This doesn’t only apply to managing illness either. Many healthy people are taking handfuls of supplements to stay healthy. And sometimes health has deteriorated to a point when long term medication is necessary. But all too often, either with trying to live longer or managing chronic illness, you end up with a daily bellyful of pills. If you’re in the camp, there is pharmacy existing in each of our own homes -the kitchen.
Now don’t get me wrong. I’ve had an extensive natural pharmacy in one of our kitchen cabinets for most of my adult life, and at times it has even overflowed to a secondary closet or the garage. But while supplements can be amazing tools and/or supportive measures for our health, they should never be used in place of food.
The impact of what we eat can often be felt immediately. Anyone who has watched children used to low sugar diets have some sweets on Easter or Halloween can see the hyperactive state it can put us in. And, in the absence of sufficient caffeine, a big carby bowl of puffed cereal or instant oatmeal without protein at that “most important meal of the day” breakfast leads to a mid-morning mental and physical crash, followed soon after by irresistible, almost overwhelming cravings for a quick trip to “treat yourself” to a tasty pastry and start the cycle over again.
So while it isn’t always easy to make great food choices when outside of your house, within your kitchen there are many amazing choices you can make to improve both your short term mood and energy level as well as have a positive impact on your health. Here are some of my suggestions.
Each and every meal should contain some protein, some healthy fats, and at least some vegetables (and occasional fruit). And if you are extra crummy or are really committed to living the most healthy life you can, make ½ of each plate you serve up filled with vegetables. Yes our food isn’t as nutritious as it was many years ago, and yes it is easy to take a multivitamin to cover your nutritional bases, but food based nutrients are still the best absorbed and the most naturally balanced nutrients we can find.
To keep inflammation low, you’ve got to be mindful of the fats you eat. An overabundance of seed oils (canola, safflower, sunflower, peanut), while containing good amounts of monounsaturated (good) fats, also contain way too much inflammatory Omega 6. And you can’t find a nutritionist worth their beans advocating to increase corn oil in your diet, so likewise you should avoid feedlot cows and pigs that have been marbling themselves with corn their whole lives. We are what we eat, but that applies to animals we call food as well.
Good fats should be in every meal to give us energy, keep our cells happy, boost up our hormones and once again lower inflammation. Examples of healthy fats include olive oil, avocado fruit and oil, raw nuts and seeds, and organic pastured eggs, chicken, pork, and yes beef. Everyone knows that salmon has heart-healthy Omega 3 Fatty Acids, but did you know that 100% grass fed beef and dairy does too?
Far from being simply for adding flavor and variety to meats, herbs and spices are nutrient powerhouses and can be targeted therapies by themselves! Oregano. Basil, thyme, and rosemary are all potent sources of antioxidants. While you’re only having a few teaspoons in your meals, when eaten every day that is like a supplement! Carminatives such as cumin, coriander, cardamom and ginger all help improve our digestion, and the beautifully orange Turmeric turns out to be one of the best anti-inflammatories in nature. Using herbs as teas are much more than a beverage and can do everything from calm an upset belly, to help clear a cough, or help you fall asleep at night. And these aren’t healthy cardboard – these things taste great!
Need some iron – try liver. Fat-soluble vitamins A, E, D, and K – give organ meats a try. Move over glucosamine and double up on gelatin or bone broths to give your joints the repair materials they need. And while I love probiotic capsules and know they are essential for nearly everyone who has gotten off the healthy track of life, fermented vegetables can be condiments and Kombucha or Kefir drinks that can be easily added for long-term food-based support! And here’s the kicker - as long as you don’t overdo it, it’s more than ok to even drink coffee. As much as I’ve tried to find bad press on coffee for years and years, when drank in moderation it always seems that a little java helps with more than just our get up and go.
So take your fish oils, your probiotics, and your Vitamin D3 (or sunlight therapy), but don’t ignore the pharmacy you have right within your own home.