Whole Food Nutrition for You

Healthy food, healthy woman: an image from a time before bio-tech and agri-business farming

Most people are aware of the fact that there is a relationship between food and health. There is so much conflicting information about “healthy” foods and diets that it’s difficult to find any two nutritionists who agree with each other on any nutrition topic. “Healthy” has become a marketing tool in a massive industry, where so much of what ends up on our tables is produced thousands of miles away, under conditions we would never condone (whether those conditions serve in a lab or over millions of acres, or both). The sources for our information about food are often highly invested, and questionable. On top of that, most people now live lives so pressed for time that much of what we used to do to nurture ourselves to live well has become unthinkable. Fast food, convenience foods, and foods we don’t really know anything about in terms of quality have become the better parts of our diets.

If you don’t believe me, go into your pantry or refrigerator and take stock of what’s there. Choose a food you regularly buy–something like cereal, or frozen pizza, or a condiment like barbecue sauce or ketchup. Take a look at the ingredient list–chances are good there are several dozen ingredients in that list (most of which are some form of sugar, margarine or rancid oil, or flavouring/aroma compound that is really just another name for Monosodium Glutamate) that no one would mistake for real food. It likely contains some form of corn, soy, canola, “wheat”, rice, or cotton ingredient, which are all genetically modified foods we just don’t know to be safe. The list is even longer and less recognizable if the food is a “lite” or “low-fat” or “low sodium” product, the exact type of food that fits in with dietitians’ dictates about “healthier” diets. This should make you wonder.

Do we really know what we’re taking home from the supermarket? Who created that food product? Who grew the produce? Who raised, slaughtered, and butchered the meat? Do we really know what our children are eating at school? Do we have any say, politically, on what we’re sold as food? Much of what’s considered “correct” or “scientific” nutrition these days deserves to be questioned. Registered dietitians in Canada have a regulatory body called the Dietitians of Canada, which claims to be “the national voice of dietitians” and states that it is “the most trusted source of information on food and nutrition for Canadians”. But this regulatory body partners with and receives generous funding from major corporations in the Food and Drug industries. More specifically, it receives money from companies such as Monsanto, Coca Cola (and all its food subsidiaries), PepsiCo (which owns Frito Lay, Quaker, Tropicana, and GatorAde, among others), Nestlé Healthcare Nutrition (owner of brands such as Jenny Craig and Boost, and the same Nestlé we remember from the baby formula scandals several years ago), McDonald’s Restaurants of Canada, Roche Pharmaceuticals (which creates and promotes Xenical, a weight loss drug among other chronic disease medications), and Compass Group Canada, owner of such fast food brands as Harvey’s, Tim Horton’s, Mr. Sub, and Pizza Pizza, among many others. There are many other “industry” partners involved in the Canadian regulatory body as well, and most of these industry giants also partner with and contribute to the American Dietetic Association (and other “health authority” associations all over the world).

We need to ask how much of their monies sponsor “research” in real nutritional science, when so much of their business is producing processed, biotech ingredients which then become used in their processed food products? How biased is that research towards supporting many of the questionable products these companies sell? How much of what these regulatory bodies provide as “education and training” is really marketing aimed directly to registered Dietitians, who will then promote these various products to their patients in their roles as professional authorities on nutrition and health? The conflicts of interest are obvious, particularly when you consider many of these companies also have subsidiaries in pharmaceutical corporations, or have affiliations which are not immediately evident, so the repercussions to us as consumers and as patients are staggering. While these companies have made massive gains in profit, and their food products have rapidly replaced the foods human beings have eaten for millennia, health all over the world has declined. Chronic diseases resulting from poor nutrition prevail.

But we do know what kept the healthiest populations in history healthy, and we can still have access to those whole foods today, especially if we create a growing demand for saner, safer farming methods, real foods, and the right to access not just the foods but the time we need to prepare them properly.

In the Niagara region, both farming “trends” are at work in the area, one of the most fertile food growing regions in the world. We have seen lots of agribusiness moving in to grow genetically modified canola, corn and soy (and many of the vineyards in the area have had to pay for the damage done by that trend, to name an industry hurt by this development). This is to some extent countered by the growth of CSAs (community supported agriculture) and farmers who are intent on using biodynamic and organic farming methods to grow heirloom species fruits and vegetables as well as animals for food. While we have food conglomerates influencing science and health care providers, we also have “grass-roots” based, international movements like Slow Food and the Locavore philosophy, which is catching on very quickly the more we all learn about how our food is really produced.

We are a long way away from actually having the access to real foods that we need here in Canada (real milk, for example, is still illegal to sell to consumers) but we’re quickly catching on to the benefits of buying well produced foods from farmers we can know. We can source even the restricted foods we need from farmers who’ve managed to devise farm-sharing or “cow-sharing” agreements that work around the legal restrictions. In my links and resources page, I list a number of whole food producers here in the Niagara region. I urge you to source your foods directly from smaller producers especially when they’re in season. This practice helps you stay healthy; it lets us know where our foods come from, what we’re eating, and who is producing it; it helps our communities stay economically viable; and it keeps high quality farmland from being sold off to developers. It also comes with a built-in reward: the food tastes so much better.

Using Nutrition to Reverse Illness and Support Optimum Health

Though Homeopathy does most of the heavy lifting involved in restoring health, the support and enhanced well-being you enjoy from a whole food diet simply adds quality to a healthy life. People love to know about food and nutrition for all kinds of reasons, from wanting to prepare the best foods for their children, who may have some food sensitivities or allergies, to learning how to enhance a vegetarian or vegan diet with traditional foods such as lacto-fermented or soaked grain and bean foods. For those planning for a pregnancy, a good diet to support father, mother, and baby is vital to conception, gestation, and lactation; others may want to learn how to reverse diseases such as Diabetes II, or manage Juvenile Diabetes when insulin alone doesn’t provide enough support. More and more, we all wish to stop feeling like we have no control over the way our food is grown, raised, and processed. Many of us wish we could cut substandard, low-nutrient foods from our diets all together.

My approach in nutritional consultation is not centred on the “official” diet goal, which fixates on weight loss via highly processed “light” foods, as if weight loss in itself were the key to restoring your health. It’s not, especially if weight loss comes “at any cost”. Vibrant health is obtainable at any weight. So my focus is on making whole, organic or locally grown traditional foods the backbone of your diet. We know these foods are beneficial through long-term experience and observation, but we also know that plenty of independently funded scientific research, such as the kind conducted by organizations like the Weston A. Price Foundation, supports the role of traditional whole foods in restoring and maintaining health.

Nutritional consultations focus on the goal of making changes, and on finding the tools necessary to allow you to make the best food choices to support your health. If weight loss is your goal, it can be achieved easily with whole food and the principles of “Normal” eating–real foods, eating when you’re hungry and until you feel sated, and not focusing on unrealistic starvation tactics based around a “lite”, heavily processed food meal plan.

Out of necessity, we document things like vital statistics, weight, and body measurements at the beginning of your nutritional consultation and throughout the course of your efforts, particularly if your concern is to avoid the use of prescription drugs or some surgical procedures. Documentation is invaluable if you want to use nutrition to reverse your need for pharmaceutical drugs, such as those used to treat high blood pressure, heart disease, and adult-onset diabetes–you can present this information to your MD who will then confirm your improved state of health with his or her own diagnostic tests. Your MD will then feel free to adjust your dose to suit your improved health, or take you off the medications you no longer need.

We’ll go over which foods to add, and which foods to eliminate–I take you through a thorough sweep of your own cupboards, pantry, and fridge to show you foods you may not even realize you want to avoid (and the great foods you can replace them with). We’ll select high quality supplements (some diets, like vegan and vegetarian ones, need nutrients that are only available from animal sources, so supplementation is a must), and get you started on replacing many of the processed foods we should avoid with nutrient-dense food. This always includes the highest quality meats, fish, poultry and eggs, fresh vegetables and fruits, whole grains, and dairy it’s possible to find.