The #1 Health Rule: Eat Real Food | Chelsea Green Publishing

The #1 Health Rule: Eat Real Food | Chelsea Green Publishing

The most important step you can take toward a long and healthy life is to eat wholesome, nutritious, real food. If you’re fortunate enough to have access to farmers markets, community supported agriculture (CSA) networks, food cooperatives, or your own garden, that’s your best bet for knowing what your food is, how it was grown, and if anything poisonous was applied to it. If you don’t have access to this level of real food, and many people don’t, look for the “Certified Organic” label (if you’re in the United States) wherever you buy your food. Certified Organic labeling is not perfect, and it’s no substitute for buying real food from a local farmer, but it is a simple way for consumers to choose foods that are less likely to be contaminated with glyphosate. Also, genetic modification is not allowed in certified organic foods. Wherever you buy your food, do your best to have the bulk of your diet be whole real food instead of packaged food-like substances. Even when packaged products are labeled as organic and GMO- free, they still aren’t necessarily healthy foods. Broken down into basic nutrients like sugar, flour, and oil, packaged organic food leaves out all the complex organic molecules and many of the micronutrients that offer many benefits to health, some of which are not yet even understood.

Journalist and food writer Michael Pollan recommends frequenting the perimeter of the grocery store. Stock up on fresh vegetables, fresh fruits, wild fish, and grass-fed, grass-finished organic meats, if they’re available. Avoid boxed foods with long lists of ingredients, especially if the ingredients are unrecognizable to you; packaged foods often include mold inhibitors, artificial dyes, and artificial colorants. And if you feel overwhelmed, start small and see what’s available. Grab a few organic avocados one week to make guacamole. Buy a quart of organic plain whole milk yogurt and make some fruit-sweetened smoothies. Get the good eggs, from chickens with access to lots of outdoor space, instead of the cheap eggs. They aremore expensive than nutrient-deficient conventional eggs but they are still cheaper than a candy bar. The gift of lifelong good health is a marathon, not a sprint.

While there is a confusing array of dietary fads claiming that low-fat, or high-fat, or low-carb, or high-protein is the best, what matters more is the micronutrient density in your diet. We need not only vitamins and minerals but also the polyphenols and flavonoids in fruits and vegetables, as well as in herbs and spices. Many of the herbs that we think of as flavoring are actually foods that promote health and longevity. These include oregano, rosemary, basil, cilantro, dill, sage, parsley, turmeric, garlic, and ginger. These foods add extra flavor and are also vitally important for supporting metabolism and detoxification. Consider this: In a study of over 11,000 people, scientists discovered that people who have the healthiest guts eat more than 30 different types of plants every week. Your mom was right when she told you to eat your vegetables (as long as they’re not contaminated with glyphosate and other toxicants).

Since a deficiency in dietary sulfur, and especially in sulfate, is a factor in many modern diseases, it’s important to enjoy lots of sulfur-containing foods. Animal-based protein has higher levels of sulfur-containing amino acids—taurine, methionine, and cysteine—than plant-based proteins. Sea- food, grass-fed beef, fish, eggs, and cheese are all good sources of sulfur. Among plants, onions, leeks, garlic, and cruciferous vegetables such as cabbage, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, and cauliflower are the best sources of sulfur-containing organic molecules. Garlic, which is a food you should be eating often, contains allicin, an organosulfur compound that gives garlic its unique odor and is associated with many health benefits. While people tolerate these foods differently, all of them are packed with nutrients and fiber and are extremely healthy.

Cruciferous vegetables contain sulforaphane, an unusual organic compound that contains two sulfur atoms. Broccoli sprouts contain a high concentration of sulforaphane. Sulforaphane is produced only in the seed, so a single broccoli sprout contains as much sulforaphane as a full-grown plant. In 2009, a team of researchers in Italy found that sulforaphane leads to an increase in glutathione in neurons, protects them from oxidative stress, and reduces indicators of apoptosis. Parkinson’s disease is associated with the loss of dopaminergic neurons. Sulforaphane seems to help safeguard these neurons. Indeed, a more recent study on humans suffering from schizophrenia confirmed that people with schizophrenia have low levels of glutathione in the brain. This study also found that supplements with sulforaphane increased brain glutathione.

Drinking water can be a good source of sulfur. Places where there is a lot of basalt rock, such as the volcanic islands of Iceland and Japan, are naturally blessed with high levels of sulfur that feeds into both the food crops and drinking water. Unfortunately, water processing such as reverse osmosis to remove glyphosate also removes sulfur.

N-acetyl cysteine (NAC) is a sulfur-containing amino acid. A study on rats exposed to glyphosate-based herbicides that were also given NAC showed that it had a prophylactic effect. Supplementation of NAC protected glyphosate- exposed animals from decreases in glutathione levels in the blood, liver, kidney, and brain normally induced by glyphosate. Glyphosate also induced increases in malondialdehyde, which is an indicator of oxidative stress. Simultaneous supplementation with NAC improved this metric, as well.

Other sulfur-containing supplements include α-lipoic acid, chondroitin sulfate, glucosamine sulfate, Epsom salts, methyl sulfonyl methane (MSM), S-adenosylmethionine (SAMe), liposomal glutathione, taurine, and garlic. If you soak in a tub of Epsom salt (magnesium sulfate), you absorb sulfate through your skin. Even better is to bathe in natural hot sulfur springs. Absorbing sulfate through the skin bypasses the complexities of sulfur metabolism in the gut, which can be especially problematic in the presence of chronic glyphosate exposure. Glyphosate causes an overgrowth of sulfur- reducing bacteria in the gut that can produce excessive amounts of hydrogen sulfide gas, causing bloating and abdominal pain, as well as brain fog.

In order to properly use sulfate in the body, it is not enough just to be able to synthesize it. Free sulfate levels in the blood have to be maintained at a low concentration in order to prevent gelling of the blood. Many herbs and spices have great nutritional and medicinal value in part because they facilitate sulfate transport in the blood and sulfate delivery to the tissues. These include berberine, cinnamon, curcumin, resveratrol, and other flavonoids and polyphenols.

Polyphenolic compounds are metabolites produced by plants to protect themselves against disease, infection, and damage. They can be subdivided into four primary classes: flavonoids, stilbenes, phenolic acids, and lignans. Many polyphenolic compounds have been found to help prevent diseases, including cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and neurodegeneration. They are present in a wide variety of plant-based foods, including fruits, vegetables, herbs, cereals, tea, coffee, nuts, seeds, and beer. Some that you may be familiar with are quercetin (in green tea), berberine (from the bar- berry bush), resveratrol (found in grape leaves and wine), and turmeric (in curry powders). Polyphenols seem to protect against cancer by preventing endothelial-to-mesenchymal transformation, a crucial step in progression toward a tumor. A diet consisting primarily of heavily processed foods is deficient in polyphenols.

Researchers are puzzled as to exactly how polyphenols work in the human body, mainly because they rarely make it into the general circulation. They are circulated between the gut and the liver, and the liver modifies them through conjugation with sulfate, glucuronate, and methyl groups. I suspect that polyphenols act as carriers of these biologically useful molecules. Their phenol-based rings are likely crucial for enabling efficient transfer of their conjugated unit to another molecule in the glycocalyx. In particular, they would serve to enhance the supply of sulfate and glucuronate to the mucins in the gastrointestinal wall, supporting gut health.

When avocados are in season, my husband Victor and I often make a delicious guacamole as the main dish for our lunch. We spice it up with tomatoes, coriander, onions, garlic, jalapeño peppers, and fresh lime juice. The avocado provides healthy polyunsaturated fats that are good for the brain, as well as folate, fiber, vitamin K, and copper. The other ingredients, especially the coriander, garlic, onions, and peppers, provide a wide array of complex polyphenols, terpenoids, and flavonoids. There’s vitamin C in the tomatoes and lime juice, and sulfur in the garlic and onions. And so much tastier than a vitamin pill!

Glutathione and vitamin C are important antioxidants in both the liver and the blood, as well as other parts of the body. As you know, glyphosate disrupts the supply of glutathione in the liver, as does acetaminophen. Since glyphosate and many other toxicants induce oxidative stress, it is important for us to keep our bodies’ supply of these two antioxidants as high as possible.

Glutathione is found naturally in some foods. Asparagus, avocados, okra, and spinach are some of the richest dietary sources. But you can also boost your glutathione levels by eating foods that are rich in sulfur-containing amino acids, such as taurine, cysteine, and methionine. Good options include nuts and seeds, as well as beef, cheese, chicken, duck, eggs, fish, pork, soy, and turkey. Assuming the enzymes needed to synthesize glutathione from these precursors are functioning properly, the body can make glutathione from these sources. Since glycine is also a component of glutathione, eating glycine-rich foods such as organic beef broth can also help.

Eating foods that are rich in vitamin C will reduce your need for glutathione, because vitamin C is also an effective antioxidant. Many fruits, particularly grapefruit, lemons, limes, and oranges, are rich in vitamin C. Vegetable sources are, too. Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and kale, as well as herbs and spices such as parsley and thyme, are surprisingly rich in vitamin C. The takeaway message here is to use fresh spices liberally to make your food more delicious and nutrient dense. Enjoy fresh fruits as often as possible, preferably at every meal. Just make sure the fruits and vegetables you are eating are either certified organic or grown without pesticides and herbicides. You don’t want the benefits of these powerful foods to be undermined.

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