September 1, 2012 by FHElessons
Learning to cook for yourself can make you long for the days when food just magically appeared, ready to eat, on your table. It can be difficult to find time to menu plan and grocery shop, not to mention doing the actual cooking. However, as your skill in cooking is developed, you will find that it can be a creative outlet that can make you feel empowered and confident. Cooking for yourself is much healthier and much less expensive than eating out or buying pre-made meals, and, of course, it tastes infinitely better than fast food. Developing your cooking skills will give you independence, help you prepare for the future, and may even attract members of the opposite sex!
Knowing what foods to buy and cook for yourself can be an additional challenge. Throughout the years of my life there have been many different trends and fads that claim to know what best to eat to be healthy. If you browse through the health section at the bookstore or library, you will see books that teach that wheat gluten (or even just bread) is bad, that an all-meat diet can help you lose weight, that vegetarianism is the way to go, or that certain colors of fruits must be avoided. How do you know which diet methods and nutritional programs are correct? Well, as always, the place to look for truth – for the right information that doesn’t bend and change along with current trends and fads – is in the scriptures!
A lot of times we think of the Word of Wisdom only as a code that prohibits taking harmful substances into our bodies. However, the greater portion of it actually delineates the foods that are healthy and good for us to eat! Here is what it says:
1. The basis of your diet should be whole grains, primarily wheat.
D& C 89: 14, 17: All grain is ordained for the use of man and of beasts, to be the staff of life, not only for man but for the beasts of the field, and the fowls of heaven, and all wild animals that run or creep on the earth; Nevertheless, wheat for man, and corn for the ox, and oats for the horse, and rye for the fowls and for swine, and for all beasts of the field, and barley for all useful animals, and for mild drinks, as also other grain.
So, God has given all grains to be eaten by man with wheat, specifically, being the one that is best. What’s so great about wheat? Here are some of its health benefits:
- It’s packed with vitamins such as iron, manganese, tryptophan, magnesium, zinc, potassium, selenium, vitamin E, and B vitamins such as folate, thiamin, niacin, and B6.
- It has lots of fiber, which is necessary for good blood sugar balance, cholesterol control, intestinal health and detoxification.
- it contains protein as well as complex carbohydrates.
- It contains betaine which lessens chronic inflammation.
- It contains lignans which help to prevent heart disease.
- It contains anti-inflammatory compounds which can help to prevent asthma.
Of course, to get the above benefits, you need to eat the whole, entire wheat kernel. In fact, all grains are best eaten whole, the way God presents them to us, rather than refined and processed. In our diet, the most commonly eaten grains are wheat and rice, and both of these should be eaten whole. Brown rice is the whole grain, while white rice has had the nutrient-rich, outer layer removed. The white rice grain is only the starchy endosperm that is left. Similarly, white flour is made from only the endosperm part of the wheat kernel. To get all the nutrients, antioxidants, and fiber contained in wheat, you must choose 100% whole wheat. When buying bread or other wheat products, check the ingredient label for the words “100% whole wheat.” If some of the ingredients are listed as just “wheat” or “bleached” or “enriched” flour, then the product is made from the endosperm part of the wheat kernel and may even have coloring added in to make it look like whole wheat, so always check your labels!
Here are some additional benefits you will gain by eating whole grains rather than refined grains (brown rice and 100% whole wheat):
- The fiber in whole grains speeds up metabolism, which will, in turn, make you less likely to gain weight and give you a more desirable body shape.
- The magnesium in the wheat combined with the fiber in whole grains will help your body more efficiently use glucose and secrete insulin, which will reduce your risk of Type 2 Diabetes.
- The above 2 benefits will also decrease feelings of hunger throughout the day.
- The fiber in whole grains will keep your digestive system running smoothly. In addition to avoiding constipation, you will prevent gallstones, diverticular disease, colon polyps, and colon cancer.
- Fiber, along with the lignans mentioned above, will lower your risk of breast cancer.
To read more about the studies that back up the above claims, check out This article.
What are some things you can eat to make grains (especially whole grains) the basis of your diet?
- Toast and sandwiches from whole wheat bread
- Oatmeal (look for whole oat groats at the health food store)
- Whole grain cereals such as Shredded Wheat, Raisin Bran, Wheat Chex, and Go Lean Crunch
- Throw some wheat germ into your homemade granola or other baked goods.
- Rice is a cheap and easy dinner food. If you can’t stand brown rice, try throwing in a little wild rice with your white rice.
- If you’re trying to be healthy, choose whole wheat pasta. hamburger buns, and tortillas.
- Corn tortillas are also whole grain.
- Throw some barley into your soup.
- Make a quinoa salad. HEREare some recipes.
- Popcorn makes a good snack, especially if eaten plain.
- When choosing snack food, look for chips made from brown rice or whole grain instead of potato chips.
- Choose whole grain crackers such as Wheat Thins or Triscuits.
- Store bought whole wheat flour isn’t very tasty for baking, but if you grind the wheat yourself, it is delicious, not only in bread but even in cookies, muffins, etc.
The recommended daily allowance of fiber is between 25-35 grams. This is hard to get! But if you can achieve it, you will feel much healthier, happier, and have more energy each day. Here is a link to a site that lists the amounts of fiber in various foods. You can also check nutritional labels for fiber amounts.
2. To your diet of whole grains, you should add fresh fruits and vegetables in season.
D&C 89:11,16: Every herb in the season thereof, and every fruit 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.
Like whole grains, fruits and vegetables provide fiber as well as lots of nutrients. Each fruit or vegetable contains different vitamins and nutrients, so you want to eat a wide variety for best health. Try for a rainbow of colors in your overall menu to get all the nutrients your body needs. Generally, produce of the following colors will have the following health benefits:
- Red(tomatoes, beets, raspberries, strawberries, etc.): Supports a healthy heart, aids memory, lowers the risks of some cancers, and helps urinary tract health.
- Green(avocado, kiwi, spinach, cucumbers, artichokes, etc.): Balances hormones, relives anxiety, lowers the risk of some cancers, improves vision, and supports strong bones and teeth.
- Blue/ Violet(blueberries, plums, prunes, figs, etc.): Prevents aging, protects against heart disease, regulates blood pressure, supports urinary tract function, improves memory, and fights cancer.
- Yellow/ Orange(Carrots, pumpkin, peaches, oranges, pineapple, etc.): Keep your skin young, have a positive influence on mood, improve vision, and boost the immune system.
- White (pear, apple, onion, cauliflower, etc.): Lowerscholesterol levels and blood pressure, prevent diabetes, and combats bacterial infections.
Check This link for a list of health benefits and nutrients of each vegetable and This one for fruits. At the link, click on each fruit or vegetable for a full description as well as a table listing all vitamins and nutrients provided by that fruit or vegetable.
A word of caution: The more time that passes between when a fruit or vegetable is picked and when it is eaten, the less nutrients it will have. That is one reason the Word of Wisdom cautions us to eat fruits in season. If we can eat them right after they are picked, they will have the most nutritional value. Additionally, it seems that Heavenly Father has arranged it so that the produce we need is in season right at the time that we need it. For example, during cold and flu season, citrus fruits, loaded with Vitamin C, are in season. In the summer, when our bodies want to eat less fats and proteins (more are needed during the cold, Winter months), fruits and vegetables are more plentiful.
Here are some ideas of ways to get more fruits and vegetables into your diet:
- If you’re making an omelet for breakfast, add some peppers, tomatoes, grated carrots, etc.
- Mix chopped fruit or berries into your yogurt.
- Add fruit to oatmeal, pancakes, or waffles.
- Make fruit smoothies frequently.
- Always add lots of sliced veggies to your sandwiches.
- Sliced apples can be good on peanut butter sandwiches.
- Have some veggies and dip as a side dish to your lunch or for a snack.
- Keep a bowl of fruit within eyesight to make you reach for fruit as a snack.
- Pack dried fruits in your lunch to go.
- Have lots of vegetable in your stir-fry for dinner.
- Add some frozen vegetables to your canned soup.
- Add some sliced veggies to your frozen pizza before baking.
- Add grapes, apples, or pears to a chicken salad.
- Make sure “green” salads have veggies in all the colors of the rainbow.
- Add some craisins, mandarin oranges, pears, or other fruit to your green salad.
- Use fresh salsa as your condiment of choice.
- Be sneaky and add grated carrots or zucchini to your baked goods.
- Use applesauce in place of oil when baking.
- Choose 100% fruit popsicles for a treat.
3. After the bulk of your diet is comprised of grains and produce, you may add a small amount of meat.
D&C 89:12: 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.
Why do we have to eat meat sparingly?
Perhaps one of the reasons is that there are only so many animals in the world, and we don’t want to kill them all off at once. There has been a lot of media attention lately about the inhumane practices that are used on the animals that are grown for our food. Chickens are packed into cages where they are squished up against one another and have no room to move. The stress that this causes them lowers the nutritional value of their eggs as well as their meat. Similarly, cows are packed into slaughter houses without any room to move and are sometimes led to slaughter when they are too sick to stand. People who actually see the conditions of these animals that we consume in such large quantities invariably resolve to be vegetarians. But if all Americans were to resolve to eat meat sparingly, wouldn’t the demand for these meats decrease to the point where these inhumane practices would stop? Just something to think about.
Another reason is that when it comes to proteins (and the fats that are also part of their make-up) a little goes a long way. Our bodies need only a small amount of protein to survive and even less fat. Too much of a good thing is bad for our bodies.
To avoid gaining weight in the form of fat on our bodies, we want to consume calories in an amount less than or equal to the amount we burn in daily exertion, right? Whenever we eat something, our bodies will first use the carbohydrates for fuel. When the carbohydrates are used up, the body will then use protein, and, finally, it will use fat. Whatever is not used, will be stored on our bodies in the form of fat. So, the dietary plan laid out by the Word of Wisdom is also the most slimming plan!
Furthermore, we need to be aware that there are different kinds of fats: Unsaturated fats are liquid at room temperature, while saturated fats are solid at room temperature. It is important for our bodies to get some unsaturated fats every day as they regulate our heartbeat, blood pressure, and blood clotting. Unsaturated fats can be found in fish as well as in nuts, seeds, and legumes (beans, lentils, chickpeas, etc.), which are all good sources of protein as well. Unfortunately, the fats found in beef, pork, and chicken are mostly saturated fats. Eating too much saturated fat can cause heart disease and even cancer. It will also increase cholesterol which can block arteries, causing heart attack or stroke. Perhaps this is another reason why the Lord counsels us to eat meat sparingly, maybe the most important one for our own health.
One last word on fats: beware of trans fats, which are fats whose state has been chemically altered or is altered during high heat cooking processes. Trans fats are found in processed foods such as margarine, some shortenings, and snack foods such as potato chips or even ice cream and sugary cereals. Always check ingredient labels to make sure you’re not consuming any trans fats because they cannot be excreted from the body. Once you eat trans fats, they are with you to stay and can cause heart disease, diabetes, and stroke.
It’s interesting that the government has come up with their “food pyramid”, which teaches basically the same things as the Word of Wisdom: Base your diet around grains, add a healthy portion of fruits and vegetables, and keep your portions of proteins and fats small.
4. A good multi-vitamin or other vitamin supplements may be good to add to your diet.
Unless you’re able to grow all your own produce so that you can harvest and eat it at the peak of ripeness, you may not be getting all the vitamins and minerals you need from your food. Furthermore, as previously discussed, commercially produced meat and dairy products are frequently devoid of their usual nutrients because of the emotional and physical stress put on the animals. If you are able to grow all your own produce or buy it at a local Farmer’s market, and if you are able to raise your own meat and dairy or buy it locally from a free range farm, and if you eat a balanced diet as explained above, then you should be able to get all your nutrients from the food you consume.
If, however, you are forced to eat what is sold in grocery stores, you will probably need to add a vitamin supplement. Compare labels on multi-vitamins and choose the one with the most vitamins. If you can get liquid vitamins from a health food store, these will be more easily absorbed into your body than a solid pill.
5. Limit sugar in your diet.
Sugar tastes good but is basically a poison that is used to preserve food. It lasts forever because it has no nutritional value. It
- Weakens your immune system by diminishing your white blood cells ability to fight pathogens.
- Makes it difficult for your body to keep even blood sugar levels by consuming insulin. You will get a short term energy benefit followed by a “crash” of your system when your blood sugar levels plummet following your short, “sugar high.”
- Can increase your blood pressure, giving you a headache in the short term and poor heart health in the long term.
- Will mix with plaque, creating an acid that will eat away at your tooth enamel.
- Has been linked to a bunch of other health problems.
The problem with sugar is that is seems to have an addictive quality to it. Once you get in the habit of eating it, you want to eat it all the time. To break your sugar addiction, try to get the recommended 25-35 grams of fiber daily as described above. You will be so full all day that you won’t have a chance to eat any sugar. And after a couple of weeks, you won’t want sugar anymore.
6. Exercise daily.
Exercise will not only make you healthier, but it will also improve your academic performance, helping you get good grades! It will help you maintain a healthy weight, combat disease, improve your mood (love those endorphins!), and boost your overall energy levels.
Here are some ideas to help you include exercise in your daily routine:
- Enroll in a p.e. class
- Walk or bike to class
- Join an intramural sports team
- Arrange with friends to exercise together at a set time each day or a set time several days a week. This will ensure that you get your exercise because you won’t want to let your friends down.
- Check out the gym at your university at see what benefits they offer.
Hmmm…this blog post is looking remarkably similar to my mother’s constant advice for being healthy: “Exercise, take your vitamins, stop eating sugar.” Guess she knew something after all.
Here are some additional resources:
US Government’s Nutrition Website (includes some sample menus and shopping tips)
100 Best Food Blogs for College Students (Don’t really know if these are any good, but I came across this and thought it would be worth checking out.)