Originally published March 4 2008
Start Small for Greater Gains When Converting to a Natural Lifestyle
by Julie Hurley
(NaturalNews) If you're just starting out on your journey toward a more natural lifestyle, you can easily become overwhelmed by the sheer volume of information that is out there. On this Web site alone, there are usually at least four new headlines that are posted daily; all packed with invaluable information and knowledge that can help you make better decisions with regard to the health of you, your family and the environment. But where on earth do you begin? Taking on the suggestions and processing the information in the twenty articles listed below all at once can not only put a strain on your budget, but on your sanity as well.
For me, my journey toward more natural living started because I'd been having moderate to serious pain from Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). IBS is a condition that affects an estimated 15 to 20 percent of Americans. Symptoms can include, but are not limited to: constipation, bloating, gas, and diarrhea. From personal experience, it's a horrible condition to try and live with. I consider myself lucky; I had a moderate case of it, compared to some other sufferers who've had to quit their jobs, who've not been able to find a spouse, and who've more than once contemplated suicide because their symptoms are so out of control, debilitating, and oftentimes humiliating.
Desperate for information, I started scouring the Web for information on how to overcome this problem. I stumbled upon a Web site and message board that talked about the important role that diet plays into IBS. I learned new terms such as high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), sorbitol, sucralose (Splenda), and other "food" items that made my tummy highly sensitive. From here, I learned more and more about the healthy advantages of eliminating HFCS, trans fats, and other additives and preservatives from my diet.
What I didn't realize was how pervasive all of this stuff was in everyday foods. I was especially appalled to learn the harmful effects of HFCS and trans fats (partially hydrogenated oils), and made a vow to not knowingly consume them. It's harder than it sounds, people. HFCS is in practically everything; including ketchup, cookies, toddler snacks and soft drinks. Once, during my early days into my new endeavor, I read the label of a Gerber product AFTER bringing it home from the grocery and found partially hydrogenated oil listed as an ingredient. I immediately contacted the company to express my displeasure over the ingredient. Their response was to thank me for my call and to send me coupons for free product. Um, no, thanks.
For those who don't know, HFCS is a corn syrup that's gone through an enzymatic process which results in a product that is cheaper, easier to blend and transport than sugar. It also increases the shelf life of a product, which is why a Twinkie can sit packaged on a shelf for years before it goes bad.
Trans fats are unsaturated fats that are created by partially hydrogenating plant oils. Adding more hydrogen to the fats increases their melting point, and increases their shelf life. It's been widely established that consuming trans fats increases the risk of coronary heart disease and it's recommended that consumption of these fats should be limited to trace amounts. However, be aware that a manufacturer can list 0g trans fats on the nutrition label if the content is 0.5g and below.
It was hard, but I made the switch, and can proudly say that there is not one product in my home that contains HFCS or trans fats.
Here are a few simple tips on getting started on your journey:
1. Eliminate HFCS and trans fats from your grocery cart - If it's not in the house, you and/or your kids and spouse will not eat them. Period. Carefully read nutrition labels at the grocery store.
2. Don't drink your calories - I never drink more than 200 to 300 calories per day. That usually includes a glass of red wine at the end of the evening. Stick to water. A tasty alternative is 8 oz. of purified water, 1-2 teaspoons of pure maple syrup (preferably organic) and 1-2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar (preferably organic).
3. Eliminate fast food entirely - There is absolutely no place for fast food in the human diet. There are 38 ingredients in a McNugget (notice it's not called a Chicken McNugget anymore?), including partially hydrogenated oils. The health risk in eating in these establishments is just not worth it.
4. Buy organic when you can - It may be a little pricier than what you're used to, but the long-term benefit in choosing organic is worth it.
Starting with these four simple steps can get you started on a path to better health and vitality. It's going to be hard - I'm a working mother of two children - and convenience sometimes threatens to prevail. But the more you practice this, the easier it becomes. You will face resistance from a whole host of forces, some of which may surprise you. But stick with it. It will be one of the best decisions you can make for you and your family.
The Omnivore's Dilemma, by Michael Pollan
About the authorA married mother of two young children, Julie Hurley is a freelance writer with a strong interest in natural living. She is also the Grand Rapids Healthy Food Examiner for Examiner.com. Visit her page at: tinyurl.com/healthyfoodexaminer.
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