This is the biggest category. I have grouped many of the foundations of the Nutritional Therapy Association into this food category because in one way or another they all relate back to food.
Nutrient Dense Diet
This is the big one. I want you to eat food that tastes good AND is pack full of nutrients in every bite. Nature has set us up pretty well for this one. I’m talking about high quality fats, proteins, and carbohydrates. Fats provide us with long burning energy, help keep us satiated, have a huge part of the make up of every cell in our body AND make food taste really good. This lifestyle wants you to eat high quality fats which include grass-fed butter, whole milk products, avocados, nuts and seeds. Protein provides the building blocks for many of our body functions and include high quality beef, chicken, eggs, fish and properly prepared legumes as well. Carbohydrates provide us with fuel for our brains and our quick burning energy. Preferred carbohydrate sources included vegetables and fruits with some properly prepared grains on occasion if your body tolerates them. Now you could be eating all this, but still not feeling great, and that is where the next pillars of the foundations come in. They help us get the most out of our diets. The two that we will focus on the most are digestion and blood sugar regulation.
There’s a lot of steps when it comes to digestion. Unfortunately this means there are a lot of paces where it can go wrong and it can go wrong in multiple places. For me as a parent and working adult, I struggled the most with the first location that digestion begins which isn’t that mouth, but the brain, because I always ate on the go or in a rush. I will help you figure out where digestion might not be going right for you and help you support it but here is how it is supposed to go. This is a short but high level overview of digestion, feel free to ask any questions you have!
First – you see food, smell food or start cooking food. This signals your brain to start producing saliva and stomach acid as you enter in a relaxed, ready to eat state. Relaxation is the state where digestion occurs and it does not function well in a high stress (whether positive or negative) state. As our brain makes our bodies ready to digest we slowly begin to eat. We chew eat bite carefully to mechanically breakdown the food and combine it with saliva which helps to chemically break down carbohydrates. After we swallow and the food travels to our stomach, our stomachs churn that food for more mechanical breakdown and combine it with stomach acid and the pancreas provides pepsin and the gallbladder provides bile to breakdown protein and fat respectively. As the food breaks down even more, the high acidity of it triggers our pancreas to release sodium bicarbonate to neutralize it as it enters our small intestine. The small intestine is where we get the majority of our nutrient absorption. As the broken down remnants travel from our small to our large intestine, our bodies begin to reabsorb water and actually recycles vitamins and minerals. Our large intestine also produces Butyric Acid and various vitamins which our body then uses, as long as our gut flora is up to part. Once our large intestine is done, then it expels the waste as feces.
Phew! That’s a lot right? It is and it is complicated. Having a basic understand of how digestion is supposed to work will help you understand why we make certain choices when we work together but you can leave to confusing stuff to me.
Fatty Acid Balance
I love that each of these foundations really segue into each other. While we prioritize them, address one will help another if not all others. Fatty Acids (the broken down form of fats) are beneficial to our bodies in so many ways. We need to make sure that we are digesting them properly (which commonly, if you have ever been on a low fat diet or eaten a lot of processed foods foods, you might not be) so that we can use them! As I mentioned above they are important to make us feel satisfied after meals and keep our energy level sustained until we eat again. In addition through fatty acid balance we can effectively manage inflammation. What? Really?! Yes. Fatty acids are precursors to the things (called prostaglandins) that create inflammation or decrease inflammation. If you have a lo of aches and pains, you may not be eating enough of the fats that are important to decrease inflammation and in the right balance. We need inflammation processes for healing, but we also need the other processes that take the inflammation away. As you get your body to start digesting fats, and the right fats better, you may be able to shorten healing time from an injury and just feel better overall.
Minerals are micronutrients like sodium, potassium, magnesium, calcium, etc. They are important as support systems to our body functions (like the making of those prostaglandins mentioned above). They also help provide structural support for our cells and even help with things like making our muscles contract and relax. Do you get a lot of cramps? Maybe you have a mineral imbalances. Unfortunately, the way that many industrial farms are today, our soils are depleted and our food just doesn’t contain as many minerals as it use too. If our digestion isn’t up to par then we definitely won’t but even still, we may need to support our body with minerals.