Wellness chef and former restaurateur Monique Costello is a firm believer in the power of nutrition. While she always thought she ate well, it wasn’t until she started paying closer attention to her diet that she started to feel more vigorous and ready to take on the world. Now an integrative health coach based in Chicago, Costello is inspired to help others learn to make smart food choices. It starts, she says, with stepping away from the dining out/microwavable lifestyle.
“The popularity of processed foods has brought an onslaught of health problems such as diabetes and heart disease. We’re generations away from simpler, more nutritious ways of eating,” she says. “We’ve forgotten basics that our great grandparents took for granted, such as why water, real butter, and whole grains are good for us.”
Here is Costello's three-step plan for returning to those basics:
1. Equip Your Kitchen With Great-Tasting Foods
When cooking from home, you want to stock the kitchen to eat cleanly without feeling like you’re depriving yourself. Some foods should be on your weekly grocery list. These include:
- Veggies: Asparagus, endive lettuce, onions, leeks, carrots, dandelion greens, ginger, garlic, fennel, beets, and sweet potatoes. “In general, strive to eat every color of the rainbow in vegetables,” she advises.
- Fruits: Apples, bananas, avocados, pomegranates, and grapefruit
- Grains: Sorghum, beans, and barley
- Oils: Ghee (or grass-fed butter), extra virgin olive oil, cold-pressed coconut oil, avocado oil
- Fatty Acids: Salmon, sardines, hemp, and flax seeds
Many people have never heard of sorghum, but I really like it because it’s gluten-free, highly sustainable, and grown in the midwest. In addition to having protein and fiber, sorghum is also low in lectin, so it’s easy for the body to digest and absorb. It tastes mildly nutty, and it can be used in place of quinoa, rice, pasta, amaranth, or barley.
2. Feed Your Gut Microbiome
Two-thirds of the body’s immune system is in the gut. If your gut isn’t working, the rest of your immune system isn’t working either. The gut also helps the body maintain overall wellbeing. Managing our gut health means nourishing the trillions of microbes that make up our gut mini-ecosystem. Diet seems to have the most powerful influence over the gut microbiome.
- Avoid processed foods. Processed foods containing emulsifiers and detergent-like compounds may damage the intestinal lining, potentially leading to “leaky gut” and systemic inflammation.
- Be intentional about eating more fiber. Fibers are some of the key nutrients for promoting a diverse microbiome. Prebiotic fibers, found in sorghum, provide a beneficial environment in the gut for good bacteria to grow and thrive.
3. Choose Anti-Inflammatory Foods
People don’t understand what inflammation does to the body. When inflammation persists or becomes chronic, it damages the body and causes illness. It has been linked to many serious diseases including heart disease, many cancers, and Alzheimer’s disease. A healthy diet and lifestyle can help keep inflammation under control.
- Eat fewer processed foods. These may promote inflammation.
- Eat more foods closest to their source. Think vegetables, fruits, and grains such as sorghum. The more home cooking you can do, the more control you have over what you eat.
- Read labels on everything before you buy. If you can’t pronounce it, don’t know what it is, or if your grandmother wouldn’t have eaten it, find a different option.
For more ideas about adding sorghum into your cooking repertoire, visit simplysorghum.com.