Our bodies utilize food to fuel our function. Some food choices can improve our body’s ability to function and can help us maintain optimal health. Awareness and understanding the principles of nutrition is often the first step in making better nutritional choices. Have fun experimenting with foods for taste and nutrition. One problem we all face is the challenge of sifting through varied, contradictory and controversial information about food choices. Two recent articles caught my eye and seemed worthy of sharing.
Top 10 Nutrition Facts That Everyone Agrees on was posted on AuthorityNutrition.com by Kris Gunnars on April 1, 2013 and has had nearly 60,000 views. Another article titled “Your Food Pharmacy” appeared in the magazine SUSTAINABLE YOU 2013 published by Spirituality & Health
AuthorityNutrition.com – a site that helps people make informed decisions about their health based on the best scientific evidence available.
1. Added Sugar is a Disaster
Added sugar (sucrose and high fructose corn syrup) contains empty calories and a diet rich in added sugar may leave us deficient in nutrients from other sources. .
There are other, much more serious dangers of sugar that are now reaching mainstream attention.
Sugar, primarily in the form of high fructose corn syrup is increasingly being linked to the onset of Type II Diabetes , Childhood Obesity and Heart Disease. We are narrowing in on the mechanisms by which fructose causes such wide spread harm.
According to Kris Gunnars, “fructose is metabolized strictly by the liver, over time causing non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, insulin resistance, elevated triglycerides, abdominal obesity and high cholesterol (4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9). Then fructose makes our brains resistant to a hormone called leptin, which effectively makes our brains WANT to get fat (10, 11, 12). This way, eating an excess of added sugars sets up a relentless biochemical drive in the brain to keep eating sugar, getting fatter and eating even more sugar.”
2. Omega-3 Fats Are Important
Omega-3 fatty acids are important nutrients. or proper functioning of the human body. They are present in our brains and deficiencies can be “… associated with a lower IQ, depression, various mental disorders, heart disease and many other serious diseases (14).”
We obtain Omega-3 fats in the form of ALA (plant sources that are metabolized into DHA and EPA) and DHA and EPA (directly from animal sources including fish, grass-fed meat, Omega-3 enriched eggs, or fish oil). It appears that our ability to convert ALA to DHA and EPA has its limits and therefore, it may be helpful for non-vegetarians to secure Omega-3 fatty acids from animal sources. For vegetarians, it may be important to pay attention to the ratio of other long chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA).
There is some evidence that this conversion process is ineffective in humans (15).
3. No Perfect Diet For Everyone
According to Kris Gunnars, “We are all unique… and subtle differences in genetics, body type, culture and environment can affect which type of diet we should eat.”
Try experimenting to determine what is the best diet for you. Be alert for things you enjoy and are likely to stick with as you develop a sensible diet for yourself.
4. AVOID Artificial Trans Fats
Trans fats are created by adding hydrogen atoms to allow unsaturated fats to take on the qualities of saturated fats. Decades ago the myth arose that saturated fats were inherently evil and caused heart disease. Trans fats or partially hydrogenated oils “… raise the bad cholesterol and lower the good cholesterol, contribute to abdominal obesity, coronary artery disease (in women), diabetes (in women), depression and inflammation.
5. Eating Vegetables Improves Your Health
Vegetables are rich in vitamins, minerals, fiber and antioxidants. Diets rich in fruits and vegetables reduce the risk of diabetes and coronary artery disease. Ideally, we should eat a variety of vegetables.
6. Avoid a Vitamin D Deficiency
Vitamin D is a unique vitamin. It actually functions as a steroid hormone in the body.
Our skin manufactures Vitamin D when it is exposed to UV light. In modern times our sun exposure has decreased due to living indoors, living in regions where sunlight is limited during parts of the year and due to the use of sunscreen that blocks the manufacture of Vitamin D. Vitamin D and calcium supplementation has been found to reduce our cancer risk.
It can be difficult to get sufficient Vitamin D exclusively from our diet so taking Vitamin D3 supplement or a tablespoon of cod fish liver oil.
7. Refined Carbohydrates Are Bad For Your Health
Refined carbohydrates are worse than unrefined (complex) carbohydrates.
Although there are nutrients in high-carb foods like grains that can be beneficial, when you process the grains you remove most of the nutrients. Refined carbohydrates tend to cause rapid spikes in blood sugar that are followed by sharp rises in insulin levels. This process tends to promote fat storage that also contributes to diabetes and obesity.
8. Supplements Can Never Fully Replace Real Foods
It is unlikely that nutritional supplements can reproduce or improve upon the health benefits of eating a well-balanced and varied diet. “Nutritionism”, the idea that foods are simply the sum of their individual nutrients, is a myth.
Kris Gannars states, “Nuts, for example, aren’t just shells loaded with Omega-6 fatty acids in the same way that fruits aren’t just watery bags of fructose.
No, these are real foods with a massive variety of trace nutrients. The vitamins and minerals, the ones you can also get from a cheap multivitamin, are just a small part of the total amount of nutrients in foods.”
There may be a place for supplements especially for certain nutrients that may be lacking in our diets like Vitamin D and Magnesium.
9. “Diets” Don’t Work, a Lifestyle Change is Necessary
“Diets” may lead to short-term results, but too often when you resume eating you may go back to previous lifestyle choices that result in gaining the weight back nd sometimes even more (yo-yo dieting).
Adopting lifestyle changes offer the best chance of having lasting results.
10. Unprocessed Food is Healthiest
Processed food is unhealthy. Processed foods are loaded with artificial chemicals and are often stripped of their healthy nutrients.
One things we all can do to improve our health is to “eat real food.” If it looks like it was made in a factory, don’t eat it!
From “Your Food Pharmacy” by Alizah Salario published in Sustainable You 2013.
Dr. Daphne Miller, author of The Jungle Effect and Farmacology: What Innovative Family Farming Can Teach Us About Health and Healing is a family physician with some great ideas about the healing effects of various foods developed from her extensive travels and investigations into diets from around the world.
Diets rich in Omega-3 fatty acids and low in saturated fats are known to reduce inflammation. Dr. Miller recommends incorporating turmeric, ginger, and cumin and several other spices known to be rich in anti-oxidants. For inflammation of the skin, curry leaf also known as Murraya koenigii can produce pain relief. A proper diet and ensuring adequate dietary intake of iron can help with the effects of hormone fluctuations. Iron from like pasta and rice are better absorbed when eaten with foods rich in Vitamin C. Some foods like shiitake mushrooms and ginger can boost immune function according to Dr. Miller.