Let's talk about recent healthy food trends that honor-time tested healthy eating guidelines.
Using common sense you may expect that eating the real, whole, nutrient dense, nourishing foods that the human race has enjoyed for thousands of years are likely to be healthy foods to eat because genetically, we are adapted to eat them.
Since 1980 when the USDA first released its Dietary Guidelines for Americans, the government working hand in hand with the food processing giants has been trying to convince us that a low-fat, grain and cereal based diets are healthiest for us. Millions of Americans have tried to eat a healthy diet according to the USDA’s guidelines and have become overweight, obese and sick in the process.
Governmental guidelines combined with heavy advertising on the part of the food processing giants have triggered many unhealthy food trends over the past decades. As a result, many people consider egg beaters and fortified cereal to be healthy and eschew the traditional and far more nutritious breakfast of eggs and no-nitrate bacon. If you doubt the influence of government subsidies on food trends, watch Food, Inc. a wonderful documentary film that sheds a much needed light on our nation's food industry, exposing how our food supply is now controlled by a select few corporations that put profit ahead of consumer health.
Fortunately, this trend is changing. The Atkins diet and the Paleo Diet have done much to swing the pendulum back and make more people aware that both protein and healthy fats are essential to good health. The Slow Food Movement is one of these healthy food trends along the traditional diet movement spurred by the work of the Weston A Price Foundation. Both emphasize healthy food trends and have done much to educate people about the relationship between what they eat and their health. In addition, poor health had motivated many people to do their own research.
Myths like dietary cholesterol causing heart attacks are being exposed. Experts like Dr. Mary Enig that have been arguing for years that butter is healthy and that it is really margarine and transfats that cause arteriosclerosis are finally being heard.
Using common sense you may expect that eating the real, whole, nutrient dense, nourishing foods that the human race has enjoyed for thousands of years is likely to be the healthiest for us because genetically, we are adapted to eat them. Science also proves this. Need convincing? See our recommended reading list (below) for some well referenced books and articles that go into detail about this.
It is these time-proven healthy food trends that we will focus on here.
One of the most important healthy food trends has been the move away from products that contain many ingredients that you can't pronounce back to traditional foods like chicken and green vegetables that contain no "ingredients"! Even working women (like us) are realizing that they can fix simple, healthy meals for their family while avoiding processed foods altogether.
Information about the overuse of MSG, transfats and other dangerous additives to extend shelf life and increase flavor - after all natural fat and healthy stuff has been removed from processed foods - is coming out into the open. People are getting smart about reading labels!
There is another huge benefit from this. Instead of eating their packaged microwave dinner in front of the TV many families are getting back into the habit of sitting down together to eat the homemade roast with vegetables that someone threw into the crock pot before leaving the house in the morning.
Families are even making a point of doing their meal planning and cooking together with everyone pitching in! The emotional and nutritional importance of eating together as a family while everyone shares how their day went is being regained.
Sure some people are still swinging by the local MacDonald's drive thru for dinner in the car between activities every night, but many others are changing their priorities and returning to the traditional foods that enabled many of our great grandfathers to live long, healthy productive lives, free of modern health concerns like asthma, diabetes and heart disease.
Another healthy food trend has been the move back to nutrient dense food. A huge problem with conventionally raised fruits and vegetables is that they do not contain as many vitamins and minerals as the same fruit and vegetables did 50 years ago. Why?
Single crop agrifarms deplete the soil of nutrients and minerals. Without proper crop rotation and supplementation with natural amendments like compost, the soil becomes depleted. If the nutrients and minerals are not in the soil, then they cannot be absorbed the fruit and vegetables growing there.
A study published in 2001 in The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine found after 1,240 comparisons of 35 vitamins and minerals in organic and conventional produce that the organic versions contained higher amounts of most vitamins and minerals—27 percent more vitamin C, 29 percent more magnesium, 86 percent more chromium and 375 percent more selenium. The chemical-free foods were also lower in cancer-causing nitrates and toxic heavy metals.
The healthy food trend that the food processing industry does not want you to find out about is the move away from refined foods.
For example more people are choosing whole grains instead of refined grains because they realize that refined flour depresses the immune system within minutes of consumption, is highly allergenic and can cause dramatic blood sugar fluctuations.
People are choosing to use mineral rich sea salt instead of refined and iodized salt which has been heated to excessive temperatures, stripped of all nutrients and combined with a myriad of undesirable substances like aluminum, sugar and anti-caking agents.
Whole Foods grocery store is full of families that are choosing to use unrefined oils instead of refined oils. Expeller or cold pressing of oil preserves the integrity of the fat molecules and the natural preservatives many oils contain. They are more stable.
Meanwhile the word is getting out about partially hydrogenated oils being bad for your health. Unlike with traditional extraction methods, commercial oils are processed by crushing the oil-bearing seeds and exposing them to extreme heat (often up to 450 degrees F) .
In addition to excessive temperatures, the oils are also exposed to high pressure, light, oxygen, and solvents (usually hexane). This creates an unstable food and is why most commercial oils become rancid - full of harmful free radicals - before hitting the grocery store shelves.
For a great article about different types of fats read Know Your Fats.
Moving Away from Chemical Dependent Agriculture and Back to Organic Foods is one of the most actionable healthy food trends.
Buying organic is in vogue these days, and for good reason. With more nutrients and fewer chemicals, why not buy organic or biodynamic whenever possible?
Another powerful study published in 2003 in Environmental Health Perspectives evaluated the levels of pesticide metabolites in the urine of two groups of children. They found that children eating organic fruits and vegetables, consuming organic milk and drinking organic juices had levels of pesticide metabolites six to nine times lower than children eating conventionally grown food!
Bear in mind, pesticides are up to ten times more toxic to children than adults, due to their smaller body size and developing organ systems, so it is especially important to minimize their exposure whenever possible during the growing years.
For more information about moving to organic food as a healthy food trend, read Modernizing Your Diet With Traditional Foods.
One of the healthy food trends that his having the greatest impact on children's health is the move to healthier proteins and fats from healthy animals eating their native diet. Healthy proteins and fat come from grass-fed beef, lamb and buffalo as well as free-range chickens and eggs.
Grass Fed Meat Healthy Food Trend
Meats can offer nutrition only as good as the feed the animals consume. The meat of cows roaming on pasture, munching away on their natural diet of fresh grass have approximately four times the amounts vitamins A and E as their commercial grain-fed, feedlot cousins.
Sad feedlot cows are raised on genetically modified grain and soy because it speeds growth and bulk quickly.23 To help further cut feed costs, producers include other “add-ins,” such as municipal garbage, stale pastry, chicken manure and feathers, as well as candy.
On top of an artificial diet and confinement, modern methods of raising cattle also involve considerable amounts of hormones, steroids, and other chemicals. This all results in meat that has a distorted nutrient profile on top of the toxins and hormone residues they pass on.
Grass-Fed Raw Milk Healthy Food Trend
The raw milk that humans have been consuming for over 7000 years has the perfect balance of the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, K, and E, minerals, and good “bugs,” including Lactobacillus varieties. Also, the fat in dairy products is not only nourishing but is imperative for the absorption of the residing minerals, including calcium.
Unfortunately, the safety of raw milk became a problem in the 1930's when farmers began to grow too big too fast and started feeding their cows rations that were unnatural to their physiology at the same time they keep them in overcrowded and dirty conditions.
Poor animal husbandry combined with the greater profits available via milk processing has led to the majority of the milk sold today being pasteurized. The problem with this is the high temperatures of pasteurization denature the milk’s proteins and destroy the inherent enzymes that aid in its digestion. Often synthetic nutrients are added to replace what was removed.
Pasteurization is completely unnecessary when a dairy farmer raises his animals with integrity and respect for careful practices. Small raw milk dairies are popping up all over the country and those who consume raw milk are thriving! This is one of our favorite healthy food trends.
Free Range Chicken and Eggs Healthy Food Trend
Chickens allowed to forage for bugs and grass and soak up sunshine in the great outdoors produce eggs with greater amounts of vitamin E and vitamin A than their commercial, cooped up, pellet-fed counterparts.
The extra nutrients available in the pasture-fed eggs are obvious by the color of the egg’s yolk. The more yellow/orange the yolk, the higher the level of carotenoids. Eggs from pastured hens also contain omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids in the beneficial ratio of approximately 1:1. Commercial eggs, average an unhealthy 1:19 ratio!
Similar to caged cows, battery chickens are squeezed into small cages or sheds, often windowless, and overrun with their own droppings. There is no room for them to do what chickens do—graze, root, dust themselves, or roost, let alone sit.
For more information about moving to free-range and grass-fed bood as a healthy food trend, read Modernizing Your Diet With Traditional Foods.
Probably the best book we have found about diet and nutrition for children is The Crazy Makers: How the Food Industry is Destroying Our Brains and Harming our Children by Carol Simontacchi. As mentioned above, our second favorite book is the enduring classic work on how what we eat shapes us, for better or worse, titled Nutrition and Physical Degeneration by Weston A. Price, D.D.S. We encourage you to purchase both.
There are many great articles on the Weston A Price Foundation website about diet and nutrition including:
Read more about the Importance of a Healthy Diet, especially for babies, children and nursing moms.
Did you know that the USDA Dietary Guidelines will make you tired and overweight? Read about our time-tested Healthy Eating Pyramid
Read more about Traditional, Nutrient Dense and Organic Diets as well as the importance of consuming unrefined food.Read more about the benefits of traditional and nutrient dense diets and why they are so important for kids.