I HIGHLY recommend this book, by the way. HIGHLY. Oh. The book title. You might need that. Ha! What the Bible Says About Healthy Living by Dr. Rex Russell.
Now. Here's why I recommend it. Because at a time when it is SO confusing which foods are healthy, which foods are unhealthy, which foods are okay for us, which foods cause cancer/heart disease, which foods fight cancer/heart disease, etc. (and surely you'd agree that it is sometimes quite confusing...), this book clears things right up by simplifying your choices for you. The author uses biblical principles to reveal to you a standard one can actually LIVE by.
Does this book contain everything there is to know about the truths of food? Does it make your food choices a religious matter? (As in, your salvation depends on it?) NO WAY!!! Is it the end-all source of information? Of course not! But it's a great first step!! There have been many more steps along my journey, and there are many more to come, all of which I will certainly try to share with you. All in good time... I just thought I'd better take it slow. Just sort of ease you in to this wacky world that is my "foodie" lifestyle. (I guess I was hoping to sort of slide this in, appropriately "sandwiched" between pictures of my kiddos, so maybe you wouldn't notice the craziness this way. *grin*)
Anyway, we just have to be SOOOO careful these days. I mean, walk in Whole Foods and you'll immediately become overwhelmed if you don't know what you're doing. There's a lot of stuff in there! And it all seems so healthy. But you see? Just because it's in Whole Foods doesn't mean it's healthy!!! Just because it has the words "Natural" or "All-Natural" or "100% (whatever)" or "Organic" doesn't necessarily mean it's good for you. Be careful! Do your research. And read labels!
That's why this book is so great. It makes things pretty cut and dry, AND (here's the important part) it does NOT have a political/social/cultural agenda. It is solely based on what GOD instructed His people (the Israelites) to eat. The author has taken that list of foods and the converse list of unclean foods and then used scientific data, studies, and information to show why God instructed the people the way He did. Lo and behold!! He instructed them in those ways for specific reasons!!!! What?! God had reasons?? Why, yes He did! It was for their protection. Their health. For the sake of keeping their bodies (their temples) working the way He had created them to work. His dietary restrictions weren't part of some random list of rules God wanted to see if they would follow. Just to see if they really loved Him or not. (Hallelujah! That is not the kind of God we serve!)
The author suggests following three main principles in choosing what to eat and what to avoid:
1. Eat the foods God created for you.
2. Don't alter God's design.
3. Don't let any food or drink become your God.
It's a refreshingly simple plan. But...well, that knocks out a lot of what we find in the grocery store, does it not? Let's just take sweeteners, for instance. I'm sure you've seen the following ad on TV regarding the controversy about high fructose corn syrup (HFCS).
This ad was put out by the Corn Refiner's Association. It is 100% self-serving, as I'm sure you'd expect it to be. They do NOT care about the nation's health. They care about their profit margins. They want you to relax and QUIT reading labels, or at least not worry about a "food" when you see HFCS listed as an ingredient.
Now's here's why you should read the labels and why you should stay away from anything with HFCS involved in its makeup. In short, HFCS is 1) made from genetically-modified corn (scary, scary stuff), 2) it starts out as corn but is then treated with several chemical processes in a lab to get it to become something entirely different, 3) it has been medically linked to heart disease, diabetes, liver problems, and obesity, 4) it blocks the body's use of leptin which is what helps tell the brain when the body is full (in other words, you never know you're full so you just want to keep eating more), and 5) there is absolutely nothing good for you in it.
What about other sweeteners, though? Saccharin (found in Sweet 'N Low and...lots of other random things like over-the-counter medications and recently I even saw it listed as an ingredient in a cheap kids' chapstick!) is carcinogenic--you probably already know to stay away from it. Splenda is sucralose, a substance derived from real sugar, then modified by adding chlorine (CHLORINE!!) atoms. Yeah, doesn't sound too safe to me. And yet Splenda and other alternative sweeteners are regularly used in so-called "health" foods and in dieting programs--namely, Weight Watchers.
So many things we are assured to be healthy are, in fact, the direct opposite of that. A lot, even, of what's in the store at Whole Foods! Like agave nectar, for instance, which is yet another alternative sweetener. Heard of it?? You may have noticed it among the "healthy" blog sites or on the shelves in the "health food" stores. Well, beware. It's no better (maybe even worse) than the high fructose corn syrup mentioned above!! Read this to see why you should stay away from agave nectar.
And then there's aspartame (a.k.a. Nutrasweet)--I'm sure you already KNEW this, but if you or your loved-ones drink diet drinks, MAKE THEM STOP. NOW. Here's a must-see movie about aspartame. It's long. Like movie-length. So make plans right now to sit down one night after dinner, grab your husband, and y'all watch this movie together. Watch it. I command you!! (It's only 'cause I care.)
Long story short...when you start researching foods, where they come from, what is done to them before they get to the store shelves, and then what effects they can have on your body, you find out there's a lot going on behind closed doors that "they" don't want you to know about. Because then you might stop buying these foods, and "they" would lose money. And it's always all about the money!! And if you think this kind of corporate sneakiness, this avoidance of truth-telling, this getting around the FDA's regulations rarely happens, then you have obviously not seen Food, Inc. or King Corn. You need to...watch. them. In fact, I insist.
Check for them at your local library or Blockbuster or at Netflix. Actually, you can catch Food, Inc. on PBS TONIGHT at 8:00 CST for free!! Whatever. But just make it a priority. We've got to get serious here and take back control of our own health. The lobbyists for the food industry cannot win if we, as consumers, fight back!
Admittedly, there are hard parts to this whole "real food" journey:
1. All those recipes we've grown up with will need to be revised or trashed.
2. We've got to find and try out other, more healthful recipes.
3. We've got to source real food. And that is not always easy, especially in smaller communities.
4. We've got to do a little at a time or else we'll be hugely overwhelmed.
5. Our friends and family will probably think we're weird. (Unless they already do...)
6. We'll have a harder time eating out.
7. Meal preparation will take some thought and time. Certainly a good deal longer than grabbing a box of this or a can of that, opening it, and following a few simple instructions.
Now. Since I just made a list, I'm feeling like another one is in order. (I admit I have a problem...)
Top Ten Myths Regarding Healthy Food
1. I'll be healthier if I don't eat meat or other animal products.
2. I'll be healthier if I focus on eating a LOW FAT diet.
3. I'll be healthier if I use margarine rather than butter.
4. I'll be healthier if I drink diet and/or caffeine-free sodas.
5. I'll be healthier if I eat mostly raw or uncooked foods.
6. Pasteurized dairy (or no dairy) is healthier/safer/better than raw dairy.
7. Fruit juices are healthy for me.
8. I can more healthfully enjoy sugar-free candies and sweets as an alternative to regular desserts.
9. Convenience foods can be healthy, too.
10. With the advancement of medicine and food production in our country, we have the healthiest food in the world.
How about another list??? Why not? Come on....you can never have too many, right? (Hi. My name is Lori, and I am a Compulsive List-Maker. All together now: "Hi, Lori!")
Things to Start Doing
1. Read labels. On everything. If you can tell that the ingredients didn't come from nature, you shouldn't buy it. If "enriched flour" is listed, don't buy it. (What's wrong with our food that it needs to be "enriched" with something from a science lab??!! You know. Besides the fact, that during processing they strip out everything good for you and then have to add synthetic things back in.) If "high fructose corn syrup" (HFCS) is listed, put it back!! It's poison! If it contains any form of corn or soybean whatsoever, it is highly dangerous...because our nation's large food conglomerates have developed all sorts of ways to genetically modify our food (to make it pest-resistant and to make it grow bigger, faster) and that food in its current state is toxic to YOU!
2. Use real butter.
3. Do NOT (I repeat...Do NOT) use vegetable, canola, safflower, sunflower, etc. oils to cook with!!! In fact, don't use vegetable or canola oils for ANY reason!!
4. Use coconut oil for cooking.
5. Use olive oil for salads, etc. (not for high heat cooking!)
6. Buy (or make!!) only whole wheat bread (and make sure it doesn't contain HFCS).
8. Stop eating sugar. Just stop. White sugar is killing us ALL!!
9. Be CAREFUL about the milk/dairy you buy. You don't want antibiotics and hormones in the milk you give your kids. But you also don't want to cause all kinds of other issues by going the soy milk route! I highly recommend checking out the Weston A. Price Foundation website for information about what milk to buy and why.
Okay. I'm done with the lists. Whew! (Felt good, though.)
What about our children...??
Here's what I've noticed about kids' lunches at our homeschool academy. They contain nothing good for them. Nothing! The yogurt pouches?? Sugar, dyes and HFCS. The drink pouches? More sugar. The fruit cups?? The same. Lunchables??!? Oh, don't get me started. You just need to read this to know that these are quite possibly the LAST things you should be buying for your kids. (Mmmmm....yummy, huh?) Other kids bring potato chips (deep fried in vegetable oil) and crackers. And that's their whole lunch!!!!! Well, except for the candy bar or other such dessert! I sincerely wish I was making this up.
I've even taken informal polls in my class at Academy to see what the kids have had for breakfast and what all kinds of foods they like. Out of our eight students, only ONE claims to like eating broccoli or carrots. (I didn't even BOTHER to ask about squash or asparagus!) And that particular kid's mom is the one mom who sends organic foods, carrot sticks, cheese, etc. in his lunch. The rest of the kids made "yuck" noises in response to the various vegetables I mentioned. Even many of the fruits! Is it any wonder then that we have classrooms full of children with one diagnosable condition after another, behavior issues galore, and considerable lack of self-control/attentiveness?
It's not so much that I stand in judgment over the parents who send this junk. Let's face it! Our "trusty" food industry (with FDA's approval) has told us this food is good for us, and they've made it all quite accessible, convenient, and affordable (especially as compared to organic produce). Parents are just trying to feed their children and are doing the best they know how to do. But thanks to many factors that have taken place beneath the table, now I worry about our society as a whole if this is the way we are feeding our still-developing next generation.
Look. I know we are busy people. I know it's hard to find the time to do all the cooking those "convenience" foods take the place of. BUT. We are harming ourselves and our children when we succumb to the pressures of society. What's that? You say your child really LIKES those Lunchables? Even goes so far as to BEG for them?? Well...so what? Say no. Say you love him too much to poison him. If you must, don't take your child shopping anymore. Do whatever you need to do, but turn from the evil yellow box with the pretend food inside and give your child an organic apple and some pieces of raw cheese instead. Feed him a piece of whole wheat bread spread with real, sea-salted (mineral-rich) butter. Give him a hard-boiled pastured egg. How about some asparagus or broccoli or carrots or Brussels sprouts or kale?
I know this may be a lot to swallow, so to speak, but God gave us amazing bodies to care for, to nourish with foods from His creation. And when we don't, we are not being good stewards of those bodies. We can't live forever on this earth. Nor would we want to! And we DO live in a fallen world where people get sick, get terminal diseases, have painful conditions, and die. But we can at least do ourselves a favor and treat our bodies like the gifts that they are. (And y'all, I'm preaching to myself right now, as I still have so far to go on this journey and often throw my hands up from exhaustion and do the easy thing. AND besides that, I should totally get more sleep than I do!! Talk about not being a good steward...) Anyway, I'm all done. Really, I promise. Well......I mean......for now. (Don't forget to watch tonight on PBS!!)