Posts Tagged ‘Stress-free diet’

Why do we need dietary supplements?

Thursday, May 10th, 2012

Even if we eat pretty well?

whole food supplements1. We tend to eat based on what we prefer, and our preference is often based on flavor and convenience rather than on nutrient richness. Basically, this is a result of affluence; we have many choices to choose from, rather than just what’s available locally and seasonally. (It is one of our culture’s ironies that local seasonal food has become the most expensive, but greater demand is helping to make it more affordable.)

2. Grain-based (even whole-grain-based) diets are relatively low in nutrition. This is more pronounced when the primary grain has been refined. Bagels, pretzels, muffins, chips, bread, cereals, crackers, etc. are very filling, but provide relatively little nutrition. We are no longer eating high-nutrient foods in necessary quantities for optimum cell health. A tuna salad with 4 oz. of tuna is more nutrient-dense than a tuna sandwich.

3. Toxic exposure (sunscreen, fragrances, cosmetics, hair color, smog, cleaning products, outgassing from new carpets, paints, plastics, and construction materials, pesticides, etc.) requires specific nutrients, both to help the liver detoxify, and then to combine with the toxins to help them eliminate from the system.

At time of birth, babies born in the U.S. have an average of 200 foreign chemicals in their bodies. African-American babies can have up to 10 times that amount in their bodies.*

4. Pharmaceuticals and over-the-counter drugs such as Ibuprofin and antacids, disturb our acid/base balance, which reduces the break-down of food and absorption of nutrients. They also can cause inflammation of our intestinal lining, leading to malabsorption and food sensitivities. Antibiotics wipe out many species of “friendly” bacteria essential for digestion. With compromised digestion, fewer nutrients are absorbed.

5. Soil in the U.S. has been heavily depleted of nutrients due largely to the practices of agribusiness. Mineral content in 1992 was found to be 85% depleted from 100 years previously. Organic farming restores nutrients to the soil, and is one reason to buy organic whenever possible. But, most of us eat out at least two meals per week with the U.S. average five meals out per week. It’s rare that restaurants serve organic foods.

6. Fad diets such as low fat, and other restrictive diets like vegan and raw food diets, further challenge our intake of essential nutrients.

7. A body suffering from inflammation, which occurs in cases of all chronic pain or disease, requires more of many nutrients than a healthy body in order to regain complete health. We each create billions of new cells every day. What we choose to feed them, over time, has the power to make dramatic positive changes in our health.

8. We have forgotten the importance of organ meats and have almost entirely excluded them from our diet. Many of us also avoid fermented foods, and end up with dysbiosis (an imbalance of essential bacteria), which then puts extra nutritional burdens on us.
Even if we are eating well now (mostly organically grown single-ingredient food), exercising regularly, hydrating, thinking happy thoughts, and getting some exposure to sunlight, we might need extra nutrition for a time to correct for past actions and restore the body’s optimum health.

More things to consider

Resist buying inexpensive dietary supplements at discount outlets and drugstores! Most of these are synthesized in laboratories by pharmaceutical companies. They are not food. In the long run, they can do your body more harm than good. Please use only high quality whole food supplements.

Prolonged nutrient deficiencies can lead to a myriad of health conditions, such as fatigue, memory loss, migraines, and heart disease.

If you want to achieve or maintain optimum health, seek the advice of a nutrition-savvy health care provider who can help you before problems arise.

Easy, stress-free diet

Wednesday, October 20th, 2010

Take control of your own healthBy ‘stress-free’ I am referring both to the stress we feel trying to decide how to eat, and also to the stress we experience that results from an imbalanced diet.

The U.S. is undergoing a collective eating disorder. Food has been frozen, freeze-dried, canned, fried, genetically modified, sugared, salted, stripped of nutrients, dyed, preserved, sprayed, radiated, and transported long distances. And much of it this food is labeled ‘natural,’ ‘organic,’ and marketed to us by national corporations who are taking advantage of the fact that most of us are so bewildered by the myriad of choices, misinformation, and doctors’ warnings, that we haven’t a clue anymore about what to have for breakfast.

If you are interested in this topic, and in how our country reached this point, I highly recommend reading The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan. According to Pollan, one of the reasons we are so susceptible to unhealthy marketing influences is because we are a country of very diverse peoples, lacking a cohesive food tradition.

Eating well is really quite simple

The hard part is letting go of some of the unhealthy habits we have become addicted to. In a nutshell, focus on local, fresh vegetables, fish, eggs, meats and legumes, and buy organic whenever possible. Shop at your local co-op, farmers markets, and/or have weekly fresh produce delivered directly to your home from local farms. Limit carbohydrates, especially refined. (See ‘Notes on Carbohydrates,’ below.) And don’t forget to drink water.

If you can afford just a few organic foods, you can refer to the Environmental Working Group’s ‘Dirty Dozen’ list to prioritize: Organic foods are pricier, but this is an investment in your health, and in the health of our agricultural practices for future generations. Cooking more often at home, buying grains, lentils and spices in bulk, planning meals so you buy only what you need, and saying ‘no’ to the muffin at the coffee shop, will all help to keep costs down.

If you are concerned about genetically modified foods, purchase only organically grown corn, soy and potatoes and products made from these foods. If the ethical treatment of farm animals is a priority for you and your family, talk to the meat purchaser at your local health food store, research the farms and ranches they contract with, and definitely purchase eggs from small, local farmers.

If you wish to support small, local food producers in general, here is an interesting reference

Minimize stress by understanding how to eat

  • Eat only when you are hungry.
  • Give your brain time to recognize and respond to your food—CHEW and BREATHE. A crucial part of proper digestion is one we have complete control of—that’s the part that takes place in the mouth. (If you often forget to chew, ask me to tell you a story that will help you remember.)
  • You can not digest food under stress. Do not eat under stress, such as at a business meeting, while working at your desk, while watching a suspenseful or gory TV show, while talking on the phone or listening to the news. Do not eat in a hurry. Try not to eat while standing. Sit with your food, and consider all the work it took to create this food and bring it to your plate.
  • Eat some raw, fresh food with each meal and incorporate fermented foods.
  • Eat nuts raw (soak almonds overnight) and limit or avoid peanuts.
  • Limit caffeine to the morning.
  • Limit the following: hot pepper, deep-fried and oily foods, grains, especially refined.
  • Stay hydrated.

If you have chronic digestive distress, and/or low energy, also try the following:

  • Eat smaller, more frequent meals.
  • Eat desserts, fruit and starches (carbohydrates) alone, or 30 minutes before, or 2 hours after a meal. The fewer of these you eat, especially refined carbohydrates (bagels, bread, muffins, pretzels, cake, cookies…) the more energy you will have. You digestion will probably also improve. (See ‘Notes on Carbohydrates,’ below.)
  • Eliminate iced drinks and cold foods (like ice cream).
  • Common over-the-counter herbal remedies for indigestion include DGL (licorice extract), fennel, digestive bitters, and digestive enzymes derived from pineapple or papaya.
  • The pH levels of our entire digestive track are often at unhealthy levels when chronic digestive problems are present. This situation is exacerbated by antacids. Your natural health practitioner or nutritionist can help you restore proper pH levels, which are essential for healthy digestion. They can also check for parasites.
  • If you have a hiatal hernia, in addition to all the above, there are certain herbs to avoid (such as peppermint), and simple exercises that can help.
  • Be sure you do see your doctor to rule out any serious problem, or if the above steps do not improve your condition.

A note on food allergies

Many food allergies are not true allergies, but sensitivities brought on by an inflamed colon. Often, the colon has become inflamed by courses of antibiotics and/or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medicine, such as ibuprofen. In an inflamed condition, protein strands that normally are further broken down by the gut, leak out into the bloodstream. The immune system reacts to these as foreign particles. This condition is referred to as ‘Leaky Gut Syndrome,’ Your natural health practitioner can help you heal from LGS. Click here to read Dr. Andrew Weil giving introductory information about LGS.

Notes on carbohydrates, oils and supplements

Carbs: Reduce or eliminate simple, processed, and fried carbs. These include sugar (‘organic cane juice’), pizza, most cereals, pastas, bread, muffins and baked goods, fries, pretzels, soda, chips. Gradually shift your carbs to favor root vegetables such as sweet potatoes, winter squash, and whole grains such as brown and wild rice, quinoa, millet, kasha, steel cut oats, and bulghar wheat. Incorporate some lentils and beans. You can try mixing these in combo, such as a little quinoa in with the rice. Cook rice in broth instead of water to increase flavor. Rice and lentil salads are great in summer.  Try to eat twice as many vegetables as fruits. Use dried fruit, barley malt, stevia, raw honey, xylitol and raw agave syrup sparingly as sweeteners.

Avoid anything that lists “sugar” as an ingredient.  “Sugar” is now entirely GMO beet sugar.

Cooking Oils: Use butter, ghee, cold processed grape seed or coconut oil for cooking, or another oil with a high burning temperature (smoke point). Virgin olive oil is best used raw, although it does not break down at gentle cooking temperatures. Avoid canola oil. The name comes from CANadian Oil Low Acid, a low-erucic acid (a suspected carcinogen) oil extracted from genetically modified rapeseed. (According to: Rape (Brassica napus), a member of the mustard family, is listed in the Encyclopedia Britannica as a poisonous plant with toxic effects which include pulmonary emphysema, respiratory distress, anemia, constipation, irritability and blindness in cattle.)

Foods balanced in EFAs, or essential fatty acids or that are highest in Omega 3 fatty acids include sardines, wild salmon (avoid farmed), black cod, walnuts, avocados, eggs, extra-virgin olive oil, and flax seed.

Supplements: Another quagmire of misleading and misinformed marketing ploys. My strongest suggestion is that if you do self-prescribe nutritional supplementation, be sure that the primary ingredients are concentrated whole food sources (words you recognize), an opposed to fractionated vitamin isolates or synthetic vitamins (mostly made by pharmaceutical companies, with chemical-sounding names like “ascorbic acid”). If you live in Seattle or the Northwest, the next time you get a blood test, ask for a vitamin D assay. If you are taking a salmon oil supplement that does not specifically state that the source is wild, it is most likely from farmed salmon.

After all those guidelines, my strongest suggestion is for you not to get overly-concerned by what you are eating! There are times for celebrating, where the focus of a meal is on enjoyment and friendship. Other times, such as while traveling, your food choices can be limited. And we can’t always afford the highest quality foods. Guilt is bad for the digestion!

Be gentle to yourself and to others.

The rock of Chinese Medicine dietary advice is All things in moderation. The most we can aim for is being conscious of all the choices we make. If you are motivated to read about recommended foods for specific health issues, here are two good books which are great resources with helpful indexes:

Healing With Whole Foods by Paul Pitchford incorporates Eastern medical philosophy.

The Truth about Vitamins and Minerals by Judith deCava

Illustration by Denise Anderson as featured originally in the Odiyan Country Cookbook.