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THE PERFECT DIET
Is there a perfect diet? In my opinion, no. My philosophy gravitates towards balance. On the surface, there are reasonable ideas supporting each faddish diet. Unfortunately, most of these diets have their downside after the desired effect has worn off. Some diets preach fruit only in the morning; others no carbohydrates and high protein; some say vegetarian or vegan is ideal. Clearly, this can be confusing. There is a lot of misinformation that in my opinion distorts the truth most of us seek.
There are circumstances where each of the above diets can be useful but when followed in a unbalanced way, they are potentially harmful.. For instance, the vegan whose diet consists of a high percentage of refined carbohydrates - such as colas, and bagels or even too much organic brown rice - can develop some serious symptoms such as insulin resistance, which has been linked to the development of diabetes and other serious diseases.
My approach is to bring common sense solutions to each patient situation. Often I will ask a patient to fill out a diet diary for one week and see where there may be room for improvement. One person might be abusing sugar and coffee, another dairy, and another animal protein. All might lack enough fiber. No matter what a diet consists of, it is unusual for all the requirements to be met. Supplementation usually is necessary despite our best intentions.
From a historical perspective, mankind ate a hunter/gatherer diet with the emphasis on gathering for most of human history. The agrarian period and the cultivation of grains is a relatively recent development. For some people, their genetics are less adapted or not adapted to grains. I often find patients with sensitivity to gluten, a protein fraction found in wheat, rye, barley, oats, and spelt. A recent book, Eating Right 4 Your Blood Type talks about this connection.
I will recommend seven ideas that will simplify the subject.
(1) Eat nutrient dense foods.
What I mean by this is eat foods that have low calories and lots of nutrients. If two people have diets that contain 2000 calories, one person might obtain those calories from sugar in their two to three coffees per day, doughnuts, bagels, cookies, etc... There would be lots of calories but little nutrition. Another person might have the same calories in a given day but obtain them from fresh salads, beans, steamed vegetables, limited animal protein, nuts, etc.... Obviously, all calories are not equal and you will get more bang for the buck if you are less like the first person and more like the second.
(2) Eat unadulterated and unrefined foods.
The more we mess with food, the less nutritious it becomes. Anything that is packaged with a catchy decorative logo or design is usually an inferior food choice. Cooking also destroys some of the good things in foods. I am not saying that we should only eat raw foods but at least some of our diet should include raw fruits and vegetables. Raw foods contain enzymes that assist in our digestive process.
(3) Shorter shelf life = Better nutritional value.
If it cannot spoil, then there is nothing in it worth eating. For example, refined flour, used to produce most breads and baked goods, lacks the fiber and nutrients contained in unrefined, whole grains. The nutrients in whole grains are perishable. Without them, products have a much longer shelf life. This is why a package of white flour can sit on a grocery shelf for an indefinite period of time without spoiling.
(4) Eat colorful foods.
Eating foods of different color is pleasing both to your eyes and your health. Research shows that different antioxidants are found in yellow foods, red foods, green foods, etc... The variety of nutrients helps strengthen our immune system in many ways.
(5) Eat some fat.
We need fat in our diets. Some estimates say that up to thirty percent of our calories should be from fat. Fat is needed for the production of all hormones. Some fat in the diet helps us feel satiated when we eat. This allows us to feel full and stop eating. Without this feeling we may overeat and consume too many calories.
Keep in mind that there are different kinds of fat. If all your fat comes from animal products and shellfish, you are eating too much unhealthy saturated fats. You may want to eat less of those foods and more avocados, walnuts, olive oil and fresh fish that contain healthy unsaturated fats. Research is showing that saturated fat has more of a pro-inflammatory effect in the body whereas unsaturated fat has an anti-inflammatory effect. The medical term for inflammation is the suffix "-itis." This is Latin for inflammation of whatever the prefix is. If the diagnosis is colitis, then it means inflammation of the colon. If the diagnosis is sinusitis, that means inflammation of the sinuses. As you can see, there is a lot of inflammation contributing to ill health. If you are a sufferer of an "-itis" then taking steps to reduce the inflammatory process is a good thing.
It is also important to avoid
false fats such as hydrogenated fats. These are man-made, adulterated fats
that increase the cholesterol production within the body.
Coconut oil is a fat that evidence is showing can be beneficial to us in many ways. Previously it was viewed in a negative way because of it being a saturated fat, and therefore it was lumped in with the spurious claims that saturated fats were bad for us. However, recent evidence most recently popularized by the late Dr. Robert Adkins, is now pointing to the idea that saturated fats have little to do with the onset of heart disease. For additional reading material here is a link that you can read more about this controversial subject. http://www.ravnskov.nu/cholesterol.htm
Interestingly, coconut oil is made of medium chain fatty acids where animal fat and other polyunsaturated fat is made up of long chain fatty acids. The breakdown of coconut oil is this: 48% Lauric Acid, 8% Caprylic Acid, and 7% Capric Acid. These fatty acids act as anti-viral, and anti-fungal agents in our body. There are many other benefits as well to coconut oil that you can research online.
(6) Eat Fiber.
Most people do not eat enough fiber. One of the first books to address its importance was The Save Your Life Diet by David Reuben MD in 1975. In his book, Dr. Reuben documents how the high fiber diets of primitive societies can be a useful deterrent for many illness of modern society. James Anderson, author of Diabetes, a Practical Guide to Healthy Living, took 20 non-obese men who were insulin dependent (that is, injected themselves with insulin) and gave them 65 grams of fiber per day. After 16 days, the average cholesterol went down from 206 to 147. The insulin needed was reduced from an average of 31 units to 16 units. Eleven out of the twenty participants discontinued insulin injections completely. One hundred percent of the participants showed clinical benefits and the benefits continued at home when following the same program.
(7) Be aware of your special needs.
(a) Avoid foods that you are sensitive to.
Some people know from experience
which foods they need to avoid. If you have a lot of sensitivities, then
chances are you need to do some cleansing work. In addition to gluten, the
foods that people are most often sensitive to are dairy, sugar, corn, eggs
and caffeine. An excessive amount of any of these foods in a diet will cause
different symptoms. Children with chronic ear infections usually need to
remove one or more of the above foods from their diet. The same would be
true of adults with irritable bowel disease.
Gluten is a major allergen but for most people (and doctors) it was only associated with intestinal difficulties and specifically with a disease called Celiacs Disease. Recent research is now discovering what has long been suspected by those in Functional Medicine showing that Gluten can be one of the triggers in developing many autoimmune diseases. An excellent article was published in Scientific American in August of 2009 on Gluten where it gave the most up to date information about the mechanisms of how gluten can be the initiator of immune dysfunctions such as Rheumatoid Arthritis, Multiple Sclerosis, Type 1 diabetes and Crohn’s disease. To view this article click here: http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=celiac-disease-insights
(b) Be aware of food combining principles.
This is important if you tend to have a lot of bloating or gas after eating. According to food combining principles, it is better to eat certain combinations of food at the same time. Look at the figure below. The rule is: Where there is a line you can combine.
(8) Eat consciously.
What does it mean to eat with a conscience? I have divided this into four ideas.
The following websites listed here will help you to make better choices for buying safe fish, local produce, and foods with lower amounts of pesticides if you donít always eat organic.
There are many fish that are being overly fished and are now in dangerously low populations. Many have been proven to have higher levels of toxins such as mercury. If you consume fish good choices to make for yourself and the planet can be seen at the following website.
http://www.localharvest.org/ Where to find local goodies
http://www.eatwellguide.org/i.php?id=Home Another site for locally grown food
http://www.foodroutes.org/ More information on locally grown food
Some foods are more likely to have higher amounts of pesticides.This list is provided by the Environmental Working Group www.ewg.org
|12 Least contaminated foods||12 most contaminated foods
Recommended to buy organic
Here is a complete listing of the Test Results of the fruits and vegetables with the most pesticide residue to the least pesticide residue.
Sweet Bell Peppers
According to the Environmental Working Group (E.W.G), washing and rinsing may decrease exposure but it doesn’t eliminate exposure. Peeling fruits and vegetables may do more but then you are losing valuable nutrients.
Michael Pollen has written two books recently An Omnivore’s Dilemma, and In Defense of Food. These two books were about the growing need and importance to eat more locally grown foods, and the problems with industrial farming. Some of these ideas were highlighted in two NY Times Magazine articles listed here.
Go to Resources and Links for recommended books.