Welcome back to this series on Abundant Health.
My goal with this series is to provide information and inspiration you need to build abundant health for you and your family. Life is so good when we feel well!
This is article 3 in a 10-part series.
In this article I go into detail about those specific principles of healthy eating that saw me through. Because there is so much to cover, we’re going to break this topic into 3 parts covered in the next three articles in this series:
What to eat.
How to prepare food for greatest health.
How to do this in the real world of your busy life. Don’t worry, I’ve got you! I’ll help you through the nitty-gritty of making healthy-eating work for you in your home.
In Article #1 of this series I introduced principles of abundant health and explained that they are principles with a promise. Article #2 is my story of being guided to principles of health that sustained me through the hardest year of my life and provided abundance even amidst illness, intense stress, and loss. I believe they can do that for you too. You can find links to all articles in this series at the end of this post.
What to eat? That is the question.
What is the best diet for abundant health? That is the subject of great debate. Even leading researchers can’t agree. It is difficult to know what to put in your mouth!
There are low-carbohydrate vs. low fat diets, meat eaters vs. vegetarians, vegans, gluten-free, organic, dairy-free, Keto, Paleo, Mediterranean, raw-foodies and even diets based on your blood type. Each diet has a loud and confident following that claims it has the perfect diet with persuasive anecdotes and scientific reasoning to back their claims.
It can be overwhelming and paralyzing when you just want to feed your family a healthy dinner.
Never fear! The principles of healthy eating you’ll learn here are scripturally based, supported by science, and make what to eat clear and simple. They’re the nutrition principles I clung to during the hardest year of my life and they sustained my health and carried me through. You can read more of my story here.
The fun thing is that researchers have found that the principles I’ll share with you here are the common denominator for good health in today’s mainstream diets. The research is nice, but honestly, for me my confidence in these principles is based on scripture and faith. I’ve given them a test drive and they passed the test. But it’s always nice to have a supportive second opinion!
The scientific research on what to eat.
The research I’m talking about was done in 2014 by Annual Reviews, a non profit organization dedicated to synthesizing and integrating knowledge to help scientists and the public get a handle on the vast amount of research and data available on various topics.
Two Yale University researchers, David Katz and Stephanie Meller, were chosen to compare the medical evidence for and against popular diets to determine which is best for human health. Katz and Meller had no affiliation with any particular diet and both were experts on nutrition and science. Their results were published in the paper “Can We Say What Diet is Best For Health?”
Their findings are fascinating! And they tickled me because their research verified what I’d already come to know through my own experience. Their conclusions echo those I had come to.
In their search for the best diet, they determined that none of the specific diets they examined (low-carb, low fat, low glycemic, mediterranean, paleo, vegan, and others) could be found to be the best diet for health in all situations for all people.
However, they found each of these diets had specific guiding principles of health in common that formed the basis of human health.
Guess what? They are the same principles I have come to know and trust! So satisfying!
This is what Katz and Meller said:
“A diet of minimally processed foods close to nature, predominantly plants, is decisively associated with health promotion and disease prevention…”
Just what I’d already come to know!
Here are my principles of healthy eating:
The thing to remember about these principles is that they aren’t a specific diet. You are not limited so much as given bounteous possibilities for eating delicious real food that nourishes body and mind. It is abundant eating for abundant health.
Many diets emphasize specific foods as cure-all for health and demonize other foods. The principle I follow is “real, whole foods” and then through study and inspiration – and medical help as needed – individualize your diet according to personal needs.
If you follow a specific diet, such as gluten-free or dairy-free, or if you’re really into paleo or love eating a mediterranean diet these principles can easily be applied and personalized.
Let’s get started!
Eat Real, Whole Food
The first and simplest rule I follow for healthy eating is to eat real food. Food that is fresh, whole, and natural as it grew from the earth or came from the animal. Real. Whole. Food.
This sounds simple but it takes some getting used to in our convenience-eating, fast-food world! Once I changed my mindset and got some systems in place, I found it’s totally do-able and delicious. Instead of buying and reaching for packaged food, choose real, whole food.
What does this look like?
- fruits and vegetable as they grew from the earth or tree or vine (not canned or deep-fried or sugared)
- whole grains (not bleached or polished or puffed)
- milk, eggs, butter, and meat in their whole natural state (not pasteurized or homogenized, not margarine, not hot dogs or lunch meat)
- legumes (beans) in all their delightful variety
- traditional vegetable oils and animal fats (not new contrived hydrogenated fats and polyunsaturated oils)
Whole, real foods are beautiful, satisfying, and exactly what our bodies need to be strengthened, nourished, and to fight disease. It isn’t within the scope of this article to highlight each amazing healing aspect of every fabulous real food. But this article does a pretty good job of that. These foods are rockstars!
God sums it up pretty well in this scripture about the good things of the earth:
“Yea, all things which come of the earth, in the season thereof, are made for the benefit and the use of man, both to please the eye and to gladden the heart; yea for food and for raiment, for taste and for smell, to strengthen the body and to enliven the soul.” Doctrine and Covenants 59:18,19
Eliminate Processed Foods
Buyer beware: the food industry does not care about your health, they care about making money! Avoid commercially processed, man-made, fake foods at all costs! Processing denatures and chemically changes food and kills nutrients. Almost all restaurant, cafeteria, packaged, prepared, boxed, frozen, bagged, and canned food is denatured and contains harmful toxins and chemicals meant to extend the shelf life of the product – not your life – and to jack up the intensity of the (addictive) flavor.
Remember the food industry isn’t concerned about your health and wellness. They want your money.
Jesus warned of “wolves in sheep’s clothing” that will deceive in the last days, but He also told that we can know them from their “fruits”. (see Matthew 7:15-20) What are the fruits of the modern food industry? Not good health. But illness, obesity, disease, and addiction. I see these “false prophets” in our food industry disguised in marketing campaigns, big money food and pharmaceutical companies, and even some government policies and subsidies promoting unhealthy foods.
Modern scripture also warns us about such “conspiring men” and gives us a “word of wisdom” to help us avoid the deceptions of those that are motivated by greed, not by desires for good.
“Thus saith the Lord unto you; In consequences of evils and designs which do and will exist in the hearts of conspiring men in these last days, I have warned you, and forewarn you, by giving unto you this word of wisdom by revelation –”
~Doctrine and Covenants 89:4
Throughout this series I’ll talk more about this Word of Wisdom where instructions are given for achieving health and wellness. It includes the do’s (what to eat and drink) and the don’ts (what NOT to eat and drink) to have optimal health for our mortal bodies.
The science leaves no question as to the poisonous nature of processed foods. Delving into the research on this is beyond the scope of this article but if you do a google search on “health risks and dangers of processed foods” you’ll get ample proof. Also check out the references below for further study.
For starters, processed foods are:
- High in sugar and high-fructose corn syrup which is linked to major diseases such as heart disease, obesity, cancer, and diabetes.
- Chemically engineered to be addictive and encourage overeating.
- Contain artificial chemical ingredients that destroy health and wellness, causing disease, depression, and anxiety.
- High in refined simple carbohydrates that spike insulin levels and offer little nutrition.
- Stripped of nutrients.
Processed food wreaks havoc on our health. But we still eat it anyway like it’s going out of style! Maybe we’re just too busy, overwhelmed, or confused about what is healthy. Maybe we’ve just never learned what is real healthy food. Maybe the slow silent way it deteriorates our health has us fooled. In any case, for abundant health, we need to make changes back to a real, whole food diet.
“Wherefore do ye spend money for that which is not bread, and your labor which satisfieth not? Hearken diligently unto me and eat ye that which is good, and let your soul delight itself in fatness.”
Let’s let our souls delight in the fatness of real, whole food! And not waste our money and health on that that is of no worth.
For further study on elimiating processed food see: Alma 46:40 of The Book of Mormon; Doctrine and Covenants 89:4; Widtsoe p. 22, 139, 203, 205; Fallon, p.4-55, 536; Francis, p. 1-26; Simmons p. 58.
Eat a Plant-Based Diet
One of the easiest and joyful ways to build Abundant Health is to totally increase your servings of vegetables and fruits. I’m talking TOTALLY INCREASE – like 12 -18 servings a day. Smoothies, juicing, soups, salads, cultured, and roasted veggies are just some of the delicious ways to get these beautiful foods into our bodies. I make a game out of this everyday. How many ways can I get that colorful nutritious goodness inside me and my loved ones today? I keep track and on the days I get over 10 in I’m doing a happy dance! Over 15 and I’m ecstatic.
There are so many stunning varieties and colors of fruits and vegetables. They are truly tiny masterpieces! Each color indicates a combination of vitamins and nutrients intended to build our health in miraculous ways! They are full of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fiber. Plants and roots were prepared by God to remove the cause of disease.
One scriptural account of ancient people living in the Americas illustrates this. It explains that some of the people died of fevers that were frequent during some seasons of the year, but not too many died because of the “excellent qualities of the many plants and roots which God had prepared to remove the cause of disease to which men were subject”. Alma 46:40, The Book of Mormon.
There are lots of examples out there that show how different fruits and vegetables resemble the body part that they nourish. Here’s one I like. I don’t know if this is scientifically correct, but I love the idea of it and think it’s fun to think about.
One thing I do know, is that the health properties of fruits and vegetables are indisputable in scripture and science.
The first mention of what God created for his children on the earth to eat is found in Genesis 1:29 where He says, “Behold I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat.”
In the Old Testament the prophet Daniel was taken from Israel to be a slave and servant in the Babylonian Royal Court. He chose to not eat the king’s meat and wine but instead asked for “pulse to eat and water to drink”. Pulse translates to fruits, vegetables, grains and legumes.
I don’t know just what the king’s food was, but the Hebrew translation is “delicacies”. In other words, rich, luxurious food fit for a king. By eating a plant based diet, Daniel was blessed with abundant health and “knowledge and skill in all learning and wisdom…and understanding” (See Daniel 1, Holy Bible). I want those same blessings!
In the Word of Wisdom I mentioned earlier, modern revelation confirms the goodness of a plant- based diet and gives similar promised blessings as those which Daniel enjoyed:
“…all wholesome herbs God hath ordained for the constitution, nature, and use of man. Every herb in the season thereof; all these to be used with prudence and thanksgiving…All grain is good for the food of man; as also the fruit of the vine; that which yieldeth fruit, whether in the ground or above the ground.”
~ Doctrine and Covenants 89:10-11, 16
And the promise:
“All saints who remember to keep these sayings, walking in obedience to the commandments, shall receive health to their navel and marrow to their bones; And shall find wisdom and great treasures of knowledge, even hidden treasures. And shall run and not be weary, and shall walk and not faint. And I the Lord, give unto them a promise, that the destroying angel shall pass by them…”
~ Doctrine and Covenants 18-21
Wow! Those are the most incredible blessings! I want them. And eating a plant based diet is a first step to receiving them. Later in this series we’ll talk about other principles that these blessings are predicated on.
The benefits of a plant based diet are immensely documented in science.
“…almost every vegetable that has been studied has been found to contain substances that benefit the heart and blood or counteract the formation of tumors. Fresh vegetables, eaten with the right fats on a daily basis, are one of our best protections against coronary heart disease and cancer.” Fallon 366
Here are some scientific findings just for starters:
- Increasing your intake of fruits and vegetables can help reduce heart disease. [source]
- Increasing vegetables in your diet can help lower your risk of dementia and slower rates of cognition as you age. [source]
- Eating more fruits and vegetables is associated with lower risk of death from all causes, including cardiovascular disease. [source]
- High vegetable consumption is associated with lower risk of breast cancer. [source]
- Over 5 servings a day of fruits and vegetables reduces risk of stroke. [source ]
- By eating more fruit, especially berries, and green leafy vegetables, yellow vegetables, and vegetables from the cabbage family can lower your risk of type 2 diabetes. [source]
- By increasing how many fruits and vegetable you eat you can improve your mental health. [source]
So, the big idea here is to fill our bodies with as much of these health-building beauties as possible to achieve and protect Abundant Health. I’ve got lots of ideas to share with you of how to do this with ease and joy.
Eat Meat Sparingly
There is great disparity in the nutrition world about how much meat we should eat for optimal health. Some will say to eat NO meat, citing the China Study. On the other end of the spectrum, some diets have you eating meat at every meal. Each of these diets has a strong following and convincing arguments. Even the books I recommend in my resources below are sometimes polarized on this topic.
How do you know what to do?
I choose to eat meat sparingly and in moderation. This idea is scripturally based and supported with science:
“Yea, flesh also of beasts and of the fowls of the air, I, the Lord, have ordained for the use of man with thanksgiving; nevertheless they are to be used sparingly; And it is pleasing unto me that they should not be used, only in times of winter, or of cold, or famine.”
~ Doctrine and Covenants 89:12, 13
In favor of eating meat…
“Animal protein is our only source of complete protein. All of the essential amino acids, and many considered ‘nonessential’ are present in animal products….Animal products are important sources of bodybuilding elements in the diet. Furthermore, animal fats supply vitamin A and vitamin D and animal protein is rich in minerals, vitamin B6 and vitamin B12.” Fallon 26, 29
Red meat is a vital source of both macro and trace minerals, specifically zinc and magnesium. It is rich in vitamin B12 which is so important for a healthy nervous system and blood, and in carnitine which is essential functioning of the heart. Beef and lamb fat contain fat-soluble vitamins and essential fatty acids that help utilize the minerals in all food. Beef and lamb fat is also rich in “conjugated linoleic acid, which has strong anti-cancer effects; and both lamb and beef contain palmitoleic acid, which protects us from viruses and other pathogens.” Fallon 330
According to the China Study, excess meat consumption leads to: autoimmune diseases, dementia and Alzheimer’s, cancer, diabetes, obesity and osteoarthritis. “When animal protein is consumed in excess, the liver and kidneys must redirect their resources to the breakdown and elimination of excess protein waste.” Simmons p. 57
“The evidence is overwhelming in favor of a plant based diet, using meat sparingly if at all.” Francis p. 11.
“We warn you of eating chicken – even pasture-fed chicken – to excess. Any food eaten to the exclusion of others can lead to allergies, food addictions, and adverse reactions. This is true of meats as well as vegetables, dairy products and grains. It is best to eat a variety…and to vary your source of animal protein between poultry, fish, game and red meat.” Fallon 279
I include meat in my diet for the nutrition benefits it offers (and for the yum of a juicy steak!), yet in moderation and sparingly to avoid the toxic ramifications of too much animal protein.
Each person needs to determine what “sparingly” means to them. Your “sparingly” may look different according to your personal inspiration or desire. Mine might change as I continue to seek further light and knowledge for abundant health. But for now, “sparingly” for me means eating meat 3 times a week. To help me keep track, I choose specific days that are our “meat “ days. The rest of the week our dinner table features glorious grains, legumes and vegetables served in mouthwatering and flavorful ways.
The source of your meat matters…
When we do enjoy meat, I do my best to make sure it is meat that is organic and grass fed if it’s beef. Remember that research done by Katz and Meller for Annual Review I mentioned earlier in this article? In that same paper they conclude that the evidence supports that health comes from diets where:
“…animal foods are themselves the products, directly or ultimately, of pure plant foods [because] the composition of animal flesh and milk is as much influenced by diet as we are.”
“The meat, milk and eggs in our supermarkets are highly and vastly inferior in nutritional quality to those available to our ancestors just a few decades ago…We don’t recommend that you stop eating meat, but we do suggest that you be careful of your supply.” Fallon 31
A quick caution on oils and fats.
Our bodies need fat! But we must choose fats and oils that are real foods, not man-made concoctions like canola oil, crisco, or margarine. It is worth the extra cost to purchase real food!
“Our choice of fats and oils is one of extreme importance. Most people, especially infants and growing children, benefit from more fat in the diet rather than less. But the fats we eat must be chosen with care. Avoid all processed foods containing newfangled hydrogenated fats and polyunsaturated oils. Instead, use traditional vegetable oils like extra virgin olive oil and small amounts of unrefined flax seed oil. Acquaint yourself with the merits of coconut oil for baking and with animal fats…for frying. Eat egg yolks and other animal fats with the proteins to which they are attached. And finally, use as much good quality butter as you like, with the happy assurance that it is a wholesome – indeed, an essential – food for you and your whole family.” Fallon 20
For all you’d ever want to know about healthy and unhealthy fats and more, you can read here:
It’s also important to make sure your whole food is organic as much as possible. Pesticide residue on your food is not food in its natural state and is fantastically bad for our health. This is easily verified by searching “why are pesticides in our food bad” in a google search.
For further study on eating meat sparingly, see also: Genesis 1:29; Doctrine and Covenants 89; Widtsoe p. 120; Alma 46:40 of The Book of Mormon; Doctrine and Covenants 89:12,13; Doctrine and Covenants 49:18,19; Genesis 9:3; Romans 14:1-23; Leviticus 11; Fallon p. 26-35, 279, 329, 366-412; Simmons p. 51-57.
So, what to eat???
So, back to the original question at the beginning of this article: What to eat?
You can now confidently answer: Real, whole food, minimally processed, that is mostly plants.
Yes, real, whole food is the answer to what to eat, but we are missing one super important piece: eat food that has been properly prepared in traditional ways. This is the fifth principle of healthy eating and is vital to building and protecting abundant health. It’s a lost art in our modern world yet so important to our overall health.
What are traditionally prepared foods and why are they so fantastic for health?
That’s just what we talk about in the next article in this series. Click on the link below to continue our discussion about healthy eating. I’ll explain what traditionally prepared foods are and how they totally amp up nutrition. I think you’re going to love them! I do.
Eat Food Properly Prepared in Traditional Ways
You might also like:
No link yet? Coming soon!
- Principles of Abundant Health: An Introduction
- My Story: How I Came to Live the Principles of Abundant Health
- Healthy Eating: What to Eat
- Healthy Eating: Prepare Food Traditionally for Optimal Health
- Healthy Eating: Eating Strategies for Success, Practical Application, and Getting Started
- Spiritual Connections to Abundant Health
- The Things You’ve Gotta Get Rid of for Abundant Health
- How Fasting Regularly Brings Abundance
- Movement is Medicine
- Abundant Health Mindset
Sources and Resources for this article:
The Word of Wisdom a Modern Interpretation by John A. Widtsoe,
Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon
The Feel Good Cookbook by Jonell Francis
Original Fast Foods by James Simmons
What about raw milk? It is a real, whole food and is good for most people! You can read more about it here.