Why being vegan is not enough.
Being on a specific diet is so normal these days, you can be gluten-free, vegan, plant-based, vegetarian, keto, paleo, you name it. Either due to health issues or ethical standpoints, we choose to leave certain things out of our diets.
Choosing your diet has become complicated, it has become a political statement and maybe for the first time in history food is actually dividing us, not bringing us together. We sit at different tables now. We no longer share our food.
It also created confusion about what to eat now, what is healthy food, and what should I put on my plate at dinner time. The internet is swamped with diet advice and everyone knows best. Who to trust?
Most of us really want to make healthy food choices and we want to become healthy but it feels hard, a chore. We try many different things, but many of us are still overweight, tired, and struggling with health issues.
And on top of that our planet is still declining, global warming is still a thing, nothing is really changing..
What to do?
I propose another choice.
A choice between PROCESSED foods and UNPROCESSED FOODS.
Our food industry has very well played into the trends of our new diets. It created alternative milks for us, fake meats, egg replacers, gluten-free snacks, sugar-free products, soy-free, fat-free, and the list goes on. And yes, they made millions of dollars on it and continue to, it is a forever growing market. And does this mean our planet is getting healthier because of it? No.
Are we getting healthier? Nope.
Here is an interesting insight.
Companies will never make millions selling food from nature, there is no money in carrots. They make their millions selling us food products. And we happily eat it.
They must be thrilled with the new trends and the unlimited new products they can create. Hello vegans!
So let’s define processed foods.
Any type of food that has been mass-produced, GMO’d, chemically fertilized, is GMO corn-fed, boosted with antibiotics, packaged in plastic, pumped full with additives, made with extreme heat, or mono-cropped. Let me give you a few examples.
Mass-produced meat, raised in a feedlot (CAFO), GMO corn-fed, pumped full of antibiotics
Mass-produced, beak-clipped, medicated chickens for egg production
Mono-crop farmed vegetables and fruits that have been sprayed with chemicals
Foods that never rot (because of preservatives)
So-called highly processed health foods that are full of additives and fillers
Highly processed vegetable oil such as cottonseed oil or sunflower oil
To name a few..
The above foods are extremely harmful to our planet, raise carbon dioxide levels every year, deplete our soils of nutrients and microorganisms, pollute our oceans (because of the amount of plastic wrapping and chemicals used), and actually use way more resources (water, feed) to be produced.
Not only are these foods harmful to mother earth, but they are also harming us. We ingest the chemicals and medications used to grow these foods. We eat more GMO corn than we are aware of.
Not to mention…
These foods make us obese, give us cancers, heart disease, food sensitivities, and digestive issues, to name a few.
These foods are readily available at your local grocery store, the gas station, big box stores, and even smaller convenience stores. At fun parks, or any public place. And most restaurants use these foods, they are everywhere.
Any diet like vegan or keto is a walk in the park compared to trying not to eat processed foods, that is the real challenge.
Now let’s look at what unprocessed foods are.
First, let me make a note that it is not easy categorizing these two food groups. You can even call cooking a potato processing it, or for sure wheat flour is a highly processed food but might not always be considered unhealthy food. I guess this is where we need to be slightly flexible and not rigid (which is always recommended when it comes to diet in my opinion).
What is UNPROCESSED FOOD?
A few examples:
Animal meat that is raised on pastures, antibiotic-free, grass-fed and finished, and ethically treated.
Wild-caught fish and seafood or ethically farmed
Dairy that is treated antibiotic-free, pasture raised, organic grain or grass-fed
Vegetables, fruits, herbs, and legumes that are grown in multi-crop farms that do not use chemical fertilizers but organic practices
Cold-pressed virgin oils such as olive oil and coconut oil
Beauty or cleaning products where no animals were harmed
Foods that are not enhanced or altered (with for example vitamins)
Like Michael Pollan said: "Eat real food"
I realize this is an incredible challenge, this is a political choice of wanting to be a part of changing our food systems for our children and generations to come. This is no small feat.
Here are a few suggestions to start with:
Start cooking more of your own meals. Cooking is the key to this. It gives you autonomy over what you are eating and feeding your family. It connects you back to where your food comes from which is key in this process and in the process of regaining your health. (read more about the benefits of home cooking here)
Shop at your local farmers market for organic produce as much as you can (afford)
Most local farms have a CSA program you can sign up for to get your veggies delivered to your doorstep.
Shop at the outer isles of your grocery store (the inner isles contain the most processed foods)
Go through your cabinets and remove all the highly processed foods. You do not need to throw them away, but at least no longer replace them when they are out.
Educating yourself on our food system is a great way to gain more awareness of it and to take steps in bettering it.
Want to learn how to navigate your kitchen better and up your cooking skills?
I am offering monthly online Ayurveda cooking classes. These classes are designed to give you a better understanding of Ayurvedic cooking and what effect food has on your body. All dishes are designed to improve your digestion and overall health. Recipes are easy and fun to make! Click here to learn more.
*Always consult your physician before making adaptations to your lifestyle and diet.