Congratulations, you have really come a long way in a short time!
You are now supporting the healing process with adequate hydration that aids in delivery of nutrients, vitamins and oxygen as well as the removal of toxins.
The healing power in your body is being recharged and is now ready for the right bio-nutrients to stimulate the healing miracles it is capable of. Your diet or choice of foods has the widest impact on your life of all the areas we are discussing. A correct diet will and minimize inflammation and optimize your healing potential. The correct nutrients, hydration, and alkalinity will help you achieve an ideal body weight, better sleeping habits, more energy and mental clarity.
Questions to ask yourself
How do you think about the food you are eating?
Are you looking for a feel-good emotional experience with little thought about much else?
Is your food stored in a box or can with a label showing the amount of protein, carbohydrates, and fats contained per serving?
Do you know how much protein you should be eating each day for maintenance, not to mention for growth, or with exercise?
Did you know that you can’t store protein for future use, unlike fat and carbohydrates, it must be replenished each day?
Do you have a strategy in mind when you are looking at your plate of food at each meal?
When you take that next bite, do you have things like blood sugar levels and inflammation in mind?
Have A Plan
You need to have a strategy in mind because your body is like an engine that needs continuous replenishment to run properly and an optimum environment to repair and heal itself. It is not enough to think about food only in terms of protein, carbohydrates and fats. There are other things that must be kept in mind such as the glycemic index, pH (acidity and alkalinity), bio-nutrient density and emphasis on foods that have some anti-inflammatory properties.
Although it might not be apparent, the common thread here is the concept of inflammation and reducing the intake of foods that contribute, directly or indirectly, to inflammation. In medical terms, the suffix of –itis usually means inflammation. Inflammation is a complex biological response to a stimulus and is usually associated with the immune system. Inflammation causes pain, heat, redness, swelling and loss of function. Inflammation on a short-term basis is necessary for body repair, but is very counterproductive, and actually causes diseases and degenerative conditions, on a chronic basis.
The discussion of inflammation can get complicated pretty quickly. The bottom line is that inflammation is desirable and necessary on a short-term basis, as it occurs as part of the normal immune response. However, chronic inflammation is very counterproductive and may be a large contributing cause of inflammatory processes such a cancer or ischemic heart disease.
The idea here is to look at what can be done with the diet, to minimize chronic inflammation. We need to look at our diet with respect to inflammation, not just calories.
What is it about some foods that stimulate inflammation?
Are there foods that can actually decrease inflammation or the toxic byproducts of inflammation?
Although we usually associate inflammation with the immune system(usually acute), there are other stressors associated with chronic inflammation. One important stressor is the hormone insulin that is definitely affected by the diet. As you know, insulin is a hormone produced by the pancreas that responds to elevated levels of blood sugar. The more blood sugar, the more insulin secreted to help lower the lower the blood sugar level. Insulin acts to lower the blood sugar by signaling the cells in the body to allow more glucose to enter the cell to use for energy or healing.
At this point, you may say, so far so good, what’s the problem? Well the problem is the amount of sugar entering the blood stream and how quickly it enters. High levels of blood sugar that occur in a short periods of time is referred to as a spike. Blood sugar spikes will produce spikes in insulin as well. If there is any resistance to the normal effects of insulin (insulin resistance) then there will be even more circulatinginsulin than usual. The problem is that these chronically elevated insulin levels contribute to increased chronic inflammation throughout the body.
Chronic inflammation is associated with a number of diseases, particularly cancer and heart disease. The most important factor that affects insulin release is our diet. Perhaps you have heard of the glycemic index. The glycemic index estimates how much each gram of available carbohydrate (total carbohydrate minus fiber) in a food raises a person’s blood glucose level following consumption of the food, relative to consumption of pure glucose.
Glucose has a glycemic index of 100. When there are increased levels of sugars, starches and carbohydrates entering the blood, there are increased levels of insulin to lower them. The speed at which the sugars enter the bloodstream helps determine how much insulin will be secreted into the system. The more slowly a carbohydrate enters the blood, the less insulin will be required, and the less potential for inflammation. The lower the glycemic index, the better for you in general. You might ask why has this become such a big deal lately?
The reason is that processed foods have become so prominent in our diet. This trend toward processed foods really got started in the 1950’s and has become more and more a part of our diet. Sixty years is long by human standards, but short by human genetic standards. And what’s the problem with processed foods anyway?
Processed foods have been milled and ground up to be shaped, flavored, and packaged for ease of consumption. When you take a bite, these foods just start to break apart and crumble. When these ground up foods hit our digestive system, the absorption is very quick and carbohydrate/sugar levels spike and so does insulin, which causes inflammation. From a historical and genetic perspective, it will take thousands of years for our digestive systems to adapt to our new processed food diet and that’s the problem, our diet changed but our digestive systems haven’t.
The Grocery Store
Let’s think about our grocery shopping experience. Where do you get a lot of your food from, boxes or cans? You go to the store and pick up a box or can that is inert. It’s designed to be preserved to sit on a shelf until the packaging design entices you to pick it up. It looks good, but it’s dead. So you look at the package for the analysis of the contents thinking in terms of calories, (evil) trans-fats, (good) fiber, protein, and carbs. It’s almost like reading an autopsy report. Is it reassuring to read the label and find an expiration date of sometime next year?
Are you kidding? Hello! You are in the wrong part of the grocery store!
The main issue with the diet, or food choices, is that very few of us have cultivated a taste for what is really good for us. We have traded convenience for real nutrition. Your dedication to work, fun and being busy has cut into your nutrition choices. It’s easy to forget that without a healthy body, work and fun won’t be possible. The body is a living machine that can repair itself with what you put into it! It is not just a locomotive that you throw lumps of coal into, and run it until it needs a service. This machine can actually repair itself, given the proper bio-nutrients. However, the food industry is very interested in selling you lumps of coal.
You must move to a different part of the grocery store! You are alive and the food you are eating should be too. This is the easiest way to start thinking about nutrition. When you get to the vegetable and fruit area of the store, start looking at the color of the vegetables and fruits and think green! The green (leafy) vegetables have everything that you want and need in terms of hydration, vitamins, minerals, nutrients, antioxidants, protein, good fats, and carbohydrates.
A dinner plate should be covered with 2/3 or more, of green vegetables (e.g. spinach, kale, or romaine lettuce, broccoli) or legumes (beans, peas), and the other 1/3 of the plate or less, with fish, chicken or lean meat. Forget the things that spike the insulin!
Forget the pasta, white bread, white rice, white potatoes, cookies and cakes. While we are on the topic of what is on our plate, let’s talk about protein requirements. For whatever reason, people rarely talk about protein requirements. Protein is important because it cannot be stored! In order to get it, it must be ingested on a daily basis or recycled from protein structures being broken down. It must be added every day.
Are you getting enough protein?
When I look at a food, I am thinking bio-nutrients, protein content, or some combination thereof. The US Dietary Reference Intake for protein is 0.8 gram per kilogram of body weight. This figure is for maintenance only, if you are actively exercising and working out, the figure can be twice this.
How do we figure the protein requirement out? Take your body weight and divide it by 2.2, this will give you your body weight in kg. Then multiply your body weight (in kg) times 0.8 and you will have the number of grams of protein you need each day for maintenance.
So if you are 160 pounds, then 160/2.2 = 72 kilograms. 72 kilograms X 0.8 = 58 grams of protein (minimum) necessary each day.
For reference, an egg has about 6.7 grams of protein, chicken breast has 17 grams, Salmon fillet (3 oz) has 22 grams, a 3 ounce lean steak has 19 grams and one piece of Beef jerky has 7 grams. Think about the protein !
There is no doubt that our food choices (I just think the word diet just sounds restrictive) need some changing as well as our perspective about those choices. I think that the first thing to remember is that we are alive, and our food choices should be too!
Eat food that is ALIVE
Food that is alive can convey that life energy to us in the form of a myriad of vegetables, particularly the green ones, and the darker green the better. Leafy green vegetables are the right pH, and are rich in the nutrients, antioxidants and minerals that are easy and natural to absorb through our stomach and intestines. The less done to these vegetables, the better; eating them raw being the best. The more you cook them, the more they lose their nutritional value. Steaming is much better than boiling them for example.
There are some wonderful and comprehensive books written on the topic of great nutritional choices and recipes. One of my favorites is The pH Miracle by Dr. Robert O. Young and I strongly recommend reading this book.
Here are four books that are really worth the time to read and will transform the way that you think about your food choices and eating.
The pH Miracle by Dr. Robert O. Young.
The Zone by Barry Sears, Ph.D.
The Glycemic Index Diet by Rick Gallop
Anti-Inflammatory Athlete by Dr. Michael Colgan
The steps below will act in harmony to emphasize:
- Low glycemic index foods
- An alkaline pH
- High Bio-nutrient density
- Adequate protein intake
When you go to the grocery store, Go Green!
I mean dark green leafy vegetables. Start shopping in the produce department first. Broccoli and spinach are high on the list, as is avocado and cucumber. Your plate should be covered by at least 2/3 of these vegetables or more. The other 1/3 of your plate (or less) should be for your lean protein (chicken, salmon, lean meat)
Eat the vegetables raw, when possible, to get the most nutritional value possible. If cooking seems necessary, then steam for a short time or consider a brief stir-fry in some hot oil.
Spend some time chewing your food. This will help the digestive process, which is mainly chemical and occurs inside of a soft set of tubes (intestines).
Start to minimize or eliminate sugar (including corn syrup) from your diet!
This includes the Evil Whites of white bread, pasta, white rice, and white potatoes. Eliminate or decrease sweets such as soda (acid and sugary), desserts, cakes, cookies, donuts and the like. Start getting that sweet fix from a slice of fresh fruit if you feel the need for sweetness. Not all dairy and starches are bad, but there are better choices such as almond milk and coconut milk to replace milk. Some better starch choices might be sweet potatoes or brown rice. A better sweetener might be stevia instead of sugar or artificial sweeteners.
Replace processed (boxed or canned) foods with fresh vegetables. Processed foods refer to food in a box or can that are in suspended animation on a shelf waiting for you to pick them up. These could be anything from boxes of crackers, chips, or twinkies to cans of soup or canned vegetables. Most of these have been crushed, cooked or chemically altered to remove the benefits of micronutrients and antioxidants to help repair the body and decrease inflammation.
Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. It is the one that will get burned off by noon. It is the meal of the day that will signal to the body that energy is available and there is no need to conserve calories. Starting the day without breakfast signals the body that Hey, I’m not getting fed and we should be in the starvation mode; store calories and fat until we get something to eat.
In the morning, I like some type of vegetable/fruit smoothie mixed with soy, almond, or coconut milk. (I like blueberries mixed with a handful of spinach in a blender with coconut or almond milk and some protein powder).
Eat less meat. Eat lean meat like chicken, salmon, and lean beef (less fat, chemicals and hormones). We eat way too much meat that not easy to digest and that is acidic when it breaks down. Less meat will be beneficial to your health.
Lean meat is not a hamburger (darn). There have been large, well funded, and documented studies that conclusively show a strong link between heart disease and red meat consumption.
Always have a salad and some fresh vegetables in the refrigerator ready to eat or to make a wrap with. This makes it a viable choice instead of looking for a quick fix of some processed food. Dipping a fresh vegetable in some hummus can be delicious. If you are looking for a little crunch, take a sprout wrap (tortilla) and tear it in half and put it in the toaster. You can brush some olive oil or hummus on it and will taste fantastic.
Think Substitution. Pumpernickel bread has a lower glycemic index that white bread. Brown rice has a lower glycemic index than white rice. Stevia has a lower glycemic index than sugar in that morning cup of coffee. Read The Glycemic Index Diet.
Be patient with yourself, even with what we know, a Krispy Crème donut can look pretty tempting (the powerful combination of fat and sugar has not gone unnoticed by the food industry).
On any given morning, there are times you will weaken and probably have one. The odd thing I have noticed, is that with the implementation of a nutritious diet and adequate hydration, the desire for unhealthy foods will diminish- no kidding!
The key is to start, be patient, and relax. Adequate hydration will diminish your hunger cravings and if you are eating raw vegetables, there is not really a limit on how much you can eat.
You will start to feel more energetic and will notice your weight will start to drop as well without any other changes, except adequate hydration and emphasizing a raw vegetable food intake.
There are some tools to make this easier like a food processor (Cuisinart) for slicing and dicing and making purees (soups), rice cooker for brown rice, salad spinner for cleaning vegetables, and sharp knives to cut the vegetables.
This process is a transition that can take a while. We are pretty used to certain tastes, textures and quantities. There is no timetable here, but there are some tricks that I have used to get going in the right direction. Eat smaller meals (or healthy snacks) more often to avoid being hungry.
Raw vegetables can taste a lot better when dipped in some low calorie dip or hummus to give a little more flavor. Spices like lemon pepper, onion flakes, and cinnamon can enhance the flavor of some things. Use lemon juice freely to add some zip to your vegetables, fruits (avocados), or salads. Remember the trick of adding a handful of baby spinach to your fruit smoothie (I still can’t believe that you really can’t taste it).
Eating raw vegetables might be too much to start off with, so head in that direction with a stir-fry that uses lots of vegetables and a little lean meat or chicken with some spices. If you miss the crunch, get some sweet potato or kale chips, or eat some nuts. If you let some plain almonds just soak in water for 30-60 minutes (plumping), you won’t believe how good they taste. Coconut oil can be used to cook with instead of butter and some other oils.