The Nuts and Bolts of Eating for Health
by Tammy Stokes
There’s an old cliché, “An apple a day keeps the doctor away.” But I have a new one for you, “Eat clean. Live lean. Get rest. Decrease Stress. Live your best.” It’s basic and true. The reality is that good health is based on simple principles. As a longtime health and fitness industry professional, my best advice is not to complicate it. I remember meeting Jack LaLanne (nicknamed “The Godfather of Modern Fitaness”) when I was living in Los Angeles. LaLanne was an American fitness icon who lived healthily until he died at the age of 96. He had a very simple philosophy on food. He ate two meals a day and avoided snacking. His diet was mainly vegetarian but included fish. LaLanne was known for his wise and quirky sense of humor that criticized the consumption of processed foods and he was often quoted for giving this advice, “If man made it, don’t eat it.”
Understanding the essentials of clean eating is important. Clean eating is based on the foundation of eating foods that enhance health, rather than deteriorate it. Food can be a good medicine or a bad drug. Eating a clean food diet is your first step toward better health. To eat clean means to eat real. When you eat whole foods and products made from ingredients that are free from unnatural additives, you are eating clean. Adopting this food philosophy creates better health and often results in fewer doctor visits.
Keep It Fresh
Produce is the king of clean. Spend most of your time and money in this section of the grocery store. Beans, legumes, and sources of healthy fats like nuts, seeds, and high-quality olive oil are all good.
Ditch Protein and Diary
Reduce or eliminate your consumption of meats. When you do choose to eat meat, make sure it is high quality (without hormones, antibiotics, humanely raised) and grass-fed. If you eat fish, choose smaller, cold-water fish like wild-caught salmon, Atka or Atlantic mackerel, anchovies and sardines, all of which often contain low levels of mercury.
It’s best to buy organic eggs because they contain lower amounts of inflammatory omega-6 fatty acids and have more nutritious omega-3 fatty acids. Clean food diets can include small portions of dairy, but make sure it doesn’t negatively impact your body. Dairy is a common allergen, and in some people can cause inflammation, bloating, and constipation.
Choose Great Grains
Did you know that some of the longest living populations in the world include moderate portions of whole grains in their diet? When chosen correctly, they are slow-burning complex carbohydrates that are rich in vitamins, minerals, and fiber.
The best whole grains are naturally
gluten free, like whole oats, quinoa, and whole-grain rice. If you don’t have a gluten intolerance, then sprouted grains, whole rye, and barley are tasty options. Finally, clean choices for sweeteners are honey, maple syrup, coconut nectar, molasses, and stevia, but if you can avoid sweetness all together,
even better. Eating clean is pretty straightforward. The tricky part is hidden ingredients. When you order grilled chicken nuggets at a popular fast food restaurant, you might be surprised to know that there are over 20 ingredients in those nuggets and two of them are different forms of sugar. Mastering clean eating involves knowing what’s in your food. If you can avoid chemicals, food that is overly processed, and unrecognizable ingredients,
you’ll do great.
My “no” list
Beware of these ingredients found in common foods and avoid eating products made with them:
• Monosodium glutamate (MSG): Asian-influenced food, chips, soups, broths and lunch meats
• Trans fats: fried foods, fast foods, margarine, coffee creamers, crackers and baked goods
• Artificial sweeteners: gum, toothpaste, breath mints, chewable vitamins, liquid vitamins, beverages
• Sulfur dioxide: beer, dried fruits, vinegar, potato products, pickled foods, canned coconut milk, cider, soft drinks, and bottled lemon and lime juices
• Nitrates: lunch meats, bacon, ham, cured meats, canned meat, jerky, and smoked fish
• High-fructose corn syrup: breads, candy, salad dressing, soda, sweetened yogurt, canned fruit, juice, cereals, and ketchup
• Chlorine and aluminum: bleached table salt, rice milk, firming agents in pickled foods and baking powders
• Food dyes: breakfast cereals, soft drinks, baked goods, desserts, gum, medicines and beverages
Since so much of my work as the founder of West Coast Workout and Cafe West Express centers around food, fitness and lifestyle, I am frequently asked, “So, what do you eat?” I eat a diet of real foods that are minimally processed and contain an array of enzymes, vitamins, minerals, fiber, antioxidants, anti-inflammatories and healthy fats. It is the stuff my grandmother would recognize as food. The stuff we prepare in my cafe. My diet is loaded with plants and an occasional serving of fish with a glass of wine.
My dietary staples
• Medicinal mushrooms found in the Emperor’s Broth at Cafe West Express. I drink the broth daily for immunity and longevity.
• Sea vegetables like nori for their mineral content.
• Herbs and spices, especially cinnamon, oregano, rosemary, thyme, hot peppers, turmeric, and ginger. I use an abundance of fresh and dried herbs for flavor and medicinal effects.
• Green tea for protection from oxidative stress.
• Cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli and kale to reduce the risk of certain cancers.
• Big colorful salads containing lots of greens. I call them “longevity salads” because that is why I eat them, for longevity.
• Flax seeds for omega-3 fatty acids and fiber.
• Apples. Yes, I eat one every day because apples are rich in flavonoids and pectin fiber.
• Oats. Oh, how I love the fiber-rich flax and energy a bowl of Life Porridge from Cafe West Express gives me in the wintertime.
• Berries, because they are packed with antiaging, beautifying, and antioxidant nutrients.
• “Pond water.” It’s awful tasting, but the mix of spirulina, grasses, chlorella and brewer’s yeast give me undeniable energy to do what I do every day.
I’m sharing one of my favorite quotes about food from social scientist Claude Fischler, “If you are what you eat and you don’t know what you’re eating, do you know who you are?” Think about it.