meat and dairy industry in our country has reached a point where the animals are treated so inhumanly that they must be pumped with antibiotics and hormones in order to keep them alive. These added hormones, combined with the animals’ high level of natural stress hormones, are found in each of these products. Thankfully, due to customer demand, most supermarkets are now offering affordable organic milk, yogurt and cheese. You can also look to leafy greens, nuts and seeds for excellent sources of calcium.
  • Poor quality meat: This is the meat found in fast-food, processed meats (such as packaged cold cuts) and commercially produced hot dogs. Similar to the dairy industry, any meat that is not raised without the use of antibiotics and hormones is of low quality. Would you like a side of fries with your antibiotics?

The quality of your food defines the quality of your life. The food that you eat is broken down in your body and is used to build your cells and tissues. If you want to feel energized and alive you must build your body from foods that contain energy and life.

Foods that are alive have life force. They are often raw and will spoil if left out. Let’s put it this way; if microorganisms cannot thrive on it, what makes me think I can?

Foods that don’t go bad are usually already dead. They have had all life processed out of them and are packed with preservatives to keep them from decaying. Processing foods removes the natural elements of fiber, vitamins and minerals. Our cells need these nutritional elements to communicate with each other. When they are processed out of our foods, our systems are unable to function at their best. We start to fall apart both physically and emotionally. Our cells don’t just build our muscles and bones; what we consume feeds our brain cells, our nervous system and hormonal system.

If your cells are regenerating from processed foods alone, how healthy do you think you will feel? If you want your body and your every thought to vibrate with life force, you must feed it life, not science.

Who among us doesn’t love sweets?

The sweet flavor releases serotonin in our brains, the chemical responsible for our sense of well-being and contentment. But when it comes to sweeteners, not all are created equal. There are side effects and health risks from refined sweeteners like white table sugar and high fructose corn syrup, and from artificial sweeteners like NutraSweet, saccharin and Splenda. Because they have been stripped of vitamins, minerals and fiber, refined sweeteners can spike blood sugar. This can often lead to cravings and mood and energy fluctuations. Instead, if we use naturally and minimally processed sweeteners, we can reduce cravings for sugary things, level blood sugar ups and downs, stabilize moods and have a dramatically positive effect on long-term health.

Here are a few natural sweeteners to substitute in food, drinks and baking. Since they are all approximately 1.5 times sweeter than refined sugar, you can use less. These sweeteners can be found in most supermarkets or natural food stores. When replacing sugar with liquid sweeteners in a recipe, reduce the amounts of other liquids.

  • Raw Honey: Honey is one of the oldest natural sweeteners on the market. Depending on the plant source, honey provides a variety of flavors for you to choose from. Whenever possible, choose raw honey as a sweetener. Raw honey is unrefined and contains small amounts of enzymes, minerals, and vitamins.
  • Agave Nectar: Agave is made through the extraction and purification of the juice of the agave cactus. It does not stimulate insulin secretion as other sugars do, so it does not create a “sugar rush” and spares you from the “sugar crash.” It has a delightfully light and mild flavor.
  • Maple Syrup: Maple syrup is the concentrated extract of the sap of maple trees. It adds a rich, deep flavor to foods and drinks. Make sure to look for 100% pure maple syrup, not maple-flavored corn syrup. As with all sweeteners, organic varieties of maple syrup are best. Recommended Resources:


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