Food is your best medicine. "Fake foods," i.e. highly processed and fortified foods, are lacking in nutrients vital to optimal health and lead to nutritional deficiencies. The importance of organic versus conventional farming techniques is obvious. By avoiding foods that contain pesticides, insecticides, fungicides and other petrochemical derivatives, you’re avoiding substances that prevent good health. It makes no sense to add a chemical burden to your body which detracts from optimal health. One also needs to be aware of the possible hormone and antibiotic residues that may be present in meats, poultry and farm-raised fish. These hormones and antibiotics are used to enhance the agri-business of food production, and when you consume these products you consume the unhealthy residues.
A New Way of Eating
A couple of good rules to keep in mind are those found in the Food Combining Diet, which I have excerpted from the writings of Dr. George Goodheart, the Father of Applied Kinesiology. Good food combinations allow the body to optimally break down and digest the foods you eat so you can assimilate and use the nutrients. Generally speaking, high protein foods and fats should not be mixed with carbohydrates, especially refined carbohydrates such as white flour and sugar. These foods can be eaten separately, but mixing them leads to symptoms of indigestion and gastrointestinal distress: acid reflux, heartburn, bloating, abdominal pain, flatulence, constipation and diarrhea.
An example of a poor food combo would be a meat and potatoes dinner, or a pancake and sausage breakfast. An example of a good protein combo breakfast would be eggs, fruit or fruit juice (preferably citrus) and seeds or nuts, avoiding things like toast with jam. An example of a carbo breakfast would be oatmeal or cereal combined with toast and perhaps a glass of non-citrus juice. An example of a good combo dinner would be a piece of fish, meat or poultry, combined with veggies and a salad. You could also have a cheese sauce for some fat. Fat in the meal slows down the digestion process, giving you a feeling of satiation that lasts longer, and maintains a more even blood sugar level. This avoids the after-dinner munchies that lead us to eating too many carbo snacks.
There are many popular, “trendy” diets out there, so as with any lifestyle change, you will need to try these things out and see what works for you. Keep in mind that any proposed diet will work well for about 30% of the people who try it. The Food Combination Diet is a tried and true way of eating that make sense physiologically and that I have used with success personally and professionally.
The second aspect of good nutrition is avoiding "bad fats." These include hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated fats such as those found in margarine and many processed snack foods and breads. Use of these fats is beneficial to the food manufacturers because of their long shelf life and low cost, but they are harmful to your body. These fats interfere with cholesterol metabolism and tend to raise LDL blood fats, the "bad" component of cholesterol, and lower the HDL levels, the “good” component of cholesterol. Hydrogenated fats also increase lipoprotein A levels, raise triglyceride levels, impair the ability of blood vessels to dilate properly, and interfere with essential fatty acid metabolism. Always check the ingredients of foods you’re buying at the store. You will see the bad fats listed right there on the package! Check for partially hydrogenated or hydrogenated oils, including corn, cottonseed, safflower oil, any fractionated oil, shortening and vegetable shortening. About 40 percent of all foods available in grocercy stores contain hydrogenated oils.
It doesn’t really matter what oil is used as the base oil in a hydrogenated fat; what matters is that it has been altered in a factory by man to avoid food spoilage and loss of profits. However, once these oils are altered, they no longer recognizable to the body because they have literally been structurally changed. Hydrogenated oil is formed by heating a vat of oil and placing nickel rods in the vat to change the molecular structure. That’s what changes them from a liquid to a semi-solid, e.g. corn oil which has been made into margarine. These man-altered fats cannot be used by a human body to create healthy cells, whether you’re talking about a skin cell, a nerve cell, a liver cell, a bone cell or a brain cell. A teaspoon of a hydrogenated fat has a half life in the body of 52 days. That means that 52 days after you eat a teaspoon of margarine, you still have 1/2 teaspoon in your body. In contrast, the half life of a teaspoon of a natural fat, such as butter, is 12 days. Since the body doesn’t recognize the altered fats, they are put into storage, which is why you develop cellulite on your thighs and buttocks when you consume these unnatural fats.
Our cells require good fats that are unaltered, including cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil, cold-pressed virgin olive oil, which is the second pressing of the same olives, black currant seed oil, cold-pressed flax (linseed) oil, fish oils, coconut oil and organic butter. Butter, which is an animal fat, contains nutrients needed by the brain that can only be derived from animal fat. Our society has been scared away from fats and many people have embarked on dangerous "low fat" diets. The simple fact is that your brain needs good sources of fat to make the neurons that allows it to properly control your body. When you’re making packaged food choices, you’re better off shopping at the health food store, where you will find many choices of non-hydrogenated foods, including chips, breads and sweets.
A third aspect of eating healthy is a balance in your nutrient selections. For example, you don’t want to eat too much or too little protein, too much or too little carbohydrate, too much or too little fat. Typically, it’s hard for a person to eat too much fat because it’s so filling and satiating that we usually stop on our own. However, most people seem to consume too little protein calories and too many carbohydrate calories, mostly in the form of snack foods. The problem with eating too many carbos is that you don’t maintain a steady blood sugar and you quickly become hungry again. When you eat a carbo meal or snack, your blood glucose level elevates after the food is absorbed, and that elevation triggers an insulin release in the pancreas. The pancreas releases the insulin to lower your blood glucose levels back down to a "safe" level. If your pancreas did not respond this way, you would have a high blood glucose level, which is known as diabetes.
By eating appropriate amounts of protein and decreasing the trend towards excessive carbohydrate consumption, many people find that they have a much more stable blood sugar, which helps them maintain more clarity of thought and a higher energy level for physical activity throughout the day. People in the habit of eating too many carbo snacks will experience peaks and valleys in their blood glucose levels, which promotes a stress pattern in the pancreas, which has to respond with insulin every time a snack is consumed. This can lead to adult-onset diabetes if done to excess. A handful of nuts or seeds, a glass of juice, water, and fruits and vegetables are much better snack choices. The traditional USDA Food Pyramid promotes eating eleven servings of carbohydrates a day, which is equivalent to eating two cups of sugar a day. By substituting some of those carbo snacks with fruit, vegetables or protein, you will experience a much smoother blood sugar level during the 24-hour cycle.
The Importance of Water
The fourth aspect of fueling your body is hydration. Proper hydration ensures that your body has the water to process metabolic wastes and eliminate them through the lymphatic system, the kidneys and the urine. The typical recommendation is eight glasses of water per day for an adult, which also gives your body enough water for processes such as a maintenance of a moist respiratory tree. Anyone who has exhaled on a mirror or glass window has seen it frost due to the moisture in their breath. We exhale a certain quantity of moisture every day and that must be replenished. If you’re exercising or working vigorously and you’re perspiring, more moisture will be lost through the skin. A good book on this subject is "Your Body’s Many Cries For Water," by F. Batmanghelidj, M.D.
An interesting story that illustrates the importance of having water available to flush toxins and wastes is one of a chicken heart cell that was kept alive in a petri dish in a lab for 30 years. Every day, a lab assistant would change the nutrient bath in the petri dish, flushing all the wastes and toxins and giving the chicken heart cell fresh nutrients. One day, the lab assistant neglected to change the nutrient bath, and the next day the cell was dead. The point of this story is that the chicken heart cell easily outlived the normal life span of a chicken, but it did so under optimal conditions of waste elimination and proper nutrition. When it was given what it needed, the innate intelligence of the cell allowed it to be virtually immortal. The lesson for us is that if we drink enough water to flush the toxins out of our body, we’re that much closer to optimal health.