Story by Kristin Castner + Photography by Anne
A message from your body.
If you are like me, keeping your phone charged and your car fueled are things you don’t even think about. They are so critical to moving through life that they are just a part of your normal routine. Fueling your body is even more critical to your existence, and chances are you often do this on autopilot, too. Maybe you mindlessly grab a meal on the go or reach into a bag of whatever snack is on the counter when you get home. Sound familiar?
When it comes to fueling your car and charging your phone, doing it right is important. You don’t put diesel in your gasoline engine car, and you’ve likely invested in several chargers that are compatible with your phone. I want to get you thinking about compatibility with respect to your food choices. Why? Food can be poison or it can be medicine. When food is not compatible with your body, you get a message in the form of aches, pains, bloat, extra weight, low energy, brain fog or, the worst message of all, chronic disease. Thankfully, upgrading the quality of your food and identifying what foods are most compatible with your body can fix each of these things.
Here a few things you can do immediately to upgrade the quality of the fuel you are putting in your body.
1. Eat real food
Most people are consuming processed food – real food that has been altered in some way with additives and preservatives. Whole grains like quinoa are real food. In contrast, white bread is an example of highly processed grains.
It’s very important to understand that processed food often contains little or no nutritional value, but all the taste and calories of real food. Since processed food has little to no nutritional value, it takes more of it to fill us up, which means we eat more. But it gets worse. When we replace real food nutrients with man-made additives and preservatives, our bodies fight back, in the form of inflammation. And inflammation is at the root of chronic disease.
To maximize your intake of real food, remember this: real food doesn’t HAVE ingredients, it IS ingredients. Shop the perimeter of the grocery store, where the food is fresh and has a shelf life. If you are buying packaged foods in the aisles, look for products with as few ingredients as possible, and don’t buy something if you don’t know what the ingredients are.
2. Choose organic
There is an easy way to minimize your exposure to pesticides — buy organic. I often counsel people not to feel compelled to jump 100 percent into organic products if they are a bit skeptical. A great place to start buying organic is the Environmental Working Group’s Dirty Dozen List. This nonprofit organization does the legwork every year to identify the types of produce that test highest for pesticide residue.
Avoid antibiotics in your food
The majority of antibiotics prescribed in the U.S. are used for farm animals, not in the treatment of disease in humans. Antibiotics are used with animals, in part, because it causes them to grow faster. When we eat animal products, those antibiotics make their way into our bodies. Why is this an issue?
Well, if consistent use of antibiotics can fatten up farm animals, it can do the same to us. What’s more, we know that antibiotics can have a detrimental effect on the healthy bacteria we need in our body. That’s why doctors often recommend probiotics after a round of antibiotics.
You might be thinking that finding these higher quality products is difficult. Are these things widely available here in the Lowcountry? The answer is YES! Many local grocery stores carry both organic and non-GMO produce. We are also lucky to live in a place that celebrates farmers markets year round. The very best way to know what you are eating is to know where it is coming from. When you buy local, you have a chance to ask the grower directly. When I can, I buy fresh produce and animal products from local farmers using growing practices that are in alignment with the healthy choices I want to be making.
Our lives are more hectic than ever, giving an edge to food manufacturers that make eating convenient, fast and cheap. Remember, there is a reason those options are cheap – they are inferior. They are highly processed, void of nutrients, full of sugar and other potentially addictive additives, and often times flat out poisonous. In short, they are not compatible with your body. You have a choice in how you fuel your body. Here in the Lowcountry, there are better choices everywhere we look.
Healthy alternatives this holiday season
For many, the holidays are the most wonderful time of the year. But for those with high blood pressure, all the cream, salt and massive amounts of butter used in holiday meals and treats can be dangerous. Here are a few foods to help reduce the dangers and can even decrease blood pressure.
Berry good for you
The pigments that give blueberries, strawberries, and blackberries their rich colors also come with a benefit for your blood vessels: anthocyanin. It’s a natural compound that can help artery walls become wider and more flexible to lower your blood pressure and improve your heart health.
Calcium is a key player for good blood pressure because it helps your blood vessels tighten and relax when they should. Plain, low-fat yogurt is a good way to add calcium to your diet without too much added sugar or fat. Looking for a flavor twist? Throw some berries in for some natural sweetness and even more blood pressure help.
Turn up the beet
A study shows that drinking 2 cups of a mix of three parts beetroot and one part apple juice can make your systolic blood pressure (the top number) go down in just a few hours. Men may see a bigger benefit than women. High systolic pressure can raise your chances of strokes. Cooked beets and beet greens, which pack lots of potassium, are a good alternative.
The Dirty Dozen
Strawberries rank No. 1 for the fourth year in a row on the Environmental Working Group list. The rest of the list looks similar to years past with one exception: Kale made the top 12 for the first time in a decade.