There is no hiding the fact that humans are in the midst of an epidemic in chronic disease (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6). It seems like every time we turn around, friends, family members or people we know are being diagnosed with chronic health issues such as diabetes, obesity, autoimmune diseases, infertility or Alzheimer’s disease.
This may sound like doom and gloom, but this fate does not have to be our destiny. We have near total control of our health (7, 8), and this is VERY EMPOWERING! It is never too late to make changes to your diet & lifestyle to improve your health and wellbeing, even if you have a chronic disease.
I just want to mention that if you have been diagnosed with an inflammatory chronic disease, understand that it is not your fault. For over half a century, we have not been told the truth about what foods are healthy, and what foods are not healthy. These fallacies have wreaked havoc on our health.
Almost like a polar opposite, our Paleolithic ancestors did not develop the inflammatory chronic diseases that are so common today. It is true that the average lifespan of the Stone Age people was only 30 years, but our ancestors had challenges that are rare today, such as high infant and childhood mortality, surviving the elements, war and violence, and most importantly, a lack of acute medical care. If our ancestors lived past childhood, early adulthood, and into old age, they had lifespans similar to ours, but without developing any the chronic inflammatory and degenerative diseases that plague us today (9).
72% of the calories from the North American diet comes from dairy products, cereal grains, refined grains, refined sugars, industrial seed oils, and alcohol. None of these foods are particularly healthy or nutrient dense, and in fact can actually be quite harmful to our health. Also, our hunter-gatherer ancestors would rarely, or never have eaten these foods that we so commonly eat today (10).
Logic tells us that if we want to remain healthy and vibrant throughout our life, like our Paleolithic ancestors, we should try eating more like those before us who have shown to have lifelong excellent health…with the exception of a saber-tooth tiger encounter every once in a while.
The food you choose to eat can be either the safest and most powerful of medicine or the slowest form of poison. Now, I share with you the three steps to kick start your health. Substituting the three following foods for healthier options will have a big impact on improving your health.
NUMBER 1 – AVOID REFINED FLOURS
Grains and their refined flours, such as wheat, corn, rice, barley, oats, rye, and millet – have become staple foods in our modern diet. If you were to say the phrase “whole grains” to most people, the first word that probably comes to their mind is “healthy”.
But, Is this really true? Are grains a healthy food?
First of all, plants are smart. Because they cannot move, they have protective mechanisms embedded within. These protective mechanisms are especially present in the grain because this is the part of the plant which is meant to continue the species.
Grains may appear nutritious on paper, but when it comes to real life digestion this simply is not true. Grains contain substances such as phytates, which bind to minerals, preventing their absorption. The nutrients that grains do contain, are not highly bioavailable to us, meaning it is difficult for our bodies to digest, absorb and utilize these nutrients.
Also, grains such as wheat, barley, spelt and rye contain gluten, and gluten is very damaging to the gut. Dr. Alessio Fasano, who is a world-renowned gastroenterologist and research scientist discovered that gluten triggers the production of a protein called Zonulin….in everyone (not just people with Celiac disease or gluten sensitivity). The presence of Zonulin causes the intestinal wall to become excessively permeable (12, 13). This is called intestinal permeability, or “leaky gut”.
A healthy gut is selectively permeable, allowing vitamins, minerals, amino acids, and fatty acids through into the bloodstream. When the gut becomes excessively permeable, as in “leaky gut” large particles of food and bacteria are able to enter your bloodstream, which has been shown to trigger inflammation and autoimmune reactions. Dr. Fasano actually states that intestinal permeability is one of the three factors necessary to develop an autoimmune disease (the other two include having a genetic predisposition and an environmental trigger).
It would be wise for anyone living with an autoimmune condition to eliminate all gluten from their diet and work on healing their gut.
Flours, in particular, are especially problematic.
I am going to introduce to you the idea of cellular carbohydrates vs acellular carbohydrates.
Cellular carbs are carbohydrates from a whole food, such as a potato, an orange, or a yam. These carbohydrates are contained in fiber-walled living cells and are therefore a low-density carbohydrate.
On the other hand, acellular carbs include refined flour and refined sugar. These carbohydrates are no longer held within a fiber walled living cell. For this reason, acellular carbohydrates, and whole grains are much more carbohydrate dense than cellular whole carbs.
Traditional hunter-gatherers, who were free of the chronic diseases that are so common today, would have rarely consumed acellular carbohydrates. Some researchers have even speculated that our modern excessive intake of acellular carbohydrates has been a major contributing factor in the obesity and diabetes epidemic (14).
There are much healthier and tastier alternatives to grains! These include starchy tubers such as yams, potatoes, Jerusalem artichokes and sweet potatoes, also squash, taro, cassava, plantain, and fruits. You haven’t lived till you have had cassava fries….so good!!
If you are stuck for dinner ideas, google “grain-free__________ recipe” . There are so many wonderful grain-free recipes online, and many excellent grain-free recipe books. My favorite books are Practical Paleo, Make it Paleo and Nom Nom Paleo.
Wonderful pasta alternatives include spaghetti squash and Zoodles (spiralized zucchini). So much healthier, and dang tasty too!!
**A little side note: Upon harvest, all non-organic wheat is sprayed with glyphosate (Monsanto’s Roundup); this is called desiccation. When sprayed at this point in its life, the glyphosate concentrates in the grain, rather than the leaf or stalk of the wheat plant. If you do choose to eat wheat, ensure it is organic to avoid ingesting glyphosate. It is a crime that glyphosate is used in food production.
NUMBER 2 – CUT REFINED SUGAR
The negative health impact of eating too much sugar has been getting a great deal of attention in the media lately and for a good reason.
First of all, refined sugar is a dense acellular carbohydrate, and I just explained why we might want to avoid those.
Refined sugar in the form of sugary sodas and pops are especially problematic. Pops are sweetened with high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), which has been linked to diabetes, obesity and nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (15, 16, 17).
Pop can be addictive, and if you are trying to quit but you feel like you need one, choose a healthier option such as Zevia. Zevia is sweetened with stevia, so it won’t cause all the health problems HFCS sweetened pops do.
Healthier alternatives to white sugar include honey, maple syrup, date sugar and coconut sugar. With one caveat, these alternatives are still sugars and should be used in moderation. But we all know its nice to have a treat once in a while!
If you are wondering about whole fruit, it is a cellular carbohydrate, so it gets a green light!
NUMBER 3 – TRASH INDUSTRIAL SEED OILS
If you have canola, corn, cottonseed, sunflower or safflower seed oil sitting in your cupboard at home, I recommend putting it in the trash right now. Industrial seed oils are not fit for human or even animal consumption.
These oils are very rich in omega-6 fatty acids. Although omega-6 fats are an essential fatty acid, meaning we do need to obtain it from our diet, we do not need much. The typical North American diet greatly exceeds the necessary intake of omega-6 fats. This promotes chronic inflammation in our bodies (20). Chronic inflammation contributes to the ever-so-common inflammatory diseases, such as heart disease, cancer, autoimmune disease and diabetes (21, 22, 23).
Omega-6 fats are also a polyunsaturated fat, meaning they are very unstable and prone to oxidization. This is important because rancid, or oxidized oils are very inflammatory. There is a good chance that a brand new bottle of canola oil is rancid before it even makes it to the kitchen. This is a double hit of inflammation from industrial seed oils (24, 25).
To add the third hit of inflammation; high heat and nasty chemicals such as hexane, bleach, and deodorizers are used in the manufacturing of these oils (26).
I can’t stress enough, how inflammatory industrial seed oils are. Even if they are organic, avoid them like the plague.
There are many healthy alternatives to industrial seed oils. These include:
- Monounsaturated fats such as olive oil, macadamia nut oil, and avocado oil. These fats are much more stable and less prone to oxidization than polyunsaturated fats, therefore not inflammatory. Extra virgin olive oil, in particular, is very rich in antioxidants. If you want to test your olive oil’s antioxidant level, take a little sip of it. If it is rich in antioxidants it should tingle or almost burn the back of your throat. If there is no tingle or burn, try a different brand next bottle. Monounsaturated oils are great for salad dressing and homemade mayonnaise.
- Saturated fats such as lard & tallow (from healthy, humanely & pasture-raised animals), coconut oil, ethically sourced palm oil, and pasture-raised butter or ghee. Saturated fats are ideal for cooking because they are very stable, and not prone to oxidization or rancidity, and have a much higher smoke point than monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats.
GIVE IT A TRY!
Why not try making these three dietary switcheroos? What have you got to lose?
If it is difficult at first, I promise it becomes easier after 4 to 7 days, when you start seeing results. Do not think of these modifications as a diet either, because it is not. It is switching unhealthy foods for much healthier versions. A diet invokes a sense of restriction, whereas this is not.
If you commit to these switches, my bet is that you will feel much more vibrant, healthier, clearer and lighter after just 30 days!
I WOULD LIKE TO HEAR FROM YOU!
Have you swapped these three foods for healthier options in your diet?
Lindsay Rusk Health is a dedicated resource for people who are interested in health and improving their health. Therefore, this post may contain affiliate links. These links add no extra cost to you. I recommend products and brands that I personally use for myself or my family. For more information, see my Terms + Disclosure.