I believe that nutrition is the key to good health, but I had to learn this later in life. I grew up eating most meals in the restaurants that my family owned in upstate New York. And these weren’t health food restaurants! We ate steak, seafood, bread & butter, potatoes, soups, side dishes and dessert with pretty much every meal. As far as nutrition education went in the 70s and 80s, I was taught about the four food groups, and that was it.
It wasn’t until I was in my 30s that I started to really understand the link between health and nutrition. I suspected that I had a sensitivity to gluten, which I do, so I started learning about other food sensitivities, too. When I got into animal rescue, I stopped eating meat for ethical reasons and with my first cancer diagnosis, I stopped eating dairy and eggs.
Now I eat a whole-foods plant-based diet that is mostly grain free with as many vibrant living foods and as much green juice as I can get my hands on. Of course, I’m not perfect and I slip up sometimes (tortilla chips are my downfall!) but the important thing is to get right back to clean eating and not beat yourself up over it.
Here are some of my favorite resources for eating healthy and feeling great.
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|The China Study
by T. Colin Campbell, PhD & Thomas M. Campbell II, MD
This book is based on decades of research into the link between eating animal protein and heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. It is very compelling, and also very controversial. I recommend starting with this book since it is the basis of so many other books and documentaries on the topic.
Natalia Rose is a Clinical Nutritionist who has written some of my favorite books on detoxing focusing on raw foods and proper food combining (see below for more info on these topics). I find her writing very easy to understand and extremely motivating, plus the recipes in her books are some of my all-time favorites.
Please visit the Reading List page for links to all of Natalia’s books.
Kris Carr is one of my most favorite people on the planet. You know that question, “If you could have lunch with anyone, who would it be?” She’s the one. In her early 30s, she was diagnosed with a very rare, slow-moving and incurable cancer, and right at the beginning of her journey she grabbed a video camera and started recording her every move. That became the documentary Crazy Sexy Cancer, which rolled out into the Crazy Sexy brand including books, online resources, live presentations, etc. She re-branded cancer because she wasn’t finding any information geared at younger people dealing with the disease. She ultimately concludes that nutrition is one of the most powerful tools we have in fighting cancer and living our best possible lives.
Please visit the Reading List page for links to all of Kris’ books.
You cannot talk about food and health without mentioning Michael Pollan. His writing addresses the intersection of nature and culture as it affects what we eat.
Please visit the Reading List page for links to all of Michael Pollan’s books.
I was first introduced to the idea of a raw food diet when I read Natalia Rose’s book The Raw Food Detox Diet. The idea is to eat a diet comprised of mostly uncooked and unprocessed foods. It can be entirely vegan or you can eat some raw cheese and yogurt, plus other fermented foods like sauerkraut and kombucha, but nothing that has been pasteurized or processed.
Vegan raw food diets consist of fruits, vegetables, seeds and nuts including foods that are dehydrated at low temperatures. The idea is to preserve as many of the natural enzymes in the food by avoiding heating or processing.
As with a lot of the topics I’m presenting here, raw food diets are quite controversial, both in terms of the effect on health and the safety of this type of eating. What I know is that I feel better when I eat only raw food. I like Natalia Rose’s approach because she advocates for a combination of raw and lightly cooked foods. This allows you to ease into it and see how raw foods work for you. Everyone’s body will respond differently.
Please visit the Reading List page for links to all of my favorite raw food cookbooks.
Taking raw food one step further, we get to the idea of living foods. This includes sprouts, microgreens and grasses. These foods have the highest levels of enzymes, amino acids, vitamins and minerals of all foods.
Steve Meyerowitz, aka “Sproutman”, was another major player in the areas of sprouting, indoor gardening, vegetarian and veganism, raw food, juice diets, and a healthy organic lifestyle. His sons continue to run the family business sharing information and selling products for sprouting and growing your own wheatgrass.
There are tons of books and online resources on sprouting and growing grasses and microgreens. I’ve tried my hand at it and it’s fairly easy and very rewarding. I use the sprouts I grow in soups and salads or I juice them. I have also been buying microgreens at the local farmer’s market.
Please visit the Reading List page for links to books on living foods, sprouting and growing grasses and microgeens.
Juicing is extracting the liquid nutrients from fresh fruits and vegetables. Juice fasting is a specific use of juice, which I discuss on the Detox page, but here I would like to focus on the benefits of adding juice to your diet, rather than existing on juice alone (since that seems to freak a lot of people out).
When making juice, the goal is to remove all of the solids, which means that blending fruits and veggies is not making juice, that is making a smoothie. Smoothies are also really terrific for optimizing your health, but I just want to clarify that smoothies are not juice. Juices are usually strained so you are drinking only the liquid.
|Crazy Sexy Juice
by Kris Carr
I think Kris Carr’s book Crazy Sexy Juice is the very best introduction to juicing. She includes information on the benefits of drinking juice, choosing the right juicer, combining ingredients properly, buying organic, prepping your produce and of course, fantastic recipes for both juices and smoothies, too (and did I mention that I love her?)
Available on Amazon
Please visit the Reading List page for links to more books on juicing.
I mention wheatgrass above but it deserves its own shoutout. Wheatgrass and barley grass are a fantastic source of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and amino acids. These grasses can be juiced, if you have the right kind of juicer (you’ll need a masticating or hand crank juicer, centrifugal won’t work), or you can consume them in powdered form, available at all health food stores. A lot of juice bars also offer wheatgrass shots, so give it a try! I think a wheatgrass shot is better than a shot of espresso.
Ann Wigmore and Steve Meyerowitz were both big fans of wheatgrass. Check out their books in on the Reading List page.
One of the most important principles affecting digestion is proper food combining. Different food groups, for example, starches and proteins, require different enzymes to digest. If we eat these two foods together, our system has a much harder time digesting the food and absorbing the nutrients. That is why when you eat a poorly combined meal, you feel sluggish and bloated. Additionally, that undigested food will start to ferment, releasing toxins into our body.
The goal of food combining is to ease digestion and prevent the buildup of undigested food in the system. Clear it out and make room for more healthy, nutritious food!
Natalia Rose discusses food combing very well in all of her books. I also love Megan Gilmore’s Guide to Food Combining over on her blog Detoxinista.
ELISA Food Allergy Test
When I first started working with my naturopath, I took the ELISA food allergy test from US BioTek. This is a blood test that checks for food allergies and sensitivities to around 100 foods. It gives you valuable information about which foods your body thinks are toxic. Some of these sensitivities you are aware of, like if you are lactose intolerant or if you have a peanut allergy, but there are other sensitivities that you may be unaware of because you don’t feel specific symptoms. Instead, your body is spending all of its energy trying to remove these foods, instead of fighting off diseases, like cancer. This test helps you understand which foods you are be eating that might be preventing you from feeling your best.
I stopped eating the foods that showed up as problematic on my test and it made a huge difference in how I feel. Most naturopaths or nutritionists should be able to help you get this test and interpret the results.
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