Tri’bytes – Dr. T’s Top 5 Pearls of “Food Wisdom”
Whenever I speak about holistic medicine or “food as medicine,” I get this question often:
“Dr T, what is the one big pearl of wisdom with regard to food that you would give us?”
So, here’s my response. And not just the one “pearl of wisdom” – I would like to share my top 5…
1. Cook your own meals
This seemingly basic recommendation is truly the most important one if you ask me. The current epidemic of chronic disease in the US (of which mental illness is a big one), is largely due to the takeover of our kitchens by the food industry. Now, I don’t think there was an evil scientist (like in the 007 movies of the past) designing ‘frankenfoods’ with the explicit intention of destroying humanity. Nevertheless, the outcome has been the same.
I honestly believe that the food industry started off with genuinely good intentions and responded to the demands of society at that time. In the post World War 2 era with increasingly two income households, Moms had to figure out how to churn out meals quickly and economically. So the food industry heroically stepped in, but shareholder interests increasingly placed profit over health.
We have reached a point where ‘frankenfoods’ dominate in industrialized food production and are one of the main drivers of chronic disease. To recover our health, we need to take our kitchens back.
There are plenty of good resources (both print and online media) for all types of chefs (not cooks ?). I promise to post easy recipes from here on out…meanwhile, I recommend Dr. Mark Hyman’s books and blogs.
Does this mean you can never eat out? Not at all. If you are predominantly eating at home, you can indulge every now and then. A good rule of thumb is the 80-20 rule. 80% of the time, you commit to eating at home. So, out of 21 meals in a week (7×3), you can eat out for 4 to 5 meals. Roughly one meal per day can be from outside. Doable, right?
Just this small switch can yield enormous benefits. When you cook at home, you develop a personal relationship with the food you are making and eating. You know exactly the ingredients you are using and how much of it (for example, we typically use less salt when we prepare food at home in comparison to the same dish ordered form outside). Food is fresher, tastier and your wallet will also thank you. You may even have leftovers for the next day’s lunch at work.
2. Eat local
Studies (and common sense) have shown us that eating food grown close to where you live is fresher, more flavorful, economical and it supports your local community and its economy. Eating local is also a more sustainable and eco-friendly process. Lesser the “food miles” (long distance food distribution), the better it is for your health and that of the planet.
Eating local means less greenhouse gases, less fossil fuel usage (from transportation), less use of chemicals for preservation of food, more nutritious as it is fresher, etc.; all contribute to healthier you and planet.
3. Eat seasonal
This pearl originates from Ayurveda. Have you ever wondered as to why cooling, water rich fruits and vegetables (watermelon, other melons, cucumbers, etc) are plentiful in spring and summer and more dense, fleshy, calorie dense produce (pumpkin, winter squash, root vegetables, etc) are plentiful in fall and winter? Ayurveda says this is because of Nature’s intelligence and Mother Nature’s desire to provide for all Her children.
In other words, this is an example of the symbiosis (mutually beneficial relationships) that exists in Nature between the plant and animal kingdom. We need the water rich bounty in hot summers and calorie dense, fleshy produce in winters to keep us warm.
According to Ayurveda, all things in Nature have an energy signature, including the seasons. For example, winter is Vata season – cold, dry and windy. To minimize the effects of the Vata season, we need to consume foods that can balance this excess Vata. Hence, we need to eat calorie dense, fleshy produce that is rich in Kapha energy (Vata balancing) or warming Pitta energy (also Vata balancing) foods like spices. Now, you know why we see pumpkin spice latte in fall at Starburks, just kidding ?. Or why warm vegetable soups, warm apple cider, eggnog, etc are the traditional foods in winter.
This knowledge existed in cultures across the world before. We need to reclaim it and follow it.
4. Eat organic as much as possible
Organic foods are not genetically modified (Non-GMO’s) and are grown without pesticides and other chemicals. Organic animal products are also free of other additives like hormones, antibiotics, etc. Organic produce and animals are grown using eco-friendly, earth-friendly, sustainable practices with a focus on soil regeneration. Such practices ensure that the soil (which is an ecosystem in itself and an important source of our microbiome) in rich in nutrients and microbial diversity. The toxic chemicals used in industrial agriculture and food production (from glyphosate aka round-up to artificial dyes/flavors, preservatives, etc.) are now proven to cause endocrine disruption in our bodies. Hence, they are known as EDC’s – Endocrine disrupting chemicals.
EDC’s are directly implicated in our chronic disease epidemic – from obesity to diabetes to dementia. These chemicals also directly cause leaky gut and inflammation and have been implicated in the pathogenesis of various inflammatory diseases – from allergies to cancer to autoimmunity to ADHD. So, how is this still a thing?
A good resource to learn how to and when to shop organic is EWG.org. EWG (or Environmental Working Group) is an independent think tank of scientists who have worked tirelessly to bring this information the world. Every year they release their list of cheap 15 (produce you do not have to buy organic as they do not accumulate toxins) and the dirty dozen (produce that is highly concentrated with the toxins). This is a good start. I recommend that anything you are consuming from an animal has to be organic – milk and milk products, eggs, meat, etc.
5. Food (drink) and plastics are a match made in hell!
Do not use plastic or Styrofoam products to cook or store any food or beverage; hot or cold. As the chemicals in these substances leach into the food, especially when the food is hot.
At the last (Functional Medicine) conference I attended in October 2019, one patient example presented was of a 31-year-old patient diagnosed with ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis or Lou Gehrig’s disease – a debilitating, fatal neurological disease) that was traced to the toxin – styrene from Styrofoam containers. Luckily for this gentleman, he recovered with the help of functional medicine principles – “remove the bad” – he stopped eating out and “provide the good” – nutrients and therapies to enhance his detoxification.
The best materials to cook in are: Stainless steel, cast iron, ceramic coated utensils and glass cookware. For storage, I recommend glass bowls or stainless steel containers.
I hope you find this information useful! If so, please share with friends and family…together we can create a healthier community and a healthier planet!
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Trinergy Health is all about helping people find health, happiness and vitality…using food/lifestyle as medicine! If you’re interested in a healthier, happier YOU, contact us today!
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