Optimizing Human Performance

Food Quality: A Small Step With Big Impact

healthy_cooking_by_samlim-d729cjhSo you are trying to eat more nutritious—or are at least aware of the difference in "healthy" food versus "non-healthy" food (and its potential impacts on your health, energy, performance, wellness, and everything in between). What if I told you one small step you could make in your nutrition habits that could make a BIG difference in your work capacity, your libido, your energy, your recovery, your thinking and your sleep? We all like small steps. I am talking about: Food Quality. Not necessarily organic vs. inorganic foods—but instead, the energy and nutrient density of your food sources. For instance:

  • Eggs from a pasture-raised source versus a plain ol’ carton of a dozen eggs from HEB versus.
  • Fresh crisp spinach versus the week-old spinach sitting in your fridge.
  • Grass-fed beef, or even grass-fed yogurt and butter, versus conventional sources of these items.
  • Even a quality fish oil from a reputable company, such as Pure Pharma or Stronger Faster Healthier, versus the generic brand at the grocery.
Similar foods may seemingly taste the same (although, arguably not), but there is a big difference in the nutritious power these foods give you, and the way your body processes these foods, depending on the quality of the source. Other questions that arise surrounding food quality include, not only where did it come from, but also: How much has it been handled before you prepare it? How many hands have been on it? How old is it? (think: leftovers or wilted, shriveled produce) By simply taking steps such as:
  • Changing the quality of the fat sources you are consuming (instead of peanut butter, laden with lectins and sugar, to raw almond butter or walnut butter).
  • EggChanging the source of your eggs (pasture-raised eggs have a rich yellow yolk as opposed to the milky, pale yellow yolks in conventional eggs).
  • Changing your snack options from packaged fake protein bars and powders, trail mix with hidden salt and sugar, and aspartame-sweetened yogurt to leftover chicken, raw nuts and seeds, or whole, full-fat plain yogurt with maybe some fresh berries tossed in And, preparing your foods at home (with your own two hands)
By simply focusing on the quality of your food sources, not even necessarily changing the types of foods you are consuming (such as eggs for breakfast), you will begin to experience an amazing change in your overall well-being and performance. Here are a few key points to consider when dissecting (and integrating) more quality food sources in your daily routine. Home-Prepared Meals. The majority of people eat 18/21 meals away from their families or those closest to us: meaning the majority of our 21 main meals in a week are being eaten out, on the go, or picked up at a restaurant. There is a difference in the quality of the meal you eat, solely based on the setting, the company you are with, and the food that is served. Begin making a conscious effort to prepare breakfast at home before you go to work, pack a properly prepared lunch of perhaps leftovers from the night before or your favorite home-cooked protein source over some fresh veggies and a quality fat source, and enjoy a home-cooked dinner, prepared for and with your family or friends in the evening together. Food-Prep. Simply put, if you prepare your food on your own, there is less room for error in unknown dirty hands, food sources, hidden ingredients and toxins finding their way into your digestive system. There is a difference in a burger patty you got out at a restaurant from the burger patty you grilled at home; Or, the chicken, broccoli and brown rice or potato you got out from a grab-and-go place like Snap Kitchen or My Fit Foods, versus the chicken, broccoli and sweet potato you made at home—you know it, and your body knows it too.salad MVNSSFLSNS. What?! In short, this is an acronym for a quality food prescription, meaning: Meats, Vegetables, Nuts, Seeds, Small (amount of) Fruit, Little Starch, No Sugars. Consider this a mantra you can stick to for health, longevity, performance, recovery and everything else under the sun. Organics vs. Non-Organics? Non-organics aren’t necessarily the end of the world The main question is: What is included in some of the non-organic foods? Pesticides? Bugs? Hormones? Organic vs. Non-organic can most definitely be similar in nutrition. Ultimately, the purpose in choosing some organic vs. inorganic foods is to be void of some of the extra junk found in non-organics. Best practice? Invest your dollars first in organic meats, poultry and eggs. Secondly, for produce, focus on avoiding the "dirty dozen-plus" (i.e. Buy organic of these foods):
  • Apples
  • Strawberries
  • Grapes
  • Celery
  • Peaches
  • Spinach
  • Sweet bell peppers
  • Nectarines (imported)
  • Cucumbers
  • Cherry tomatoes
  • Snap peas (imported)
  • Potatoes
  • Hot peppers
  • Blueberries (domestic)Apple
Quality Over Quantity. Contrary to popular "diet" mentality—you can’t just manage micro-nutrients. Many diets claim if you "balance your macronutrients" (i.e. eat a protein, a carb and fat with your main meals), you will get all the nutrition and energy you need for the day (think: the standard American food pyramid that claims you should eat 7-9 grains, 3 servings of dairy, 5-6 fruits and veggies, 3-4 servings of protein…not to mention, not even including healthy fats as a major food group—which is another topic for another day). However, if you focus just on major food groups alone, you risk consuming poorly digested and unhealthy foods. For instance: two pieces of enriched whole wheat bread, lean deli turkey from the deli case, and some low-fat mayo versus two pieces of sprouted grain bread with organic, nitrate-free Applegate Farms turkey slices, some spicy mustard, and maybe some fresh avocado slices, lettuce and tomato. Start making a shift in the types of macronutrients you are consuming. 90/10. Nutrition is not meant to be a game of perfection. Remember, this is a lifelong marathon of good, healthy eating habits—not a sprint. Recognize that there is room for error in your food quality focus. For instance, you are at a friend’s house party for dinner, and the chicken on your plate is questionable as to whether it was from an organic source, and the side dishes: Salad greens from a generic grocery brand bag with an Italian dressing with added sugar and roasted potatoes in “I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter” spray. Here is a time when your 10% philosophy may very well come into play. Roll with it.


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