The Fourth Cornerstone of Epigenetics – Food Choices

Here we are.  The final Cornerstone of Epigenetics – food choices.  Makes sense since we literally put food and drink into our bodies.  This isn’t exposure by proximity! 

And that is one way to look at the foods we eat – potential exposure.  But the reverse is also true – the foods we eat can be more powerful than medicines in supporting our health. 

When we look at these concepts through the lens of epigenetics, we’re acknowledging that what we eat can change how effectively our biochemistry works.  And that will be different depending upon the person, their individual story and their unique genetic coding.  Epigenetics is where we truly find that a one-size-fits-all diet just doesn’t cut it!

This is one of my favorite examples.  Have you ever met someone who drinks a cup (or more) of coffee in the evening to be able to relax and go to sleep?  I venture to say that more folks are too stimulated by caffeine to be able to rest well after a cuppa...but it all depends on your genetics.  An enzyme that metabolizes serotonin is made slower by caffeine.  And when the enzyme is slower, that person has a higher level of serotonin available in their body.  And through a few additional steps, serotonin is converted to melatonin, our sleep hormone.

When we eat (and drink) intuitively, listening to our appetite and cravings, I do believe we’re actually self-treating our biochemistry, filling the gaps of what our body needs.  Food truly is medicine. 

Until it’s not. 

At this point we could spend a few days talking about all of the stuff in our food – hormones, antibiotics, glyphosate, excess salt, sugar, and even GMOs!  Instead of jumping full into the craziness, let’s focus on produce – the fruits and vegetables that we eat.  Why?  Because these are the nutritional powerhouses in our diets and both the fruit/vegetable and the pesticide contaminants can significantly impact our biochemistry. 

And because there is an excellent cheat sheet out there for all of us to use when we’re choosing produce!  (And I like easy!!)

The concern with produce is the multiple chemicals used to prevent damage from disease and pests before it gets to market. 

And the cheat sheet???  The Environmental Working Group (EWG) Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce.   

This is a list of 46 popular produce items ranked by the amount of pesticide contamination.  The top twelve (1-12) are those with a higher level of chemical contamination; these are known as the Dirty Dozen.  The bottom fifteen (31-46) are those with a much lower level of contamination; these are known as the Clean Fifteen.  

And that is why the EWG publishes this list, updated, every year – to allow us to make proactive produce choices.  When shopping for any of the Dirty Dozen, consider investing in organically farmed products which does not allow the use of pesticides and other chemicals.  And when shopping for items on the Clean Fifteen list, feel free to skip the organic as the non-organic is already pretty clean!  And keep in mind this applies to fresh and frozen produce!

In using the Shopper’s Guide, you’re choosing how to support your health both by (potentially) eating more fruits and vegetables and by decreasing the amount of chemical exposure you experience. 

And that is self-care! 

Which is ultimately the goal of the Four Cornerstones of Epigenetics – you learning what serves you and your health the most and then incorporating those decisions into everyday life.  Where can you minimize your big stressors?  What can you do to improve your quality and quantity of sleep?  How can you minimize environmental exposures both through body-care products and food choices?  And remember, our food choices carry the heaviest burden here because they support both health and healing, as well as acting as a potential source of chemical exposure. 

Sixty-Second Self-Care Tip...

Hit that link above for the Shopper’s Guide and take inventory of the Clean Fifteen and the Dirty Dozen.  Which foods are regularly in your shopping cart?  Would there be any benefit to changing to organic? 

And if none of these foods is regularly on your plate – how can you increase your fruits and veggies?


60-second self-care, Clean Fifteen, Dirty Dozen, epigenetics, food choices, pesticides

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