Summer Produce!

We are officially in summer season in the northwestern hemisphere. Central Virginia is sporting a sultry (meaning hot and humid) morning with the temperature expected to climb into the upper 90s today.

Have you ever picked your own blueberries? We have about 5 blueberry bushes in our yard, all young and newly planted this year, with two already bearing fruit. Those berries are the BEST!

Have you ever stopped at a roadside market for fresh-from-the-farm melons or peaches or cherries or sweet corn or squash or zucchini? Is it just me, or do those foods TASTE better? So fresh, they may still have the morning dew on them, or the heat of the noon-day sun.

Most Americans don’t eat enough produce (meaning fruits and vegetables). This trend is to the detriment of our individual and collective health.

Hmmm. Individual health is easily recognizable and understandable. But “collective health”?

Yeah. How’s your insurance premium looking these days? Are your costs going UP with the associated benefits going DOWN? That’s due, in part, to the poor health of others. Collectively, we all pay!

Because of Big Agra and the planting of massive amounts of a single crop in the same place year after year, our soil is less nutrient dense than it used to be. I think that also plays a role in the taste of foods.

There are reasons those freshly picked berries from my yard and the melons from the back of a pick-up truck on a country road taste so good—they’re exceptionally fresh, they’re grown in more nutrient dense soil because they aren’t coming from a field of only blueberries or only melons, and there are other plants growing all around them providing nutrients to neighboring plants and the earth.

We can only be as healthy as the earth from which we get our foods/fuel.

We can only be as healthy as the Earth from which we get our foods/fuel!

(Oof. We need to be better stewards. But that’s a topic unto itself. Let’s get back to the topic of eating more plants!)

Did you know that our government recognizes how nutrient depleted the soil in which our foods grow and therefore recommends we consume 3.5-5 cups of produce daily for “good health”? Only about 10% of the US population eats this much fruit and vegetables on a consistent basis.

No wonder we have so much chronic disease!

To make things simple, let’s start with no more than 2 servings of fruit daily and at least 5 servings of vegetables daily.

Right. I’ll break that down even more.

No more than 2 servings of fruit…. Fruit sugar (fructose) MUST be broken down in the liver.

‘Got “too much” cholesterol? Are you in pain everywhere? Tendonitis, bursitis, arthritis? That’s inflammation and your liver has to process out all those inflammatory markers. Eating too much fruit or otherwise ingesting fructose (i.e. sodas and fruit drinks and high fructose corn syrup) can cause the liver to get behind in its work or “congested”—yes, like your nose when you have a cold or the interstate during rush hour.

Do you drink alcohol? That also has to be processed by your liver.

Do you take prescription drugs or over-the-counter agents? Many of those use the liver primarily to make the drug active and/or to break the drug down after it’s exerted its action.

The liver is a busy organ! Keep your fruit intake low to take a load off your liver.

Fruit is one of those tasty foods that some people simply cannot break down, also.

My great-niece is fruit intolerant. She lived with us when she was little and had awful patches of itchy red skin scattered over her body. After fruit was removed, her skin cleared. (So did her attitude.)

I had a patient on a very “healthy” diet: mostly plants (fruits and vegetables), some lean meats, fish, whole grains, seeds/nuts, and beans/legumes, very little dairy. Healthy, right? She’d been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, so sought me out for adjunctive care and my naturopathic perspective.

Turned out, she was fruit intolerant. Once she removed fruit from her life, her MS went away.

(What?! I know! How cool is that?! Here’s a little side note: she’d been doing so well for so long, she figured a little fruit over the holidays wouldn’t hurt her… She enjoyed the fruit initially but lost her sight for a period of time—days or weeks, I don’t remember now. Eventually, with the fruit eliminated again from her lifestyle, she regained her vision. She emailed me saying she’d NEVER eat fruit again!)

So. For now, since I’m a very strong proponent of eating CLEAN even before determining your Individualized Eating Plan, have no more than two pieces or servings of fruit per day.

What’s a “serving”? A serving is roughly what you can hold in your hand: an apple; a handful of berries; 2-3 small apricots. Yes, I know some people have large hands and some have small hands. I’m pretty sure you know where I’m going here. 😉

Now, when it comes to vegetables, there is NO limit to how many servings you may consume. None!

Have at least 5 servings of veggies each day! And mix up the colors so you get the specific phytonutrients found in the various colors of the rainbow.

Here are some reminder phrases:

(At least) 5 veggies and (no more than) 2 fruits daily.

5 + 2 = 7.

7 colors in the rainbow: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, purple.

Aim for each color each day for vibrant health!

The one caveat here is for those on blood thinners: you must eat the same amount of dark green, leafy vegetables every day! A handful of fresh spinach in your salad will reduce to two bites when cooked. Be mindful of this REGARDLESS of the drug you take and whether or not you check PT/INR!

One more story for today:

I had another patient come to me with the dual diagnoses of chronic fatigue and fibromyalgia. Also, a very “healthy eater”. As an African-American woman, she was eating in rhythm with her ethnicity: LOTS of fish from local waters, LOTS of sweet potatoes, LOTS of vegetables…

Because my professional training and experience has taught me to ask “hard” questions to determine the emotional and/or mental and/or spiritual insults that can become physical complaints, I delved into this particular woman’s history, medical and otherwise.

She’d endured every kind of abuse you might imagine: sexual, physical, emotional, mental.

She’d also done the work to forgive her offenders, reframe her experiences, allow God to restore her.

Honestly, aside from her physical pain and fatigue, she truly was one of the most healthy people I’d met!

And she was eating like I’d like to get many of my other patients and clients to eat! So… how to help this lovely woman?

I offered to run an Individualized Eating Plan for her. (I didn’t know what else to do!) She agreed.

Her results came back with two (2) primary intolerances—something I’d never seen before.

Wanna hazard a guess what they were? Not fruit. Potatoes (including sweet potatoes) and Fish. ACK!

I called her with the results, put the printed copy in the mail to her, and asked that she avoid the 2 main staple foods in her healthy diet for 3 weeks, then challenge each one in turn and return to my office in 6 weeks to let me know what happened.

She cancelled her follow-up appointment within that 3 week elimination phase…

…because I’d given her back her life! (Years later, this still gets me teary eyed.)

There was no need for her to challenge those foods. She had energy and was pain-free for the first time in her LIFE!

Ah, I LOVE what I do! I can’t imagine being or doing anything else. My naturopathic doctor skills come in handy for teaching people how to live differently for a different outcome. My pharmacist skills come in handy for getting people off their drugs as they show the inevitable over-medication when health comes walking in!

Wishing you vibrantly WELL,

Christie Fleetwood, ND, RPh, VNMI

PS: Are you already doing all-the-things for better/best health and interested in determining YOUR Individualized Eating Plan? Click here for the details.

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