Monday, October 24, 2011

for the love of butter... and other healthy foods

over the last year and a half,  my homemaking and personal health philosophy has changed pretty dramatically.  while i am still very frugal (as i have always been :) ) i spend money much differently than i used to.  while i am still like to cook healthy meals, my "healthy" cooking has moved away from being low-fat and is now much more buttery (yum!).  i have moved away from killing germs with dangerous chemicals like triclosan, bleach and alcohol to growing bacteria to make foods like kefir, sauerkraut and yogurt.  and while i still place a high value on exercising,  i rarely do long distance running and now focus more on functional fitness.

let me explain the shift.

it all started with a book called "the maker's diet" (cheesy title, but good info).

i had been battling daily GERD/heartburn for almost two years and decided that i was done.  not only did i want to be off of medicine (it didn't make sense to me that someone in their mid-twenties should be on a daily medicine, plus i knew there had to be lasting health effects from it), but i noticed a trend among people my age having frequent heartburn.  this isn't normal, and so i knew there had to be an answer besides medicine.  a friend had told me about this book and how some of the people who followed the diet had their persistent heartburn cured.

the book was eye-opening to say the least.  the writer's diet philosophy was completely antithetical to everything i had ever been taught about healthy eating.  he purported that too many carbohydrates like sugar and grains (even whole grains) were to blame for weight problems, and not dietary fat, which is usually blamed.  in fact, his diet even emphasized the types of fats i had been previously told to avoid, like butter, animal fats, and coconut oil.  he also showed the importance of healthy bacteria for digestive health, though unfortunately these days due to pasteurization, refrigeration and processed foods, we kill or discourage the growth of bacteria in our food, much of which is actually beneficial (previously i didn't even know that there was such a thing as good bacteria!).  he also pointed out many common lifestyle factors that degrade our health, such as exposing ourselves to toxic chemicals through household cleaning products and health/beauty products.

since then, i have continued to do research into these things and found a lot of confirmation from numerous other resources, such as the weston a. price foundation.  i feel like my eyes have been opened to a lot of things, and i have made many changes.  many of the changes have been baby steps towards better health, and some have been pretty big.  some of the changes have required a lot of prayer, as i have had to seek the Lord for wisdom in the midst of conflicting opinions (such as the argument over whether or not meat is healthy... there are strong opinions on both sides and evidence for both sides as well.  i land in the clean meats camp... the belief that meat is healthy if it is clean... ie no hormones or antibiotics, and fed a healthy, pasture-based diet).  overall, i would describe my current philosophy as a traditional diet and lifestyle... cooking, cleaning and exercising as people have been doing for thousands of years, without many of the modern diseases (heart disease, diabetes, cancer) that we deal with today.

as i continue to take more steps towards healthy living, i wanted to share with you some of the changes i have made, and how it has been for us.

less processed food, more homemade food.  this shift has happened for two reasons: for our budget and for our health.  it is pretty hard to afford organic bread, tortillas and granola on our budget, but we can more easily afford organic flour and oats for me to make these things homemade (especially when i buy these items in bulk from our co-op).  also, by making things myself, i know that we are avoiding preservatives, artificial colors, MSG and the other added chemicals of processed foods.  moreover, i have more control over how things are made.  for example, when i make grains i prefer to soak or sour them first, a process that breaks down the phytic acid (something in whole grains that blocks the absorbtion of minerals in the body).  it is almost impossible to find processed foods at the store that have undergone this process before being prepared.

only buying organic meat.  this has been more difficult on the budget, but i have been able to work it in through buying less expensive cuts of meat, and stretching the meat through making a meatless meal once a week or so, and making dishes that call for smaller amounts of meat.  because of the hormones, antibiotics and concentrated pesticides, i see meat as the most important food to buy organic.  we made the transition over a period of a few months, and now i almost never buy non-organic meat.  More on my meat philosophy and how to save money on it here.

using all homemade cleaning products.  i clean our entire house with vinegar, baking soda, hydrogen peroxide and water.  not only do they work just as well as conventional cleaning products, but they are MUCH cheaper!  it makes me happy that i can carry my baby in a sling while cleaning the house with no worries about how it will effect her health.  i have also started to make some homemade health and beauty products (toothpaste, shampoo/conditioner, moisturizer, diaper wipes and cream), which has also saved money and is also healthier (especially important since these things go on our skin which can absorb the toxins which are in many conventional products).

cooking with fat... lots of fat.  its true.  i went from being a low-fat nazi to cooking with so much butter it would probably make most americans nervous. i also switched from non-fat milk/yogurt/cottage cheese to full fat dairy products.  i cook chicken with the skin on and eat the skin first... previously i would have cringed, now i think its delicious!  i love to douse my salads with my homemade olive oil salad dressing.  and the list goes on and on.  and contrary to popular american thought... i didn't gain a pound (before getting pregnant)!  even when i was pregnant i gained a healthy 25 pounds (the general thought is that pregnant women should gain 25-35 pounds), and i have already lost 20 of it (3 weeks after giving birth).  i never would have believed it even 2 years ago, but dietary fat IS healthy and it does NOT make you fat.

walk, don't run to better health.  when alex got certified as a personal trainer, one of the surprising things he learned was that long distance running isn't as healthy as it is sometimes portrayed.  it puts a lot of strain on the body in an unhealthy way, especially in how it builds up cortisol in the body, a stress hormone that increases fat reserves and decreases lean body mass (ie muscle).  running used to be my sole form of exercise, but since then i have moved more towards lifting weights, walking, biking and staying active with housework (things like gardening).  even carrying a baby in a sling is a form of exercise, especially when mixed with other housework.  now i try to stay active throughout the day and i only formally "work out" a couple times a week.

have these changes worked?  yes, i am happy to say that i have been off of heartburn meds for almost a year now (it was just in time... i am very thankful that i was able to have a med-free pregnancy).  that is more than worth it in my eyes.  other than that i cant say that i have seen huge changes in our health, but i do feel very good about the changes we have made.  it makes so much sense to make food and other things the way people have been doing it for thousands of years.

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