Physical health and well-being is the foundation to living our best lives. When we feel well, we do better in all aspects of what we do. Making the decision to make better choices may be an easy one- but where to begin is what can be difficult. We as a society didn’t get this way overnight. We’ve become more disconnected from our food with our busy modern lives now more than ever. Wellness is ultimately reestablishing a connection to our food, to our community, and to the earth. This is a guide to help bring awareness back to sourcing food and make mindful kitchen practices easier.
The best practice is to try to source our foods local and when possible, directly from the farmer. The more we support local organic or regenerative farmers the more we can create awareness to make these foods more available to everyone. Regenerative agriculture involves bringing soil back to life by supporting the microbiome in the soil and allowing crops and animals to co-exist in a way that mimics nature. Organic agriculture supports the health of the animals and the farmer by avoiding synthetic fertilizers and pesticides as well as GMO’s. These farming techniques are better for you, the animals, the farmers, and the environment than conventional farming.
This scenario isn’t always perfect where we can go directly to the source however, and that’s were learning to navigate the grocery store is important.
Grocery Store Tips
Proteins: Grass-fed, Pasture Raised, Organic
Beef, bison, and Lamb: Red meat is high in protein and contains important nutrients such as niacin, vitamins B6 and B12, zinc, selenium, and phosphorus. Look for grass-fed and finished (or 100% grassfed), this means the animals were pasture-raised and fed their natural diet free of grain and soy. Organic is second best, as these animals are typically still spend time outdoors and eat organic feed and weren’t given growth hormones or antibiotics.
Pork: Pasture raised pork is higher in Vitamin D as the animals were raised outdoors. Bonus if it’s labeled organic.
Poultry and Eggs: Pasture raised is higher in beta carotene and vitamins A and E. Look for pasture raised as that means the animals were free roaming outdoors and able to eat a more natural diet of insects, worms, and grasses (and its a bonus if its organic because that means antibiotic use is not permitted). Cage-free does not necessarily mean the animals were kept outside and may still be living in tight quarters. Buy poultry with skin and bones for more glycine and amino acids, as well as a cheaper price point!
Fish and Shellfish: Best practice is to find wild caught and sustainably sourced fish as they have less impact on the environment. The smaller the fish is better, as bigger fish have had more time to accumulate toxins and mercury. Shellfish are also a great source of trace minerals.
Dairy: grass-fed, pasture raised, organic, whole milk, cultured
Dairy is extremely nutrient dense for people who can tolerate it and is especially good for people who don’t consume other animal products whether by choice or because of sensitivities. It’s best to look for grass-fed if possible, and organic to avoid antibiotics and growth hormones. Whole milk is less processed than reduced fat and includes fat-soluble vitamins such as A, E, and K. The fat also helps reduce the glycemic index of milk. Raw milk is also allowed in some states and has the added bonus of keeping enzymes intact and has a supply of beneficial bacteria.
Cultured dairy has reduced lactose and is more tolerable for people with a sensitivity. Cheese, yogurts, kefir, and sour cream are also great sources for probiotics and micronutrients
Oils and Fats: are not created equal!
For millennia we consumed animal fats or cold pressed oils. Vegetables oils and hydrogenated fats are highly processed and have only widely became available at the turn of the 20th century.
Saturated Fats are the most stable and good to cook with. Some examples are butter, ghee, coconut oil, and tallow. Look for organic, pasture raised for fats and organic, fair traded, and sustainably sourced for oils. Monounsaturated is the next stable such as olive oil, palm oil, and duck fat.
Polyunsaturated fats (PUFAs) and processed seed oils such as canola, vegetable oil, soybean oil, corn oil, and cottonseed oil are highly unstable and susceptible to becoming rancid which then creates toxic free radicals.
These should be avoided and are often contained hidden in the ingredients list on packaged foods.
Fruits and Vegetables: Try to source Organic when possible
Fruits and vegetables provide so many vitamins and minerals as well as phytonutrients and antioxidants. Its best to try to source local and in season produce, as this will ensure more nutrient density as well as a much better flavor profile! Local is also better for the environment because it doesn’t have to be transported as far. If you are trying to budget and don’t want to buy everything organic, start with the EWG’s dirty dozen list, as these are the most sprayed conventional items.
-stainless steel pots and pans
-ceramic coated pans and cookware
-glass storage containers
-knives that are heavy and sharp (buy knives with a blade that goes through the handle)
-Plastic because it is an endocrine disruptor meaning it has an effect on your hormones, also not the best for the environment
-Telfon AKA “non stick”* because it uses a chemical called PFOA which is a known carcinogen, toxin, and endocrine disrupter
-aluminum because it is a neurotoxin
*If you own nonstick cookware, and are not in a place to buy new cookware, understand that the teflon coating only becomes toxic when scratched. Avoid high heat and using metal utensils when using teflon
Good flavor comes from including salts, fats, and acids as well as using difference textures of foods, and different serving temperatures.
sea salt, coconut aminos, fish sauce
butter, avocados, olive oil, ghee, coconut cream, tallow
apple cider vinegar, citrus/ limes, mustard, tomato paste, wine
HOW you eat is just as important as WHAT you eat
-Practice mindful eating by being present with your food and your company, don’t eat distracted or while multitasking
-Using raw honey and real maple syrup is best for sweeteners
-Try soaking, sprouted, and leavened grains & legumes
-Try raw full fat dairy
-Get your vitamins and minerals from whole foods as they will contain the proper cofactors for balanced nutrients (don’t stress about buying supplements yet)
-Produce is cheaper in season
Things to try to avoid:
-refined foods as they are processed and denatured
-soy products as they contain photo-estrogens
-MSG or mono sodium glutamate (can even be hidden as “natural flavors”)
-look on ingredients to avoid diasitol, BTA, BHA, Sulfites, BPA, and nitrates
-emulsifiers such as carageenan and polysorbate 80
-avoid dyes such as red #40, yellow #5, blue #6
-avoid refined table salts as they typically contain additives and are lacking in their mineral profile
Overall, just remember to eat whole foods, organic when possible, and avoid processed refined foods and oils. Switch things up by eating a variety of different things.
Keep cooking fun and don’t over think it! No one is a perfect eater. Remember stressing over what you eat is not healthy. Also, any small change in the right direction is still the right direction!
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