26 Things I Learned About Food, Health, Me, and You
I recently finished up my first ever Whole30. I’d recommend it to anyone. And I’m a total carb-a-holic so don’t say you can’t do it because if I can, anyone can.
On top of that learning experience, I’ve really been doing heavy research on healthy eating habits this year because I want to be a healthier person. I’ve felt the benefits and want to stay on track, despite living in a world where that’s extremely difficult.
I learned many revealing things about food and health that a large portion of people probably don’t realize. And I didn’t either until now, so I thought I’d share. Disclaimer: Consult the experts if you’re uncertain about anything.
1. Sugar is fucking terrible.
Sugar is the goddamn worst. It makes us fat, it’s more addictive than cocaine, and it can lead to a variety of health problems. Artificial sweeteners are no better.
2. Sugar is in fucking everything.
Food producers add sugar to whole wheat breads, crackers, grilled chicken, bacon, and more. Check ingredients lists. It’s infuriating.
3. We’re probably all addicted to sugar.
Food producers know sugar is addictive, which is why it’s in everything — so you keep coming back for more. No one has 11 p.m. cravings for steamed vegetables. But drug addicts crave the drug.
4. Sugar in fruit is okay.
Sugar comes in a package of micronutrients when it’s naturally occurring in fruits or other normal foods. It’s the added and refined sugars that suck.
5. Fat is seriously good for you.
Monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats are great for your health and in fact important for a balanced diet. Even naturally occurring saturated fats are mostly okay, too. Just avoid unnatural fats and trans fats.
6. Use olive oil or coconut oil.
Olive oil and coconut oil are two healthy fats and they’re awesome. So use them for cooking and other stuff, like EVOO for salad dessing. And just like olive oil doesn’t taste like olives, coconut oil doesn’t taste like coconuts. A lot of what makes fried foods unhealthy is the shitty oils they’re fried in.
7. Use clarified butter whenever possible.
Most of the reason why regular butter is moderately unhealthy is because of the milk fats. Clarified butter (sometimes known as ghee) is butter without those milk fats. You’re welcome.
8. Bacon isn’t always unhealthy.
Bacon is mostly unhealthy for two reasons. The first is that pigs are treated like shit. They’re fed and medicated with a whole bunch of crap that gets put in our bodies when we eat bacon. The second reason is almost all bacon is cured with sugar. Find organic bacon without added sugar instead.
9. Certain foods affect people differently.
We’re all different, so we all react to foods differently. That’s why some of us are lactose intolerant, some are gluten sensitive, some have peanut allergies. But just because there isn’t a well-known name for something, doesn’t mean you don’t have a sensitivity to it.
10. Eliminate foods to notice their effects.
You don’t truly know how foods affect you until you eliminate them from your diet. Then reintroduce them after a given period of time and notice small differences, if any.
11. Grains make my brain foggy.
I’ve noticed after completing the Whole30 that while I have no digestive distress from grains, they tend to make me more tired throughout the day and particularly screw up my ability to stay focused.
12. There’s a reason why beans cause gas.
It’s well known that beans make people gassy, but that’s actually because we’re not hardwired to digest legumes, just like we have trouble with dairy. Bacteria in our stomachs ferment the carbohydrates in beans, causing gas.
13. Use date paste instead of sugar.
It’s a pretty fantastic alternative to added sugars. You can make a great homemade ketchup using date paste. One of my new favorite snacks, Lara Bars, also use date paste to hold the bars together and add sweetness.
14. Use almond flour instead of breading.
I bread my chicken cutlets in almond flour now. It gets crispy just like breading and doesn’t taste like almonds whatsoever. Plus, being that it’s a nut, it’s a healthy fat added to the dish.
15. Use zucchini noodles instead of pasta.
Buy a julienne peeler or one of those machines that turn vegetables into noodles to create zucchini noodles, then steam them for 2–3 minutes. Add some sauce and they taste almost exactly like pasta.
16. Use potatoes instead of burger buns.
Slice some white or sweet potatoes and almost fully cook them, then put one on top of a burger and one on the bottom. Not only is this a healthy alternative to a bun, but I think they taste better than buns.
17. Coconut is super versatile.
Eat regular coconut, drink dairy-free coconut milk, cook food in coconut oil, or make stir fry with delicious coconut aminos as an alternative to soy sauce. It’s awesome.
18. Kale is even more versatile.
Toss kale in a salad for some added nutrients, in a sandwich, in the oven with a little EVOO and salt to make crispy and nutritious kale chips, or my favorite: in just about any smoothie for a taste-free health boost.
19. Eggs help combat hangovers.
It’s true. Eggs have copious amounts of cysteine, which helps rid of the toxins you put in your body when you downed a fifth of tequila. Eat eggs the next morning, if you can eat anything at all.
20. There’s little “lean” in Lean Cuisine.
Lean Cuisine and other low-cal packaged foods and snacks are generally better than eating non-low-cal foods, but they still aren’t good. They’re typically highly processed and loaded with preservatives and added sugars, especially high fructose corn syrup.
21. HFCS might kill us all.
I don’t even have the time or energy to explain all of the reasons why high fructose corn syrup is awful. Let a paid expert detail it. Just please don’t put this shit in your body.
22. Don’t always buy organic produce.
I mean you totally can, but it’s not always necessary. Fruits that you peel before eating like bananas get rid of any harmful crap anyway when the skin comes off. So if anything, just buy organic foods you don’t peel.
23. It’s hard to overeat healthy food.
Natural proteins, fruits and vegetables are better at letting our bodies know when we’re full so we can finally put the fork down. Chances are you’ll never feel too stuffed from grilled chicken, unlike with your Sunday pasta.
24. Eat foods that you can control.
I realized it was physically and psychologically unhealthy when I found my hand subconsciously reaching into the Cheez-It box over and over again. It was like I couldn’t stop eating them and didn’t even pay attention to when I was. Avoid foods like this, they’re no good for you or your mind.
25. Protein, fat, carbs = perfection.
Ideally (but not always realistically) every meal should have a decent portion of lean protein, a large portion of carbohydrates — the good kinds in fruits and vegetables — and a small portion of healthy fat.
26. Don’t diet.
The word “diet” implies some sort of negative and temporary step down from your current eating habits. Eating healthy should be positive and shouldn’t be temporary. Make conscious food choices and splurge when it’s meaningful.
Note: These statements come from a variety of sources. Many of them come from Melissa Hartwig and Dallas Hartwig’s wonderfully educational book It Starts with Food. Some of them I’ve linked to throughout. And the rest are scattered throughout the Internet. Search them and I’m sure you’ll find validation.