Elizabeth Renter

Natural health is very en vogue right now. It’s trendy to have cloth shopping bags, to shop at the farmer’s market and to forgo entire food groups or nutrients because of what might be in them or how your body reacts. It’s cool to juice, to make your own medicines, and to talk trash about Monsanto.

It’s because natural health has become a trend that there is almost too much information out there. For someone accustomed to getting their breakfast at a drive-thru and their dinner in the freezer section, it can be difficult to know where to start and what to believe. Fortunately, eating better for your health and for the collective health of all of us doesn’t have to be difficult. It can begin with five simple steps.

1.Processed foods are out. If it’s in a box, it more than likely contains genetically modified organisms, specifically corn. If it’s in a can, it contains something called bisphenol-A (BPA), known to have serious repercussions for the reproductive and endocrine systems. Basically, if it won’t “go bad”, it’s bad. You will find very few healthful foods in the inner aisles of your grocery store. Bags, boxes, cans, and other packages are typically food-like substances loaded with unknown ingredients. Stay away from these processed foods as much as possible.

2.Become a label reader. If your food has an ingredient’s list (only produce and animal products don’t), read it. Learn about what’s in the foods you love the most. Generally, if you can’t pronounce it, you shouldn’t be putting it in your body. Look for short ingredient’s lists and only components you recognize as being natural and healthful.

3.Consider dropping meat. In this day and age, we really don’t know what’s in the meat we get at restaurants. While we can usually trust the beef at the grocery store to be beef (rather than horse), animal products can increase your risk of heart disease and their production has potentially disastrous effects on our planet. Even eating less meat or forgoing pork and beef for more fish and chicken can help with weight loss, vascular health, and even reduce your risk of early mortality.

4.Start a garden. Whether you live in a tiny apartment in the city or a sprawling acreage outside of town, you can begin growing your own food. When you are the farmer and the consumer, there is little question as to what goes in your food. Gardening allows you to grow organics for a fraction of the price, provide better nutrition for yourself and family, and is a great form of exercise. If you’re not convinced, start small with some herbs in a pot. These can be grown on a deck, in your yard, or even inside a sunny window.

5.Buy local. What you can’t (or don’t) grow, buy local whenever possible. Become a frequent customer of your local farmer’s market or get to know the farmers in your area. When you are able to talk to the person who grew your food, you won’t only be more aware of its production methods, you’ll be eating in-season, which means you won’t be eating produce that’s traveled thousands of miles to reach you. From dairy products to fruits and vegetables, next to growing it yourself, you can’t beat the flavor and the experience of buying local.

Getting healthier and doing it with the help of natural, healing foods shouldn’t be difficult. As a matter of fact, it should be a whole lot simpler than putting together meals of unknown ingredients or visiting a doctor far-too willing to dole out pills for every concern you might have. The key is to start small, make basic changes and evolve from there.