why food quality is so important to your health
When it comes to nutrition and diet, many people worry a lot about meal planning. The endless counting calories, counting macronutrients, cycling carbohydrates, avoiding sugar, etc. takes so much work! Not to mention stressing about the questions: what should be eaten and when, what’s the best time of day to have protein, is intermittent fasting recommended, etc. With all the time and effort that goes into nutrition, one major very important thing is overlooked… food quality! Throughout this article, we will investigate the reasons why food quality is so important to your health!
From a technical standpoint, food quality is the quality characteristics of food that consumers deem acceptable. External characteristics such as color, shape, size, etc. are all things that have to do with appearance. Texture and flavor are two other quality characteristics. Internal characteristics have to do with the chemical, physical and microbial content of the food. Who sets the standard for food quality? The manufacturers, the government, the producers, or the consumers? In the United States it is enforced by the Food Safety Act 1990. There are factors such as manufacturing and sanitation that are incredibly important in addressing food quality. These things are evaluated to try and minimize potential contamination and issues with widespread illnesses.
At Top Notch Nutrition, we have and will always preach on food quality. You may have heard us use the phrase “nutrition on a mission”. We believe that nutrition has such a huge impact on the health and wellness of every human being, and that is so incredibly important to us. We want to help as many people feel their best as possible and this discussion on food quality is one step toward people finding the best versions of themselves! We will admit that sometimes having a high standard for your food quality can be more expensive, but it is always worth it. Investing a little bit now into your food quality will pay off in the long run when you are healthier and feeling better (i.e. not spending money on healthcare due to health conditions).
Next, we are going to look at two major sources of vitamins and minerals first: meats and vegetables.
1. Meats: We cannot stress quality enough. We suggest that you try to find local farms to support and look for grass-finished beef, organic free range chicken, heritage-breed pork. In some places you can find farmer’s markets to buy meat at. In either case, you can buy directly from the farmer and ask them questions about the meat you’re consuming. You want to make sure that the meat comes from an animal that was fed a diet that is natural to it. Don’t buy meat that has been fed with genetically modified foods or other animal byproducts. If the animal had the ability to be outside and was not supplemented with hormones or antibiotics, then it is a healthy meat. You also want to make sure that it was not processed in a way that added any chemicals, nitrites or nitrates. Another bonus when it comes to quality meat is that the animal was slaughtered at the right time, in a humane way. Often animals are fed hormones to “plump” them up faster and produce more meat. These are things you want to avoid!
2. Vegetables: Always look to purchase organic. This term has different standards across the world but for the most part it means the food is grown in a place that supports ecological balance, conserves biodiversity and practices cycle resources. In many places, organic farming prohibits and/or restricts the farmers from using fertilizers and pesticides. These products can damage ecosystems, impact the water supply among other environmental and health concerns. An interesting and very important fact is that organic vegetables are at least 50 percent more micronutrient dense than non-organic veggies. What are micronutrients? They are essential elements that are required by organisms to aid in physiological functions and maintain health. Simpler put, micronutrients are the vitamins and minerals the body needs to function! Because they are essential, it is clear how choosing organic foods can maximize the ability to get them into your diet.
clean eating + food quality
Clean eating is most often thought of as eating whole (non-processed) foods. This way of eating consists of eliminating artificial ingredients, preservatives and additives. Clean eating removes all processed and refined foods. For many people, the best way to think of clean eating is to eat foods that are as close to their natural form as possible. Think about eating an orange versus processed orange juice (often with added sugars). Clean eating can provide several health benefits. Many people experience weight loss as they eliminate unnecessary sugars and refined carbohydrates. Eating this way also increases consumption of fruits and vegetables, clean protein and foods that are nutrient dense. All these things combined help the body function optimally and help people feel their best!
When it comes to clean eating, food quality is typically talking in terms of micronutrients. These are the vitamins and minerals that the body needs as discussed above. Micronutrients consist of four types: trace minerals, water-soluble vitamins, fat-soluble vitamins and macrominerals. For the most part, our bodies can’t produce any of these micronutrients. Very specific roles are fulfilled by vitamins and minerals. Next, we will explore exactly why micronutrients are important:
- Avoid Sickness and Boost Immunity – many micronutrients are crucial to the processes of the immune system cells to keep you healthy. The immune system is designed to fight infections and diseases. In order to do this vitamins A, B6, B12, C, D, E, and folic acid as well as iron, zinc, copper, and selenium (which are trace elements) should be a necessary staple of your diet. Of those listed, all but Vitamin C and iron are necessary for producing antibodies. These are a protein in the blood that is designed to combine with substances that the body recognizes as bacteria, viruses, and other foreign substances in the bloodstream.
- Regulating Endocrine System– the endocrine system is responsible for producing hormones in the body. Hormones play a huge role in your life.Hormones are chemical messengers that are responsible for specific functions in the body. These hormones are connected to growth, development, metabolism, reproduction, sleep, mood, and so much more! Your lifestyle choices (including quality of food) can help you keep your hormones in a healthy balance. Food is incredibly important when it comes to healing hormone imbalances. It is easy to become micronutrient deficient if not paying attention. This type of deficiency can wreak havoc on hormones. A few tips are to reduce caffeine and alcohol consumption to minimize the chances of micronutrients getting depleted.
You can see from this information why food quality is so important to your health. As discussed, micronutrients are more prevalent in organic veggies. This is just one example of how quality impacts your wellbeing.
poor quality foods
You might be wondering, if you don’t eat high quality foods, what happens? Now that you know what to look for regarding food quality, you know that clean, whole and organic foods, and those grown without hormones, pesticides, antibiotics etc. are the best choice. It is so important to remember that what goes on in the duration of the food being grown (whether it’s plant or animal) makes its way to us when we consume it. A little extra “food for thought,” give this some pondering… this list below is what you may be eating if you aren’t choosing quality foods:
- GMOs – genetically modified foods
- Corn – in 8,000 forms
- Sugars – all kinds including artificial sweeteners
- Artificial ingredients
- Toxic ingredients and chemicals
- Vegetable oils
- Highly processed foods
- Food that isn’t even food!
Here’s an interesting story for you to ponder regarding poor quality food. One year for the holidays, a family member had been given one of those boxed sets of beef sticks, blocks of cheese, and crackers. You know the ones that show up on the end caps of all the major stores around the holidays? Well, we opened it up to see all the goodies inside. The front of the cheese package said, “processed cheese food.” In looking at the ingredients, there were many things no one knew what they were, many artificial ingredients, and quite frankly nothing that resembled cheese! This is one example of “food” that isn’t even food… it contained at least five of the things on the list above. We’re pretty sure that no one ended up eating it, thank goodness!
Each thing on the list above is detrimental to your overall health and well-being. The body does not know what to do with most of these things, it cannot process the GMOs, corn, sugar, artificial ingredients, and vegetable oils found in all the highly processed foods on the supermarket shelves today. Pesticides, hormones, antibiotics and toxic ingredients and chemicals disrupt the natural functions of the body. When these things go into the body on a regular basis there is no possible way for the body to keep up with the overload. It gets bogged down, and guess what? You end up feeling it… you are tired, bloated, have digestive issues, can’t sleep, etc. Bottom line is that you end up not feeling well because the body can’t sustain itself!
where diets go wrong
One major reason why we get so frustrated with mainstream diets is that they often become misconstrued and do more harm than good. Most people go into a diet plan knowing they need to have some control over their food choices whether it is counting calories or macronutrients. This becomes an issue when meeting those numbers (i.e. 1,400 calories or 155 grams fat, 100 grams protein and 50 grams carbs) is more important than the actual food itself. This happens more frequently than you can imagine. People often lose sight of making sure the food they eat is high quality and will eat whatever just because it fits… or they’ll make sure they can “fit” a candy bar into those numbers and forget it’s filled with sugar and artificial ingredients and does them no good nutritionally.
To look at this a little closer, let’s start by saying you are probably quite aware that we are fans of the keto diet… especially when done in a healthy way. If you’re not familiar, this is a low-carb, moderate protein and high fat diet. This diet should consist of low-carb vegetables, clean sources of protein, and healthy fats. As an example of “dieting gone wrong,” keto has unfortunately become a mainstream way of losing weight. It’s turned from a high fat, quality meat, micronutrient dense diet that was amazing for health benefits into bacon, cheese, and a sugar alcohol overload just to hit your daily macronutrient numbers.
food quality and health: in summary
In exploring why food quality is so important to your health, we hope that we have reiterated the idea of thinking about your long term health over temporary weight loss. Looking at the quality of the food you eat is so crucial to long term growth when it comes to your well-being. On the other hand, we must remind you that just because it is quality food doesn’t mean that you can eat as much as you possibly can! We recommend that you still be aware of how much you are consuming, even if it is high quality. Think about how easy it is to overeat on a regular basis, it’s even easier if you tell yourself that “it’s all good for you” and don’t pay much attention to exactly how much you’re eating (i.e. snacking on nuts can easily turn into a day’s worth of calories). Think of it this way… FOOD QUALITY + PROPER QUANTITY = HAPPY BODY, HAPPY MIND, HAPPY YOU and HAPPY LIFE! Remember that you have one place to live, feed it kindly!