Sunday, March 4, 2007

Nutrition 101 / 7 Principles for Perfect Nutrition

The Principles

1. Cover the Bases / Give the body what it wants

Outside of advertising and food addictions, the body only wants what it needs, and it will scream until it gets it! Like a child, only when satisfied, is it peaceful. Cravings, and hunger pangs are all important players tied in to our self preservation mechanisms; they are there to keep us alive! They go away only when we are truly satisfied or dead. We must understand that the body requires both nutrients and calories, and that they frequently are not found together.

The biggest game going in food manufacturing today is that of providing lots of calories and no nutrition. By doing this, food companies are able to insure that we eat more, and in turn increase their profits. Remember the body wants what it needs. If we do not get the nutrients we need it does not matter how many calories we get, we will keep eating. If we do not get enough carbohydrate the body will hit us with cravings for sugar. Many Americans are deficient in essential fats, and likely have fat cravings as a result. When we restrict fat, all too often we just end up with worse cravings for it then before we started our diet. If we are deficient in vitamins or other nutrients we will generally be hungry all of the time.

These are the fundamental reasons why dieting doesn’t work. It is not so much an issue of excess, as it is an issue of deficiency. We have many overfed people in this country who are actually seriously malnourished. We are kept hungry. If we are focused on calories instead of nutrients, the tendency is to blame ourselves, for not burning enough calories. This sort of self blame frequently leads to emotional eating, otherwise known as eating disorders. All too often the responsibility is not that of weak will, but that of strong survival instincts responding to a food supply that is processed, cooked, packaged, preserved, re-cooked, void of anything but calories and dead. The best way to overcome this is by eating a wide variety of nutrient rich foods, and by following the second and third principles.

The second biggest game going in the world of commercial foods is addiction. This should come as no surprise considering the role tobacco companies now play in American food production. It probably does however come as a shocker that the biggest player in the world of addiction is actually the dairy industry. Yes, the dairy folks! All mammalian milk contains a substance to insure that the infant will stay with the mother for its food. These substances are called opioids, and are a close relative of opiates. The larger the animal the greater the concentration, in cow milk it is about 1/10th the potency of morphine. It is highly addictive. When we make cheese, we concentrate the casein which is where the stuff is found. It takes 40lbs. of milk to produce one pound of Cheddar, and 120lbs. to produce hard cheeses like Parmesan, Asiago, or Romano. That is the real power of cheese. It is good to know that casein has now become a popular food additive. It is now sprayed on chips and crackers, put in cakes, drinks and ice cream, and is even found in bread.

Combinations of fats and refined sugars are also highly addictive. Fast food menus and commercial food recipes take full advantage of this subtle chemistry.

Because the body requires primarily carbohydrates or sugars, nature was kind and dedicated the majority of our taste buds to sweet tasting. Enter commercial food interests, suddenly sugar is added to everything from bread to ketchup, and we are at their mercy. If you want something sweet make it count, eat a piece of pie. Overloading the diet with sugar from breads and other “hidden” sources makes less room for them when we would really like to enjoy a treat.

The carbohydrates we eat become the sugars in our blood. Blood sugar levels largely determine our energy levels. The main idea here is to maintain blood sugar levels by eating the right carbohydrates at the right time. Carbohydrate must be eaten with fiber. Think of fiber as a time-release for carbs. Without it we get too much too fast. Fruit is the ultimate source of carbs because the sugars are the same simple sugars the body uses, no conversion process or digestion required like there is with grains and other sources of complex carbohydrates. Fruit is also packed with fiber. All of it is. In my opinion the human diet should include huge amounts of fresh fruit .Because fruit is so simple, and so readily absorbed by the body, it is best to eat it in the A.M. before we put anything else in. If we do this we really maximize the benefits of fruit.

When planning our carbohydrate consumption it is important to consider the fact that complex carbohydrates, except for fruit, typically take hours to digest. Timing the consumption of fruits, grains, and legumes should allow us to avoid the low energy periods so commonly experienced during the day.

So how much protein, fat and carbohydrate does the body need? I can almost guarantee that this will come as a surprise. If we are not over or under consuming calories, on a daily basis, roughly 70-80 percent of calories are used as fuel, which means carbohydrate. 10-15% of calories should each come from proteins and fats. Working within these ratios is where I spend my time with athletes, as well as those with serious health issues. These ratios consistently produce stunning results.

2. Eat plant based.

There are growing lists of reasons to eat plant based foods. Science continues to pile up the evidence from just about every angle. Eating plant based foods means an automatic shift down the food chain. Eating further down the food chain gets us out of the way of the vast majority of environmental contaminants, which build up in the tissues and body fluids of animals. Plant based diets have been recognized as the indicated way to eat by biochemists, anatomists, physiologists, and yes even paleontologists. They all agree that human beings are anatomically, physiologically, and biochemically, plant eaters. Geneticists recently discovered that plant based eaters have overall the least DNA damage compared to other groups. The less damage to DNA, the less likely the opportunity for mutations, and in turn lessens the risk of cancer.

We have been able to look at foods under the microscope for many years. We have mixed them with our salivary fluids, our digestive enzymes and acids. We can see with our own eyes which foods respond best to the conditions in the human digestive tract. This is not somebody’s opinion, it is hard science. Even the American Dietetics Association*, that is the organization of professional dieticians in this country, recognizes and recommends the many benefits of a plant based diet.

Eating the foods which support the body optimally allows the body to perform at its best. The immune system, lymphatic system, cardiovascular system, digestive system, and every chemical reaction carried out by the body is going to be facilitated instead of impaired. I wish that I could share with you all of the first hand experiences that I have seen with my clients. Cancer patients, whose immune systems are wreckage, end up managing their disease by changing their food choices. These battered individuals not only bounce back faster, but also dramatically increase their odds of surviving.

Athletes also have a great deal to gain from eating according to our genetic design. When the body is given its preferred fuel and building materials, everything works better. Initially, for most there is an almost instant gain in energy. As the toxic burdens are lifted we begin to function better. Strength is gained more rapidly, recovery time is decreased, and there is even a dramatic overall decline in the requirements for calories, everything is more efficient. The food manufacturers love me for saying this too.

Eating lower on the food chain actually reduces the amount of toxins entering the environment as well as the body! Plant based agriculture also is a more efficient way to produce food, which means we can feed many, many more people.

3. Eat whole foods.

What are whole foods? Whole foods, as I define them, are foods that are exactly as nature made them. No processing, engineering, cooking, preserving, or in other words, untouched by man. This also means food must be cultivated using only wholesome methods. Healthy food has been proven to come from healthy soil. The closer we get to this the better off we will be. When making food choices we can look at things and take steps. What I mean is that when faced with a food choice between pastas for example, we need to look for the whole grain blended, whole grain, and finally whole grain organic, would be best. Further, instead of pasta, which is refined, choose a dish made from whole grains or legumes. Rice, beans, and lentils can be prepared in an infinite number of delicious ways. For ultimate health, try eating your grains and legumes in a sprouted state.

Whole foods are bursting with nutrients, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, all of which protect us from disease. The more we process foods the greater the overall depletion of nutrients. Also, when cooking foods we cause chemical reactions in them, some of which produce carcinogens. A good rule of thumb is the darker the brown the more carcinogens. In other words, golden brown potatoes are less harmful than dark brown or burnt potatoes. The higher the cooking temperature, the more toxins build up. Avoid burning food.

Freshness and ripeness count heavily also. When making food choices, it is best to buy local. Look for farmers markets in your area, and shop what is in season wherever you shop. Ask the produce manager at your grocery store what is in season. I can’t think of anything more delicious than fresh ripe produce, and there is also nothing more disappointing than biting into something that was picked green, to make it ship and store better, and tastes like cardboard. Some foods ripen after picking better than others, following your nose will guide you to your top picks.

Backyard gardens are the ultimate way to go because they can take a huge chunk out of the food budget, while providing the freshest possible source of whole foods. I encourage everyone to look into the opportunities presented by keeping a personal garden. Many communities offer cooperative gardening opportunities, and have space available for apartment dwellers. Depending on how many people the garden is feeding, it may still save significant money to hire a landscape company to install and maintain one. Do the math for yourself and then team up with neighbors if possible.

Remember that taste follows freshness. We are on a quest for the best possible tasting food too.

4. Minimize toxins

We have already learned that processing foods can add toxins to them, but what about other sources of toxins in the diet? Toxins enter the picture from both internal sources, such as overeating, or improperly eating otherwise healthy nutrients, and from external sources, such as environmental toxins.

Internal toxins frequently result from improperly eating one or more of the macronutrients, fats, proteins, or carbohydrates. This includes problematic cooking methods.

Over consumption of protein requires the body to carry out a process called deamination. This causes ammonia to build up in the system, and becomes a tremendous burden for the liver and kidney’s. Eskimos, bodybuilders and Atkins dieters consistently over consume protein and are all prone to kidney and liver disease because of this. It is important to know that too much protein in the diet also makes us very acidic, particularly animal proteins.

In the study of osteoporosis we have learned that exercise strengthens bones.
Athletes as a group, even though they get all of this exercise, have a greater depletion of bone mass compared to non athletes, and they nearly all tend to over consume protein. Is it a coincidence that most of our “fitness” magazines are owned by huge corporations which primarily engage in selling protein?

Refined sugar and fats lead to toxic buildup. Artificial colors, sweeteners, flavor enhancers and chemical preservatives should be avoided.

High heat cooking is best minimized. Steaming, boiling and simmering are better picks compared to deep frying, broiling, etc. Animal flesh contains potentially carcinogenic compounds which can actually increase one's risk of developing breast and other cancers. The compounds in questions, heterocyclic amines, are produced during the cooking process of many animal products, including chicken, beef, pork, and fish. Meat that is cooked under normal conditions, which may involve grilling, frying, and oven-broiling, produce large quantities of these mutagens, though the effect does not appear to be the same for soy-based foods, which produce little or no carcinogens upon cooking.

In April 2002, scientists in Sweden discovered unexpectedly large amounts of the chemical acrylamide in foods rich in starch, which had been cooked at high temperatures. These included crackers, potato chips, bread and crisp breads. Acrylamide is known to cause cancer in animals and its presence in some foods may harm human health.

Food choices that may be good sources of nutrients on the one hand, may also be providing nutrients that the body would prefer not to ingest on the other. Good examples of these are cheeseburgers and steaks. Both supply fat, protein, iron, vitamin A, some B vitamins, Folic Acid, phosphorus, and the cheese, bun, condiments, and vegetables on the burger contain calcium, carbohydrate and fiber. However, these foods also contain uric acid, cholesterol, highly saturated fats, highly refined carbohydrates, viruses, bacteria and they break down in the system in ways that result in even more toxins forming.
Better choices would include soy products, beans, lentils, and meat analogs or veggie burgers. Black beans and kidney beans have about the same amount of protein per ounce as beef, but unlike beef they are low in fat, and also contain fiber, healthy carbohydrates, calcium, phosphorous, and have twenty five times the amount of folic acid as beef.

Environmental toxins are increasingly risky. Since up to 90% of cancer results from these toxins it is critical to know how to protect ourselves from them. The number one way for these chemicals to enter our bodies, except in extreme, rare cases, is through the foods we eat. Not from polluted air, or water, but FOOD.

Toxins build up in the food chain through a process known as bio-accumulation. Animals, including you and me, live in toxic environments, drink polluted water, and eat feed that has been grown using all types of hormones, petro-chemicals, and antibiotics. As animals are raised for slaughter they are exposed to some of the most toxic environments on earth, and continuously ingest pollutants. Depending on the lifespan of the animal we can be exposed to years of toxic buildup with every bite. This issue is made worse by the fact that in the U.S. we are still feeding slaughter house waste back to the animals, thus increasing the buildup of poisons exponentially.

Nowhere is this seen more prevalently than in fish populations. This should come as no surprise since the fish live in the water, and everything, and I mean everything, tends to end up there. It is especially bad when we look at the fact that the fish which are often eaten by humans are the large predatory fish. Large predator fish live on smaller predator fish, and so forth. This means that we get pollutants in unbelievable concentrations. Some of the most recent “fish findings” include rocket fuel solids, fire retardants, and entire populations unable to reproduce properly because bio-active feedlot hormones in the water are causing them to swap gender traits. In simpler terms, males taking on female traits and visa versa are making it difficult for the fish to reproduce. The real question here is if the hormones remain bioactive and effect fish, are they also affecting humans?

The threat of bio-accumulation is not isolated; it is prevalent in all animal foods, including dairy products. Plant foods on the other hand are different. Even though plants are exposed to all kinds of environmental toxins there are mechanisms built into them that prevent them from entering the plant. In the simplest terms, roots and leaves act as natural filters, they basically only take in what they are supposed to and nothing else. Obtaining our foods from these sources removes the largest exposure to toxins in our world, it is that simple. It is worth mentioning that the amount of poisonous residue that we might find on the outside of non organic foods is still a tiny fraction compared to the amounts found in animal foods. It is not even a comparison worth making.

The most toxic foods in the food chain are animal flesh, and animal body fluid foods. Specifically, beef, chicken, pork, salmon, tuna, lamb, yogurt, milk, cheese, butter, eggs, etc. I am not saying that everyone must give all of these foods up. I am saying that steps we can easily take away from these foods lead only to other equally, if not more pleasurable, food choices. The more we fill our plates with these new delights, the less room there will be for those delights that may be perilous.

5. Maximize cleansing.

Toxins moving out of the body are just as critical as those flowing in. From the dietary and soluble fiber that keeps our colon and blood clean, to antioxidants and phyto, or plant, compounds that clean out our cells, and protect us from disease, they all come from plant foods.

We have probably all heard about the legendary antioxidant content of blueberries, and pomegranates. But, how many of us are aware that when it comes to the antioxidant content of foods, blueberries and strawberries are actually quite low on the list. Herbs, especially fresh herbs, have many times the quantities of antioxidants in comparison, and spices have even more than herbs. Cinnamon is at the top of the list. Something to remember is that when it comes to the antioxidants in foods, the richer the color the richer the antioxidant content. In fact the colors are the antioxidants. Shopping by color is a great way to go.

The easiest & most delicious way I know to boost antioxidant levels is to sprinkle cinnamon on my fruit, and chop fresh herbs like, basil and oregano, directly into my salads and other foods. Be sure to check the listing of antioxidant super-foods in the resource section of this book.

Periodic cleansing regimens are marvelous for the body. Two gentle cleansing protocols are included in the resource guide

6. Keep the body’s pH balanced.

Maintaining proper pH is one of the body’s fundamental requirements. Cancer loves acidity. It is a crucial element in its ability to survive and reproduce. Acidity is also associated with calcium loss and the depletion of bone mass. For these and many other reasons paying attention to ones pH, or parts hydrogen, is a great idea.

Nothing impacts our pH more than diet. Over consuming protein shifts us to acidity, or acidosis. Acidosis results from eating refined sugar, drinking soda, coffee, and alcohol. Smoking also causes acidosis. On average, including vegetarians, Americans consume 3 times too much protein every day. We drink soda by the 64oz portion, and we drink coffee like there is no tomorrow. Is it any wonder that we have cancer rates in this country which are epidemic? When we stop to consider how we load our bodies with foods that contain carcinogenic toxins, and add that to chronic acidosis, there should be much less mystery in the issue of cancer.

Generally raw fruits and vegetables, including sprouts, are alkalizing, while cooked foods tend to form acids. Fresh wheat grass juice is one of the most alkalizing foods available, one or two ounces per day will generally balance pH rapidly.

7. Take a break

Fasting is an important principle we cannot forget. Food producers hate me for this!

The body loves a good rest. It is much more than just sleep that the body thrives from. Once a week fasting (24 hrs) is fantastic! Once per month is ok. There is a lot to be said for regularly fasting. It can be used as an ongoing tonic as previously mentioned, or it can be used as a powerful intervention tool.

Juicing is often incorporated into fasting regimens. While providing a nice rest for the organs, we are able to alkalize and flood the body with nutrients and disease fighting antioxidants. Juicing is very powerful.

Medically supervised fasting has been recognized even by mainstream HMO’s as part of a preferred treatment plan for high blood pressure, which also includes a plant-based diet following the fast. HMO’s like this approach because it means no medications, simply put, it’s cheaper. Patients love it because it means they will not die from the complications which frequently result from a lifetime of meds.

An annual thorough cleanse, in addition to quarterly cleanses helps the body maintain optimum energy and immunity. During a fast is a great time to cleanse. While the organs are resting and not busy with their usual activity, cleansing measures are maximized. Fasting and cleansing can require considerable effort, if we are going to do it, we might as well get as much out of it as possible.

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