PART IV – What’s Your New Years Resolution?
By Brent Leung, C.N.
If you’re a year round native to the gym, you know January 1st is the ceremonious date for many to make things right in their life. Hordes of long lost gym members embark on a pilgrimage of health with goals to shed their weight, tone or bulk up, and get healthy. The gym is bustling. In tandem with their zeal for physical change are new aspirations in eating habits. They know previous eating rituals, be it the Food Guidelines or some other adaptation has failed them, so they pull out the nutritional compass. It points them to a direction many frequent, The Diet.
This includes prominent brand names like Jenny Craig, the Dash diet, Weight Watchers, Slim-Fast, Nutrisystem, South Beach, and a plenty of others hoping to capitalize on a burgeoning business. In 1992, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) estimated that $30 billion was spent on diet-related programs and products. Twenty-one years later, people are spending $60 billion on these diets. Where is the logic? Where is the common sense? It’s clear diets, like the government’s guidance, has failed as well.
With deteriorating health, to whom do we turn to? In my interview with Nobel Laureate Karry Mullis, he emphatically stated that if we want to survive as a species, we have to emulate what our grandparents did. This would argue for a return to Granny’s diet or what I also call the Common Sense Diet.
“Let your food be your medicine, and let your medicine be your food.
~ Hippocrates ~
At the foundation of the Common Sense Diet is the most essential nutrient for human survival, H2O (water). Popular culture may not identify water as a nutrient, like it would for its contemporaries vitamin C, fiber or omega-3 fatty acids, but water is the indeed the gem nutrient. Drinking high-quality pure water (which by the way is not found in coffee, tea, or soda) from the right sources (no tap water and avoid all plastic bottles) is a prerequisite to a strong functioning immune system.
However, buyers should be aware – looks can be deceiving and not all water is healing. Truth be told, water is probably the most complicated nutrient in our toxic age to get right. Explaining the complexities is a dissertation unto itself, but in summary: ensure your water has been filtered for all chemical toxins, radiation and pollutants. Find H2O that is alkaline, with a zero to negative Oxidation Reduction Potential (ORP), and rich with natural minerals. Never drink distilled water, and always shower with a filter. The importance of this nutrient cannot be overstated and emphasized enough.
Second in the hierarchy of health is protein, but we can’t think of protein as a single substance. Think of this nutrient like you would an airplane. While it’s the assembled product propelling passengers halfway across the globe, it’s the sum of the aircraft — the engines, the wings, the flaps, and the millions of other components that make air travel possible. Proteins are like planes, except their building blocks are not manufactured components, but 20 amino acids. The body can manufacture 11 of these guys, but the other nine must be acquired through our diet. These nine are called essential amino acids. When you ingest these nine amino acids they enter our body’s amino acid pool, allowing the body to manufacture a complete protein.
It is equally important that we are getting a balanced amount of these amino acids. If a plane is assembled with too many wings and not enough wheels, you probably won’t be getting off the ground. If you do somehow manage to take off, you’re in danger of becoming a scary statistic. With an abundance of non-animal choices, getting your essential amino acids has never been easier.
The third essential nutrient for life comes in the form of healthy fats (lipids), not to be confused with our overweight belly fats. Conventional culture has ingrained in us the notion that we need to decrease our fat consumption and opt for fat-free products, but to our detriment, “the emphasis on total fat reduction has been a serious distraction in efforts to control obesity and improve health in general,” according to a publication in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition by Walter C. Willet.
“Within the United States (US), a substantial decline in the percentage of energy from fat during the last two decades has corresponded with a massive increase in obesity, and similar trends are occurring in other affluent countries [emphasis added]. Diets high in fat do not account for the high prevalence of excess body fat in Western countries…”
Getting the right kind of fat is vital for our health. Take omega-3 for example. This good fat helps protect against cardiovascular disease, decrease inflammation, is vital for brain health, and supports the nervous system.
Lipids, another term for fats, are present in every organ and tissue in the body; they permeate every cell membrane and provide life-supporting functions. We need “good” fats to keep our skin soft, protect our organs and aid absorption of vitamins A, D, E, and K. Raise the white flags because the war with cholesterol is over. If you enjoy the benefits of calcium in your bones, the perks vitamin D provides, and a ravenous sex life, then cholesterol should be your close friend. As a fringe benefit, fat is an excellent source of energy, more so than carbohydrates. Stick to the Common Sense Diet, and you won’t be in danger of any bad fats and beneficially, may even be metabolically stimulated to shed some of your belly fat.
Our fourth macronutrient comes with more baggage than a three-time divorcée. It is the infamous carbohydrate, the bedrock of a healthy diet according to many, and a great evil in one’s path to nutrition health according to others. Whatever viewpoint guides your eating habits — be it the Atkins Diet or the SAD camp, a guilt-free conscience will always be yours if you stick to low glycemic index and low glycemic load fresh fruits, vegetables (avoid starchy veggies) and only whole, minimally processed grains. Avoid sugar and its dysfunctional family members, aspartame, Splenda, and the like.
“Approximately 80% of heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes, and 40% of cancer could be avoided through healthy diet, regular physical activity and avoidance of tobacco use.”
~ Dr Robert Beaglehole ~
Director, Chronic Diseases and Health Promotion, World Health Organization
If the world were a giant high school, popularity right now would side with the unhealthy and sick. We must reorientate the way we think and eat for life. Exquisite, flavorful, luscious, decadent healthy foods and healthy eating are not mutually exclusive and the aforementioned Common Sense Diet can put one back on the path of good health. This, however, should not be viewed as a diet or a short-term solution, but a way of life — and a conscious desire to improve yourself and the world around you with every bite.