Rethink Beverages & Condiments

We often consume beverages and condiments without thinking about how they impact our health. Unfortunately, they are a common way that bad fats and sugars sneak into an otherwise healthy diet. By making small changes in the products you purchase and by learning to make your own alternatives, you can clean up your diet in dramatic ways. There are a lot of easy fixes that make a big impact. Some things simply require making better choices, like swapping out your condiments and seasonings for better versions. Other things, however, should be avoided at all costs. For example, polyunsaturated vegetable oils like canola, soybean and corn oil should be purged. Make your fridge and cupboards a no-rancid-vegetable-oil zone. And in place of store bought dressings, you can use extra virgin olive oil, cold-pressed flaxseed oil, or avocado oil to spruce up your salads.

When it comes to salt, there are a few things to consider. Unlike bleached, processed, toxic, iodized salt, sea salt has approximately eighty minerals and trace elements and is essential for our health. As long as you aren’t eating a lot of processed food, you shouldn’t have to worry about the amount of sea salt you use at home. When buying canned foods, like tomatoes, try and get the no salt added varieties. Compared to iodized salt, which is full of anti-clumping agents, unrefined sea salt doesn’t have much iodine, which is an important mineral. Luckily this mineral is prevalent in a real food diet that includes fish, pastured eggs, sea vegetables, and grass-fed dairy.

Kombucha is another great product for a healthy diet. It is a beverage rich in probiotics and is traditionally made from black tea, cane sugar and a SCOBY, which stands for a “symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast.” Jun also uses a SCOBY, but is derived from green tea and honey. The fermentation process “eats up” most of the sugar, so you are left with a bubbly beverage that isn’t super sweet. I love kombucha and jun and think they are a great replacement for soda or energy drinks. They both contain caffeine, so I limit myself to one a day. Check out the DIY section on how to make your own kombucha.

“By making small changes in the products you purchase and by learning to make your own alternatives, you can clean up your diet in dramatic ways.”

Beet kvass is a fermented Russian beverage that derives from beets, whey and salt. Nourishing Traditions suggests leaving it for two days, but Jeremy from The Holistic Lifestyler, a fermentation expert in Australia, suggested leaving it on the counter (out of direct sunlight) for almost a week, and I’ve had better results with Jeremy’s process. A bit of white film will form on top that you just scrape off  (as long as there isn’t any black mold, which I’ve never had a problem with) and then strain out the beets and drink the liquid. Suggested serving is about 1/2 a cup morning and night. This is supposed to be incredibly healing and great for digestion and cleansing the blood. Learn more in the DIY section.

Many people believe that coffee should be avoided, but Chris Kresser isn’t (necessarily) one of them. In his podcast, he talks about the health benefits of coffee for healthy people.  Ironically, the more tired and stressed you are, the worse coffee might be for you. But if you have a healthy gut then coffee can be a wonderful ritual in moderation. Drink it black or add good quality cream and avoid the added sugar. Raw cream is ideal but because the fat in dairy is not as susceptible to the damaging effects of pasteurization (as the proteins in milk), organic pasteurized cream is okay, too. Buying organic coffee is a good way to avoid pesticides, and single-origin coffee cuts down on your risk of mycotoxins from mold. If you drink decaf coffee, make sure it is decaffeinated using the water process method, which doesn’t use chemicals.

We put so much of our attention on the food we eat, but the water we drink is so important. I love this podcast by Daniel Vitalis called, Why I Forage Wild Water.”  I found this very inspiring and am now gathering wild spring water. If you listen to this podcast and get inspired too, check out findaspring.com to find a wild water source near you.

When it comes to fluoride, there is much debate about the pros and cons, but I choose to avoid it. Chris Kresser calls it, “a highly toxic bone poison that should be avoided at all costs.”  Yikes! So make sure to drink spring water or get a good quality filter, like the Clearly Filtered water pitcher, which removes 90% of the fluoride in water as well as things like lead. I have also heard good things about the Berkey water filters.

Action Steps:

  • Avoid soda! Try kombucha, jun or sparkling water instead.
  • Drink beet kvass
  • Avoid rancid vegetable oils; try to make your own condiments and salad dressings
  • Drink chamomile tea in the evening to help you avoid dessert; it’s a warming ritual
  • Avoid coffee or drink in moderation. Buy only organic coffee.
  • If drinking decaf, get water processed so that you aren’t exposed to the chemicals used in decaf processing
  • Filter your water to avoid fluoride and/or check out findaspring.com and drink natural spring water

Tips from my kitchen (and the kitchens of those I admire):

  • Cutting out processed foods will help reduce the amount of unhealthy sodium in your diet, but don’t be afraid of good-for-you salt! Bring a mini salt shaker when you travel or go out to eat.
  • Sprinkle salads with good, quality nutritional yeast and then drizzle with olive oil.
  • Primal Kitchen Avocado Oil Mayo is made with avocado oil, organic cage-free eggs, organic egg yolks, organic vinegar, sea salt and rosemary extract. I think it tastes just like regular mayo without the bad-for-you vegetable oils in conventional brands. At $7.45 a jar, it is on the pricey side but it lasts for a while and it’s worth it!
  • Make your own condiments using this recipe from Mark’s Daily Apple:  ketchup, mustard, and BBQ sauce.
  • A good, store bought mustard that uses mustard seeds and vinegar is pretty easy to find. Ideally buy organic and look for one that contains sea salt versus “salt”.
  • Add cinnamon to coffee grounds for flavor and because cinnamon is known to help blood sugar levels; Maddison Madden, an Ayurvedic practitioner, said that adding cardamon can help ward against any of the negative effects of caffeine.
  • Chamomile tea is a wonderful beverage to enjoy in the evening (or any time, really). I find having a cup of tea in the evening helps me not eat dessert as often. Buy organic loose chamomile flowers to save money versus buying tea bags.
  • Use a stainless steel water bottle or a glass one like this one from Lifefactory.
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