If You Want To Be Healthy, Eat Real Food
‘Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.’ — Hippocrates, Father of Medicine, 460 – 370 B.C.
This post, and the next one, could be titled ‘Nutrition 100’. They are about the importance of eating food that meets your body’s needs in order to create health and healing. That sounds obvious, but unfortunately much of the food found in supermarkets does not meet this criterion, and so can lead to, and perpetuate, ill-health.
Our bodies have developed relationships with natural foods over thousands of years. They are designed to work with natural foods eaten in combination. Many of the foods in the supermarket are created foods– cookies, crackers, dips, cakes, chips, pizzas, denatured oils, candies, ice creams, soft drinks and soda’s, to name just some – often made from grossly-altered natural ingredients that our bodies cannot handle.
The result has been massive rises in obesity world-wide, but especially in the US, where the rate has risen from 13% in adults in 1962 to 35.7% in adults( and 17% in children) in 2010. In that year, US obesity-related medical costs totalled $168 billion annually! But chronic disease incidence is also related to diet. One US study showed that those who had the best adherence to the Alternate Health Eating Index (AHEI) had a 20% (men) and an 11% (women) lower risk of major chronic disease, and a 39% and 28% lower risk, respectively, of cardio-vascular disease, than those who had low scores on the AHEI.
How Do Foods Create Health?
Foods that create health have to provide, or help the body create, the substances that are essential for the growth, development and maintenance of normal body functions, and for healing when required. These substances are essential, so if the body does not get them, or enough of them, then health breaks down and healing cannot take place – no matter how many medications you take. In any event, medications for chronic illnesses do not heal the condition, but just keep the symptoms under control, and may prevent the condition from getting worse.
Natural foods, however, can be healing because, unlike medicines and processed foods, they contain the building blocks for healthy tissues. There are several programs that successfully heal heart disease by changing diet.
The building blocks of a healthy diet include the correct amount of macronutrients (carbohydrates, proteins, and fats and oils) and micronutrients (vitamins, minerals and enzymes) required for health. Micronutrients are so called because, although they are vital to health, the body only requires small amounts of them. Each macronutrient contains certain micronutrients, and also provides energy to the body. The amount of energy is measured in calories. There are 4 calories per gram in protein and carbohydrate, and 9 calories per gram in fat, and the number of calories that you need per day depends on your sex, height, weight and activity levels.
This calorie counter http://www.freedieting.com/tools/calorie_calculator.htm will give you the total number of calories you require in 24 hours. This calculator http://www.active.com/fitness/calculators/nutrition will take the number of overall calories you got from the first calculator, and break them down into required grams and calories for each macronutrient.
Carbohydrates provide energy to the body and brain. They come in two forms – simple and complex . The simple carbohydrates include sugar, honey, syrups, soft drinks, sodas, jams and jellies, and are basically sugar; they pass quickly into the blood stream and provide calories and short-term energy but no real nutrition. . Limit these, and other products with a high sugar content, like tomato ketchup, to the very occasional treat, since too many simple carbohydrates can lead to obesity, type II diabetes, and cancer.
Complex carbohydrates, found in grains, vegetables and fruits, are digested more slowly. In their natural form they are rich in fibre, vitamins and minerals and some proteins, and so provide many of the building blocks the body needs.
However, grains like white flour and white rice, that have had the fibre removed, have lost about 75% of their vitamins, minerals, and proteins, so provide calories but little or no nutrition. Essentially they are the same as the high sugar products noted above, and should be eaten only very occasionally. These products include white breads, cakes, biscuits/cookies, crackers, grocery-store pizza’s, ready-to-eat breakfast cereals, and ‘enriched’ grain products.
Also, food is only as good as the soil its grown in, and nutrient depletion is almost universal in conventionally grown foods. According to the book Clean, by Alejandro Junger MD, conventional farmers use commercial fertilizer to enrich the soil, but most of these contain only three nutrients (sodium, phospherous and potassium) out of the more than fifty required for healthy plants. The resulting soil degradation has significantly lowered the nutritional value of food. This is further depleted when food is picked before ripeness and travels hundreds, or thousands of mile, before it reaches the supermarket, so may be several days, or even weeks, old by the time you eat it. By that time, it may have very little nutrition left in it.
To get the most nutritious food, buy local organically grown food, and eat whole-grains and a variety of vegetables – including many green leafy vegatables such as cabbage, swiss chard, kale, collard greens,
Protein is found in meat, fish, eggs, beans and legumes, milk and yoghurt, nuts, seeds, some whole grains, soy, and yeast extract (Marmite). Proteins are an essential part of most body tissues and body processes, and are made up of building blocks called amino acids, There are 20 different amino acids which are linked together in various formations to create different proteins. The body can make eleven of these amino acids, but the other nine, called essential amino acids, have to be ingested every day. Only animal foods. and fish, contain all nine of these essential amino acids.
Vegetarians and vegans must take special care every day to combine the foods that each contain some of these nine essential amino acids, in order to get all of them every day. The foods required daily are beans/legumes, whole grains and some nuts. A variety of each of these foods should be eaten daily throughout the week.
When eating animal protein (meat, milk or eggs) it is best to buy products from organic animals raised in pasture, if you can afford it. The reason is that the fat in the meat, milk or eggs of pasture-fed animals is much healthier for the body than fat from animals not put out to pasture. Fresh grasses contain ALA, which are the building block for the omega-3 fats. Pasture-fed cows, use ALA to create the Omega-3 fats (EHA and DPA) needed by the body and this helps . One study showed that grain-fed beef had higher levels than grass-fed beef of two saturated fatty acids ( myristic and palmitic) that raise serum cholesterol levels.
Fats and Oils:
Although for many years physicains and health organizations have been urging people to eat less fat, in particular less saturated fat, this is now beginning to change as nutritionists realise that fat is an important component of a healthy diet, amd plays a number of roles in the body. For example, it transports the fat soluble vitamins (A,D,E and K) and helps them to be absorbed, it is an excellent energy source, it controls appetite by keeping people feeling full for longer, it provides padding to protect our organs, it keeps us warm.
The human body needs the non-saturated omega-6 and omega -3 fats in a ratio of 1:1 or at most 1:4. However, the ratio is now about 15:1, or higher, as most commercial food products are made with omega-6 fats. Omega-3 fats are anti-inflammatory. whereas most Omega-6 fats are inflammatory, and so produce inflammation in the body.
The oil that seems to be best for the body is organic extra-virgin olive oil, a mostly monosaturated oil, which contains anti-inflammatory polyphenols and powerful antioxidants. This, and omega-3 fats, are found in the Mediterranean diet. Omega-9 oils, found in avacados, pecans, cashews. macademia nuts, chia seeds, and other nuts, are also healthy mon0saturated fats. All oil should be bought in dark green glass bottles, as oil degrades when exposed to light.
Good sources for omega-3’s are wild pacific salmon, flax-seed oil, ground flax-seeds, chia seeds, sardines, mackerel, and herring,l the meat, milk, and milk-products from organic pasture fed cows, eggs from organic free-range chickens, and walnuts. Plant based sources are spinach, basil, oregano and broccoli; although they do not supply as much omega-3 as many of thefish and animal based sources
.And after having been persona non grata for many years, saturated fat is now coming back into vogue, as many physicians and nutrionists realise that many un-saturated fats are causing inflammation in the body, which can lead to disease. A 2004 study showed that in postmenopausal women with a relatively low fat intake, a greater saturated fat intake was associated with less progression of coronary atherosclerosis, whereas carbohydrate intake was associated with a greater progression.
The micronutrients, vitamins, minerals and enzymes will be covered in the next post, as this post is getting rather long.