“Two basic factors to remember in selecting foods are to 1) avoid those foods which have been corrupted or perverted in man-made ‘food’ factories, and 2) maintain a balanced diet containing all the elements the body requires to sustain and build health.” This sentence from “Principles of Healthful Living,” an article published by the Worldwide Church of God under Herbert W. Armstrong, cuts through all the noise on dieting and makes things very simple.
The modern Western diet has ignored these simple principles, and our bodies are paying a terrible price. But follow these two points, and you will be well on your way to a healthy diet!
1. Eat whole foods
God created us to need food, and He created food to fulfill that need. He designed our bodies to benefit the most from food that is in the form He created it. Man cannot make anything that God made any better.
As much as possible, eat foods that God created you to eat, the way He created them.
For example, God made apples. An apple is a wonderful food. Ingredients list: Apple.
If you want to make apples more of a treat, make applesauce. Simply slice the apples, cook them for about eight hours, season them if you wish with cinnamon or nutmeg, puree and enjoy.
Food manufacturers, however, are more interested in profit than in your health. They will use anything they can to make their food look better, taste better, last longer, and even unnaturally make you crave more. Mott’s “Strawberry Flavored Applesauce” has these ingredients: Apples, High-Fructose Corn Syrup, Water, Strawberry Puree, Natural Flavors, Ascorbic Acid, Red 40. That is a not-so-wonderful “food,” engineered to benefit Mott’s shareholders more than your body.
As much as possible, avoid processed, refined foods: refined sugar, white flour, refined vegetable oils, canned foods (unless you do your own canning), condensed milk, pasteurized milk, skim and low-fat milk, hydrogenated fats, additives and artificial sweeteners. Most of these are loaded with chemicals, preservatives, taste enhancers and colorings that God did not create for us to consume. Man has created them to sell food and make money. They devastate your health—and according to God’s law, it is criminal!
When you are at the store, remember: If it is in a can or a box that came out of a factory, it probably comes with problems.
Read nutrition labels. Many of them contain a long list of unpronounceable ingredients that come from chemical laboratories, not grandma’s kitchen (even though it may say “Grandma’s Kitchen” on the front)—emulsifiers, polysorbate 20, potassium propionate, azodiacarbonamide enzymes, propylene glycol alginate and so on.
If you do buy something that comes in a box or a can, choose the product with the fewest ingredients—preferably six or fewer, recognizable, pronounceable ingredients.
Modern food production has created a lot of allergies. Food sensitivities and allergies can wreak havoc on your system. You might be suffering from food allergies without realizing it, so you are hurting yourself every time you unknowingly eat an allergen.
This even extends to basic foods that God created but that have been processed by food factories, especially these items: milk, eggs, wheat, soy, peanuts, tree nuts (almonds, cashews, walnuts) and fish (bass, cod, flounder). If you are often unwell, try getting off all of these ingredients and see how you feel. Then add them back one at a time to see if any make you feel worse.
A basic rule Mr. Armstrong promoted was, “Eat only those natural foods that will spoil, and eat them before they do.” If you keep this rule in mind, you will eat far less refined food and processed food loaded with preservatives. You’ll eat far more fresh fruits and vegetables, fresh meats and whole grains.
Educate your taste buds to enjoy food as God made it. Train yourself to enjoy whole food for desserts (fruit and nuts, for example) and healthier desserts—cakes and cookies baked from whole flours and whole sweeteners. The more you eat them instead of processed junk food, the more you will enjoy them.
When you eat whole foods, your body will assimilate nutrients better. For example, when you eat whole grain whole wheat, you are eating the bran and germ that contain almost all the vitamins, minerals and enzymes that help you digest the starchy part (the endosperm). When you eat refined wheat, your body still needs those vitamins, minerals, enzymes to digest the starchy part, but they have been removed; only the starchy part remains. This means your body has to pull those vitamins, minerals and enzymes from your own bones, tissues and organs in order to digest it. When you eat a refined product, not only are you missing out on the wonderful nutrients God created in it, you are actually robbing your body of those nutrients!
God’s whole foods give you nutrients. Man-made counterfeits take nutrients from you. Eat whole wheat rather than refined flour, whole grain pasta, brown rice rather than white rice, whole fruits and vegetables with the skins.
Consider two specific examples:
Fat and Sugar
As society introduced food processing and loaded up on carbohydrates, more people started to get fat. Their solution was to get rid of fat. Suddenly, butter and cream were bad. But the real problem was too much carbohydrates—too much sugar!
Fat is not bad. Your body needs it. Saturated fats are critical for many reasons: They are essential to cell membranes and bones; they protect against heart disease; they help heart function; they are important to the liver, lungs, kidneys, immune system and detoxification; they increase metabolism; they help weight loss.
Many non-fat or low-fat products use chemicals instead of fat. Your body would much rather have the fat that naturally comes with whole foods than incomplete foods with chemicals added to artificially maintain the expected flavor and texture.
A second example of refined foods that damage your health is sweeteners. Refined sweeteners include sugar, dextrose, fructose, glucose, high-fructose corn syrup and many fruit juices. These are in everything. A few hundred years ago, the average European ate three to four pounds of sugar per year. Today, most people eat well over 100 pounds of sugar a year! One 12-ounce can of soda contains a cup of refined sugar.
No wonder there are so many sugar diseases today! Excess sugar has been linked with many problems: diabetes, hypoglycemia, cancer, acne, headaches, thyroid malfunction, adrenal malfunction, bone loss, dental decay, hyperactivity, even violent tendencies.
Use natural sweeteners, and use them in moderation. These include maple syrup, maple sugar, stevia powder (green, not white), molasses, rapadura and raw honey. Don’t use prepackaged treats—make your own. And always use good fats.
2. Eat proper proportions
The fact that our clothes are getting tighter couldn’t possibly have anything to do with our portion sizes, could it? In the modern world, we have so much food. As a result, overeating is epidemic.
“[I]n the last days, perilous times shall come,” Paul prophesied in 2 Timothy 3:1-2. “For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous … unthankful ….” We are a society preoccupied with self—our interests and comforts. We expect everything and take it all for granted. In verse 3, he describes us as “incontinent,” or without self-control. We lack the strength to stay away from things that are bad for us. We give in to every whim, impulse and urge. That well defines our culture!
Christ repeatedly referred to overeating in a very negative context (e.g. Luke 12:16-20; 16:19; 17:28). This lifestyle is all around us and is easy to get caught up in. Deuteronomy 32 gives another end-time prophecy about Israel and the blessings it has received from God: “He made him ride on the high places of the earth, that he might eat the increase of the fields; and he made him to suck honey out of the rock, and oil out of the flinty rock; Butter of kine, and milk of sheep, with fat of lambs, and rams of the breed of Bashan, and goats, with the fat of kidneys of wheat; and thou didst drink the pure blood of the grape” (verses 13-14). But notice how Israel responded to these physical blessings: “But Jeshurun [another name for Israel] waxed fat, and kicked: thou art waxen fat, thou art grown thick, thou art covered with fatness; then he forsook God which made him, and lightly esteemed the Rock of his salvation” (verse 15). This is the state of the Western world today!
Obesity is one measure of ill health. In 2010, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced that based on body mass index (a measure of relative weight based on mass and height), the percentage of Americans over age 20 who are overweight is 69.2 percent! About half of that figure (35.9 percent) are obese! Childhood obesity is rising: About 17 percent of children and adolescents ages 2-to-19, are obese. That’s 12.5 million young people!
If you are gaining weight, you are doing something wrong.
Concurrent with this growing weight problem is skyrocketing heart disease, Type-2 diabetes and other blood sugar problems. These are mostly caused by hyperinsulinemia: too much insulin in the bloodstream because of too much processed food, refined sugar and carbohydrates.
Remember, the essence of sin is self-love. One area of our lives that can easily become sin is the food we eat. How self-indulgent is overeating or consuming too much sugar?
God wants us to exercise self-control and put Him and His Work first—not put our own lust first! Throughout the Bible, He tells us to exercise self-control in what we put in our mouths. Ephesians 5:18 tells us not to drink too much wine. Several scriptures condemn gluttony and overeating (e.g. Deuteronomy 21:20-21; 1 Peter 4:3). Proverbs 25:27 warns against eating too much honey.
So what are appropriate portions of food?
Consider carbohydrates. This is the single-most abused substance in the modern Western diet. “Most people seemed to suppose it is natural for our bodies to get sick,” Herbert W. Armstrong wrote in his Autobiography. “But sickness is not natural. Sickness comes only from broken physical laws within our bodies. Most of the time it comes from excess of carbohydrates.”
Understand: Your body needs carbohydrates. All the tissues and cells in our body use simple sugars for energy. We need carbs for our central nervous system, our kidneys, our brain and our muscles (including our heart) to function properly.
However, the amount and the quality of the carbs you consume make a big difference!
There are two kinds of carbs: simple and complex. Simple carbohydrates have a chemical structure composed of one or two sugars. These are refined sugars with little nutritional value. They cause spikes in your blood sugar, forcing the pancreas to secrete insulin. Examples include white bread, white rice, white pasta, white potatoes, packaged cereals, sugar, candy, chocolate and soda—things men have made. The constant rise and fall in blood-sugar levels created by simple carbohydrates decreases your insulin sensitivity, which can lead to Type-2 diabetes.
Complex carbohydrates have a chemical structure of three or more sugars. These can be stored in the muscles and liver, and later used for energy. They take a little longer to digest, so they don’t raise the sugar levels in the blood as quickly. Examples include fruits, vegetables, sweet potatoes, yams, beans and lentils—foods God has created.
The amount of carbohydrate in a simple carb versus a complex carb is starkly different! For example, one bagel typically contains about 36 grams of carbs. To get the same amount of carbs in whole foods, you would have to eat four oranges, or eight cups of broccoli, or 24 cups of Romaine lettuce!
Practically speaking, this means that you really need to limit your intake of simple carbs. Eating a heaping bowl of ready-made breakfast cereal in the morning is like setting off a simple-carb bomb in your body! If you are going to have cereal—as radical as this might sound—half a cup is plenty. Then balance that with some protein—perhaps yogurt or eggs—and then some good fat, maybe a handful of almonds.
Generally with rice, cereal, bread or pasta, you should limit yourself to a palm-size portion.
On the other hand, you really don’t have to worry how much complex carbs you eat. Have all the broccoli and Romaine you want!
If you are eating right most of the time, there are times you can depart from it. If you eat right 80 percent of the time and 20 percent of the time you are less particular, that’s basically being disciplined through the week and then letting yourself relax a bit on the weekend for three or four meals.
Likely nothing in this article is particularly new to you. The challenge really isn’t knowing what you should or shouldn’t eat—the challenge is following through.
To eat right, you must plan and prepare. If you don’t, you’ll end up grabbing what is convenient, and that almost invariably leads to problems.
Plan your meals. Start shopping in the produce section of the grocery store and build your meal ideas from what you find there. When you shop, at least a third of your grocery cart should be from the produce section.
Plan your snacks. Have veggies pre-cut and ready to eat so they are easier to grab when you’re feeling munchy. Have raw nuts readily available. Boil eggs. Slice cheese. Have a small refrigerator in your office so you can have healthy food handy.
Don’t let the cacophony of conflicting nutritional advice confuse you. Start simple: Eat whole foods in the right proportions.
Eating right is a way of life. It does you no good to try it for a couple weeks, get discouraged because you didn’t drop 20 pounds, and then return to old habits. This isn’t just about losing weight—though, if you do it consistently, you will over time. This is about being healthy. (Incidentally, it takes time to gain weight—so naturally it will take time to lose it.) It’s about doing the right thing day after day after day, and seeing benefits over time and in the long run.
It’s about living the way God intends, so you can be a better tool for Him!
Fat: There are three kinds of fat
The first two are good fats. Saturated fats are healthiest—our bodies need a lot of saturated fat!
Saturated. These are solid at room temperature. Examples include butter, cream, cheese and tropical oils (palm oil, palm kernel oil, coconut oil).
Mono-unsaturated. Examples include avocado and nuts.
Poly-unsaturated. These are liquid even in the refrigerator; for example, corn oil, cottonseed oil, sunflower oil and safflower oil. Most of these go through horrendous processing. They cause cancer, heart disease, wrinkles and aging. Most salad dressings and dips are made with these oils. Your health would improve if you limited your consumption, or better still, removed them from your diet completely!