How to eat to live and be healthy is something I think about often. And I know… Healthy, healthy, healthy… We hear that word thrown around all over the place. God only knows how often I say it…
But seriously WTF does “healthy” even mean???
I think about this question a lot, and truth be told, “healthy” is as unique and diverse as every individual on the planet. Every. Body. Is different. So, it stands to reason that every body’s needs would be different, too. How to eat to live is to embrace your own body’s differences and needs.
Embracing our bio-individuality is the key to unlocking optimal health. We Currys learned this (some might say) “the hard way.” Really it was a blessing. In 2005, all six of us were finally diagnosed with gluten intolerance. But here’s the kicker, even though we shared the same autoimmune disorder, each of our bodies experienced the condition to different degrees and with different symptoms. Cutting gluten totally changed our lives. Who would have thought this little cluster of grains, which could be so nourishing for some, was the source of so many different issues for us?
How to Eat to Live
Actually, observing autoimmune disorders and food allergies is the perfect way to see bio-individuality in action. While a certain food group may be healthy and beneficial to some, it may be actively harmful to others. The only way to know where your body stands is to listen to the cues it gives you. If you feel like shit all the time, it’s a telltale sign that something is wrong. There’s a good chance that your food might be the culprit, even if you believe it to be healthy. The opposite is also true. Your body might respond really well to a certain food group. It may energize and focus you or help you meet your health/fitness goals. But if you’re not in tune with your body, you don’t know to incorporate more of that food group and you miss out on all the benefits. This is true of folks with OR WITHOUT autoimmune issues. All of us are unique in our nutritional needs.
That’s why Meg and I recommend periodic resets to check in on the food you’re eating and how your body responds to it. [CHECK OUT OUR RESET HERE] The more you do it, the easier it becomes to interpret your body’s cues and nourish yourself appropriately.
The act of listening to your body and making mindful eating choices is what I call Eating for Benefit; aka. How to Eat to Live. Because it’s not about restriction. It’s about making active, positive changes. It’s about taking a hands-on approach to your health and honoring your body’s individuality. It’s called Eating FOR Benefit because it’s about eating FOR you. This way of eating benefits your whole life!
When it comes to Eating for Benefit, this concept of bio-individuality is only one part of the equation. The other pillar of beneficial eating is quality. No matter what diet suits you best, high-quality ingredients are absolutely crucial to living an optimally healthy lifestyle. That’s why I always take every opportunity to remind you guys, “ingredients matter.” Plus, every cook, from Chef to amateur, knows the higher the quality of ingredients, the better the taste! But for now, let’s focus on the health effects. Choosing high-quality ingredients means you’re picking foods with higher nutrient contents (and bio-availability), which is verrry good news for your body (all the way down to the cellular level)! By doing so, you’re also avoiding low-quality ingredients, which can be lacking in nutrient density at best, or even outright harmful to your body at worst!
Here’s a little visual tool to help you determine the quality of your food:
On a scale of 1-10, the #10 foods are the pinnacle of quality. These are the pesticide-free, whole foods that should make up the bulk of your diet. (For a deeper dive on organics, sustainable farming, and where I source my high-quality produce, check out the blog I wrote on Farmers Markets.)
As we travel down the spectrum, we get into the territory of leftovers then pre-prepared packaged foods. Listen, I know how helpful some of these packaged foods can be. My pantry is stocked with tons of packaged staples and even a few snacky treats. The trick is to know that not all packaged goods are created equal. While, some foods fit comfortably in the middle of the quality spectrum, others are smack dab at the bottom.
Read those labels, my friends. They unveil everything you need to know!
Organic, BPA/BPS-Free, Non-GMO? You got yourself a winner.
Low-quality oils, additives, unnecessarily high sugar content? That’s a “hell no” from me.
(For a more in-depth guide on label reading and more tips on finding high-quality foods, check out my blog on grocery store shopping.)
The goal is to pick the highest quality of foods available to you. Ultimately, it’s an investment in your future. Taking care of our baseline health now, means not having to deal with gnarly, avoidable health issues later down the line. That being said, sometimes quality is a privilege. I wish it weren’t the case, and that everyone had access to high-quality foods, but that is not our reality today. So, treat yourself with grace. At the end of the day, Eating for Benefit is all about making active, mindful choices to support your body’s unique needs and doing the best you can.
Unsurprisingly, my cookbook, Damn Good Gluten Free, has a huge focus on Eating for Benefit. It’s got 140+ high-quality recipes specifically designed to adapt to your unique dietary/lifestyle needs. To pick up a copy and support your beneficial eating journey, click the link here and sign up to our DGGF wait list.
I wish you all a beautiful, healthful, beneficial day!