Most available information about prepping advise starting with food and water storage. While that is, obviously, important, I’m going to advise, as more mature adults, you start with your health. Without your health, you will have a much more difficult time surviving a long term disaster, no matter what you have stocked in your supplies.
As we’ve aged, most of us have been gradually plagued with more of both physical and internal medical problems. We’ve been conditioned to believe these problems are simply a part of the aging process and we just have to learn to live with them. To some extent they are, but we can implement strategies to control some of our symptoms and even, in some cases, reverse them. Doing so isn’t always easy and there aren’t any magic pills out there to fix us, but with a little research, work, and dedication, you can manage many of your health problems naturally.
I’m not a medical doctor and nothing that follows, in any way, is meant as a suggestion you discontinue any of your meds in order to treat yourself. What I’m suggesting is utilizing or learning more about any of the following suggestions, following the advice if applicable, and allowing your doctor to monitor your progress. You may just be surprised to find, over time, your doctor may begin decreasing your meds and you may even get to where your doctor decides you no longer require some of them. Some medical conditions do require restriction of certain foods. If you have one of these conditions, please don’t make any dietary changes without consulting your doctor.
To begin our journey into a healthy lifestyle, lets start with the basics. The basic foundation of a healthy lifestyle is what we eat and drink. Virtually everything we ingest affects at least some of our body systems. The healthier our food is, the healthier our bodies are.
Some of you may be thinking you are already eating healthy, but you may not be. Going to the supermarket frozen food section and stocking up on frozen dinners marked “healthy” isn’t a healthy diet. Most of those “healthy” granola bars and cereals in your cupboard are, also, less healthy than their manufacturers would like you to believe. This applies to most of those other so-called healthy foods on the market, as well. A healthy diet begins with fresh, unprocessed, food you prepare yourself.
I know a few of you guys are thinking you’ve never cooked anything in your life, or cooking is women’s work, or something else along those lines. First of all, I must say, some of the best food I’ve ever eaten has been prepared by men. As well, cooking doesn’t have to be a complicated process. There are many easy to prepare healthy meals. If you don’t already have one, I suggest getting a slow cooker. With a slow cooker you can just toss everything in it in the morning and by supper time you’ll have a great meal waiting for you. Eating Well has a nice selection of simple, budget friendly, slow cooker recipes to start you off.
If possible, always opt for organic produce and organic, free range, meats. Some of you may be thinking the higher cost of organic food isn’t worth it. If you stop to think about the fact that many of our health problems are associated with our consumption of processed foods, though, you will find the difference in cost will probably more than make up for some of your out of pocket medical expenses. You can save money on organic produce at farmer’s markets. Although not as common as they used to be, there are still some smaller farms that operate roadside stands, as well. If you’re lucky enough to have one nearby, you can get some great seasonal produce at very reasonable prices.
The last thing I want to discuss is some of the common misconceptions associated with foods you should not or should be consuming. Many of you are probably substituting natural ingredients with what are most often unhealthy substitutions, or eliminating certain items from your diet altogether.
One of the items many people are advised to eliminate is salt. As luck would have it, as I was writing this, I received the most recent newsletter from Dr. Stephen Sinatra, of the Heart MD Institute. His featured article today just happens to concern salt. You can read it here. As Dr. Sinatra points out, your body needs salt. The key to the use of salt is moderation, not elimination. This applies to many of the other foods you’ve been told to avoid, as well.
Many of you have either read or been told you should replace natural fats with low or non-fat substitutes. There are two main problems with this advice. The first is your body needs some fat to function properly. The second is oils are used as thickeners in products like salad dressings and mayonnaise, as well as many others. Replacing the oils with unhealthy sugars and/or chemical agents is the most common way of thickening products in which the oil has been removed. The resulting product may be low or non-fat, but it isn’t healthy. Instead, opt for products made with healthy fats like cold processed olive, coconut, or nut oils. Having some animal fat, particularly from organic, grass fed, meat, is good for your healthy body, as well. While we’re on the subject, skip those low and non-fat spreads and opt for real butter. Just don’t over do it.
Are you concerned about sugar consumption? In general, going with sugar-free products is the worst thing you can do. Most sugar-free sweeteners are amongst the most unhealthy products on the market. Even plain processed white cane sugar is better for you than these products! If you have to go sugar-free, my suggestion is to stick to stevia and stevia sweetened products. I don’t recommend using so-called healthy sugar alternatives such as agave nectar. Agave nectars currently available are almost always processed with heat and/or chemicals which break down the healthy fructans into fructose, basically processing it into something very similar to high fructose corn syrup. Opt for natural sweeteners like raw honey (Cox’s honey is my favorite), 100% pure natural maple syrup, and unsulphered molasses. If you’re a soda drinker, you can replace soda with naturally fermented and flavored water kefir or kombucha. Both of these products are available in health food stores and even some of the larger supermarkets, but they are also quite easy to make at home. It’s the second ferment that gives them the bubbles. When making these products, sugar is used, but the fermentation process uses up the sugar, leaving only trace amounts of it in the end product.
Millions of advertising dollars are spent annually by food processing companies in an attempt to persuade you their products are healthy. Some of these products aren’t healthy to begin with, while others have been processed to the point where all of the healthy elements are gone, or they contain unhealthy sugars, emulsifiers, and/or chemical agents, which are often used to extend shelf life or as anti-caking agents. The best rule of thumb here is to learn to read labels. Milk, soy products, and grain products are among those which are often advertised as being good for you, when they often aren’t.
Who hasn’t heard “got milk?” or “milk does a body good” frequently, for most of their lives? Humans are mammals, so lets take a look at other mammals. Most mammals are fed their own mother’s milk until they are weaned. Once they begin consuming solid foods, they are no longer fed milk, unless it’s by human intervention. There are occasional instances of an orphaned animal being adopted by a lactating female of another species, but they are still cut off once they are weaned. Once weaned, mammals don’t require milk any longer, from their mothers or from other animals. That includes humans. If you want the real skinny (and scary) on milk, visit the good folks at NOTmilk. I’m not saying you should never use milk products. Unless you’re lactose intolerant, an occasional scoop of ice cream, or cheese topped dish, or smear of butter, isn’t going to hurt you if you are healthy otherwise. If you want to use milk regularly, opt for coconut or nut milks. Fermented milk products, such as yogurt, without unhealthy additives, are healthier than other milk products and most people can consume them more regularly without ill affects.
Another of the foods often advertised as being good for you are soy products. There is a lot of debate as to whether soy is good for you, or not. Currently, there seems to be more evidence leaning towards not. One of the most common food allergies is to soy beans and soy based products. If you happen to be one of those who are allergic to soy, obviously, it isn’t good for you. Another problem with soy (as with many other food crops, now) is the majority of the soy crops are genetically modified and, most often, pesticides and other unhealthy chemicals are used. Rather than reinventing the wheel here, I suggest doing your own research and coming to your own conclusions. There is a lot of information easily found by doing a web search. You may want to start by reading WellnessMama’s short but informative post Is Soy Healthy?. Once again, if you haven’t had any ill effects and you have a favorite soy product, eating it once in awhile shouldn’t cause you problems. Do try to find organic non-GMO products if you choose to eat them.
Are grains good or bad for you? The answer to that basically boils down to two questions: are you eating refined processed grains or whole grains and do you suffer from gluten sensitivity? Refined processed grains have no nutritional value, so there is no good reason for anyone to consume them. As well, they are linked to obesity, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease, among others. There are, also, people who are gluten intolerant and they shouldn’t consume some grains whether they are whole grains or processed. If you aren’t gluten intolerant, whole grains from organic sources can be a healthy part of your diet. For a good, quick, overview on the subject, take a look at Kris Gunnars’ article over at Authority Nutrition.
Well that about wraps up what I have to say for today. We may look at some of these things in more depth, individually, at a future time. In my next post, we are going to continue our adventure in a healthy lifestyle. See you soon!