You hear it every day: “Healthy eating habits will help you live a better, longer (insert adjective here) life.” But what IS healthy eating? Is it low carb? Low Fat? Plant-based?

The truth is, the healthiest eating is finding out what is best for YOU and following that diet.

You see, everyone’s body reacts differently to the foods we consume. There is no one-size-fits-all “healthy diet.” Sure, we know that there are some ingredients to avoid across the board. Sugar, for instance, has been linked to obesity and cardiovascular diseases.

We’re not talking about the naturally occurring sugars in fruits and vegetables, but the sweeteners that are added to nearly everything in the American diet. The National Institute of Health estimates that about 15 percent of the calories we consume come from added sugars. That totals nearly half a cup of added sugar per day. Half a cup?! That’s almost 400 empty calories.

If you read package labels, you’ll find some form of sweetener in nearly everything – even savory products where you wouldn’t expect it, such as crackers. And, to make matters worse, there’s a myriad of names under which sugar is hiding: corn sweetener, high-fructose corn syrup, fructose sweeteners, anhydrous dextrose, and other additives ending in “ose.”

So, if it’s so bad for us, why is it in everything? According to Dr. Ivan de Araujo of Yale University, sugar and sweeteners have a measurable affect in our brains’ pleasure center.

“The part of the brain that mediates the ‘I can’t stop’ kinds of behaviors seems to be especially sensitive to sugars and largely insensitive to artificial sweeteners,” de Araujo says. “Our long-term goal is really to understand if sugars or caloric sweeteners drive persistent intake of food.” Translation: eating sugar makes you want to each more sugar.

This research reinforces that the “healthiest” choice for all of us is to avoid processed foods and eat a balanced diet that includes fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, whole grains, and nuts. By focusing on “real” food versus packaged, you’ll also limit your intake of saturated and trans fats and sodium.

What to do if you must buy something in a box? Seek out products with natural ingredients that you recognize. Ingredients are listed in the amounts they appear in the product, starting with the highest amount and moving downward. Aim for 5 grams of sugar or less per serving.

Sometimes even “healthy” eating leaves you feeling…well, not so good. Maybe you experience bloating, joint or muscle aches, headaches, or sinus congestion. It’s easy to blame those symptoms on environmental or physiological factors, but sometimes it’s your food.

The best way to determine how your body is responding to what you’re putting into it, is to undergo food sensitivity testing. The Cyrex Array 10 tests for reactions to 240 foods and measures both IgA and IgG antibodies. Once you know which foods trigger a reaction in your body (even when you are asymptomatic), you can eliminate them and, in many cases, you’ll feel better in days.

At The Pickled Beet, we specialize in crafting customized diets based on what YOUR body needs so you can feel your best. Whether we’re cooking for a vegan, Pescatarian, carnivore, autoimmune client, or a family that just needs help getting a delicious dinner on the table, the formula is the same: quality ingredients produce tasty, nutritious meals. Our Miami clients know it’s a win-win: good food that’s good for you. For more information on what we offer, contact us.

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