Food bank
© Danny Lawson/PA Wire
I find it absolutely fascinating when I meet new folks of like mind who offer to teach me numerous additional skills that would be beneficial in the bleak future that seems likely. I adore the idea of exchanging knowledge. It is not possible to learn every skill in life via books or YouTube videos (though I have certainly tried). Regardless of how much an individual may try, there are topics that come easier to some people than others. For instance, I only know a little about radio communications, and although I have my ham license, I find the area of radio waves to be a tad confusing. But give me a sickly plant and I will nourish it back to health in no time if I have the right tools. We all have skills we excel at and lack at. Thus forming communities with people with different skills is ideal, as no one individual has to know it all. While it is impractical to become an expert in all areas, it is not a bad idea to develop a basic understanding of all the key areas you will need to survive.

But there is one area of prepping that is not too difficult, and yet, I see relatively few people try to develop the knowledge and skills for it, and even fewer practicing it: nutritional preventive medicine.

I am not talking about stocking up on band aids, isopropyl alcohol and even learning how to grow medicinal herbs (although those are all useful things). I am referring to what folks are doing now with their nutrition to prevent the need for healthcare at a later time. I am constantly amazed at seeing preppers with unhealthy eating habits who think they are eating healthy. Not because they're lying to themselves, but because they simply don't know any better. They can tell me every detail about every type of radio frequency communication, or every detail about every type of ammunition, and yet, they have no concept of what carbohydrates they should or should not eat, the nutritional differences between different types of lipids (fats), or even why GMO/GE food can cause cancer. They can tell me about sidebands, antennas, and atmospheric conditions in such detail that I feel like I'm back in college taking physics again. Yet, they've taken no time to learn how food is produced, how to read a nutrition label, and what those labels mean or how to use them. In my personal life it seems like the main people I know who pay attention to nutrition are athletes and "life extensionists". But as survivalists aren't we about, well, survival? And isn't optimal nutrition a critical aspect of that?

As preppers we stock up on resources for clean water as that is essential to life. We stock up on food so that we do not starve to death. We stock up on ammo so that we can prevent intruders from killing or robbing us. We stock up on batteries, flashlights, candles, and all kinds of other useful tools so that we may have capabilities in the coming bleak future. Yet, too few of us build up our bodies with quality nutrition that would make us healthier; nor do we build up our fitness levels with exercise to make our bodies stronger. Instead, most people tear down their bodies with poor quality food, simply for the convenience, or the choice of flavor.

This will be a huge problem in three ways when TSHTF.

1. A person's body will already be at a disadvantage when things go awry. The ability to fight diseases, run fast from an enemy, defend oneself or survive nutrient shortages will be reduced.

2. Switching diets in a time of emergency can cause the body to go through a lot of unexpected trauma, which can result in #1 above.

3. There may not be a doctor around that would be able to offer a cholesterol reducing pill, or a blood pressure pill, or even pain medication. The absence of doctors could be due to something as major as an economic collapse, or as modest as a shortage of doctors due to government mandates and the economics of government.

Conditioning your body with optimum nutrition should be near the top of your prepping list. The thousands of dollars you spent on solar equipment won't do you any good if you quickly get so sick you don't have the energy to maintain it. That ammo can be heavy to move if you don't have the body strength to move it. And if you find yourself stranded because your vehicle broke down for whatever reason, you might need to be able to walk long distances and camp out. You won't be able to do that if you need to rest every few minutes.

One of the problems that I have observed is that a certain mentality has developed in healthcare, and that is one of ignoring that you have the power to change your health. You have the power to reverse high blood pressure, high cholesterol, obesity, and even certain diseases such as type II diabetes (if it has not progressed to a certain stage). You have the power to not only reverse these, but prevent these types of conditions from ever developing. You don't need to sit idly by while eating pancakes and watching TV as you wait for cancer to develop and kill you.

So how do you do it? How do you make your health a top prepping skill? Look at it as preventive medicine and make it a lifestyle change. Just as you might pick up a few extra canned goods at the store each time you go shopping, you incorporate another action into your prepping and into your lifestyle.

Start with baby steps:

1. Research what is optimal in a person's meal plan. No, this isn't a temporary diet, this is how someone should eat for life. Think in terms of: How many calories daily? How much protein, carbohydrate, lipid (fat)? What types of carbs, protein and fat? What vegetables and fruits? Am I getting all of the essential vitamins and minerals? What supplements should I consider using and stocking up on? What are my medical conditions that I may be able to overcome or at least prepare to treat through other means if medications are not available?

2. Research how much exercise a person should do, and start to incorporate a regular routine DAILY. Even if it is just a 15 minute walk to start, that is the start of conditioning your body.

3. Decide which ingredients you want to start eliminating first. (My recommendations are noted below.)

A. If you eat fast food, stop now. This is not only expensive for your future health care, but is also void of real nutrition.

B. Corn products such as corn syrup are usually derived from GMO corn. At the same time, eating so much corn is not natural in our diets. High fructose corn syrup, such as contained in most bottled drinks has been linked to a variety of health problems.

C. Soy is usually from a GMO source as well, and soy is not good for human health as it can result in disruption of various hormones, including testosterone, estrogen, and thyroid hormones.

D. Non-cane sugar. If sugar is just listed as "sugar", it's possible that it's source is beets. 90% of beets in the US are GMO. Look for "cane sugar" instead, or even better, use honey or stevia as a sweetener (depending on your weight and health conditions).

E. BHT - this is a preservative that baffles me to no end. Whoever thought that adding a butane derived ingredient to processed food was a good idea was really out there in whacko land. The fact that we've adopted this practice makes me wonder if the medical industry isn't paying off the processed food industry to make people ill to have them need more medical care.

4. Start reading ingredients on everything you buy. This is tougher than you might think. Reading labels as you're at the grocery store is time consuming. You will soon realize if you try to avoid my first two items to eliminate, finding foods that lack these is even tougher if you're looking at processed foods and not in the all natural section. At the same time, it is important to remember that even simple foods such as yogurt or cheese need to have ingredients evaluated as well. You would be amazed at what they sometimes put in these foods. I once almost bought a jar of coffee until I read the ingredients. I was shocked to discover they added corn syrup to coffee. COFFEE!!!! I look at everything now.

5. Start to eliminate all foods with the worst ingredients you decide upon. This is where the lifestyle change comes in. Changing what you eat little by little is not easy, but remember, this is so you won't need a doctor at a later time, when there is no doctor. It's preventive medicine.

6. As you progress in your bad ingredients elimination, start looking at where your food comes from. Is it local? Is it from China (lots of contaminants)? Japan (Fukushima radiation)?

7. As you learn where your food comes from, you will also start to learn about the practices of such companies. What are the cattle fed? Corn? Aha, time to eliminate that brand as you already eliminated corn from your diet. Find a source of grass fed beef, naturally fed poultry, etc.

8. Develop an overall nutrition plan that adequately balances proteins, carbohydrates, and fats/lipids. Everyone needs some of each, but because each individual is unique you will have to experiment to find what ratios of each work best for you.

9. Learn about what types of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats are beneficial and which are harmful. For example, carbohydrates such as (many but not all) fruits, vegetables, oats and possibly potatoes (for people who are not overweight) will likely be beneficial for most people, while wheat, barely, corn, and refined sugars will be harmful to most people in the long run. Fats like flax oil, (purified) fish oil, olive oil, almonds, coconut oil, and certain organic cheeses will likely be beneficial for most people, while most commonly available vegetable oils (e.g. soy, corn, sunflower) will be harmful to most people in the long run. Dairy proteins (particularly whey, casein, kefir, and plain yogurt) and eggs will do well for those who do not have allergies, as will many animal protein sources, depending on how the animals were raised and what they were fed (corn and soy or a natural diet?). However, soy protein causes a number of adverse health effects, fish can often be contaminated with mercury or radiation, and a certain percentage of males shouldn't eat too much red meat because they can develop iron overload. The scientific evidence and reasoning behind these suggestions could encompass several articles themselves, so I won't get into too much detail here. These recommendations are also not universal. Different people have different nutritional needs, but these recommendations would be a good starting point for most people.

Comment: Getting your diet and health in gear is not small task. It's best to start now while things are still relatively stable. Tips & Tricks for Starting (or Restarting) Low- Carb Pt I

10. As you advance in your lifestyle food changes, don't stop, keep researching. Not sure what an ingredient is? Look it up. Do an internet search about long term health effects. Does your body need it? If you're not interested in developing an advanced understanding of organic chemistry (often needed to comprehend ingredients lists on packaged products), a simpler method is this: If you can't figure out what an ingredient is or if it is bad for you, don't buy that product. One of the simplest ways to improve the nutritional profile of your diet is to eat fewer refined and pre-packaged "foods" and instead eat more real whole foods. Learn how to use more locally produced food, both so you know what is available to you, and how you can make it work for you.

Paylie Roberts is the author of the recently published non-fiction book Memories of Poland, Lessons From Growing Up Under Communism. She is also the author of two novels: Bugging Out to Nowhere , and Life After Bugging Out. She has a Bachelor's degree in biology, and lives with her husband, two German shepherds, and various livestock, somewhere between the Cascade Range and the Rocky Mountains.