Family, Self

How To Eat Healthy And Reduce Toxins In Foods (No Matter What You Like To Eat)

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how to eat healthy

Unlike sex, there's no such thing as protected food, especially in the U.S. If, after some investigation, you don’t think it’s clean enough to touch you, you probably shouldn’t eat it.

It's about informed consent. If you’re eating it, you should at least know a little about its background and whether it's going to be good for you or leave you feeling bad in the morning. 

Consider these 4 basic guidelines on how to eat healthy, reduce toxins in foods, and dine safely: 

1. Meat: Find out where it grew up. 

In the case of ground beef, this can be tricky. Meat and fat trimmings usually come from multiple animals and many processing plants. So meat from a single contaminated cow can end up in numerous packages of ground beef. This mixed-up grinding happens less with organically and sustainably-farmed beef.

Because of this, studies have shown that meat from sustainably-farmed cows — those allowed to eat their natural grass diet and graze in open pastures without antibiotics or hormones — was half as likely to contain superbugs that make us sick than factory-farmed cows.

Unfortunately, about 97 percent of ground beef for sale in the US comes from factory-farmed cattle packed into feedlots and fed pesticide-treated corn and soybeans. Cows aren't meant to eat corn and soy. They can't process it, so they gain weight fast.

Factory farmers often add other "food" to their diets like candy, dead animals parts, and dried manure to fatten them up even more at the end. The cattle also eat plastic pellets as fiber to move the unnatural diet through their digestive system.

Since their bodies can't handle this food, they are more likely than organically and sustainably-raised cows to shed E. coli, raising the risk of making us sick.

Think twice about cooking this kind of conventional meat medium rare!

RELATED: 13 Major Benefits Of Healthy Eating — No Matter Your Age

The reason that factory farmers choose these methods is pesticide-treated corn and soy feed is cheaper than grass — a cow's natural diet. It is also easier and less expensive to keep the cattle contained and unable to graze.

Factory-farmed cows have to be treated with antibiotics because they live in such unsanitary and cramped conditions, they would likely die without them.

Most of these cows are implanted with hormone-secreting devices in their ears to make them grow unnaturally large quickly, an economical choice for the farmers, but you just might be getting a dose of anabolic hormones in your steak (like getting pumped up on steroids). 

What to do? Whenever possible, choose ground meats labeled organic and pasture-raised.

"Natural" means very little in food labeling. Even better, ask your butcher to grind your organic beef for you on the spot. Less mystery and a cleaner upbringing will foster a healthier relationship between you and this meal.

If you believe that humans are meant to eat animals, that's cool. Just consider eating animals that ate what they were supposed to eat. When you consume meat, you'll get the residue of everything the animal ate too. Like the old saying, "You are what you eat." Choose to be a happy cow.

What else can you do? Well, the bad news is organic meat is more expensive than factory farmed, supermarket meat. That's because it costs more to raise. 

That's a valid reason to eat meat less often then go ahead and pay more per pound. Humans are not made to eat animal products every day of our lives anyway. Even our ancestors had to take a few days off to hunt.

Try eating vegetarian a couple of days each week. Organic beans are a cheap alternative. You'll likely balance out your extra food costs, you'll be doing the environment a favor, and you might feel better too. 

2. Dairy: Pick the wholesome one.

Dairy should have very few ingredients — starting with milk from the animal that made it. If it’s just milk, that’s all it should say: organic milk and then maybe vitamin A and D. If it’s butter, cheese or yogurt, it will have salt or culture and enzymes for fermentation. Ice cream should contain milk, cream, sugar — and a real flavor. That’s it. 

Along with fewer pesticides, organic dairy products have been shown to have more beneficial nutrients than conventional milk, including higher levels of omega three fatty acids and CLA, more antioxidants, and more vitamins. 

Supposedly healthy dairy products, like the resurgent frozen yogurt stores (didn't we do this is the 90s, folks?) can be the worst offenders of marketing chemically-laden food as healthy for you.

Frozen yogurt can make for a fun Bumble date, but you won't be eating healthy food. The genetically engineered corn syrup and other processed sugars in their products can create an inflammatory response in your body linked to weight gain, autoimmune issues, and even cancer. 

Not to mention, these "healthy" frozen yogurt stores serve products full of chemical additives that your liver has to process like food coloring known for toxic and carcinogenic effects. 

What to do? Always choose organic dairy products.

Like dating your brother's roommate: It may or may not be crazy love, but at least you'll know something about his background, the baggage he's carrying around — and you're less likely to get hurt in the exchange.

RELATED: The 10 "Golden Rules" Of Healthy, Long-Lasting Weight Loss

3. Produce: Get it fresh.

Your fruits and vegetables should not have pesticides on them, in them, or have exposure to soil contaminated by herbicides. Buy what's growing in your area. 

It's like being around someone with a spray tan in January. If it’s out of season within a reasonable radius of your home, you’re not meant to have it. Something will just seem wrong about it.

It’s okay to forgo fresh tomatoes in the middle of winter if you live in a cold state. Our bodies have a natural rhythm for what we should eat throughout the year. 

What to do: Eat seasonally and the organic versions of your fruits and vegetables will be less expensive. Pay attention to where your produce has been.

If you don’t know how it got that summer shimmer, don’t put it in your mouth. It might have just spent weeks in a shipping crate or a truck getting a fake glow while losing all of its nutrients.

4. Bread and grains: No posers, please.

If you watch reality TV, you can recognize bad filler. Most bags of chips, nuts or cookies are filled with chemical ingredients to give them longer shelf lives.

They're also often filled with chemicals intended to make them addictive, like an opiate, so you eat more. Packaged cereal, cookies, energy bars and chips are so full of sugar and flavor enhancers that they can have the same effect on your brain as addictive drugs. They are not real food.

Studies have shown that sugar and junk foods overstimulate the reward system in the brain with dopamine — the same areas of the brain affected by drugs like cocaine.

That sugar high we talk about is real and addictive. And make no mistake, food manufacturers know how to create formulas to trigger this addiction, so we eat more even when we're full.

When you eat highly-processed, sugary foods, your brain feeds on the dopamine/opioid signal, goes through a withdrawal process when it's over and begins to crave more. That's why it's hard to eat just one!

If you want a treat, you can make chocolate chip cookies at home with as little as five ingredients and a few dollars. Who likes a fake anyway?

And the ability to sit out for a long time without getting wrinkled does not make a good date or a good cookie. 

What to do: Consider that bread and crackers should have four or five ingredients max — flour, yeast (for bread), salt, and maybe some fancy seed or natural grain.

Beyond that, it’s like wearing beer goggles. You might think it's a fun party and go for it one night, but you'll feel crappy in the morning.

The learning here is our bodies are fighting hard enough just to process the air we breathe and the lifestyles we lead — high-stress hormones and high insulin levels if only from lack of sleep! Pumping your liver and kidneys full of toxins to clean up unhealthy food additives is undo work. It's not fair.

You've got to love that body of yours enough to invest in quality ingredients that nourish it, to cook at home and to forgo the easy fix that comes with a quick sugar hit.

Bottom line, you've got one body. Be particular about what is allowed to touch it.

RELATED: How To Enjoy Delicious Indulgences Without Killing Your Entire Diet

Sharon Demko is a personal development and holistic health coach and a professional trainer based in the San Francisco Bay Area. Sharon works with women one on one, or in teams in organizations, to advocate for healthy, possibility-filled lives. To work with Sharon, visit her website.