Eat More Good Stuff: Nutrition Basics
By: Dr. Peggy Malone
What we eat, what we drink and what we think is the fuel for who we are and what we are capable of accomplishing in this lifetime so it is soooooo important.
As a culture we are challenged because we are definitely not eating and drinking the right stuff to be healthy and successful.
In fact we are not even really eating food any more. We are eating food like products. Most of what we eat as a culture is the result of crafty science that makes something look good and taste good but it has no nutritional value at best and it is full of chemicals that are ravaging our bodies with disease at worst.
To say that this is a problem is an understatement.
Here are some grim statistics:
- 68% of Americans are overweight or obese
- 20% of American 4 year olds are obese
- Canadian childhood obesity has tripled in the last 20 years
- Adolescent obesity has also tripled
- Overweight adolescents have a 70% chance of becoming overweight or obese adults
- Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women in the US. More than half of the deaths due to heart disease in 2008 were in men.
- In the United States, someone has a heart attack every 34 seconds. Each minute, someone in the United States dies from a heart disease-related event.
- 1/2 of all deaths are from CV disease and half of all of those… the first symptom is death.
- In 2010, heart disease will cost the United States $316.4 billion. This total includes the cost of health care services, medications, and lost productivity.
- Cancer is the second leading cause of death in the US, exceeded only by heart disease.
- In the US, one in two men come down with cancer in their lifetime, one in three for women, and 1 of 4 deaths is from cancer. (In 1900, the incidence of cancer was 1 in 8000!!)
- In 2007, cancer surpassed cardiovascular disease (heart and cerebrovascular) as the leading cause of death in Canada.
- An estimated 177,800 new cases of cancer and 75,000 deaths from cancer will occur in Canada in 2011
Many of us think that if our relatives have had heart disease or cancer, then we are destined to get it too.
This is absolutely not true!
5% of all heart disease and cancer are as a result of genetic/hereditary factors.
95% is what you eat, what you drink, what you think and what you do!!!
So 95% of the diseases that kill most of us North Americans are related to lifestyle factors… not the bad luck that we think we are getting from our relatives.
This means that you have control over the choices that will take you toward healthier and happier… or toward sick and dead. It really is that simple.
What you eat and drink are a huge factor in the lifestyle related causes of obesity, heart disease and cancer so making changes in what you put into your body is key to getting on track to being and staying healthy.
We are eating more sugar, salt, bad fats, high fructose corn syrup, artificial sweeteners and processed chemical ingredients than ever before… and something has to change!
So to get started let’s focus on a few key things:
Drink More Water
Your body is made of of 60-70% water so it makes sense that you should be adding more water on a regular basis to keep it healthy.
Most of us are walking around in a state of chronic mild dehydration and our cells are starving for water. This is one reason for chronic illness.
You should be drinking half your body weight in ounces of water each day. For example: If you weigh 160lbs, you should be drinking 80oz of water each day.
That sounds like a lot but it is only 10 cups of water. (Think of a measuring cup used in baking instead of a big glass of water… a big glass of water may have 2 or 3 cups in it)
Drink more water and drink less sugary crap (the number one source of calories in the US.)
Decrease soda, juice and coffee and increase water intake.
Also, water is a powerful appetite suppressant and if you drink an 8-ounce glass of water when you first start feeling hungry, you will find that it suppresses your appetite in nearly every case. If you just drink a full glass of water and have the discipline to wait 10 minutes, you will find that your appetite is either completely gone or dramatically reduced.
Fat Doesn’t Make You Fat
In fact, fat is an extremely important missing ingredient from many of our diets.
There is a difference between good fats and bad fats and good fats help with the health of your cell membranes, your brain, your hormones and… they help your body burn stored fat and lose weight.
In the 80s, FAT became the enemy and the low-fat frenzy began. People were duped into believing that if your ice cream or your cookies were labeled ‘fat-free’, they couldn’t make you fat.
So everything became ‘Fat-Free’ or ‘Low-Fat’ and the calories that were being occupied by fat were replaced with carbohydrates.
As a result, and with much irony, the low fat frenzy of the late 80s and 90s made people fatter.
Despite this, many many people are still of the belief that ‘fat-free’ or ‘low-fat’ is a good thing.
In North America, we have more low fat foods and low fat diets than anywhere in the world and we have the highest rate of obesity.
So the rule for current day nutrition is: Eat Healthy Fats and Avoid Bad Fats.
Healthy fats include: Olive oil, fish oil, hempseed oil, flax and flax oil, avacados, nuts, seeds, chia Seeds, coconut and coconut oil, real butter, grass fed meats, free range chicken and eggs, fatty fish (pacific or wild salmon or small fish.)
Many of these fats are healthy saturated fats which were previously given an especially bad reputation but are actually good for you!
All the studies that link fat to disease never differentiated between healthy fats and bad fats.
Bad Fats are Trans Fats: These fats are damaged and cause inflammation in your arteries when ingested.
Cheap, low grade vegetable oils turn into trans fats when heated and shouldn’t be consumed. The worst fats are partially hydrogenated oils.
Examples are: soybean oil, corn oil, safflower oil, cottonseed oil, canola oil.
These oils are found in almost every processed food that we eat… so start reading labels. You will find them in margarine, breads, crackers, cookies, salad dressings, dips and spreads.
Decrease the Amount of Toxins and Chemicals You Put into your Body
We have talked in previous posts about the amount of toxicity that our bodies are exposed to on a regular basis. A huge contributor to this toxicity is our food.
Avoid processed foods as much as you can. They are full of chemicals used for preservation and enhanced taste. Start reading labels on everything you buy. If the ingredient list is super long and has a bunch of words that are difficult to understand… it’s not likely the product is very healthy.
For the best health, it’s time to get back to single ingredient foods… whole foods.
That said, we have to recognize that even our fruits and vegetables could be contributing to toxicity in our bodies.
Our systems of agriculture and how we produce food have evolved to a place where we can produce a whole bunch of food at once… but it isn’t necessarily the healthiest.
When fertilizing the soil that our food grows in, the main components of the fertilizer are 3 minerals: Nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium.
The challenge with that is that the soil requires over 50 different minerals to produce the healthiest and most nutritious food.
So, the soil is deficient.
When this happens, the plants that grow in it are also deficient and therefore weakened. They lose much of their natural defense against pests and diseases.
So the next step is to cover the plant in poisons such as pesticides, herbicides and fungicides to prevent the plant from dying and to increase yield.
The food that comes from these plants is now toxic as well as deficient… and that’s the food that ends up in your grocery store and on your family’s table.
So if we are constantly eating conventionally grown fruits and vegetables that are toxic and deficient… then we become toxic and deficient.
The big solution is that we need organic and sustainable systems of agriculture… and hopefully these things are coming.
In the mean time…
Choose organic whenever you can at the grocery store or head to your local farmers market and get to know the farmer that is growing your food. If you know your farmer… then you know your food.
Decrease the Amount of Sugar you Eat and Drink
This is big one. The big problem of why we are fat and sick as a culture.
Our hunter gatherer ancestors didn’t come across sweet things very often and when then did…
(Like finding berries or other sweetness in nature…)
…They would eat as much as possible because it was so rare to find it.
Our ancestors consumed a low amount of calories but a HUGE amount of nutrition. On top on this, they moved their bodies regularly as they worked to find food and survive.
Fast forward many many generations and now we live in a world where we sit still in a chair for much of our lives and we have access to MASSIVE amounts of calories but sadly, the calories we consume have very little nutrition.
And because our hunter gatherer ancestors bodies were designed to eat as much sweetness as possible… because it was so rare… we now can’t help ourselves.
If I taste something sweet… my taste buds, my nervous system, my brain are all yelling YES YES YES… give me more.
Our bodies are just not designed to handle so much sugar.
Sugar is the “Cocaine” of the food world… and most of us are highly addicted.
The average North American consumes 53 teaspoons of sugar every day!
In the US, the average person consumes approximately 150 pounds of sugars and sweeteners per year!
The number one source of all this sugar is soda pop. One third of dietary sugar comes from soft drinks.
The Average American consumes 55 Gallons of soda pop per year!
Most of us think of sugar as soda, candies, sweets and desserts… BUT… there is sugar in everything that is processed:
Pasta sauces, pizza, lunch meats, salad dressings, yogurt, soups, crackers, cereals, fruit drinks, ketchup, mayonnaise, canned foods and more.
There is even sugar in table salt!
Sugar is the primary cause of obesity, heart disease and cancer. It causes inflammation in the body and can lead to hormonal and metabolic imbalances. Sugar is the fast track to diabetes.
Sugar is an anti-nutrient and in fact, it is a poison that we ingest far too much of.
If you do any one thing to improve your health, reduce the amount of sugar that you put into your body!
Now, I’ve just said to reduce sugar… but that doesn’t mean you should replace it with an artificial sweetener. In my opinion, these chemicals are even worse than sugar!
Avoid anything that has an artificial sweetener in it. Aspartame (Nutrasweet), Sucralose (Splenda), Saccharin (Sweet’N Low), Acesulfame-K (Sunette or Sweet One) and Neotame should all be completely removed from the diet!
There are great natural sugar free ways to sweeten your foods that don’t risk your health like these chemicals!
Eat Less Grains (Especially Wheat)
This one is a hot topic right now as the book Wheat Belly by Dr. William Davis is all abuzz. He claims that weight loss and optimum health result when you ditch not just wheat but all grains from your diet, with people reporting astonishing accounts of overcoming everything from Crohn’s disease to mental illness.
I’ve been reading and reading a lot on this subject as I’ve had my own battles with Gastrointestinal troubles and I have to say that by eliminating wheat and other gluten containing grains from my diet… I’m doing much better.
Wheat is in EVERYTHING, so I would say that it’s a good idea to focus less on grains and more on great veggies, pasteured meats and eggs as well as healthy fats (remember… fat doesn’t make you fat)
Eat more whole raw fruits and vegetables!
As we discussed already, we need to eat more single ingredient foods. If possible they should be organic or from a local farmer so that you can find out how they’ve been grown.
So let’s wrap up our rules for the basics of nutrition:
- Drink more water.
- Eat more healthy fats and avoid bad fats.
- Decrease the toxins and chemicals you are eating.
- Decrease the sugar that you are eating.
- Decrease the amount of grains you are eating (especially gluten containing grains like wheat.)
- Eat more whole, organic, raw fruits and vegetables (more good stuff) Eat more single ingredient foods.
Dr. Peggy Malone is a Chiropractor and an Athlete who helps other athletes to overcome injury and get back to their sport. Her weekly Television Series 'Living Well" inspires people from all walks of life to take control of their health to be as happy and as healthy as they can be.
A former varsity Basketball and Rugby player, she has since entered the world of endurance athletics where she has completed 2 Ironman Triathlons, 3 Marathons, several Half Marathons and many other Triathlons, Road Races and Off-Road Adventure races of varying distances.
Her own athletic endeavors and injuries have given her valuable insight into working with athletes in her practice for both the care of injuries as well as for the improvement of athletic performance.