Why Worry About Good Nutrition?
Why is it that we tend to take extra care in preserving and maintaining our cars, our homes and our most important assets, yet often neglect to apply the same level of care to our health and nutrition? Just as we need our cars to keep on running to get us from A to B, we need to fuel our bodies with the best possible nutrition to carry us through a healthy life.
It is claimed in scientific studies that there are more than one billion people worldwide who are obese, with each year the statistics getting higher. Not only are people over-eating but also their diets are declining with poor nutritional habits, contributing to serious world health issues increasing every year.
With a major increase in production of fast and easy solutions, processed foods are bombarding the isles of the grocery stores and good nutrition has been flung into the background as more and more saturated fats and empty calories are being digested into the body. Diets high in bad fats, combined with over-eating are not only responsible for obesity but present a major increase in the life threatening diseases such as diabetes, some types of cancers, heart attack and reproductive problems, just to name a few.
As silly as it seems, there is much confusion surrounding the notion of what a healthy diet really looks like. Scientific studies often provide conflicting advice on every subject matter involving nutrition and diet; serving only to add further confusion to those trying to get on the right course and make smart eating decisions. Also, the media, food industry and special interest groups often have personal and profit goals regarding food supplies which makes it even more difficult to make smart food choices. Common sense and scientific research both lead us to the conclusion of one thing. If we want healthy bodies, we must put the correct raw materials into our bodies. Eating real, whole, local, fresh, unprocessed, and chemical-, hormone-, and antibiotic-free food.
For the most part nutrition experts are in agreement on what a healthy diet should consist of. By nutrition expert, I mean someone who has studied nutrition, has had advanced clinical training and who is credentialed to offer recommendations as such. Many people claim to be nutrition experts, but not all of them are actually qualified as such. And while many may doctors have some understanding of nutrition, they often lack detailed expertise in this area.
Nutritionists genuinely revere those famous words spoken from the father of medicine, Hippocrates when he said: “Let food be thy medicine, and medicine be thy food.”
Unfortunately, we have digressed far from Hippocrates path towards healing. Instead, we often look for the easy way using modern day medicine to make us healthy and cure our ills. But, what you choose to put on your fork can either help or harm, and sometimes, in many ways, as much as or even more than medicine. Research and common sense dictates in order to function optimally we must put those foods into our bodies that work to sustain and maintain good health.
Items such as trans-fats, high fructose corn syrup, refined sugar; additives and preservatives are manufactured in a laboratory and are not natural to our bodies’ metabolic process. The bottom line is that the body has no idea what to do with these molecules.
Just like a well-choreographed symphony, real food (the conductor) provides all of the information that the rest of our cells (the individual instruments) need to perform properly. Without the conductor, the symphony will sound out of tune. Likewise, without the proper balance of nutrients our bodies cannot perform at their optimal level.
Our bodies require certain substances for survival. Among these are nutrients such as proteins, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants and phytochemicals. These serve as the basis for human survival. Many people today have developed a “carb phobic” and “fat-phobic” attitude whereby these two vitally important nutrients have been so demonized that people have resorted to eating low fat and low carb foods — laden with artificial sweeteners and chemicals – just to avoid what our bodies naturally need (of course, in controlled and balanced amounts).
What are carbohydrates?
Carbohydrates are of plant origin and contain a majority of the vitamins, minerals and antioxidants that our bodies require to function normally.
Real, whole carbohydrates are:
- Whole Grains
Carbohydrates also contain fiber, which helps with digestion and helps to balance the absorption of sugar and fats into the body. Additionally, there are bonuses in plant foods, which contain phytonutrients. Phytonutrients are healing compounds made by plants to protect themselves. Phytonutrients also protect us against aging, obesity, brain damage, and more.
There are also “refined” carbohydrates. We commonly read about refined carbs but many times don’t really know what they are. Refined carbs are white bread, sodas, juices, donuts, muffins and “junk food”. Refined carbohydrates are not REAL carbohydrates.
While REAL carbohydrates offer protection against heart disease, diabetes, obesity, cancer and mental illness, REFINED carbohydrates are in-expensive, highly processed foodstuffs, often using artificial sugars (high fructose corn syrup) and they are one of the primary reasons that Americans are suffering from epidemic levels of obesity and other chronic diseases.
Healthy carbohydrates also include whole grains such as quinoa, farro, buckwheat, brown and wild rice (to name just a few) that provide much needed B vitamins, healthy fats, and fiber along with thousands of other compounds that help the nervous system and our metabolisms function properly. Also, vegetables such as broccoli, kale, swiss chard, cauliflower, and tomatoes contain compounds that help heal the body (immune system), protect us from harmful toxins, and provide thousands of other benefits that are impossible to quantify. Fruits, herbs, nuts, and spices along with vegetables contain substances that: reduce inflammation, rebuild and protect our cells from damage, provide anti-aging effects, help to detoxify the body and enhances energy production.
This is just a partial list of the thousands of benefits these foods provide to the human body.
Animal proteins such as eggs, chicken, fish and lean grass-fed beef, nuts and seeds also have a place on the whole, real food spectrum. Humans require the healthy fats, complete proteins, vitamins and minerals that these animal foods provide.
To quote Michael Pollan, author of the Omnivore’s Dilemma and In Defense of Food, the rules for eating a healthy, nutritious and life sustaining and maintain diet:
“Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”
What can you do to start down that road towards a healthier eating plan for you and your loved one’s?
Here are some guidelines that you can begin to implement. Guaranteed you’ll see a change for the better in your health and well-being.
1. Eat REAL food. Fresh, unprocessed, whole, organic food.
Avoid packaged foods that come in a box, can or plastic. Avoid foods that have a list of ingredients you can’t pronounce or understand. If you can’t read it, your body doesn’t know what to do with it either!
2. Fill three quarters of your plate with a variety of fruits, and vegetables. Your plate should look like a rainbow of color. Variety is key to making sure that your body gets all of the vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients it needs.
3. Make sure you are getting enough of your healthy fats.
Essential fats are necessary for building every cell membrane in your body. Essential fats can be found in grass fed meat, free-range chicken and eggs, cold-water fish such as Salmon, Sardines, Herring and Halibut. Nuts and seeds such as flax seed, chia seed, (which can be ground up and added to many dishes or smoothies) almonds, pecans and walnuts all have healthy fats as well.
4. Avoid Genetically Modified Foods (GMO). (I will write more about this in another blog in the near future).
5. Gradually reduce the amount of sugar in your diet. Refined sugar, processed sugar, high fructose corn syrup (cakes, candy bars, sodas, cookies, packaged products, white bread, white flour, white rice).
6. Exercise on a daily basis.
7. Get plenty of sleep.
Most importantly, educate and empower yourself to take charge of your eating. Use quality food and good food common sense. Don’t allow yourself to succumb to the quick fix, fad diets or the like. They are not healthy and that is the simple truth.
Remember, choosing the path to healthier eating is a process. Don’t try to change everything all at once. Set daily or weekly goals and stick to them. Enlist the support of friends or family and if necessary, seek the support of a professional. As you seek food and diet optimization, understand that it is really about much more than just eating. From a holistic perspective, it is about the complete self and that is why I have crystallized my beliefs in three simple words: “Eat, Balance, Live”. Make smart choices about what and how much you eat and, perhaps, more importantly, how you nurture your “self-being”. Take time for yourself and time to think about your own special plan to “Eat, Balance, Live”. Most importantly, make it fun and enjoy the process of learning how to “Eat, Balance, Live”. Eating well and living well should not feel like an obligation or a chore. Taking charge of your health now is a necessity if you plan on living a long, healthy, productive life!
Best in Health,