What’s on Your Plate?
A healthy diet can be overwhelming to most people. We are surrounded by temptation all around us; the decadent cupcakes at the party, the mouth-watering hamburger Chili’s advertises, the salty bag of chips at the checkout line. It takes a tremendous amount of will power to not cave to those cravings. Just when you get a handle on what is healthy, another headline will limit the quantity you may consume of that item. The standard American diet (SAD) is high in processed foods, high in unhealthy fats, low in fiber, low in complex carbohydrates and low in plant-based foods. Interestingly, cultures that eat opposite of the standard American diet have lower rates of cancer, heart disease, diabetes, etc.
We are celebrating National Nutrition Month the entire month of March. As you consider lifestyle modifications, a basic understanding of nutrition is the most important concept to begin with. The calories, fat, fiber, vitamins and minerals we consume from our foods are essential to our overall vitality.
Each person should consume a set number of calories per body size and activity level to meet the metabolic demands our body requires on a daily basis. If we consume additional calories outside of our metabolic demand, the body will store this as fat. In order to lose a pound of fat we must then burn 3500 calories. Therefore, being aware of calories is essential to maintaining a healthy weight.
It is important for us to consume foods that are nutrient dense. Plant-based foods are full of the fiber, vitamins and minerals that we require to function properly. A rainbow of colors on your plate will supply a greater source of the required nutrients our body’s need. Increase whole grains; examples include quinoa, brown rice, spelt, couscous, oats & whole wheat. Eat an assortment of vegetables including dark green leafy vegetables (kale, spinach and collard greens) as well as eggplant and carrots. The average person requires over 2.5 cups of vegetables per day. Add two servings of (in-season) fruit to your daily diet which may include mangos, blueberries, strawberries and kiwis. It is important to include healthy fats with each meal such as olive oil, avocados, coconut oil, nuts, etc. Also, include a lean protein source at meals such as beans, chicken, bison, lean beef, turkey, or fermented tofu. We must not forget to mention to drink plenty of water. A great formula to calculate the water needed per day is to divide your weight by two. This equals the amount of water in ounces your body requires on a daily basis. Your daily requirement increases with the addition of any physical activity. A well balanced diet will give us the foundation for a healthy body.
Organic vs. Non-Organic
There are a lot of opinions surrounding this question. The nutrient content starts to decrease after the vegetable/fruit is picked. So if an organic apple was picked weeks before a non-organic apple then it is possible that the non-organic apple could have more nutrients. However, there are many benefits to choosing organic produce such as decreasing one’s exposure to pesticide residues while supporting safer farming methods. When trying to decide which items to purchase organic, the Environmental Working Group publishes a dirty dozen list. The foods with the highest pesticide residue include celery, peaches, strawberries, apples, blueberries, nectarines, bell peppers, spinach, kale, cherries, potatoes and imported grapes.
Hippocrates once said, “Our food should be our medicine and our medicine should be our food.” Nutrition is ideal for maintaining a healthy body. In preventive medicine, we evaluate a patient’s nutrient levels in several ways. One direction is through performing micronutrient testing; this provides an easy to read report of where the patient is deficient or lacking in certain nutrients. Another direction is by testing for food allergies and food sensitivities. This provides the basis to incorporate more of certain foods or subtract certain foods from one’s diet. The use of these reports helps customize one’s nutrition plan.