It’s been almost 6 months since I graduated as a Nutritional Therapy Practitioner, and in those 6 months I’ve spent a lot of time in my head figuring out what exactly to do next. I’ve taken baby steps here and there (bought my domain name, posted a flyer at a local coffee shop…hey, two steps are better than none!). With the New Year here and things settling down a bit at home, I’m ready to jump into this whole NTP thing and share what I know!
On that note, welcome to the first in a series of posts on the foundations of health! Just like a solid foundation is necessary for a strong and sturdy house, these foundations are absolute MUSTS for a healthy body. While in school, I think the phrase I heard most often from my instructor was “Always address the foundations first”, and I wholeheartedly believe it to be true!
Without addressing these areas, you’ll likely find yourself on a wild goose chase full of symptom chasing and health band aids that never really last. Now, with that said, getting each of these areas in check won’t magically cure you of EVERY ailment, but they will get you a long way. Sometimes the body is so out of whack that you’ll have to go beyond the foundations and dig deeper, but these areas should be addressed FIRST!
Where to start? As Fräulein Maria said, “Let’s start at the very beginning…A very good place to start.” And with the foundations the first place to start is….FOOD!
More specifically, whole foods that are nutrient dense and popularly prepared. Sounds easy enough, right? Turns out the concept of what is and isn’t food can be somewhat complicated.
Personally, I define whole foods as plants, animals, nuts and seeds as close to their natural forms as possible. Translation: fish? Yes! Fish sticks? No! Steak? Yes! Spam? No! Fruit? YES! Fruit snacks? Hell-to-the-NO!
With that nailed down, what does it mean to be nutrient dense? Again, 10 people will have 10 different answers. For me, nutrient density goes hand in hand with eating whole foods and then one step beyond. The less we do to foods (i.e.: processing into unrecognizable forms and putting back together with a long list of other ingredients into something that is not even close to the original state), the more nutrients they retain. To take that a step further, the conditions in which our food is grown/raised greatly impacts the nutrients we get from our food.
The plants we eat get their nutrients from the soil they’re grown in. If the soil has been stripped of valuable nutrients, then common sense tells us the resulting food will contain fewer nutrients as well. For produce, this means finding fruits and veggies that were grown without pesticides in such a way that the soil remains healthy (think crop rotation, cover crops, etc).
Producing high quality, nutrient dense meat means feeding animals the diets they were meant to eat. Cows should be eating grass,not corn. Chickens should be pecking at the ground eating bugs, grass, and whatever else they can find, and not exclusively soy and corn. Same with pigs. Most of what you find the grocery store is substandard. If you can swing it, buying meat directly from a farm is best. Some grocery stores like Whole Foods, New Seasons (Portland), or Metropolitan Market (Seattle/Tacoma) will carry grass-fed and pasture-raised options. There are also several online retailers such as US Wellness Meats that can ship to you if you can’t find local sources. Alas, don’t let perfect be the enemy of the good. Not everyone can afford to buy beef from A-list cows. Just do the best you can with what you can afford.
So, now that you’ve got the food in your kitchen, how do you make sure it’s properly prepared to make sure you get the maximum benefit? I highly recommend Sally Fallon’s Nourishing Traditions as a great place to start to get information on properly preparing foods. Here are a few tips:
– Grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds should be soaked and sprouted to neutralize phytic acid and other anti-nutrients. This is a great link for more info.
– Include fermented foods like dairy (yogurt) and veggies (sauerkraut…yum!)
– Eat a mix of raw and cooked foods from both meat and produce
I think that’s enough to go on for now. The next few posts will focus on each of the foundations (or really, they’re more like pillars, eh?)
In the meantime, wishing you health and happiness!