Superfood Confusion

The health industry sure does love the term "Superfood" doesn't it?

The Superfood phenomenon has brought us such nutrition heroes as chia seeds, kale and goji berries. While all three of those foods are wonderful and incorporating new nutrient dense foods into your diet is an excellent thing, the whole Superfood Nation that we've created has both its pros and its cons.

Superfoods

I'm writing this article to help clear up a few things.

I want to assist you in deciphering between the helpful messages and marketing ploys, understand how to apply new nutritional knowledge to your life and point out common pitfalls.

Remember that food companies are in business to make money. 

Therefore, it will never take long for a food company to seize a marketing opportunity. As soon as a food gets labeled a "Superfood" that food can start popping up everywhere. Chefs start creating recipes featuring that food and processed food companies may try to incorporate some amount of that food into their ingredient list and then feature its inclusion prominently on the box. 

While learning how to cook with an unfamiliar food is a wonderful (and necessary) thing if someone wants to prepare a new food, one must bear in mind that "Superfoods" do not turn any dish into a magic elixir. Chia seeds are wonderful omega-3, protein-packed, fibrous little gems, and using them in a brownie batch means that your brownies may have a bit of extra nutritional value. If you are going to eat a brownie, eating a nutritionally superior brownie is a good decision, but you are still eating a brownie. A BROWNIE.  

Act accordingly.

Meaning: still treat that brownie like a dessert.

People get themselves into trouble by utilizing "Superfood" ingredients as a way to turn all of the accompanying ingredients into "Superfoods By Proxy." It doesn't work like that. The large amount of sugar in your brownies is still a large amount of sugar. Now, with that said, I think that finding ways to improve the nutritional quality of our desserts is an excellent thing. If we are able to up the protein, fiber and vitamin/mineral content of our desserts, then when we eat them, hopefully, we will be satisfied with smaller portions, our blood sugar won't spike as high and we may get some nutrition. 

Note the use of the words "AS HIGH" and "SOME" nutrition.

My point is that your souped-up brownie is still a calorie-dense, sugary, mostly nutritionally-devoid food. If you have an occasion where you want a brownie (because, yes, I'm not here to suck the fun out of life) then eating a better brownie is great. But if you were not going to indulge in a sugary treat and instead thought "but it has chia seeds so now it's a health food!" you have missed the mark. 

Adding "Superfoods" to desserts and nutritionally-devoid foodstuffs does not turn them into health foods. It just makes them SLIGHTLY better than their typical counterparts.

That is probably the most common pitfall that we make when dealing with "Superfoods" or any healthier swap situation. The confusion that a food's health value is a matter of a simple grading process where less healthy ingredients are voided by combining them with a healthy ingredient. Not so. 

The good news is that all that is required is a tweaking of how you are viewing food. 

The trick is to remember that "Superfoods" or any healthier option is simply an UPGRADE of the same thing.

Using natural sugars instead of white sugar is an excellent upgrade. AND we are still talking about sugar. Maple syrup, raw honey, dried fruit all fall under the category of natural sugars that are vastly superior to white sugar, but they have not ceased to be sugar. Snacking on dried fruit is better than snacking on cake, but both are still in the dessert category.

Let me repeat that: Dried fruit is akin to a sweetener or dessert.

If you want to sweeten your granola or eat a dessert, then adding some raisins or eating some dried figs is a great choice. But, you have still added sugar to your breakfast and eaten dessert. As long as you recognize this, and therefore adjust your future choices accordingly, then you are all good. If instead, you think you have only added "nutritional value" to your breakfast and consumed a health-food snack, you are bound to end up consuming too much sugar (and too many calories) over time, leading to blood sugar imbalances, weight gain, and other health concerns.

Viewing foods properly is key. Speaking of which...

Working out and coconut water/ sports drinks

OKAY. Listen up folks because this is another classic case of misperception.

First of all, sports drinks are sugar water. There are also some electrolytes, but mainly it's sugar water. That is the original point of them! If you are running a marathon or playing professional soccer then your body is burning fuel at a very high rate; during this INTENSE activity your body may become depleted and need additional glucose to perform at its highest level. In that situation sugar water is useful because it is easily absorbed by the body and able to be utilized as energy right away. If you are in the middle of a soccer game this is ideal. 

Unfortunately, a lot of sports drinks have a bunch of added chemicals and crap that give them crazy bright colors or make them taste fruity (you know, in a completely not-real-fruit kind of way). Therefore, coconut water has come out as a great alternative to classic sports drinks because it is lacking in these additives and BONUS has decent mineral content. If you are a professional athlete, I recommend coconut water during/after events if needed.

Most of us, however, are not exercising at that high a level.

If you are working out for an hour or less you do NOT need to consume extra calories in order to get your body through it.

And that is what you are doing by consuming either coconut water or sports drinks. Your body has a system for burning fuel. It can get you through a basic 45-60 minute workout. And your electrolytes should be fine as well. Possible exceptions involve extreme sweating situations, such as with hot yoga or working out in heat. Adding a small pinch of sea salt to your water can be a good option if you find yourself excessively sweating. 

Drink water

And before you think the sports drink companies have a solution to this issue, let me stop you. EVEN WORSE are "diet" sports drinks with less calories. That is some serious ridiculousness right there. Those "diet" sports drinks are just a marketing ploy attempting to sell sports drinks to people who work out moderately.

Hmm...people who work out moderately...sound like a LARGE demographic?

Yep, the companies thought so too. Once, they caught on that people working out to lose weight or maintain health realized that sports drinks weren't increasing their calorie burn enough to counter the calories they were now drinking, the sports drink companies decided to hit the market with "diet" versions. They contain crappy chemicals and artificial sweeteners. There is absolutely no point to them. If you are performing strenuous physical activity, you will benefit more from the regular versions (although I'd still recommend coconut water over them). If you aren't trying to maintain your peak performance during major prolonged activity, then you don't need any special drink. The best "diet" sports drink is WATER. If you want "extra energy" to get through a typical workout designed for general health or weight loss, try a B-complex vitamin. That will actually assist your body in making ATP, your cells' energy source. 

How should we incorporate "Superfoods" into our lives?

By remembering that they are just upgrades.

Eating a varied, whole foods diet is key to great health, so incorporating kale, chia seeds and goji berries into your diet is great. If you make trail mix with dried fruit or chocolate for some sweetness and want to upgrade to goji berries, great! But, don't go out and buy goji berry juice when you weren't already drinking juice because you think it is a health drink. (And you know how I feel about juice.)

Coconut water is a great upgrade to traditional sports drinks when necessary. It is also an upgrade to most fruit juice. It is NOT an upgrade to water. 

Kale is freaking wonderful! But putting some kale into chocolate chip cookies (it has happened) doesn't make them stop being cookies. Sneaking vegetables into foods that you were going to eat anyway is cool, but don't let it be an excuse to eat food you wouldn't have normally eaten. 

Allow the term "Superfood" to encourage you to try cooking with spices, such as turmeric, that you may not have previously used. Try new vegetables, new fruits, different grains. But don't throw all of your knowledge about appropriate portion size, or what a dessert is, out the window because you are using a "Superfood." 

Many of my raw desserts contain raw cacao, which is often considered a superfood. I agree. Raw cacao is great. But I still consume my raw brownie as a sweet treat. I shouldn't start eating raw brownies by the pound because they contain raw cacao. 

Understand? Excellent.

 

photo credit: source
Comment /Source

Katie Dawn Habib

Katie Dawn Habib is a Holistic Nutrition Coach with a M.S. in Nutrition and Integrative Health. By combining her nutrition knowledge with a love of writing, Katie created her own website, The Hungry Gypsy, where she talks about food, nutrition, wellness and travel. On her site you can also find information about her nutrition coaching practice and join in on the conversations. Katie would like to contribute in some small way to global healing and help her clients and readers feel inspired.

Common Diet Mistakes Part 1

There are umpteen articles written about everyday eating habits that people regularly make that are sabotaging their health (or weight-loss efforts, or any other precise wellness goal).

Sometimes these articles include incredibly helpful information about easy swaps (or the new "it" term: diet HACKS. We seem to really love the work "hack" these days) that we can make to better ourselves without a lot of effort.

Lack of effort seems to be key.

While this makes perfect sense, with our busy schedules and complex lives, it sure does place our food and eating habits way down on the priority totem pole.

I'm all for easy and manageable, but I'm also for recognizing that a big part of how we got here was by turning what and how we eat into an afterthought or annoyance.

Food is a necessity of life. It is one of the things that connects all human beings. We have to eat. Therefore, I think it behooves us to concern ourselves with the quality of our food: how it is grown, prepared and the impact that it has on our health.

With that in mind, I'm writing this article in multiple parts. First, I will provide some easy steps/swaps that do make a difference without requiring much lifestyle change. Then I will talk about some actual lifestyle modifications that will really shape your relationship to your food.


PART 1: 5 Easy Diet Modifications

Healthy snacks, food swaps

USE APPROPRIATE FATS

Perhaps one of the easiest changes to make is to swap out any crappy oils and fats that you are currently using and simply use healthy, high quality ones that are meant for what you are doing. This means ditching trans fats and using only high heat oils when you are cooking at high temperatures. If you need a lovely list of oils/fats and their temperature range click here. Essentially there are oils you cook with and oils you toss with. These are what I recommend:

  • For heat: coconut oil, avocado oil, ghee or butter
  • For low/no heat: olive oil, walnut oil, almond oil, sesame oil, truffle oil

Pitch all of your ambiguous "vegetable oils" as they are surely trans fats. Say NO to stupid butter replacements, they are often full of rancid oils and trans fats. You are much better off buying real butter. Grass-fed, ideally.

Fat is important to do right. Most fat bypasses the liver and goes directly into our lymph after we digest it, meaning that toxins in fat are potentially more dangerous than water-soluble toxins. Buy organic as much as possible. 

In addition to cooking properly with fat:

DON'T BE AFRAID OF FAT

Quit buying low-fat versions of things. Buy the full-fat version. If something is meant to contain fat and a company is trying to reduce the fat content, it will replace it with sugar. It then becomes a double whammy because now you are consuming twice the sugar without the fat present to slow down the absorption rate. Hello blood sugar spike! Your poor body's insulin will be in overdrive.

Yes, the full-fat versions will contain more calories. Adjust your portion sizes accordingly. But you should feel more satiated and your blood sugar won't spike. Plus, I mean, come on- it will taste better too.

In case this needs repeating: the fat-fearful age of the 1980's and 90's needs to go away now! We know that was a big mistake. It skyrocketed obesity in this country. Go back to eating food in it's original form, not some bastardized low-fat version. Eat real food.

DRINK WATER

Seriously people. Cool it with the sugary sodas, juices and "coffee" that is really a milk shake. A soda is not a thirst quenching beverage- it is a dessert. Let's be clear: soda is terrible for us and offers absolutely no nutritional value other than containing calories. Diet soda is worse. While it may be low in calories, the effect of the chemical cocktail on our bodies is worse than regular soda. If you occasionally want to consume a regular soda as a treat, fine. But recognize that it is a dessert item, not a beverage akin to water.

Juices are pretty terrible too. Unless you are drinking freshly squeezed juice (ideally of a vegetable variety) then you are essentially just drinking sugar. Yes, freshly pressed green juices have a lot of nutritional value, but store-bought apple juice does not. The vitamins degrade over time and store juices are pasteurized. In other words: the vitamin content is low while the sugar content is high. Lose the store-bought juice; instead, drink water and eat a piece of fruit.

Oh, and moderate amounts of coffee and tea are great, but a frappuccino and chai latte from Starbucks are, once again, dessert items. If you drink coffee and tea daily, ditch the sugar, or at least reduce it. If you don't like coffee without a massive amount of sugar and flavorings, you don't like coffee. Choose an alternate beverage. And if you don't like coffee, but "need" the caffeine, then there are a few options: fix your schedule and get more sleep (sorry, I realize that falls under the lifestyle section), try tea (there are lots of flavored teas that are flavored with fruit and spices, not sugar) try a B-complex in the morning (but not 5 Hour Energy- that thing is full of crap. Buy an actual B-complex vitamin), don't have a sugary breakfast- that will prevent the spike and crash.

GIVE UP THE NOTION OF A HEALTHY BAGGED SNACK

I'm really sorry to break it to you, but none of the snacks in the processed snack aisle are good for you. None of them. I don't care what claims a box or bag are making, but the chips, pretzels, popcorn, crackers etc. are NOT health food. The only possible exception are kale chips and other raw food snacks that are very expensive and only in health food stores. If you have the funds, then sure: buy containers of raw kale chips. But any classic processed-grain-based snack is not healthy for you. Act accordingly. 

Since we are not yet into the lifestyle section where I can talk about snack preparation at home, let's focus on what you can just buy that is a healthy snack:

Crunchy

  • Vegetables and hummus
  • Pickles, sauerkraut, kimchi
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Edamame
  • WHOLE FOOD fruit and nut bars. (No crazy additives, just whole food ingredients.)
  • Kale chips or other raw food snacks (generally pricey)
  • Dark chocolate (in moderation and I'm talking 55+% cacao)

Creamy

  • Fruit and nut butters (I guess this can be crunchy or creamy)
  • Yogurt
  • Cheese (REAL cheese only. No weird ingredients.)
  • Applesauce (No sugar added)

I doubt many of those were particularly new, but tough poo. If you are looking for snacks without the prep, then you already know the deal: fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds are the main thing. Snacking can be a great opportunity to up your veggie and fruit intake, or to eat a bunch of crap. Either make the swap or consider limiting your snacking.

WHOLE GRAIN OVER WHITE

I'm guessing you've already heard about this, but plenty of people still buy the white stuff so here I go:

BUY WHOLE GRAINS INSTEAD OF THE WHITE STUFF.

In general, Americans eat too many grains, so if you can back off of the grains and swap them out for vegetables, even better. But, in the very least, if you are buying breads and pastas etc. buy the whole grain version. Even better, buy non-wheat whole grains to add variety to your diet and up your overall nutrition. Try millet, quinoa, buckwheat (it's not a wheat), farrow, barley, oats, rye, spelt, brown rice, red rice, black rice, wild rice, amaranth, teff....I could go on. Swap out your same-old white rice or pasta for something else and reap the fiber and vitamin rewards.

continuing on with grains:

SWAP OUT YOUR BREAKFAST CEREAL

Breakfast cereals, even ones without marshmallows, are highly processed. But let's use the good, better, best model. Below is a spectrum of breakfast cereals on a list from least desirable to best.  These are just examples to give you an idea. Insert your current breakfast cereal choice as best you can. Then, no matter where you are starting from, swap your current choice for something at least one rung down.

  • Pure Sugar Cereal. (There are marshmallows, the theme is that it tastes like a chocolate candy, or everything is frosted.)
  • Highly processed cereal, but less added sugar (maybe it boasts being "whole grain" or having a lot of fiber but ultimately still super processed)
  • Quick Oatmeal (less processed than traditional cereals, but the quick version is still somewhat processed in order to cook so quickly.)
  • Slow cooking oats (Old fashioned or Steel Cut)
  • Chia seed "cereal" with choice of milk and other goodies (such as fruit, nuts/seeds, cinnamon etc.)

The last option is a great unprocessed breakfast that still has the classic "cereal" presentation. Of course, if you are also willing to think outside the bowl and work with eggs, smoothies, yogurt, my grain-free pancakes, fruit, vegetable scrambles, etc. EVEN BETTER.

I hope those swaps seem doable and helpful.

Although, to be fair, I think that lifestyle is very important. If you are always eating on the run, choosing a better option at the store is a good hack, but meal planning and prep are key too. Those are coming up in Part 2.

Foods for Winter Wellness

Colds and influenzas are common in the winter months. They are not, however, inevitable, and if you do find yourself under the weather, it doesn't have to be a long suffering experience.  If you support your immune system you will find that you can get through annoying illnesses much faster and maybe even avoid them all together.  

Winter foods.jpg

Some great foods for aiding in relief and prevention of colds:

  • Garlic
  • Turmeric
  • Ginger
  • Raw honey 

1. Raw garlic is a tough one for people, but if you can manage to eat some raw garlic when you start to feel the onset of something, or simply have spent your day in a office with sick people, it can work wonders.  I chew it and eat it like a badass, which sucks, but I think works better (maybe I'm kidding myself, but I've heard it releases more of the medicinal properties) but you can also chop it into small pieces and swallow it. 

2. A tea made of hot water with turmeric and ginger powders with some raw honey is great for chest congestion.

3. Eat nutrient dense foods.  Cooking and eating for immunity means consuming a large variety of micronutrients to support your body's functions.  It also means making it easier on your digestive system by properly preparing your grains and legumes.  It's amazing how many people don't think that they can eat grains and/or beans and it is because they don't know how to properly prepare them.  For tips on preparing beans, visit one of my earlier posts entitled Don't Fear the Bean.

Grains also need to be presoaked.  I know that this is a less talked about topic, but many grains contain phytates that can inhibit digestion and absorption.  Soaking grains in water with something acidic (ex. 2 T of vinegar or lemon juice) will do the trick.  A few hours to overnight is ideal, but even a last minute 30-60 minutes is better than nothing.  Strain the grains and use fresh liquid when cooking.  As an added bonus: your cooking time will decrease if you've presoaked.

(There is also the kefir/buttermilk/yogurt option which I personally like, but I imagine freaks some people out.  If you want to soak your oatmeal in kefir, buttermilk or yogurt, be sure to cover it!)

Another great option is sprouting your grains or beans.  Mung beans are especially great for sprouting and grains such as quinoa and buckwheat are great for beginners.  Sprouted grains/legumes are much more easily digestible and super easy.  Initially soak your grains/legumes in cool water for a few hours - overnight.  Then drain them in a mesh strainer.  Keep them in the strainer, and 4 times a day or so, take the strainer to the sink, rinse them in cool water and set them aside.  Little tails will start to form within a day or two.  Voilà! Sprouted. You can let them keep going and create full-on sprouts, or leave it and cook with them immediately.

4.  Another thing to keep in mind is eating seasonally and intuitively.  Most people want warming stews over raw salads in the winter.  This natural inclination does not need to be fought.  I'm not saying to abandon fruits and vegetables, not at all, but prepare them in a way that feels good to you.  Winter squashes, roots and tubers are very appropriate for this time of year and actually have nutrient profiles that support our bodies in the colder months. 

Comment

Katie Dawn Habib

Katie Dawn Habib is a Holistic Nutrition Coach with a M.S. in Nutrition and Integrative Health. By combining her nutrition knowledge with a love of writing, Katie created her own website, The Hungry Gypsy, where she talks about food, nutrition, wellness and travel. On her site you can also find information about her nutrition coaching practice and join in on the conversations. Katie would like to contribute in some small way to global healing and help her clients and readers feel inspired.

Label Overload

So many labels, what do they all mean?  

There are way more labels out there in food-world than I could possibly hope to go over, but I can at least hit some of the big ones.  The big thing to understand is the basic concept of what labels actually mean, and what they don't.

all-natural-label.jpg

Before you get completely overwhelmed by the vast array of tiny designs that can appear on foods, first understand this: descriptive words that are not an actual label are part of a marketing campaign. They are not well mediated or well substantiated.  For example: "made with whole grains" or "supports your child's immunity" don't really mean much.  There may be some whole grains in the product, or it may contain some amount of vitamin C, but the implication they are trying to give probably doesn't align with reality.  Bear in mind, they haven't actually tested whether or not eating their crappy processed food improves health.  They know that a particular nutrient is associated with health, so they pumped some of that one nutrient into an otherwise completely terrible "food" and are now using it to make a health claim.  DO NOT BE FOOLED BY MARKETING PLOYS.

An actual label, on the other hand, must be obtained through a certification process. Whichever certifying board is responsible for each label will have their own rules that must be met.  When a food or product has been validated, it will be able to display that label on its packaging (or as a sticker), thus informing you, the consumer, that the certifying body guarantees that the product meets their standards. 

And one more point before we get into some specific labels, the following are words that are not verified and therefore can pretty much be claimed by anything that isn't an obvious lie: Natural and Sustainable. Sorry folks, neither one of those words is truly regulated.  With that said, lots of products that claim to use sustainable practices actually do, so do your own research with those.  As for natural, companies seem to love that word a little too much for my comfort.  Get to know your companies!

Also, animal related terms to know:

Cage free: There really isn't third party regulation.  The implication is that the birds are not in cages, but usually they are kept in extremely overcrowded, dark warehouses.

Free Roaming/Free Range: Defined for poultry meat only.  The USDA regulates that they must have access to the outdoors.  Of course, whether or not they actually go outdoors, and how much time or space they have is unregulated.  For laying hens (eggs) the term free range is not regulated.

Pastured: No legal definition or verification.  The implication is the animals were raised on pasture, but  the claim is unverified.

Grass Fed: There are multiple definitions. Note that the USDA grassfed logo allows cattle to be confined on feedlots with cut grass shipped in on trucks.  The American Grassfed Association logo verifies that the animals were raised on pasture, without confinement, antibiotics or added hormones.

Humane: It implies the use of humane practices, but it is completely unregulated.

 

Now, onto some Common Labels:

NonGMO.jpeg

Referring to Non-Genetically Modified Organisms (common ones being corn, soy, canola, beet sugar). Products must be deemed compliant with the Non-GMO Project Standard.  They require testing of all ingredients that are being grown commercially in GMO form. They have an Action Threshold of 0.9%, which is the same as laws in the European Union.

Certified_Gluten_Free_Logo.jpg

Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley and rye that some people have an allergy or sensitivity to.  The Gluten-Free Certification Organization is an independent service that conducts field inspections to verify that products are truly gluten-free. 

 

green-coffee-fair-TP-lg-2131356.jpg

The Fair Trade certification is designed and audited to ensure equitable trade practices at every level of the supply chain. To earn a license from Fair Trade USA in order to use the Fair Trade Certified™ label on their products, companies must buy from certified farms and organizations, pay Fair Trade prices and premiums and submit to supply chain audits.

usdaorganic.gif

This is the major one so here's the story:

According to the USDA: Organic is a labeling term that indicates that the food or other agricultural product has been produced through approved methods. These methods integrate cultural, biological, and mechanical practices that foster cycling of resources, promote ecological balance, and conserve biodiversity. Synthetic fertilizers, sewage sludge, irradiation, and genetic engineering may not be used.

Crop Farms:

(They must have 3 years with no application of prohibited materials before being declared Organic)

  • Implementation of an Organic System Plan, with proactive fertility systems; conservation measures; environmentally sound manure, weed, disease, and pest management practices; and soil building crop rotation system
  • Use of natural inputs and/or approved synthetic substances on the National List
  • No use of prohibited substances while certified
  • No use of genetically engineered organisms (GMOs)
  • No sewage sludge or irradiation
  • Use of organic seeds, when commercially available
  • Use of organic seedlings for annual crops
  • Restrictions on use of raw manure and compost
  • Maintenance of buffer zones, depending on risk of contamination
  • No residues of prohibited substances exceeding 5% of the EPA tolerance

For livestock operations:

  • Implementation of an Organic Livestock Plan
  • Mandatory outdoor access, when seasonally appropriate
  • Access to pasture for ruminants
  • No antibiotics, growth hormones, slaughter byproducts, or GMOs
  • 100% organic feed and approved feed supplements
  • Sound animal husbandry and preventative health care
  • Organic management from last third of gestation or 2nd day after hatching
  • No rotating animals between organic and non-organic management

Single Ingredients

On foods like fruits and vegetables, look for a small sticker version of the USDA Organic label or check the signage in your produce section for this seal. The word "organic" and the seal may also appear on packages of meat, cartons of milk or eggs, cheese, and other single-ingredient foods.

Multi-Ingredient Foods

Foods such as beverages, snacks, and other processed foods use the following classification system to indicate their use of organic ingredients.

100% Organic: Foods bearing this label are made with 100% organic ingredients and may display the USDA Organic seal. 

Organic: These products contain at least 95–99% organic ingredients (by weight). The remaining ingredients are not available organically but have been approved by the National Organic Program. These products may display the USDA Organic seal.

Made With Organic Ingredients: Food packaging that reads “Made With Organic Ingredients” must contain 70–94% organic ingredients. These products will not bear the USDA Organic seal; instead, they may list up to three ingredients on the front of the packaging.

Other: Products with less than 70% organic ingredients may only list organic ingredients on the information panel of the packaging. These products will not bear the USDA Organic seal.

 

Of course, here is the ultimate tip for avoiding getting overwhelmed by packaging: buy very few things that actually have packaging.  I get that some whole foods come in packaging: bread, eggs, spices, grains etc. But generally those packages are mostly transparent and therefore not quite as overwhelming as, say, a cereal box. Boxed, processed foods are a marketing division's dream.  The entire point of processed foods is to purchase large quantities of cheap commodity ingredients, process them in various ways, and then charge a huge markup for "added value."  How do they inform you of just how much "value" they've added? By plastering claims and cute cartoons all over the packaging.  These are marketing devices.  The claims they make are typically unsubstantiated and loosely regulated.  For the real story, read the ingredients list. Those are really the only words that matter.  But again, if you are buying, say, a squash, there isn't any packaging to be found.  Between a box and a squash: go with the squash.   

Yes, to further complicate things, if you are rockin' and simply want to decide between various good things: do you buy organic or local or fair trade? I say ideally buy as much organically grown food as possible.  Hopefully, it will be labeled, but if you know your farmer and he isn't certified but adheres to organic practices, buy it.  Aim for local and in season as much as possible.  (I love buying local, it's the easiest way to know your farmer. But if that farmer sprays lots of pesticides and plants gmo crops- no way! That means he's selling contaminated food AND contaminating my water supply!) For imports from countries with poor working conditions, buy fair trade.  But to be fair, as long as you are deciding between organic versus local produce instead of Lucky Charms versus Fruit Loops, you deserve a massive shout out because you are awesome and I'll call it a WIN either way!

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Katie Dawn Habib

Katie Dawn Habib is a Holistic Nutrition Coach with a M.S. in Nutrition and Integrative Health. By combining her nutrition knowledge with a love of writing, Katie created her own website, The Hungry Gypsy, where she talks about food, nutrition, wellness and travel. On her site you can also find information about her nutrition coaching practice and join in on the conversations. Katie would like to contribute in some small way to global healing and help her clients and readers feel inspired.

Nutrient Dense

A common theme among eating these days seems to be volume.  Eating large portions of low calorie food.  Sometimes large portions of high calorie food.  Yet, in either case, those foods are almost always nutrient deplete.  It's a modern phenomenon: the overweight and malnourished.  It's becoming incredibly common these days, though.  Perhaps, it is part of the cause of the obesity epidemic.  People are malnourished even though they are consuming a large quantity of calories.  ALL CALORIES ARE NOT CREATED EQUAL.  You need a wide variety of vitamins and minerals for your body to properly function.  If you are eating nutrient depleted foods, you are not consuming all the vitamins and minerals that your body needs even if you are consuming enough total calories.  

And let me tell you, folks, a simple multivitamin ain't gonna do the trick.  The vast complexities of food have yet to be discovered, so you are far better off eating a varied whole foods diet, than trying to get all your bodily needs in a pill.  Supplementation can be used to fill in specific gaps, but not as a substitute for good food.

The key to optimum health involves eating nutrient dense foods. What are nutrient dense foods?

  • Whole foods grown/caught/raised as nature intended.


What are NOT nutrient dense foods?

  • Highly processed foods
  • Foods pumped full of chemicals and/or hormones
  • Animal products raised in unnatural, contaminated environments
  • Fruits and vegetables doused in pesticides, herbicides and fungicides

For example, these ARE nutrient dense foods:

NutrientDense.jpg

These are NOT nutrient dense foods:

NutrientDeplete.jpg

In fact, those aren't food at all.

The key is to eat REAL FOOD.  Then, focus on eating a variety of real foods with a balance of protein, fat and carbohydrates.  There is no one correct percentage breakdown for all people when it comes to protein, fat and carbohydrates.  Different people thrive on different diets.  To find out what works best for you, work with a health care practitioner that can devise an eating plan that's right for YOU.  If you would like to work with me, check out my Work With Me page.  I can tell you, however, that with very few exceptions, you need some amount of all three.  Any diet that has you attempting to eliminate either fat, protein or carbohydrates is not a healthy diet. 

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Katie Dawn Habib

Katie Dawn Habib is a Holistic Nutrition Coach with a M.S. in Nutrition and Integrative Health. By combining her nutrition knowledge with a love of writing, Katie created her own website, The Hungry Gypsy, where she talks about food, nutrition, wellness and travel. On her site you can also find information about her nutrition coaching practice and join in on the conversations. Katie would like to contribute in some small way to global healing and help her clients and readers feel inspired.