It may sound confusing to hear, “I don’t care what diet you follow – whether you do not adhere to any special diet or comply with the gf/cf (gluten-free/casein-free) diet, SCD (Specific Carbohydrate Diet), low oxalate, Body Ecology, Feingold, or other helpful autism spectrum disorder diets, unless you follow a nutrient-dense diet.” I believe that eliminating nutrient-dense foods will render the beneficial components of all the other diets less effective. Diet does matter. What we eat is one of the most important health decisions we make on a daily basis. It is never too late for us or our children to start having a more beneficial diet.
What does “nutrient-dense” mean and why is it important?
Nutrient-dense foods are healing, and they pose a lower toxic load because they are:
- Not genetically modified
- Quality proteins
- Healthy fats
- Probiotic-rich foods
- Free of artificial sweeteners, colors, and flavors
One of the benefits of organic foods is avoiding the many toxins that are present in conventionally grown produce. Washing or removing the skin of produce does not remove all the toxins because many pesticides are applied while plants are flowering or are present in the chemical fertilizers in the soil.
Organic foods are becoming more available and mainstream in grocery stores. If you cannot find or afford all organic foods, focus on avoiding those that are the highest in pesticides as reported by FoodNews.org, the Web site of the nonprofit organization Environmental Working Group. The highest pesticide produce items, or “Dirty Dozen,” include peach, apple, bell pepper, celery, nectarine, strawberry, cherry, kale, lettuce, grapes (imported), carrot, and pear. The lowest pesticides are found in the “Clean Fifteen” list: onion, avocado, sweet corn, pineapple, mango, asparagus, sweet pea, kiwi, cabbage, eggplant, papaya, watermelon, broccoli, tomato, and sweet potato. This list is reviewed and updated annually.
Genetically modified foods bring with widespread health challenges, including the “coincidental” parallel with the rise of food intolerances and allergies since their mainstream inclusion. For an in-depth discussion, go to seedsofdeception.com by author and expert Jeffrey M. Smith, or read his book of the same name, Seeds of Deception. Other books that discuss genetic modification include Food, Inc.: Mendel to Monsanto—The Promises and Perils of the Biotech Harvest by Peter Pringle or Genetically Modified Foods: Debating Biotechnology by Michael Ruse and David Castle. It is our responsibility to learn more about this important decision.
Quality proteins are those found in grass-fed, pasture-raised beef, buffalo, and lamb, and organic fed-, pasture-raised poultry and wild-caught fish (from fish with low levels of mercury). Also look for eggs from organic-fed, pasture-raised chicken. Before factory farming became popular, chickens roamed the barnyard eating bugs and food that resulted in a protein that was rich in omega fats and free of arsenic. Current factory farming practices allow for small amounts of arsenic in the feed to stimulate appetites of caged chickens. E. coli and the need for excessive antibiotics have become prevalent since cows stopped eating grass to eat a cheaper and more convenient corn and/or soy feed.
A healthy fat does not include ANY partially or fully hydrogenated fat. Read labels carefully because a label can say zero trans-fat and still contain 1/2 (.5) percent trans-fat. Healthy fats are necessary for brain development and function, to create energy, for healthy cell membranes, and to balance hormones. There is often confusion in what a “healthy fat” is. Dr. Mary Enig and Sally Fallon, authors of Eat Fat Lose Fat and Nourishing Traditions: The Cookbook that Challenges Politically Correct Nutrition and the Diet Dictocrats, help unravel the mystery.
Probiotic-rich foods include cultured vegetables, yogurts, and drinks such as kefir and kombucha. Not all of these foods are right for everyone, so check with your qualified health care provider before using. The yogurt and kefir may be made from non-dairy ingredients to meet your specific needs. To maximize the benefits of these foods, look for raw sources without added preservatives and sugars, or make your own from recipes found in Sandor Katz and Sally Fallon’s book titled Wild Fermentation.
Artificial sweeteners, colors and flavors are neurotoxic and contribute to additional allergy and histamine reactions. For more information on why to avoid these substances, read Excitotoxins: The Taste That Kills by Russell Blaylock, MD.
Start a nutrient-dense diet today by adding homemade broth to your diet. Chicken, turkey, beef, or fish broth can be made in a pot or slow cooker and incorporated into daily diets in the form of soup, added to savory sauces (including tomato sauces for pasta or pizza as your diet allows), used to cook/steam vegetables, rice, pasta, or other grains, and anywhere that a savory recipe calls for liquid. The beneficial minerals and healthy fats found in homemade broth are healing to the digestive system and provide a good way to supplement minerals and protein for children with inadequate diets.
I often hear that making these changes is too hard and too expensive. I prefer the word “unfamiliar” to “hard” and believe that learning new techniques helps turn the unfamiliar into the familiar. Read, educate yourself, and look for local support groups. There are local and online support groups nationwide.* When available and willing, parents and grandparents can be very helpful and might assist by making broth or other family meals. And if you think a healthy, nutrient-dense diet is too expensive, there are ways to save money by planning meals and creating a grocery list before shopping, avoiding expensive prepared foods that are typically full of unwanted ingredients, making bulk purchases, and, finally, remembering that we can pay now – or pay later. We pay later with the high cost of prescription drugs and medical bills and an earlier death because of the degenerative diseases that will result from poor dietary choices. Food matters – we are what we eat. Make healthy nutrient-dense food choices today that will benefit the entire family.