THE BLOG
04/17/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

8 Steps To Truer Food

You may have heard the phrase "out of true." It means not in correct alignment. During the last 40 years or so, most of us have been eating a diet that is wildly out of true compared to what our bodies need, and equally out of true considering what is best for the health of people and the planet. That's why we decided to write True Food.

What does a True Food menu look like? Will you be deprived? A simple September supper could include local, sweet, vine-ripened tomatoes, freshly picked corn, and miraculously ripe peaches grown nearby with organic local cream on top. True food is real food with true flavor, and in keeping with the centerpiece of the Slow Food Movement, true food gives pleasure. Its choice puts health first, starting with the soil and not stopping until the plate.

Try these steps to enjoy the ultimate win/win diet for the 21st century.

Step One: Eat Local Food

For Health: Freshly picked food is rich in enzymes and flavor. A more local food system could also decrease food safety risks by decentralizing food production. Uncooked vegetables can lose from 10 to 50 percent of their less stable nutrients in two weeks - which, given the current food system, can be the very length of time it takes to get food from a large-scale commercial farm to your table.

For the Planet: The shorter the distance that food travels from farm to table, the better. In 1940, it took an average of one calorie of fossil-fuel energy to produce 2.3 calories of food energy. Now it takes closer to seven to 10 calories of fossil fuel energy to produce every one calorie of food energy.

Step Two: Eat a Variety of Foods

For Health: The wider the variety of foods in our diets, the greater the chance of getting all the nutrients we need, reports the FDA. Nutritional variety comes from genetic diversity, too, and when you follow this step, you are also supporting the growing of true food, rich in genetic diversity.

For the Planet: The more diversity, the more chance of resistance. Research suggests that traditional agriculture depended on 80,000 species of plants worldwide. Industrial agriculture, with its every broader reach around the world, now provides mot of the food on our planet from just 15 to 30 cultivated plant species. Unless we preserve diversity, our food supply is vulnerable to disease.

Step Three: Aim for Organic

For Health: According to a National Academy of Sciences (NAS) report, more than 80 percent of commonly used pesticides today have been classified by NAS researchers as potentially carcinogenic. Some attribute increased rates of birth defects and human reproductive problems to the heavy reliance on pesticides by conventional farms

For the Planet: Environmental pollution and degradation, such as tainted drinking water, soil erosion, and loss of natural resources, are also linked to the use of toxic and persistent chemicals in farming.

Step Four: Eat Lower on the Food Chain

For Health: Eating lower on the food chain can reduce the risk of disease, as studies from around the world confirm that the lower on the food chain a human eats, the greater the protection against heart disease, cancer, and diabetes. Also, A number of chemicals created for industrial use -- PCBs, flame retardants, dioxin, and DDT for instance-end up in larger animals each link up the food chain. Mercury found in tuna is a classic example of this concern.

For the Planet: Modern meat production involves intensive use of grain, water, energy, and grazing areas. Pork is the most resource-intensive meat, followed by beef, then poultry, eggs, and dairy products. Almost half of the energy used in American agriculture goes into livestock production.

Step Five: Eat Fresh Food

For Health: True fresh food resembles what it looked like in the field and is "alive." "Living" food is rich in enzymes that haven't been killed by heating, and antioxidants. The least amount of time from field to table, the fresher.

For the Planet: Food that has to be packaged to ship will be less fresh, and five of the six chemicals that generate the most hazardous waste, as ranked by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA, are used in the plastics industry.

Step Six: Eat Whole foods

For Health: Processed, refined food products can be stripped of fiber, enzymes, and important micronutrients, while unhealthy preservatives, sweeteners, fat, and salt are added. Whole food has all the nutrient package your body needs, and is rich in nutrition such as vitamin E found in whole kernel grains.

For the Planet: Wastewater and solid wastes are the primary causes of pollution concern in the food processing industry. All that fiber that is stripped out has to go somewhere, and much of it is laden with pesticides. Meanwhile, food processing requires large amounts of water and packaging resources.

Step Seven: Stock Your Pantry

For Health: If you stock up on staples, cooking healthy meals is always convenient as well as nutritious. Pantry foods are great sources of fiber, complex carbohydrates, essential fatty acids, crucial minerals such as zinc, and more.

For the Planet: A plentiful, green pantry mans fewer packaged foods and less trash.

Step Eight: Green Your Kitchen

For Health: Reducing our exposure to toxic cleaning products, pesticides, and other commonly used household chemicals can have a dramatic impact on indoor air quality.

For the Planet: Landfills, storm drains, and sewage treatment plants will be better off without chemical contamination coming from your home and adding to the problems of the millions of others who don't live as responsibly.

Truthfully, it is easier said than done to return to the diet of our grandparents in this day and age, so in True Food we show tips and techniques to make it easy. Gratefully, local farmers are jumping in to help us have lively, varied diets even in the winter. One farm we know grows organic tomatoes year- round in greenhouses in Vermont. Wouldn't you prefer one of those tomatoes over the mealy, pink, gas-ripened blobs available in the supermarket in January? Any day. The key is to let the pleasure of food be your guide.

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