Eat Clean, Live Well
Inge Jaffe MS, RD/N
“The food you eat can be either the safest and most powerful form of medicine or the slowest form of poison.”
Food is medicine. My nutrition background and personal life experiences have taught me this. The health of my family is of the utmost importance and nourishing that is what I do best. We our continuously exposed to toxins in our environment and in the food we put into our bodies, causing our immune systems to become overworked, threatening our health. Clean eating and clean living can go a long way toward reducing these exposures. This can free up our immune system to fight other battles, thus improving our overall health.
Every choice we make, has an impact on our bodies and on our planet. So let us make the best choices we possibly can. What is clean eating? It’s about making quality and healthy food choices, which means choosing more whole fruits, vegetables and grains, while limiting highly processed, refined foods, where you can barely pronounce the ingredients. Here are a few tips to get you started:
Eat your veggies, lots of veggies
Most of us do not get enough fruits and vegetables. I find it shocking that only 1 in 10 adults gets enough fruit or vegetables, this according to the CDC. Eating more fruit and vegetables can have a plethora of benefits from the fiber, antioxidants and vitamins they contain. These super-powered elements help reduce our risk for high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, obesity and cancer. The fiber in these whole foods will keep your microbiome (the good bacteria in your gut) happy, which can reduce your risk for autoimmune diseases, fight off pathogens and infections and even help improve your brain function. Choose organic produce whenever possible, use the EWG's Dirty Dozen list and Clean 15 list to help guide your selections if you can’t always choose organic. Even better hit a farmers market, a chance to support local farmers and buy freshly picked produce. Fruits and vegetables start to lose nutrients once they are picked. Buying local cuts down the travel time from farm to table.
Eat Less Meat
Although going vegan is not required for clean living, more and more research shows cutting back on meat is healthier for you and the planet. In addition, bumping up on the plants means more healthy fiber, fats, vitamins and minerals. If you're worried about not getting enough protein, you may be surprised to know that most Americans get more than enough protein in their diet, including vegetarians and vegans. The recommended 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight - an average 56 grams daily for men and 46 grams daily for women - is easily achieved. If you feel you can’t give up on the meat, choose wisely, which means organic, grass fed, wild seafood and animals that have been humanely treated. Eating clean also means reducing processed meats such as bacon and sausage, which have been announced to be “carcinogenic to humans” by the World Health Organization.
Less Processed Foods
In reality when we chop, mix and cook at home we are processing foods. The problem is that so much of processed food at the grocery store is beyond recognition. Avoid anything with lots of sugar, refined grains, sodium, partially hydrogenated fats and ingredient lists too long to read with ingredients you can’t even recognize. Minimally processed foods do exist such as in plain yogurt, cheese, multigrain pasta, packaged leafy greens, fruits and nuts. One can easily make salad dressings, sauces, hummus, mayo and broth at home but you can also find cleaner versions at the store. As always, choose quality products from companies committed to sustainability and transparency. Read the ingredient list. Limiting packaged foods can also reduce your exposure to BPA and other chemicals found in the packaging.
The American Academy of Environmental Medicine (AAEM) urges doctors to prescribe non-GMO diets for all patients. There are studies that show organ damage, gastrointestinal and immune system disorders, accelerated aging, and infertility are associated with GMO intake. Human studies show how genetically modified (GM) food can leave material behind inside us with the potential to cause long-term health problems. The fact is GMOs were secretly allowed into our food system in 1996 and since then we have seen a dramatic increase in chronic illnesses, allergies, and disorders such as autism, digestive and reproductive problems. GMOs also increase the use of pesticides, they are harmful to the biodiversity of the planet, hurting birds, insects, marine and soil ecosystems. The impact is huge. Some scientists argue there is not sufficient research to confirm that GMOs are harmful but doctors groups such as the AAEM encourage us to be proactive in protecting ourselves, especially children who are most at risk.
Consider the Environment
Clean eating is better for you and the planet. There is so much that goes into making our food. Farms emit about 13 percent of the total of greenhouse gas emissions. That makes the agriculture sector the world’s second largest emitter after the energy sector. The meat industry being the biggest culprit within agriculture. Raising and feeding animals is not only resource-intensive but the methane released from digestion and manure makes the carbon footprint even bigger. Our oceans have also been exploited, destroying many natural marine habitats. Industrialized produce can also take a toll with herbicides, pesticides and synthetic fertilizers impacting water and soil quality. New research shows moving away from a meat forward diet to more plant-based eating can add a decade to your life, improve quality of life and prevent heavy environmental damage. Making a conscious choice to choose organic or grass-fed meat and purchase sustainably-caught, wild seafood lessens the environmental impact. Organic fruits and vegetables and locally sourced foods will help cut down on your carbon footprint.
Food is so much more than what is on your plate. By taking pride in what we eat, we show respect for the planet, the farmers, ourselves and for the people who go without.
Recipe of the Month
Sweet Potato and Black Bean Tacos
Roasted Sweet Potatoes
2 pounds of sweet potato chopped into 1 inch chunks - sweet potatoes are a nutrition star, leave the skin on to boost your nutrient intake
2 Tablespoon olive oil
Season with Himalayan salt
Easy Black Beans
1 small onion
3-5 garlic cloves, chopped
2 teaspoons cumin
2 cans of black beans rinsed and drained or 3 cups of dried, cooked black beans
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1/3 cup water
Himalayan salt and black pepper to taste
Avocado Pepita Mash
1 cup cilantro lightly packed
1/2 cup pepitas
1 small jalapeño, chopped
2 small garlic cloves, chopped
2 Tablespoons lime juice
1/2 teaspoon Himalayan salt
Black pepper to taste
8-10 corn tortillas - I like Ezekiel brand.
Possible garnishes - cilantro, jalapeños, radishes, red onion, feta cheese*, sour cream/ yogurt* etc.
*omit for vegans
Roast the Sweet Potatoes: Preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Toss the sweet potatoes with olive oil and salt. Arrange in a single layer on rimmed baking sheet. Bake for 30-40 minutes. Toss halfway, until the potatoes are tender and have caramelized a bit.
Prepare the Black Beans: Warm the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onions and garlic, sprinkle of salt. Cook until the onions have softened and turn translucent, 5 minutes. Add the cumin, cook 30 seconds while stirring. Pour in the beans and water. Stir, cover and reduce heat to maintain a gentle simmer.
Cook for about 5 minutes. Remove beans from the heat and mash half of them with masher or fork. Stir in vinegar, season with salt and pepper.
Avocado Dip: Roast the pepitas ( you can do this while the sweet potatoes are roasting in small oven-safe skillet or baking sheet and set aside until you are ready to start the avocado dip).
Place the avocado flesh into food processor. Add cilantro, jalapeño, garlic, lime juice and salt. Blend until smooth. Add water if you want to thin out. Then add almost all of the pepitas (reserve a few tablespoons for garnish) and process just until the pepitas are chopped into small pieces to add texture. Taste, and add more salt if desired.
You are now ready to warm the tortillas and assemble the tacos. To assemble the tacos, spread black beans down the middle of each tortilla, then top with sweet potatoes and avocado-pepita dip. Garnish with feta, pepitas, and anything else that pops into your head. Enjoy!