When most people think of the places they can go to get rid of their pain, improve their health, or get in shape, they may think of the doctor’s office, pharmacy, or gym. But, a trip to the grocery store is just as important for your health and to “fix your pain,” maybe even more.
Instead of “Supermarket Sweep”-ing your way through the aisles after work or quickly clicking food into a digital cart, an intentional approach to grocery shopping goes a long way towards breaking free from pain and achieving tip-top performance on a daily basis. Let’s look at some things to look for (and look out for) when you’re shopping, including common ingredients to avoid so you can heal and feel better.
This is the thought process I use to determine whether a particular food is serving or not serving me, based on the goals I have for my health and performance:
(1) Is it Organic and/or Non-GMO?
Instead of focusing on what’s in your food, let’s start by looking at what’s not in it; and the actual definitions of “Organic” and "Non-GMO."
Organic food is produced without most conventional pesticides and a government-approved certifier inspects the farm where the food is grown to make sure the farmer is following all the rules necessary to meet USDA organic standards.
Non-GMO is a term which represents organisms or products made without the use of genetic engineering technology or any GMO ingredients.
While some people may think the terms are interchangeable, they represent different standards and requirements and it’s best to find a product marked both.
(2) Does it have Gluten, Wheat, and/or other Grains?
Gluten (and gluten intolerance) has been noted as dangerous to gut, brain, and body health. Conventionally grown and processed wheat and grains - especially those containing gluten - can damage your gut and brain lining and also contribute to chronic pain, inflammation, osteoarthritis, and even autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis.
While avoiding gluten, wheat, and grains may seem impossible, there are many options to make it much easier. Flours like almond, coconut and all purpose gluten-free can make baking and breading possible without relying on gluten. While many gluten-free pastas may still have rice or some grain as a base, they are much better for your intestinal health than traditional pastas.
(3) Is it DAIRY-FREE?
Many of us grew up thinking that drinking as much milk as possible was the key to strong bones and a healthy life... including me! But, part of the reason for that growth is because of unnatural hormones, which can also cause inflammation and a general intolerance in the human body. Store bought traditional dairy (whether as milk or cheese) came from cows that ate a diet high in refined grains, skimmed off the good fat, and killed all the beneficial healthy stuff in it.
But, you may hear a 1950's sitcom mom voice in the back of your head screaming, “What about the calcium?!”Well, that topic is for another article. But, rest assured that you'll get the calcium you need by eating whole foods like nuts, seeds, leafy greens, and many more whole food sources.
Plus, there are great alternative sources to get your "milk fix." Look for coconut milk, almond milk and other alternative milks to replace unnecessary dairy.
(4) ADDED SUGAR?
Maybe you've been terrified of ANY sugar and have sought out sugar substitutes. But, sometimes those can be even worse (which I'll get to). Let's start by avoiding "additional" sugars, which does not only mean the sugar you pour in your coffee and on top of your cereal. It’s the added sugar food manufacturers place in bread, pasta, cereal, crackers, ketchup, sauces and salad dressings. These secret sugars may be creating sugar addiction and inflammation deep in your cells.
Healthier sugar substitutes like natural sweeteners such as raw honey, Stevia, dates, and coconut sugar are generally a better option. Plus, they can help you avoid additional sugars AND the substitutes that are sometimes worse. (which leads us to....)
(5) ARTIFICIAL SWEETENERS?
Artificial sweeteners trick your brain into feeling less full, prompting you to eat more as well as adding a toxic burden. They include but ARE NOT LIMITED to:
- High-fructose corn syrup
- Aspartame (Equal, NutraSweet)
- Saccharin (Sweet and Low, Sweet Twin, Sweet'N Low, Necta Sweet)
- Sucralose (Splenda)
(6) PRESERVATIVES, ADDITIVES, HYDROGENATED or PROCESSED OILS?
Hydrogenated oil is a great preservative (for manufacturers to use) because all the natural enzymes are destroyed by the high heat (500 to 1000 degree Celsius) making it a sludge-like substance. If the label says, hydrogenated oil, partially hydrogenated oil or fractionated oil avoid that food as much as possible.
Processed oils more likely appear in majority of crackers, chips, bread, donuts, nuts, salad dressings, other processed/packaged foods. Typically, the most inflammatory are: Soybean, Cottonseed, Canola/Corn, Vegetable, and/or Safflower oils. Better choices include Olive oil, Avocado and/or Coconut oil (which are my two favorites).
The “Clean 15” and the “Dirty Dozen”
Each year, the Environmental Working Group (ewg.org) produces two lists:
- Clean 15, which outlines the 15 types of produce least affected by pesticides
- Dirty Dozen, the types of produce most affected by toxic pesticides and chemicals.
By using these list and adjusting your recipes accordingly, you and your family can avoid the most inflammatory produce and avoid ingesting all the chemicals you’ve tried to avoid in other foods.
Nobody is perfect and perfectly avoiding any sort of unhealthy food or additive is basically impossible in our modern world. However, the goal isn’t to totally avoid anything remotely unhealthy or inflammatory; it’s to make sure we’re aware of what’s going into our bodies and the effects it may have. Then, we can couple that understanding with the knowledge of healthy, accessible alternatives that might be hiding in the very same aisle. That understanding, coupled with product knowledge is the best motivation to make healthier choices and positively affect your life.
And if you're in need of more personal attention and support, and help you break-free from chronic pain or inflammation, and Be Your Own Guarantee, head HERE to book a time for us to connect and talk (no fee, no strings attached).