A lot of us grew up thinking we knew what it meant to buy the healthiest foods. Some emulated what they saw in their own mum’s kitchens. Others worked out their own ideas of what that means. Healthiest foods, open to interpretation?
Just for fun, let’s play The Lottery Game. My daughter and I used to play this on the way home from school sometimes. In this case, I’ll ask a question. Let’s say you won a massive lottery tomorrow. What luxury car can you envision sitting in your driveway the day after? Imagine the colour, the sound of the door as it clicks shut and envelopes you in that new car smell. Can you see yourself cruising down the highway in it? Gliding around the roads curves with the kind of intimacy that only those who get to drive these ultimate auto’s will ever know.
Much as we love those sublime moments, reality eventually taps on your shoulder and you realize that you’ve gotta stop for gas. Which gas pump are you going to pull up to? Will you reach for the economy nozzle? Or do you reach for the premium grade? Picking the healthiest foods is like that. Economy or premium?
IS THERE A HEALTHIEST FOODS CHECKLIST?
Dr. Joel Fuhrman is an American doctor who takes standard vegan diet a step further to focus on what he calls a nutritarian diet for which he’s developed a system of scoring foods according to their nutrient levels.
Interestingly, when Whole Foods started posting those scores where customers could see them, their produce sales went way up. That’s because people could see the value’s of their choices. ANDI Scores stands for ‘Aggregate Nutrient Density Index’. And in a nutshell, that just means which foods give you the most bang for your buck.
- Kale 1000
- Romaine 510
- Broccoli 294
- Tomato 186
- Salmon 34
- White Potato 28
- Chicken Breast 24
- White Bread 17
- White Pasta 16
- Olive Oil 10
(for a more detailed look at the healthier foods ANDI Scores)
WHAT ABOUT THE FOODS THAT DON’T MAKE IT ONTO THE ANDI SCORES LIST?
But while knowing this is a great tool to help you figure out which are ‘the best’ foods to be consuming, there are other things to consider too. Mushrooms for example, don’t meet the criteria to score at the top on that list, but they have important enzymes that stop cancer cell formation.
Blueberries are another fruit that doesn’t score as well on those ANDI Scores apparently, but they have antioxidants and polyphenols that also fight cancer. In addition, things like hemp seeds, flax seeds and even walnuts aren’t going to fare too well either. BUT they have important omega-3 fatty acids that you need to be eating everyday.
HOW THE HEALTHIEST FOODS CAN KEEP YOU FROM NEEDING THE PHARMACEUTICAL VERSION…
There’s a class of drugs called ‘aromatase inhibitors’ that are used to treat breast cancer. And thank God for those drugs right? They have such an important role in the treatment of breast cancer in both post menopausal women and in men and are used as well in the treatment of prostate and colon cancer.
But did you know that there are numerous foods that naturally contain aromatase inhibitors? How much more effective do you think it might be, to include those foods in your diet, before cancer takes hold in your body? And the marvellous thing is, you don’t have to go out and spend some obscene amount of money on any exotic fruit juices that are ‘harvested by the light of the full moon by virginal women, blah, blah, blah’! Not at all! In fact those amazing, health supporting foods are right there on shelves of your local produce market. Easy, peasy for sure right!
A HEALTHIEST FOODS LIST WILL INCLUDE MORE THAN KALE AND OLIVE OIL….
FOODS THAT CONTAIN AROMATASE INHIBITORS…
- Brussel sprouts
- Lemons & limes
In addition to offering protection from cancer, many of these amazing plants also benefit you by their action of detoxifying the liver. And considering all that your liver does for you, making sure it’s functioning efficiently is a must. That dark red and rather disturbing looking organ not only cleans toxins out of your system, but it also metabolizes the fats, proteins and carbohydrates that you eat and is where your body’s B12 is stored.
For a complete list of the healthy foods on the ANDI scores, you can look here.
WHY ‘FAST FOODS’ CAN’T BE ON A HEALTHIEST FOODS LIST
The second requirement of food is that it not mess with your hormones. What this means is that it shouldn’t digest too quickly. An example would be foods made with oils and white flour. That quick digestion will see your body pushing the hormone insulin, into action shortly after you eat that entire bowl of Pasta Alfredo, or the cookies or the chocolate croissants. And thus, the recommendation to diabetics to avoid white flour products or sugars…..
LET ME TELL YOU ABOUT SLOW FOODS THAT ARE AMONG THE HEALTHIEST FOODS…
What’s preferable is ‘slow foods’, a label that has to do with how quickly they’re digested. And in this instance, nothing to do with golden arches or burger ‘kings’ or any fast food restaurant specifically. Although admittedly, the food that those places are selling does fit the ‘fast food’ label on multiple counts. Fast service AND fast to digest with it’s assorted sugars, baked products and a vast array of fats….(is it working? Are you turned off fast food joints or should I keep going?) Anyway….
Slow foods would include things like lentils, apples, beans, kiwi’s and nuts, just to name a few. While white flour is doing it’s ‘damage’ within an hour of eating it, the slow foods are only getting into your bloodstream after about three hours. So the more processed a food is, the faster it begins to affect you.
BUT WHY DO WE HAVE SUCH A HARD TIME DITCHING THE ‘FAST FOODS’?
One of the things that makes it so hard to cut back on those ‘fast foods’ is that with the speed of their arrival into the system, they also set off your brain’s dopamine receptors. The resulting ‘rush’ of pleasure keeps you coming back for more. (five cookies anyone or maybe I should bring the bag?)
And the more you go back for seconds or thirds, the more insulin is pumped into your system to deal with all the glucose that results. And thus, the more likely you are to develop various types of cancer. Insulin overload sets the stage for the cancer stem cells that we talked about in another post, to begin growing and developing tumours.
THE ‘SAME’ FOODS AREN’T TREATED THE SAME BY YOU OR ANYONE ELSE…
Another thing to remember is that different versions of the same food, will have different reactions in your body. For example, walnut oil (as on a salad) is treated differently by your body. Your system doesn’t want a lot of free floating oil cruising around, so it stores it within 5-10 minutes. But if you eat a handful of walnuts, it’ll take hours to digest it.
What’s more, those walnuts have fibre that acts like a broom in your blood veins. A broom that sweeps a lot of those fat molecules together. And actually, this action would likewise qualify walnuts as being among the healthiest foods. As those fat molecules get caught up in that ‘fibre broom’ they’re not stored away but are instead, flushed the next time you use the toilet. This is why salads made with an olive oil and vinegar dressing aren’t as healthy to consume as say, a salad whose dressing is made with a cashew-cream dressing. The nuts of the cashew digest slower than that olive oil would.
VITAMINS, MINERALS, FIBRE AND NOW RESISTANT STARCHES IN THE HEALTHIEST FOODS LIST?
There are still more magnificent benefits to all the healthiest foods that include things like resistant starches. That label just means those kinds of starches don’t degrade or digest easily so 90% of their calories go into the toilet. Foods with resistant starches would include black beans, navy beans, lentils, and split peas. So because they aren’t pushing your body to produce insulin, they contribute towards an anti-cancer effect.
HEALTHIEST FOODS OR NOT, TOO MANY DON’T LIKE EATING BEANS. NOW WHAT?
In general, most folks decide they don’t like eating beans for one obvious and often embarrassing reason. Because it takes a certain kind of enzyme to break down beans, and because most people don’t eat them enough to develop a healthy culture of those little bacteria in the gut, eating beans only occasionally often announces itself at the most inconvenient moments. Instead of digesting quickly, the few bacteria that are in the average gut don’t work as efficiently. Which leaves that lunch of bean burrito sitting there, kind of fermenting in your gut. Well with fermentation comes gas and there goes the neighbourhood if you get my drift…..hopefully you’re standing downwind when it happens right?
BUT, when you eat them frequently, you grow a whole new army of enzymes whose sole function is to break down the beans you eat. The more you eat them, the less gas is produced when you do.
ENZYMES, ANTI-CANCER ARMIES AND 2ND MEAL EFFECTS….
And one more benefit of including beans on the menu regularly, is that those enzymes are also part of the anti-cancer army. They prevent your body from absorbing a lot of the glucose that you do eat which means less insulin, which means the likelihood of cancer is yet again, reduced. And the crown on the top of that nugget of knowledge, is that all those beneficial effects from eating beans, doesn’t just happen at that one meal. While it’s called The 2nd Meal Effect, it’s actually good for the next three or four meals.
SO HOW MUCH DO YOU LOVE YOUR LUXURY MACHINE?
Remember at the beginning I was asking you about your dream luxury car and how you’d fuel it? Well the amazing body that you’re walking around in every day, is like a dream, luxury car. It’s precision made, it’s got the most incredible operating systems and checks and balances you’ve ever seen. And it runs best when you pick premium fuels for it. Sure, it’ll keep chugging along for a long time even without that, but there will come a point when the breakdowns begin. Clogged lines, jammed connections, signals that don’t get through…..overweight, disease, sickness, feeling crappy….
I think by now you have a pretty good idea about picking the healthiest foods. With the help of the ANDI Score chart, and an increased understanding of how food in general affects your ‘luxury transport’, it gets easier to figure out just what you need for optimum performance.
HEALTHIEST FOODS 5 POINT CHECKLIST
- Choose foods that are highest on the ANDI score chart.
- Choose foods that digest slowly. (lentils, apples, beans, fruits, veggies, nuts…)
- Choose foods that are the least processed (or not at all).
- Limit the foods that digest fast. (white flours, oils)
- Limit (or avoid) sugary foods and drinks.
EVOLVING UNDERSTANDINGS OF NUTRITION AND US…
Our understanding of nutrition has been a slowly evolving process. New understandings building on old and here we are today. I hope that in some way, I’ve been able to share some of that information with you. And made it clear enough that you can take it with you the next time you head out with grocery bags in hand. I know I’ve learned a few new things in the process which is fabulous.
So please, share your thoughts and let me know what you think. In the meantime, be safe, be kind and enjoy your day wherever you are!
As always, I will remind you that I’m not a medical doctor. I’ve spent the last 20 years focusing on and learning to ‘grow’ my own health however. And that’s what I’m sharing here. All of it based on my own experiences and also the things that I’ve learned from the real experts! Those are the researchers and doctors who’ve seen the actual patients, worked in the labs and write the linked medical reports and discussions that are sprinkled throughout these posts.
My goal is to motivate and help you find your best way to live a healthier and more peaceful life. But I suggest strongly that you talk over any changes in your routines, with your doctor. This would include changes to your exercise routines and any medications you might be taking or other supplements.
And lastly, this blog and each post may contain affiliate links. That means that if you buy something through them, I’ll receive a commission, at no extra cost to you.