Diet is the foundation of health! You are what you eat, what you absorb and what you don’t excrete. Profitability drives our society and it, not your nutritional health, is the key motivating force behind the food industry. Many high-sugar, high salt, and high-fat foods are intensely marketed and often, the advertising influence of companies impacts our diet and health more than information from health professionals. As food technology has continued to advance, shelf life has replaced health life. Technological developments have provided benefits, but most often I find the time-saving, mass processing of food is not in the best interest of nutrition.
Many diets consist of a high intake of red meat, saturated fat, sodium and alcohol; such a diet provides less nutrition per calorie consumed than does a wholesome diet of natural foods. The decreased consumption of vegetables and complex carbohydrates means a lower intake of vitamins, minerals and fiber. Research has linked many well known diseases (i.e. obesity, cardiovascular disease, kidney disease, diabetes, autoimmune diseases, cancer, behavioural problems, mental health issues) with poor diet. Perhaps you don’t consider yourself as being at risk for developing a serious disease, yet you experience the following symptoms: fatigue, headaches, mood swings, indigestion, constipation, skin problems, menstrual discomfort and weight problems. These symptoms not only interfere with your ability to fully enjoy life, they are early warning signs for future problems. Eating a healthy diet can improve these complaints, as well as, protect you against serious disease. The following effects are experienced when you make a consistent effort to eat well: more energy, decreased cravings, better digestion, improved concentration, increased ability to handle stress, glowing hair, skin and nails and painless menstrual periods. Prevention is the best medicine and as Hippocrates, the father of medicine, said: “Let food be your medicine and medicine be your food”.
When it comes to food and eating right, I find many people are unclear about how to read food labels and what “types” of food to eat. Here is what I explain to my patients:
- There are three macromolecules: fat, protein and carbohydrates. All three are important to our well-being.
- Each macromolecule can be divided into two “micro-molecule” categories:
- fat = saturated “bad” fat and polyunsaturated “good” or “essential” fat
- protein = non-essential and essential amino acids
- carbohydrates = refined and complex carbohydrates
- The idea is to eat more of the essential fats and proteins, as well as complex carbohydrates and limit the “bad” foods. We need to do this because our body cannot make these essential foods. That is why they are “essential” and we must get them from our diets or nature. The easiest way to do this is to shop only around the perimeter of the grocery store. Or if you must go up and down the aisles, choose boxed, canned or processed foods with 5 or less ingredients. When you are reading ingredients, start from the bottom of the list and read backwards. If there are many fancy words that you have never heard of – this should be your first warning sign that maybe this food isn’t such a good idea. You want your food to fuel you and satisfy your hunger, not burden your organs of detoxification and fill up your fat cells. It is also very important to chew your food thoroughly. I am finding that in our “fast food nation” many people forget that the digestive process actually starts in the kitchen with the sense of smell when we are cooking our food. This sense of smell triggers our brain and sends the message to our stomach that food is coming. The stomach, in turn, starts secreting all the digestive enzymes we need to adequately process our food so that it can be broken down into micronutrients or “fuel” that our body needs to survive.
- The next challenge for patients is really a simple math equation. Food is measured in calories, but listed on labels as calories per gram. So, for the three macronutrients, you need to remember two numbers: 9 calories/gram for fats and 4 calories/gram for protein and carbohydrates. The problem with nutrition labels is that they list total calories as a percentage of daily value, but many of us have a different “daily value”.
- My daily value for the three food groups is a balance of 30% complex carbohydrates, 30 % protein (ensuring more essential proteins) and 30% essential polyunsaturated fat (primarily omega 3) and the rest of my daily calories comes from “fun” foods. What this means is that if you want to eat an energy bar and the label reads as follows:
|Label||Actual Calories Consumed||Food Nutrients|
|Fat 11 grams
– sat fat 1.5 g
– trans fat 0 g
|11 grams of fat X 9 calories/gram = 99 calories from fat (most of this fat is the “good” or essential fat. This is a good thing.)||99 calories/243 total calories = 40.7%|
|Carbs 29 g
– Fibre 2 g
– Sugars 14 g
|29 grams of carbs X 4 calories/gram = 116 calories from carbs||116 calories/243 total calories = 47.7%|
|Protein 7 g||7 grams of protein X 4 calories/gram = 28 calories||28 calories/243 total calories = 11.6%|
The questions you have to ask yourself are: 1) Does this food choice fit into my overall eating objective? and 2) Will this food choice help me reach my goal? Even though this energy bar does not break down into the perfect ratio of 30-30-30, it meets my other food criteria: high in essential fats, high in complex carbohydrates, ingredients I understand and most importantly – I like this energy bar! In summary, my top seven tips for feeding your body what it needs includes the following:
- Eat a good breakfast and don’t skip meals: It is important to have a small amount of protein (nuts, eggs, and yogurt) and a variety of fruit and hearty whole grains for breakfast in order to carry you through until lunch time. If you skip a meal, you increase the likelihood that you will be excessively hungry later in the day and more likely to eat too much of the “wrong” type of food.
- Eat slowly: take at least 20 minutes to eat a meal as it takes this long for your stomach to send the “full” message to your brain. By rushing your meals, you can eat too much before you realize you are satisfied.
- Shop smart: Nutritious foods are found around the perimeter of grocery stores, not in boxes in the food aisles. Do not go shopping when you are hungry and avoid buying obvious high-fat junk foods. Learn to read labels and do not buy items that have the following words listed as ingredients: refined, sugar, glucose, sucrose, hydrogenated, high fructose corn syrup, sugar alcohols (sorbitol, xylitol, mannitol) and artificial sweeteners (saccharin, aspartame, Nutrasweet, Equal).
- Prepare for times of weakness: recognize times or events that signal you to eat, such as an argument, hard day at work, talking on the phone, watching TV, being bored. Plan activities that don’t involve food for these times, such as exercising, taking a long bath or reading a good book.
- Be your own best friend: if your friend makes a mistake, you don’t call them a failure or tell them to give up. If you stray from your eating plan, don’t be hard on yourself. Treat each lapse as temporary, not a sign of failure. Simply resume your program and don’t look back.
- Drink plenty of water (filtered with minerals remaining): water flushes toxins from your body and helps keep your appetite under control
- Exercise: You put on weight if your daily caloric consumption exceeds your caloric expenditure. By exercising, we influence an important part of the weight formula – so let’s get moving!!!
Contact us at 587-521-3595 to get your health on track today!