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Resolve to Know Your Food in 2012

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By Ashley Koff, R.D.

We all know the saying – you are what you eat. Well, today, with the vast spectrum of food choices, this saying is truer than ever. Are you rich in phyto-nutrients (plant-derived nutrients like antioxidants) or are you genetically modified (GMO)? Are you full of healthy fatty acids or are your fat cells full of toxins? Does your digestive system run fluidly or does it stop and start, stop and start like a car running on poor quality fuel? Is your body’s physical and mental energy….what energy, you say? Yes, we are what we eat…and while I am no psychic, a quick glance in your fridge (this includes the freezer) and I can predict a great deal about who you are today…and who you will become. Here are some of my predictions.

What’s in your fridge right now, and what’s it doing for you?

1. If your fridge contains fewer than three colors (from nature, not a chemical lab), you are more likely to get more colds, look and feel older than your age (wrinkles, dry skin, chronic fatigue, sub-optimal digestion), and have increased risk for several cancers. See here, neither Dorothy nor the Wizard of Oz created the rainbow -- Mama Nature did. Flowers, plants, fruits, vegetables, herbs, trees, bushes, and salts come in so many colors -- and every color has a job, be it in the garden or the jungle or our bodies. Ever loved something (or someone) that wasn’t as pleasing to your heart as to your eyes? Your body needs all the colors of the rainbow on a daily basis. And if they aren’t in your fridge, chances are they aren’t going in you.

Fridge Freshener: Buy fruits, vegetables, and herbs several times a week, taking into account the rainbow of colors. Don’t like carrots? Then reach for an orange or sweet potato. And make sure to stock your freezer with lots of organic fruits and veggies. If smart choices are always on hand, your excuses dwindle quickly.

Know Your Fridge

2. If your fridge is completely empty, you are more likely to have or develop heart disease and be what I call “over-fat.” This is different than being overweight or obese. Even people at a healthy body weight can have poor body composition. This means they have too much fat for their body and too little lean body mass, thereby increasing risk of disease. Why? Eating a lot of take-out or at restaurants all the time increases the likelihood of consuming larger portions, including greater quantities of salt, fat, and sugar. It also decreases the likelihood of getting in enough heart-healthy nutrients such as potassium, magnesium, and essential fatty acids (omegas 3, 6, and 9, among others).

Fridge Freshener: Aim to stock your refrigerator with heart-healthy foods like wild salmon, avocados, organic greens, berries, nuts and seeds, and filtered water (that you can put in your water bottle to take to go). Also try your hand at cooking up even a few more meals at home and packing lunches and snacks to take with you to the office, gym, school or wherever you go.

3. If your fridge contains lots of dairy products but they are not organic, you are more likely to have higher levels of toxins in your body contributing to allergies, antibiotic resistance, and hormonal imbalances. By law, organic dairy cows cannot be treated with artificial growth hormones and antibiotics. They also can only be fed organic feed. All of this means their milk has more nutrients – like conjugated linoleic acid, a fatty acid that actually helps our bodies burn fat. A true nutritional powerhouse.

Fridge Freshener: Swap out your chemically produced dairy products for certified organic ones. Start with milk, but don’t forget about your favorite foods produced mostly from milk such as cheese, yogurt, butter and, yes, even ice cream.

4. If your fridge is full of un-naturally produced fat-free products, you are more likely to be consuming higher levels of sugar or chemically produced ingredients, increasing your risk for diabetes and extra fat, especially around the mid-section. Some foods are free of fat in nature – fruits (most), vegetables, herbs, and water. But the rest contain some fats, including saturated and unsaturated fatty acids. When we prepare these foods to eat – in their whole food form – the fats not only provide nutrients our bodies need (including being an enabler for other nutrients to be absorbed) but also help create a texture that helps us feel satisfied after eating appropriately sized portions. The bottom line is we need the fat – and it’s best to get it as nature presents it – by eating foods in their whole form. Caveat: not all fat-free or reduced fat products are created equal. We can consume reduced fat or non-fat foods – like dairy or mayo – but proceed according to the rules.

Fridge Fresheners: First, consume organic whole foods for their healthy fat content – for example: avocados, nuts and seeds (and their unrefined oils, butters, and milks), organic cacao, olives, and dairy. Second, if you consume a reduced or non-fat food, pair it with some whole food healthy fat (organic nuts atop your fat-free yogurt, anyone?). Third, don’t consume food products that increase the sugar content (added sugars) in order to reduce the fat – the calories may go down but the negative impact on your body goes up. Fourth, don’t consume food products that add chemicals in order to omit fat – that’s like putting lighter fluid versus oil in your car’s oil tank – kabooom!

If you are what you eat, what do the contents of your fridge say about who you will be tomorrow?

Ashley KoffAshley Koff is an internationally renowned registered dietician who is on a mission to help people get healthy by bringing quality eating into every home.

Koff’s “Qualitarian” philosophy is founded on choosing to eat the highest quality food available. By choosing organic over non-organic, non-GMO over GMO, preservative-free and artificial ingredient-free foods, the body gets optimal fuel, and avoids what can do it harm.

Named among the Top 10 Registered Dieticians in the U.S. by Today’s Dietician Magazine, Koff has appeared on Dr. Oz, The Doctors, Access Hollywood, CNN, and E!, and has contributed to The New York Times, InStyle, Reader’s Digest, O! The Oprah Magazine, Every Day with Rachael Ray, Redbook, Women’s Health, and Shape. She is a contributing editor for Natural Health Magazine, sits on the advisory board of Fitness Magazine, and is co-author of Mom Energy: A Simple Plan To Live Fully Charged (Hay House, 2011).

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