I’m sure you’re familiar with the concept of a moral compass. It’s that inner sense that tells you not to rob banks and generally helps you distinguish right from wrong. It was probably instilled in you by the people who raised you and is usually not something you ever have to consciously think about.
Stay with me, I’m going somewhere with this.
We all have slightly different moral codes based on our individual career choices, cultures, positions in life, etc. But there are still basic overarching moral concepts that anyone wishing to be a functioning member of society should follow (e.g. don’t lie, steal or cheat*).
Most people have at least a decent moral compass.
Unfortunately, most people don’t have a properly functioning “dietary compass”—an inner sense that helps you determine what foods are appropriate and not appropriate for you to eat. Everyone is different so everyone requires different foods to feel good. The problem is that many people don’t know how to determine what real, quality food actually is.
There are as many diets out there as there are people in the world. But regardless of what you eat—and even if you don’t know what to eat—there are fundamental principles that should govern your food choices to ensure you’re eating authentic, nourishing food.
STOP THINKING SO MUCH
Years ago, when I first started trying to “eat healthy” I had no clue what to eat. My dietary compass was completely broken and it was a source of frustration and anxiety for me. This is no wonder, considering all the crazy foods we’re brought up with and convinced to think are healthy. (So…”fortified” Lucky Charms aren’t part of a balanced breakfast? WTF?!)
So how do you see past the forest of countless diets and gurus telling you that their way is the only way to be healthy/lose weight/have more energy/etc?
Let’s start from scratch.
First, forget everything you’ve ever read, heard or otherwise learned about nutrition, diet or health. Next, strip away all the trappings of our modern world, including buildings, cars, computers, and so on. What are we left with? Assuming we hadn’t already decimated our natural habitats to make room for these things, we’d be left with nature. That’s it. In our most basic state, we are just human beings in nature. Doesn’t it make sense to eat what’s available for free in nature?
You don’t need to look at peer reviewed scientific studies to know this is true. It’s intuitive. It may not be for you just yet, but with practice it will be.
So here’s where we’re at so far: eat what exists in nature. Off to a good start, I’d say.
It just so happens that 99% of what exists in nature is plant food. There are obviously animals in nature also, so if eating animals fits into your ethical code then go for it. The point is, if you can’t trust what’s in nature, what can you trust?^
What I’m essentially talking about here is wild food—food that grows and survives without human intervention. Yes, like weeds.
“What is a weed? A plant whose virtues have not yet been discovered.”
— Ralph Waldo Emerson
Wild plants and animals in nature are more hardy than their domestic counterparts. They have more naturally occurring medicinal and nutritional substances in them that make them stronger so that they can survive on their own. These substances, in turn, make you stronger and more robust. If you are clever and determined enough to make wild food a part of your diet, you’re on the fast track to epic health.
However, I want to make it clear that you don’t have to forage wild food to have the best health ever. I only use this example so you know what the benchmark is for the highest quality food available. Personally, I love wild food. I think it’s fun to learn about what grows naturally around me and really enjoy going out and looking for it. But if this isn’t your cup of tea, don’t sweat it.
So what’s the next most natural thing to wild food? Probably homegrown food.
What tastes better than a peach straight from a backyard tree or a tomato fresh off the vine? The more homegrown things you can eat, the better. If you don’t have a (or don’t want to) garden, then go to your local farmer’s market and find someone who sells ugly produce. The uglier the better. Shiny, waxy apples don’t grow like that in nature.
“The uglier the produce, the better. Shiny, waxy apples don’t grow like that in nature.”
Farmer’s markets are also a great place to find small farmers that raise their own cattle and let them roam free and eat grass like they’re supposed to do in nature. In many cases, these animals are part of their family. The meat that’s produced from a loved and well taken care of animal is an entirely different food than the meat produced from a huge factory farm where the animals are treated inhumanely. There’s more love in it. This is not a hippie concept, this is real life. Why do you think home cooked meals that your mom makes taste better than anything else? Because of all the love she puts into making it. Real talk.
Are you getting the thought process here?
Bottom line: Learn how to choose good food and learn where to get it from. This is something we can all do. I’ll have more specific tips in my future blog posts about how to do this effortlessly, as well as epic recipes. So stay tuned. For now, just keep in mind that the closer something is to its natural state, the better. Here are some more examples to drive my point home:
White bread made with white refined flour and over 30 other artificial ingredients
Essene bread made with only two ingredients: sprouted organic rye kernels and filtered water
Shiny, wax-coated, pesticide-sprayed supermarket apples
The average overweight American
Indigenous people of the Trobriand Islands
The domesticated Chihuahua
In abundant health,
* “…but if you must lie, lie in the arms of the one you love. If you must steal, steal away from bad company. If you must cheat, cheat death…” — Will Smith, Hitch
^ Yes, there are poisonous plants in nature. But actually fewer than you think. This is an entirely different subject altogether that I’ll visit in the future.