It suddenly occurred to me this week, right out of the blue, that stepping into the driver’s seat (and applying our understanding of the differences between real food and manufactured calories) looks different for each of the three major macronutrients: carbohydrate, protein, fat. The strategy for each is slightly different. Now, if you’re new to this, then it’s perfectly reasonable to try one at a time and, without a single second’s hesitation, I would start with carbohydrates.
Why start with carbs? Because the American food supply is currently drowning in the kind that does not nourish. Remember that if it’s not nourishing, it’s not food; if it’s not food, it’s entertainment. Entertainment is for special occasions. Like birthdays, or Sunday dinner, or Friday night after a long week of work. See what I mean? Entertainment is not for breakfast, lunch and dinner all week long. It’s fun to go to the movies, but living at the movie theatre? — not so much.
This week I met someone who was not familiar with the terms “intact” and “stripped” with regard to carbohydrates. Here’s a little secret: I already knew that. Ouch. He thought he was doing a good job making smart choices, but he could do a lot better. The minute you start differentiating (well, okay, give it two weeks), you notice that your clothes are fitting better, your skin is looking healthier (shinier, smoother, pinker, less puffy), and your belt is ready to pull in a notch. You can’t help it; it just happens by itself. The minute you know the difference and start adjusting your choices, your body begins to respond to the more nourishing care you have begun to provide.
The abridged version of the difference goes like this: Intact carbs have an intact fiber matrix. Stripped carbs have had the fiber matrix stripped away. Intact carbs include vegetables, beans, fruits and whole grains. Stripped carbs are white rice, white flour, sugar, corn starch/syrup, and the like. Shift your diet in the direction of intact carbs, and away from stripped ones. Not 100% if you don’t want to; that’s not necessary. You can still have a brownie on Friday night. But you can’t eat a bowl of “breakfast cereal” every morning instead of a hard boiled egg, or leftover salmon, or a sweet potato with almond butter. Granola bars aren’t a good choice either; they’re just breakfast cereal with food glue. Call this Carbs 101, your short course on carbs.
Now let’s talk about fats. Most of us have been bombarded with the message that if you eat fat you get fat. Nothing could be further from the truth. Here are some high-fat foods that we know, without any doubt, are nourishing: avocados, olives and their oil, nuts, nut butters, cold water fish, dark chocolate. Eat them. You can eat an ounce of dark chocolate every day; it’s not candy, it’s food. At the same time, stay far away from any fat that was invented in the 20th century, including soybean oil, cottonseed oil (what is cotton doing in our food supply?, you might ask), Crisco®, non-dairy creamers, margarine, corn oil, and so on. As for the ones I haven’t mentioned, eat them in moderation; some of the smartest people I know are currently engaged in a war of words, trying to understand whether they are nourishing or toxic. Time will tell.
Finally, protein. You know the expression “You are what you eat!”? Well, you are what WHAT you EAT eats, too! As with most things, when you eat chicken raised in little cages, and fed bulk grain purchased at the lowest possible price, you get what you pay for. When you eat eggs whose yolks are bright yellow-orange, it is safe to assume that they came from chickens whose diet consisted of bugs, worms and grass. Beans are a magical source of protein, in part because the simplicity of obtaining them depends only on the quality of the soil and water with which they are grown. They are also the only high-protein food that is also rich in fiber. Because the equation is a simpler one, it’s easier to obtain nutritious beans than high-quality flesh. That’s why, in my home, we cook with lots of beans, and try to get the best quality fish, chicken and so on when we do eat it.
Post your questions!