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Health Hack #52 - One Year in Review

When we set out to open Real Food Eatery, we did so with a vision much greater than food. We felt that our interests in niche topics like insulin sensitivity, the cooking oil conundrum, and overall wellness provided us an opportunity to clue our local Philadelphia community in on some of the insights we’d gleaned over the years, thereby making a positive impact on the health of our city and surrounding suburbs.

It’s a fine line to balance, putting forth a menu that is truly healthy without marginalizing those who are simply not interested in what the word “healthy” typically connotes, and without things feeling too bland or sounding too preachy. The word itself is often shunned by the marketing industry, precisely for those reasons; opting instead for descriptors like nourishing or thoughtful.

Semantics play a very large and important role in how restaurants are described. But rather than getting caught up in all of the word games, we launched with one uncompromising, overarching premise. To be real. To put forth a menu composed of real foods, yes. But beyond that, to remain real to ourselves. We named the company in such a way that we’re held permanently accountable for holding true to our word.

We undertook this weekly Health Hack as an opportunity to connect more intimately with our customers, and to divulge topics that interested us and most often had some bearing on who we are, which in turn influences how we make decisions for the business. We are our business at the end of the day. Getting to know us and how we choose to live is one step closer to getting to know Real Food Eatery.

Upon sending out our original article, it seemed daunting to publish original content on new subjects on a weekly basis, but we figured we’d give it a shot. As it turned out, the daunting nature dissipated rather quickly, and it’s grown to become one of the more joyous aspects of running the business. It’s with pride that we’ve reached the one year mark, with this being our 52nd article. In recognition, we’re summarizing each of our prior articles below into a sentence or two. If any subjects pique your interest or serve as a reminder of a prior read that you’d like a refresher on, you can find all articles here:

1) As we quickly approach winter, consider supplementing with Vitamin D, the sunshine vitamin. It’s likely no coincidence that cold/flu season coincides with a significant drop in our exposure to sunlight.

2) Don’t be fooled into assuming that quality seafood needs to be wild caught. Farming is a perfectly sustainable way to grow and sell fish, provided that the farm practices efficacy.

3) Gluten intolerant or not, it’s hard to argue that gluten-containing foods play any necessary or beneficial role in the human diet.

4) Sleep: worship it!

5) Do you really think we’d have evolved over the course of millions of years to require sleep for a third of our day if it wasn’t a downright necessity and paramount to our health?

6) Be wary of industrial seed oils and of gimmicky names like “vegetable oil”. Most cooking oils used in our country should be avoided.

7) At RFE we use exclusively 100% Extra Virgin Olive Oil, without exception, and for very good reason.

8) Mostly all dietary camps can find common ground over the consumption of plants, namely vegetables.

9) If anticipating a healthy serving of the types of sweets you know you should avoid, consider a particular style of exercise beforehand that will help blunt the adverse effects of a pastry onslaught.

10) Setting realistic goals that can be accomplished has blatant positive effects on our neurochemistry and overall well being.

11) Fish oil possesses a trove of beneficial fats, known as EPA and DHA.  

12) Consider fish oil supplementation if daily fish consumption is not in your wheelhouse.

13) Grass-fed beef or bust when it comes to sourcing beef products.

14) Be wary of chemical-laden soaps, body scrubs, and lotions. Go au natural in this department, if possible.

15) An emphasis on soluble fiber will aid not only in digestion but in overall immune health.

16) Don’t be overly dogmatic of calorie counts. They certainly matter, however not all calories are created equally. Seek out real foods as often as possible.

17) Like calories, there are sugars that behave differently than one another, with some needing to be avoided more than others.

18) Eating slowly and thoughtfully has benefits that far outweigh the obvious.

19) Each year a Dirty Dozen list is published which chronicles the most egregiously pesticide-laden foods at the market. It’s often expensive and difficult to shop exclusively organic, so use the Dirty Dozen list as a guideline when making your organic choices.

20) Wheat is likely the most ubiquitous ingredient in any grocery store, and it’s especially important to procure organic wheat whenever possible, even if that’s on your pizza.

21) Resistant starch can play an important role in the health of our microbiome. If battling with gut issues, it could be a useful dietary inclusion.

22) Sometimes we need to stop whining and be thankful for what we have. By the mere fact that one is reading this sentence, you’re far more privileged than most of humanity.

23) There are plenty of non-pharmaceutical hacks that we can deploy to improve our resilience towards COVID, and it’s a shame that they’re rarely discussed.

24) It might be worth considering how closely we interact with our electronic devices.

25) If using exercise as a tool for longevity, then one would want to prioritize mitochondrial health. There is no better way to do so than to incorporate ample bouts of Zone 2 training, which can be summarized as strenuous cardio, sustained in excess of 40 minutes per session.

26) Insulin sensitivity is a measure of how efficient the body is at utilizing insulin to partition the carbohydrates that we ingest. Exercise improves insulin sensitivity, particularly when it occurs just prior to eating.

27) Cooking is made much easier when cooking with quality ingredients.

28) One of the three known strategies proven to extend lifespan across all studied species, time restricted eating has seen it’s human applications skyrocket in the last ten years. Limiting your total daily food intake to a more compressed window of time can have immense benefits on one’s health, both near-term and long-term.

29) The title says it all: Respect Thy Plants.

30) How should one approach getting their young children (or grandchildren) to eat vegetables at a young age? It’s very simple. Make them taste good.

31) We all have different biology and we all have different environmental inputs, and these factors make it such that while one dietary strategy may work for someone else, it may not work for us.

32) Drawn to the farm life but not looking to dive in headfirst? Get yourself some chickens.

33) Fruits evolved to be eaten. They’re often bright in color, easily accessible, and very tasty by nature. They come with componentry far beyond their liquid, most notably their fiber matrix, and it’s vital that we consume them alongside their fiber. The practice of juicing often prohibits our ability to do this.

34) Eat food, not too much, mostly plants. Summarized by Michael Pollan, there’s really not that much else to it.

35) Harsh winters devoid of plant foods proved perilous for our ancestors’ survival. In developing defense strategies, they became insulin resistant (the opposite of insulin sensitive), allowing them to store great amounts of body fat during the winter, much like the hibernating bear. In our modern era with an abundance of hyper-glycemic processed foods, this elegant survival strategy now works against us, and has led us to an epidemic of obesity.

36) Heat exposure, namely via a dry sauna, has a wild array of physiological benefits.

37) Being mindful of certain nuances while grilling meats can help steer you clear from some of the potential adverse health consequences that can result from America’s favorite backyard cooking pastime.

38) Though the jury is still out, dry farm wine making (as it’s known) is rumored to simultaneously enhance some of the more noteworthy aspects of wine (such as flavor complexity) while down regulating some of the ill effects (such as degree of hangover).

39) Nasal breathing is advantageous whether sleeping, exercising, or maneuvering through everyday life.

40) Like soaps, mainstream sunscreen products are overwhelmingly loaded with noxious chemicals that should really be avoided, whenever possible.

41) Our world has become so nerfed. At the snap of a finger, the animal meat of our choosing appears on our plate, ready to be eaten. If we’re willing to make these decisions, shouldn’t we be aware of the dirty work involved in bringing that meat from farm to plate? If given the opportunity, would we be prepared to do that dirty work ourselves?

42) Why should exercise positively influence our mood and cognition, from a neurological perspective? There’s a beautifully simple evolutionary tale that hints towards why.  

43) Let’s not fall too hard into the antibacterial trap. There is clearly a time and place, but we should tread lightly when it comes to overuse, because after all - our human bodies amount to not much more than living, breathing vessels for complex systems of microbes and bacteria.

44) There should be harmony between how we interact with our environment and what food choices we make for ourselves. 

45) Embracing the seasonality of food comes with a cascade of positive ramifications. Not only does produce taste it’s best when in season, but it’s more affordable then, and it inevitably pulls closer towards supporting our local farming community.

46) An accidental fall is bound to have marked the sudden downturn in health for someone older whom we’ve known and loved. Resistance training, most ubiquitously practiced as weight lifting, is a longevity hedge against such likelihoods in its innate ability to improve our bone density and thereby help diminish our fragility later in life.

47) A lowdown on what it’s been like to operate a restaurant during COVID.

48) Organ meats represent a long forgotten nutrient powerhouse, and they’ll hopefully soon return to prominence, as the Nose to Tail eating movement gains more traction.

49) Our food sources are only as rich as the soil that nourishes them. Beneath the surface lies a rich and elaborate story, and one that should be deeply considered when choosing the food that we buy.

50) It’s likely we evolved as long distance runners. Not only that, it’s likely that our feet evolved to run long distances barefoot. We should be mindful of these roots before deciding on cushy footwear that severely alters our naturally evolved foot posture and gait.

51) Ditch the dogma when it comes to food. The science is ever-evolving, and it’s troubling when gurus plant a flag and refuse to deviate from their position in the face of changing data. One thing is almost certainly for sure. If you focus on eating real foods, then you’re in a much better spot than if you don’t.

To another year of weekly articles!