Decluttering your kitchen

What has decluttering got to do with my health, I hear you ask…. well, quite a lot as it happens.  A healthy kitchen provides the foundation for a healthy diet which leads to a healthy gut, a healthy brain and a healthy you and your family. Your kitchen should contain foods that nourish you rather than harm you. If you fill it with unhealthy foods, you will eat unhealthy foods, no matter how much willpower you have.

It starts with the grocery shopping – this should be done online as it prevents you from making unhealthy choices. When shopping inside a supermarket, you are their captive audience – they literally pump out smells to entice you to buy from the bakery. They discount heavily the unhealthy food products with BOGOF’s (Buy one, get one free), they even put chocolate by the checkout just in case you finally crack! By shopping online, you remove all of the sensory triggers to make unhealthy choices.

Next you need to detoxify your kitchen. Throw out the junk food, processed food and start filling it with fresh healthy colourful food. Here are the steps to do this:

Step 1: Set aside an hour to purge your kitchen.

Schedule it into your diary if you need to. This requires some detective work. Read food labels for added sugar and other junk ingredients that don’t belong in a healthy kitchen. Get a large dustbin bag ready (rinse out containers and recycle if you can) to dump the junk. It might take longer depending on how much hidden junk and toxic ingredients lurk in your cupboard or fridge.

Step 2: Read the labels.

Ideally, you’ll replace anything that is questionable with real fresh or whole foods without labels. A fresh avocado or kiwi doesn’t come with a nutrition facts label, a barcode, or ingredient list. If you decide to keep foods with labels, follow these rules.

Focus on the ingredient list, not the “nutrition facts” that are mostly designed and developed under huge food industry lobby efforts to confuse and confound your efforts to eat healthy.

If you don’t recognise a word, can’t pronounce it, or it is in Latin, or you don’t have it in your cupboard and wouldn’t use it in a recipe—maltodextrin, for instance—then don’t use it.

On every ingredient list, note that the most abundant component is listed first. The others follow in descending order by weight.

Be conscious of ingredients that may not be on the list. Some may be exempt from labels. Get rid of these foods.

Beware of foods with health claims on the label. These claims usually signal a marketing ploy to make you think they’re good for you when they’re really just healthy pretenders. Things like sports beverages, energy bars, and even multigrain breads (which often contain high-fructose corn syrup) fall into this category.

Step 3: Ditch These Foods

When you detoxify your body, you eliminate harmful toxins. Likewise, when you detoxify your kitchen you’ll want to get rid of any food that contains these harmful ingredients.

You probably know obvious sugar culprits, but be aware of hidden sugars that lurk in salad dressings, processed foods, drinks, and even “healthy” foods like cereals and wheat. Sugar goes by many aliases. Just as boys named Andrew often go by Andy or Drew, sugar might be called organic cane juice, honey, agave, maple syrup, cane syrup, or molasses. There are 257 names for sugar, most made from corn with names that you wouldn’t recognize—like maltodextrin—which make you fat and addicted. Look carefully at condiments like salad dressing, barbecue sauce, or ketchup, which are often traps for high-fructose corn syrup.

Bad fats. Don’t be afraid of fat. Fat doesn’t make you fat, but the wrong fats can wreak serious metabolic havoc. Toss out any highly refined cooking oils such as corn and soy, fried foods you may have stored in your freezer, and margarine or shortening. These have dangerous trans fats that create inflammation and cause heart disease. Scour labels for the words “hydrogenated fat” (another phrase for trans fat), which has finally been declared not safe for consumption by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Artificial sweeteners. Throw out food with artificial sweeteners of all kinds (aspartame, NutraSweet, Splenda, sucralose, and sugar alcohols—any word that ends with “ol,” like xylitol or sorbitol). Stevia may be better than aspartame, but only whole plant extract, not PureVia and Truvia, which are made by Pepsi and Coke and are chemical extracts of stevia. Use very sparingly. A new non-caloric sweetener that comes from monk fruit that’s rich in antioxidants can also be used in small amounts. But remember, any sweetener can make you hungry, lower your metabolism, create gas, and store belly fat. I’m not a big fan of any of them.

Anything with ingredients you can’t pronounce. If you purchase something with a nutrition label, there should be less than five ingredients on it and all things that a child would understand like “tomatoes, water, salt.” Focus on the ingredient list, not the “nutrition facts,” which are mostly designed and developed under huge food industry lobby efforts to confuse and confound your efforts to eat healthy.

Any potentially questionable food or ingredients. Seemingly safe foods like spices and seasonings can contain maltodextrin, autolyzed yeast extract, and even high-fructose corn syrup that have no place in a healthy kitchen.

Step 4: Stock Up on These!

Now that you’ve purged unhealthy foods, you want to replace your refrigerator, kitchen cabinets, and cupboards with fresh, healthy foods. These are the ones you’ll want to load your kitchen with:

Non-starchy veggies are freebies. Eat as many as you like! Limit fruits because they increase your insulin levels. Berries are your best bet. When possible, choose organic, seasonal, and local produce.

Dry foods. These staple foods usually have a longer shelf life and include raw or lightly roasted nuts and seeds, and legumes and pulses.

Herbs, spices, and seasonings. You’ll want to have a range of pantry ingredients, including seasonings and spices, on hand. Buy organic when you can. Because you only use a little of some of these, they tend to last a long time so you get a lot of value from them. Among my favorites include extra virgin olive oil, extra virgin coconut oil, sea salt, freshly ground black pepper, and seasonings and spices. Just read your labels to ensure they don’t contain hidden sugar, gluten, or other problematic additives.

Get in the habit of keeping your fridge and freezer stocked with these items. When selecting beef or meat, choose grass-fed, hormone-free, or organic, whenever possible.

Optimal protein choices include:

• Pasture raised chicken and eggs
• Grass-feed meat (beef, lamb, bison, buffalo)
• Wild or sustainably farmed, low-mercury seafood (like sardines, salmon, herring, flounder, clams, crab, oysters, perch, pollock, shrimp, sole, squid, trout, whitefish, etc.).

Be sure to avoid those fish that are high in mercury, such as tuna, swordfish, and Chilean sea bass.

With these strategies, you’re ready to begin detoxifying your kitchen. Your brain and gut will be glad you did!

(Some of this extract was taken from Dr Mark Hyman M.D.)

Dr. Hyman is a practicing family physician, a ten-time #1 New York Times bestselling author, and an internationally recognized leader, speaker, educator, and advocate in his field. He is the Director the Cleveland Clinic Center for Functional Medicine. He is also the founder and medical director of The UltraWellness Center, chairman of the board of the Institute for Functional Medicine, a medical editor of The Huffington Post,

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