Overwhelmed. This is how many of us can feel when it comes to making the “right” choices for the health of ourselves, loved ones, and family. We are inundated with information, products, marketing, fads, and health trends that seem to change and flip-flop every decade or so. As a father, husband, and entrepreneur, I often find myself in a dilemma that many of us are faced with—choosing between health, taste, time, and convenience. This is not even to mention considering deeper questions, such as:
- Is the market I’m buying my food from a local business?
- What is the company’s carbon footprint?
- Are the ingredients clean/sustainable?
- Is it ethically produced?
and many more questions like these.
Documentaries, social media influencers, and the multi-billion-dollar mega-global industry that is our modern food system are going all out with agendas as well. What are we to do?
While this truly is a complex topic that we could deep dive into a multi-volume compendium over, instead we will focus on answering some basic questions, such as:
- What is plant-based? Is it different than veganism? Can animal-based foods be healthy?
- What are whole foods, superfoods, and regenerative food systems?
- How can I decide what type of foods are right for me?
- What local resources are at my disposal?
Plant-Based Diet vs. Veganism
A form of eating that focuses primarily on obtaining all your nutrients through fruits, vegetables, nuts, legumes, and other plant materials, a plant-based diet is different from veganism due to the ethical component of veganism. Plant-based diets may sometime allow for foods sourced from animals and is more about clean nutrition and ecologically sustainable food practices. Some pitfalls of the modern plant-based food industry are occasionally referred to as greenwashing, in which companies take advantage of the general idea that if a food is plant based it’s automatically healthier for you and the planet. This blanket statement is just not true, particularly in the many occasions where plant-based foods are made with industrially grown, highly processed, and artificial ingredients.
A philosophy stemming from ethical beliefs in the equal value of all life, veganism involves practitioners refrain from eating (and in many cases, also wearing or handling) any product that came from an animal. This includes seafood, milk, cheese, honey, leather, and more. A vegan philosophy boycotts the exploitation of animals in any format—food, entertainment, fashion, and so on. Those who follow a vegan diet suffer the same pitfalls as those following plant-based diets, in that just because the food you are eating isn’t made using animals, this doesn’t mean that it is inherently any healthier than its conventional counterpart—or even that it is healthy at all (Oreo cookies, fast-food French fries, and heavily processed and artificial “impossible” meat substitutes are also vegan).
Can a Plant-Based or Vegan Diet Be Healthy and Satisfying?
With the proper ingredients and knowledge, both plant-based and vegan diets can be incredibly versatile, creative, healthy, and satisfying. However, it is a personal choice that, like anything else you want to be successful at, also involves putting in effort. Research and consult with an expert about your personal nutritional/health needs and make the effort to know your food sources and vendors and have a balance of amino acids, macronutrients, and micronutrients. And don’t forget—processed junk foods are processed junk foods, no matter whether they are made from animal products.
It is also important to note that animal-based foods can indeed be healthy, though again, an animal-based diet is a personal choice that takes effort to fulfill responsibly. Do the research, build the relationships, consult a dietician, and look for quality. If we source grass-fed, grass-finished animals that are regeneratively, ethically, and locally raised, there are studies that show the proteins, fats, enzymes, and minerals we receive from them can be particularly beneficial.
Whole Foods, Superfoods, and Regenerative Food Systems
Whole foods are those foods that, when eaten, are closest in essence to their natural form, in which physical changes (e.g., chopping, roasting, baking, etc.) are acceptable and do not change the inherent properties of the food. Conversely, chemical changes in which the ingredients are modified on a molecular level (e.g., hydrogenated canola oil or ingredients infused with laboratory-made chemical preservatives/dyes) are not acceptable. In other words, the term “whole foods” simply refers to the opposite of what food evolved into over the last 50–70 years—industrially produced, processed, GMO foods.
Superfoods are defined by a ratio of nutritional density to caloric intake. For example, a bottle of cola soda has a high number of calories but nearly zero nutritive value, whereas a bottle of beet and carrot juice would have a high ratio of nutritive value to calories. The natural world is loaded with superfoods, not limited only to exotic-sounding ingredients such as acai, maqui berry, camu-camu, and so on, from far-off rainforests—an apple is also considered a superfood!
Modern science has discovered that essentially, the methods of growing foods and raising animals performed until around the turn of the 20th century are truly the best practices we know, and in fact, those methods allow us to help restore our planet to a healthy and sustainable ecosystem. Through processes known as carbon sequestration and carbon draw-down, we have seen that farmers and ranchers who work in harmony with their local ecology—promoting native biodiversity; eliminating artificial and added fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides; rotating crops; allowing animals to live naturally outdoors and systematically rotating grazing pastures in a way that emulates natural migration systems; and creating healthy soil biomes—can actually reverse the effects of desertification, restore topsoil, and pull in atmospheric carbon to be stored safely in the soil, ultimately regenerating a healthy environment. These processes are known as regenerative food systems.
How Can I Decide What Type of Foods Are Right for Me?
Critical thinking. Like so much in life, thinking critically helps you educate yourself about a topic and view it from more than one perspective before making a choice. Remember to:
- ask questions and don’t always take things at face value
- do research and make educated choices
- remember that almost every documentary, article, food manufacturer, and influencer may have some sort of agenda—be aware and make your own choices
- seek out local small businesses/farms/food producers/health practitioners
- build relationships with farmers and other people in the space of healthy living
It may be cliché, but the adage “you are what you eat” carries a great deal of truth. I believe the future of food is found somewhere in the balance of what is healthy and sustainable both biologically for humans as well as what is healthy and sustainable for our planet’s ecosystem. Whether you follow a meat-based or plant-based diet, whether you’re an omnivore, pescatarian, vegetarian, vegan, or something else…make your own informed decisions. Instead of choosing “trendy” diets or fads, when choosing the words that describe your food choices—quality, clean, whole, super, sustainable, regenerative, balanced—you can’t go wrong.
To help make all this overwhelming information a little easier, the following is a list of resources local to the Naples area that will help you find those whole foods, superfoods, and products from regenerative foods systems and get those deep-dive questions answered.
Local Resources for Healthy Eating
Veggies + Fruits + Micros + Shrooms + Plant Foods + More
Future Foods | 100% All Natural, Whole Food, GF, Non-GMO, Organic Plant-Based + Sustainable Prepared Foods
239.247.2244 | @thenotaburger | @futurefoodsgroup
Saturdays: 3rd St. South Farmer’s Market | Made in Naples, FL
E-Comm Store: www.futurefoodsmarket.co
Russell Holland | Care2Grow Gourmet + Medicinal Mushrooms
239.253.7076 | @caretwogrow
Saturdays: 3rd St. South Farmer’s Market
Juicelation | Naples Based Fresh Pressed Juices + Smoothies + Bowls
239.529.2290 | firstname.lastname@example.org
In store: 4947 Tamiami Trail N, Ste 104, Naples, FL
EFC—East Fork Creek/Earth Friendly Community Farm | All Natural Aquaponic Lettuces + Food Forest + Local Raw Honey
239.887.0116 | @eastforkcreek | email@example.com
Saturdays: Produce Market at East Fork Creek Farms | South Ft. Myers
Nick and Natalie Batty | Inyoni Organic Farm | Certified Organic + Annual Veggies + Seasonal Tropical Fruits
239.980.3605 | @inyoniorganicfarm | https://www.inyoniorganicfarm.store/
Saturdays: 3rd St. South Farmer’s Market | Online Sales
Chris and Eva Worden PhD | Worden Farms | Certified Organic + Regenerative Produce
941.234.4843 | @wordenfarm | www.wordenfarm.com
Saturdays: Sarasota Farmer’s Market |Sundays: Punta Gorda, Worden Farm Stand | CSA programs available
Danny | 12 Seasons Farm | All natural seasonal produce + food forest
230.229.3579 | @12seasonsfarm | 12SeasonsFarm@gmail.com | www.12seasonsfarm.com
Saturdays: Bonita Springs Farmer’s Market | Farm Pick-Up + Delivery
Seafood + Meats + Breads + Beverages + More
Circle C Farms | Regeneratively Ranched All Natural Raised in Collier Country | Beef, Poultry, Pork
@circlecfarm | Farm Store available
10441 Kentucky St., Bonita Springs, FL Collier County, FL | www.circlecefarmfl.com
Dilly’s Seafood | @dillys_fish_co | Fresh sustainable seafood from local waters
239.398.7731 | 2052 Danford St, Naples, FL
Fridays fresh off the boat | Park next to @Mikesbaithouse (come early, bring cash)
Anna Erickson | Erickson and Jensen Seafood
Fresh, sustainable seafood from local waters
239.463.4050 | 1100 Shrimp Boat Ln, Ft. Myers Beach, FL
Lake Meadow Naturals | Heritage Breed Poultry, Eggs, Beef, Pork | Regenerative | Free Range | All Natural | High Quality
321.206.6262 | www.lakemeadownaturals.com
Ocoee, FL | Farm Pick-Up or Wholesale Distributions
Jurg and Leslie Landert | Landert European Breads + Pastries
239.961.6116 | @landertbread | www.landertbread.com | Naples, FL
Saturdays: Shoppes at Vanderbilt Farmer’s Market | Online Sales | Commercial Delivery
Flying Eagle Kombucha
239. 935.9212 | @flyingeaglekombucha.swfl
Pick Up or Delivery from Millennial Brewery, Ft. Myers, FL
Kiss the Ground
What the Health
Local Health Gurus
Betsy Opyt RD, LD/N, CDE
Healthy Concepts Consulting
4 Elements Yoga
7935 Airport Rd, Naples FL
Integrative Functional Nutrition Specialist • Health and Wellness Coach • Yoga Instructor • Author • Speaker
Wellness Energy Institute
5435 Park Central Ct., Naples FL
RMT • Author • Speaker • Educator • Medical Intuologist • EFT Practitioner • Vibrational Medicine Expert • Certified Advanced Holistic Health Coach from the International Institute of Holistic Medicine
Tai Chi Instructor • Certified Nutrition Therapist + Speaker
Chef David Robbins
Future Foods + Not A Burger
Concierge Chef Services + Consulting
Specialist: Functional Food, Superfood, Plant Food, Whole Food, Farm to Table, Slow Food, Sustainability
Private Concierge Chef Services + Masterclass Sessions on Clean Eating
1 Not a meatballs (glazed), a plant-based/gf/non-gmo, clean, whole superfood, protein-and nutrient-rich alternative—no fillers, artificial lab ingredients, or b.s. | served with gochujang-fermented garlic honey.
2 Local, gulf-caught snapper with a plant-forward presentation and injection of superfoods with a crispy nutty “crust” of red quinoa—a signature dish of David Robbins.
3 Superfoods toast—Landert Bread lye croissant triangle topped with all things local: strawberries, mulberries, and blueberries + organic honey + bee pollen.