Every day you have to navigate a toxic nutritional landscape. You have to hunt and gather in a food desert. You have to survive the American supermarket and dodge the dangers of industrial food. The good news is that if you follow 10 simple rules you can eat safely for life.
Think of them as shortcuts or tricks to use when shopping or eating. If you just do these things and nothing else, you will automatically be eating real, fresh food that will prevent, treat and even reverse most of the chronic diseases that drain our energy, stress our families and deplete our economy. You don't even have to understand anything about nutrition. Just follow these goof-proof rules for getting healthy, losing weight and feeling great.
- Ideally have only food without labels in your kitchen or foods that don't come in a box, a package or a can. There are labeled foods that are great, like sardines, artichoke hearts, or roasted red peppers, but you have to be very smart in reading the labels. There are two things to look for: the ingredient list and the nutrition facts. Check out my special report on "How to Read Labels" for more information.
Where is the primary ingredient on the list? If the real food is at the end of the list and the sugar or salt is at the beginning, beware. The most abundant ingredient is listed first and the others are listed in descending order by weight. Be conscious, too, of ingredients that may not be on the list; some ingredients may be exempt from labels. This is often true if the food is in a very small package, if it has been prepared in the store, or if it has been made by a small manufacturer. Beware of these foods.
- If a food has a label it should have fewer than five ingredients. If it has more than five ingredients, throw it out. Also beware of food with health claims on the label. They are usually bad for you -- think "sports beverages." I recently saw a bag of deep-fried potato chips with the health claims "gluten-free, organic, no artificial ingredients, no sugar" and with fewer than five ingredients listed. Sounds great, right? But remember, cola is 100 percent fat-free and that doesn't make it a health food.
- If sugar (by any name, including organic cane juice, honey, agave, maple syrup, cane syrup, or molasses) is on the label, throw it out. There may be up to 33 teaspoons of sugar in the average bottle of ketchup. Same goes for white rice and white flour, which act just like sugar in the body. If you have diabesity -- the spectrum of metabolic imbalances starting with just a little belly fat, leading all the way to diabetes -- you can't easily handle any flour, even whole-grain. Throw it out.
- Throw out any food with high-fructose corn syrup on the label. It is a super sweet liquid sugar that takes no energy for the body to process. Some high-fructose corn syrup also contains mercury as a by-product of the manufacturing process. Many liquid calories, such as sodas, juices, and "sports" drinks contain this metabolic poison. It always signals low quality or processed food.
- Throw out any food with the word hydrogenated on the label. This is an indicator of trans fats, vegetable oils converted through a chemical process into margarine or shortening. They are good for keeping cookies on the shelf for long periods of time without going stale, but these fats have been proven to cause heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. New York City and most European counties have banned trans fats, and you should, too.
- Throw out any highly-refined cooking oils such as corn, soy, etc. (I explain which oils to buy in Week 1 of the program in my book The Blood Sugar Solution). Also avoid toxic fats and fried foods.
- Throw out any food with ingredients you can't recognize, pronounce, or that are in Latin.
- Throw out any foods with preservatives, additives, coloring or dyes, "natural flavorings," or flavor enhancers such as MSG (monosodium glutamate).
- Throw out food with artificial sweeteners of all kinds (aspartame, Splenda, sucralose, and sugar alcohols -- any word that ends with "ol" like xylitol, sorbitol). They make you hungrier, slow your metabolism, give you bad gas, and make you store belly fat.
- If it came from the earth or a farmer's field, not a food chemist's lab, it's safe to eat. As Michael Pollan says, if it was grown on a plant, not made in a plant, then you can keep it in your kitchen. If it is something your great grandmother wouldn't recognize as food, throw it out (like a "lunchable" or go-gurt"). Stay away from "food-like substances."
That's it -- just 10 simple goof-proof rules for staying healthy for life. It is a simple recipe for staying out of trouble and automatically leads you to a real whole foods diet. And the side effect will be weight loss, energy, reduction in the need for medication and saving our nation from the tsunami of chronic disease and Pharmageddon!
When you make these simple choices you will not only improve your health, and your family's health, but you will create a "wellness spring" that will shift the demand in the marketplace. You will not only take back your health, but also help America take back its health. You vote three times a day with your fork and it impacts our health, how we grow food, energy consumption, climate change and environmental degradation. You have more power than you think. Use it!
My personal hope is that together we can create a national conversation about a real, practical solution for the prevention, treatment, and reversal of our obesity, diabetes and chronic disease epidemic.
Now I'd like to hear from you:
What are your rules for eating heathy for life?
How have you transformed your health with food?
Please leave your thoughts by adding a comment below.
To your good health,
Mark Hyman, MD
To learn more and to get a free sneak preview of The Blood Sugar Solution go to www.drhyman.com.
Mark Hyman, M.D. is a practicing physician, founder of The UltraWellness Center, a four-time New York Times bestselling author, and an international leader in the field of Functional Medicine. You can follow him on Twitter, connect with him on LinkedIn, watch his videos on YouTube, become a fan on Facebook, and subscribe to his newsletter.
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