Good Food Standards!

Have you ever wondered if there were standards by which we could judge the foods we eat? 

Generally, whenever we are to make a decision on what to buy and consume, most of the time we would like to base it on some criteria which will allow us to make an informed decision. 

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Most often, when we are making a purchase or consumption decision, we are conscious about or are interrogative about the standards maintained in the building and production of the product we are thinking of purchasing or have purchased. Being aware about the standards by which we can judge the options of items available to us. It eliminates the ambiguity involved in making our final decision and allows us to choose the best option for ourselves, and the one that satisfy our ultimate objective.

Similarly, when we choose to consume food, it is important to bear in mind that they too have standards of the biological response they trigger in our body. No, this post is not about whether we should consume organic food because it is said to be better than the regular commercial kind. This post is about what kind of food we should eat to improve our health! 

The food we eat will, either make our current physiological or psychological or both states healthier or the make it less healthy. Those are the two options we have when we eat food and there is no neutral food that will not impact our health.

I’m sure in our today’s busy lives; where when we are not in good health, even visiting our doctor sometime becomes a challenge; and therefore it is understandable why it may become difficult to visit a nutritionist week on week to get a diet that will improve our health when we make a conscious decision to go on a lifestyle that will promote our health!

Hence, what I’m about to discuss in this post with surely help you to choose foods that will promote your health. Good health is very much needed given our modern, fast paced lives, and if we are to overcome the professional and personal challenges that come our way! 

The foods we eat trigger many emotions, in ways that go far beyond our conscious awareness. Ever wondered why did you have to eat huge packets of chips? Or why did you eat that huge portion of dessert and sweets you love? Or perhaps the alcohol binge you’d done last weekend without realizing that you went overboard, until the waist size of your pants start to show how much have you been eating (or drinking) lately!

Having said that, you will notice that the examples of foods that are stated above have one common denominator. They all do not fit into the dogma of Good Food standards that will be described later in this post.

The Good Food standard is developed by Dallas & Melissa Hartwig from the research, experience, and principles of healthy food by the New York Times bestselling authors; Dr. Loren Cordian & Robb Wolf. Dr. Cordian & Wolf have done much of their research into the Paleo diet and lifestyle. Their food recommendations are based on the diet consumed by humans during a 2.6-million-year period of the Paloelithic era that ended about 10,000 years ago with the advent of agriculture! 

The idea here is that humans have lived in the Paleo era for most of their existence, almost 99.5%. Therefore, we are better adapted to diet and food that our ancestors had been eating for the past 2.6 million year period, as compared to the foods we find in the modern diet post the agriculture and industrialization era. With the development of agriculture and large scale production of modern day crops such as Maize (Corn) and White Potato, also with easy availability of refined flour post the invention and usage of electronic rollers to remove dietary fibre from grains in mills and factories. It has led to the large scale consumption of these foods by common man.

Our bodies have hardly had any time to get adapted to the modern foods of the Neolithic era, which were not available for the most of the time our race has been into existence, and these modern foods, when consumed by us, do us more harm than good! And if these foods are present in our diet for long and in larger quantities, then they get sufficient time to inflict damage to our body.

Developing from these ideas of a Paleo diet, Dallas & Melissa Hartwig have devised the Good Food standards. These standards proposed by them is great to assess the biological response of the food we eat, and it makes for a great framework to understand if the foods we are consuming is making us more healthy or less healthy. Applying this framework to the food that we consume in this day and age also allow us to make the right selection of foods in our daily diet if our objective is to become healthier. 

Therefore, now having set the background of this framework, the question still remains that what is the Good Food standard and which foods come into it?

Well, to begin with, there are four Good Food standards. For the food to be classified as the one that makes us healthier, it should satisfy all four criteria. Not three, not most… but all!

Following are the foods that we should eat, and the one that will make us healthy:

1. Promotes a healthy psychological response.
2. Promote a healthy hormonal response.
3. Support a healthy gut.
4. Support immune function and minimize inflammation.

But before we can talk more about it, let us understand what food is and its nutrient composition?

Food is composed of a multitude of complex molecules. Some of these molecules provide us with energy, some provide structural components, some interact with various cell receptors and transmit signals to our bodies, and some are relatively inert.

The food that we eat has these aforementioned components into two major classifications: macronutrients and micronutrients.

A macro nutrient is defined as a group of chemical compounds consumed in large amounts and they supply us with energy (carbohydrates, proteins and fats) and, in some cases, are used as structural components (proteins & fats).

A micro nutrient on the other hand is defined as essential compounds needed only in small quantities. A micro nutrient’s function is not to generate energy but to serve a wide variety of important biological functions; including protection against free radicals, enhancing immune response, and repairing the DNA. There are hundreds of different micronutrients, which include vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients.

Now here comes the part in which I’ll explain in details why one has to avoid foods which fail to pass at least one of the four Good Food standards that have been described earlier, the food groups that are best avoided to regain/maintain good health!

1. Sugars, Caloric Sweetners, Alcohol and Refined grains. These foods fail the first Good Food standard, that is, a healthy psychological response. These foods elevate pleasure, reward and emotional pathways in the brain, offering supra-normal stimulating flavors without providing the nutrition that nature intended. These are foods-with-no-brakes, promoting overconsumption and the inability to control food cravings, habits, and behaviors.

2. Sugars, Caloric Sweetners, Alcohol, Refined Grains and Skimmed Dairy. These foods fail the second Good Food standard, that is, a healthy hormonal response. These foods disrupt the hormonal balance, promoting leptin (hormone secreted in the stomach to signal the brain that enough has been eating and give us the feeling of satiety) resistance, insulin resistance (and all of the negative downstream effects that follow), disrupting the hormone glucagon’s (hormone responsible for releasing glucose from liver and fatty acid from fat tissues for energy) energy-access function, and elevating cortisol (stress hormone) levels.

3. Sugars, Caloric Sweetners, Alcohol, Refined Grains and Legumes. These foods fail the third Good Food standard, that is, support a healthy gut. These foods directly promote intestinal permeability, leading to a less-than-intact barrier that lets foreign substances get inside the body (where they do not belong). Foods that fail the third Good Food standard by default also fail the fourth criteria.

4. Sugars, Caloric Sweetners, Alcohol, Seed Oils and Legumes. These foods fail the fourth Good Food standards, that is, support immune function and minimize inflammation. By creating intestinal permeability (or directly promoting chronic systemic inflammation), these foods force your immune system out of a healthy balance. This will, given sufficient time, lead to the development of systemic inflammatory symptoms or autoimmune diseases and is a central risk factor for many lifestyle-related diseases and conditions.

Therefore, by basing the foods we eat on these standards will help us to choose the right kind of food such as; whole milk dairy, unprocessed meats, whole grains and cereals, pulses, vegetable, whole fruits, chicken, fish and whole eggs. These foods apart from giving us quality macros, they also are endowed by the nature, with the goodness of micros that will support and promote our health. And eliminate, minimize and avoid foods that fail to pass these standards of Good Food!

Get Going, Get Fit!

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-Vijay Thakkar 

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