Ten years ago, my daughter and I were both facing a major health crisis, leading us to a major shift in the way we ate. I completely revamped our diet – we went gluten-free and switched to consuming a mostly plant-based diet of home cooked meals. The health benefits were so profound that we never looked back to our old eating habits. Unlike popular belief, the adjustment was a delicious one and not as difficult and daunting as it seems. The key was to follow a few fairly simple rules.
I created my own food pyramid based on three principles: Plant based, gluten-free and pH-balanced. I believe in using dense plant-based foods like gluten-free nutritious grains, nuts, vegetarian proteins, fresh greens and produce from local farms. For over 10 years, I have been determined to use this shift to help others receive the dietary components needed to achieve health through food. I put weekly meals together to fill the needs of those wanting a more balanced way of eating that is convenient and does not need to break the bank.
Taking the fist step to a higher state of health and happiness is exactly what we did ten years ago and you can embark on your own journey as well! Know that it is ok to take a few detours once in a while and enjoy a bit of junk, but the key is to first learn the steps and educate yourself and your family. Then, rally your supporters, adjust your lifestyle, and stay the course. For us the benefits were amazing. My daughter is now almost typical, thrives at school and within the community, is an active musician and never stops to delight everyone around her. Could this be the same girl who 10 years ago was diagnosed as a moderate on the ASD spectrum?
One of the best ways to discover how food affects your body and your brain is to simply record what you eat and how you feel afterwards. If you are a parent or cook, take notice of what you feed your children and how it affects their mood, behavior and brain health. It has become very obvious to me that fresh, locally grown produce will provide a much greater amount of energy than heavily processed foods. For that reason, I seek out and consume foods with more energy to receive more energy in return.
Consider this for example: researchers are now linking lutein, a pigment in leafy green and cruciferous veggies, with the preservation of "crystallized intelligence," i.e.: the ability to use the skills and knowledge one acquires over a lifetime. The compound apparently accumulates in the brain and becomes embedded in cell membranes where it protects neurons. Hello, kale chips!
Specific foods can have a profoundly positive health impact while others can have very devastating effects on ones body systems. This is especially true for children with Autism. I am specifically referring to gut health, hormonal balance, cognition and mental health. There is no one-size-fits-all model when it comes to diet, as we are all unique on how we are impacted by what we eat. So our job is to embark on journey of discovering which foods feed us and which foods drain us! The key is to observe and make mindful choices that lead to a higher state of health.
First ask yourself this: Which foods give me/us/my family energy and feed us? Which ones drain us and leave us starving? Listen to your gut to give you the answers and follow with action to correct the situation.
Exercise and move. Do what ever makes you happy – just move daily. Exercising together is more fun, so come up with joyous ways to get out and move!
Increase water intake and monitor water quality. I use an alkaline water system and have filters installed on our shower and bathtub.
Make sure you breath clean air as much as possible. Install filters in your home. Bring plants in and do what it takes to improve air quality! Spend time in nature!
Keep an eco-friendly home by reducing all toxic exposure. This is very important. Start making small changes here, and you will eventually become an ecologic consumer.
Detox regularly. There is tons of information written about this topic. Heavy metal exposure is so prevalent that detoxifying heavy metals from ones system is a very important step to consider.
Recolonize the gut. This is also a big subject – I recommend eating cultured food as a daily habit.
Eat as your ancestors did as much as you can and honor eating traditions! If you do not recognize what you are about to eat coming from that container as a member of any food group – ask yourself whether you should eat it.
Eliminate sugar (the most addictive substance known to man) and most processed foods. My favorite alternatives to sugar: dates, maple syrup, coconut sugar, and molasses. Quitting sugar is not easy. Check the many resources that are available online. I particularly like Sarah Wilson’s I Quit Sugar as a good place to get support. Quitting sugar will have an amazing impact on your health. You can add many years to your life by taking the time to experience it sugar-free!
Purchase seasonal and locally grown food when available. Try to buy locally grown non-GMO organic vegetables. It does not have to break the bank! Stay away from overpriced gluten-free processed foods. If it’s in a carton it’s most likely processed, making it worse than the gluten-containing counterpart!
Prepare food at home as much as possible, try to buy locally grown organic vegetables and cook with the intention of good health. Eliminate gluten and eat highly nutritious grains only. I find quinoa, wild rice, buckwheat, teff and amaranth to be the best choices. Stay away from highly processed and nutritionally weak gluten-free alternatives. Most have very low nutritional profiles, are heavily processed, and contain bleached rice flour! Stick with real food!
What is the best way to find out whether gluten (or any other food) is a friend or foe? Eliminate and observe! For 14 days, eat no gluten whatsoever. Even a small amount will throw off the test, so do the best you can to comply! Closely observe and journal your mood, and level of focus, hormonal balance etc. during this time. The more you are able to record, the better you’ll be able to note whether gluten is affecting body and brain functions. After 14 days, reintroduce gluten and continue to monitor the results. If there’s a rapid, noticeable difference in any area, that’s a clear indication that you may be dealing with a gluten sensitivity and cutting it out will greatly benefit your long-term health. Undergoing a simple elimination diet, as the one above with any food you suspect may be doing you harm, can help you determine if you are dealing with any food sensitivity at all. Contact us for more information.
Favor an alkaline balancing diet versus acidic. Reduce or eliminate animal protein, increase alkaline vegetable consumption and maintain an alkaline state. More information can be found here: foodflo.com/alkaline-diet
Eat good fats. Fat is really good for you! I prefer using plant-based high quality fats in the form of olive oil, coconut oil, hemp oil, nut and seed oils, avocado oil, etc.
Please note, if any family member is dealing with a gluten or other food intolerance, it is fairly probable that at least one other family member is affected by that same intolerance, whether symptoms are present now or will manifest later.
For one-on-one advice, health coaching, and to view Foodflo products, go to www.foodflo.com