Consider our lifestyles today. For those of us that work outside the home, it means waking with the sun, maybe earlier. Get the kids up, give them a bowl of sugared cereal, drop a Lunchables, some chips, and a cookie in a bag for their lunch, swill down a cup of coffee, maybe a pastry, too, and head out the door.
Get to work, have another cup of coffee, and maybe a candy bar or donut to hold you until lunchtime. Lunchtime arrives, you hop in the car and head to the nearest fast food place, grab a burger and fries, maybe a diet soda to wash it down, then back to work. Your energy is flagging after lunch, so how about another cup of coffee? Or, maybe another candy bar or some chips to give you a boost.
End of the day, home at last! But, aha! The kids and hubby are hungry and want to know what’s for dinner. Even though you’re exhausted after your day, you get up, look in the freezer, and oh, thank goodness, there is a pizza in there. You pop it in the oven for 1/2 an hour.
Maybe you are not so tired, so you open a bag of salad mix, pour on some bottled dressing, and dinner is served. Maybe dinner is a box of this, a can of that, a hunk of meat, and some frozen vegetables. After dinner, the kids fend for themselves. Maybe they do their homework, or they are watching TV until bedtime.
Perhaps, after that hearty meal, you have to go out again to take the kids to soccer practice, or there is a parent meeting, etc. You slurp off another coffee and hurry to make it on time. By the time you get home again, you just want to crawl into bed and close your eyes.
If you are fortunate enough to be a stay-at-home parent, your schedule might be somewhat different. Maybe you are one of those incredibly organized people, and you have time to fix some Quaker oats for breakfast, a few pieces of toast with butter, and some juice and coffee. Perhaps your fast food lunch is salad, dressing, and some croutons. You are, however, no less rushed to meet deadlines, and your food choices might be very similar.
Sound familiar to anyone?
No ‘one’ diet is correct for everyone. There are, however, many similarities in the choices we Americans make. Even folks from other countries begin to choose and suffer from the effects of, the Standard American Diet (SAD) after a while. The ease and convenience of opening packages of processed foods to prepare are hard to beat. Besides that, they tend to be low in price and taste pretty good.
As American consumers, we sit down to meals that are dead, anonymous substances that have been bleached, processed, dyed, sauced, breaded, ground, strained, blended, pulped, and sanitized beyond any resemblance of healthy, whole, live foods. This pre-digested mass provides little beyond nutrient-deficient calories. Eating French bread and a spoon of sugar would provide about the same feeling of fullness, calories, and nutrition, and would be easier and quicker to serve for those who are time conscious.
WE ARE WHAT WE EAT. There is no escaping this fact. Food is the fuel our bodies use to get us through each day. It is necessary for our survival. The higher the food quality, the higher our functional abilities.
As an example, I would like to tell you about my neighbor. We have been friends for over 30 years, and she has driven the same used 1982 Datsun throughout most of that period.
Unbelievably, the car still looks and runs close to the showroom perfectly. This was not an expensive car, to begin with, but my friend, from day one, has treated it as if it were a well-loved, precious child.
She regularly cleans it inside and out, and will only use the highest-grade fuel, fluids, and lubricants available. Consequently, she has a car that rivals the look and functional ability of my now five yr. old vehicle, which I purchased brand new. Though my car is still in decent condition, it is developing signs of aging aches and pains. Needless to say, I used whatever was available to feed my car.
Think about it. How often do you see a Lexus or Mercedes driver filling up at the local cheap spot? In my hometown, I tend to see them at the more expensive fueling stations. Why? Just because they can afford it and SOMEONE has to go there? I don’t think so.
Having had a mechanic dad, I believe it is because their cars REQUIRE a higher-grade fuel to operate more so than the Saturns, vans, and VWs the rest of us drive. If these drivers used cheaper fuels, ultimately, this would result in engine death due to corrosion, clogs, misfires, and the like.
Even if you do not DRIVE a Mercedes, you DO live in on – your body. By continuously feeding the body inferior fuels, we set the stage for the same type of occurrence – corrosion, clogs, misfires, and the like.
Unfortunately, this article is not long enough to go into all the biochemical reasons why this is so, but hopefully, we’ll touch enough bases to make it clear.
Do your families eat one or more servings of the following every day: white bread, white-flour pasta, coffee, crackers/chips/pretzels of ANY kind, sugared cereals, soda pop, candy, cookies, white rice, fried foods, jams/jellies, fast food, restaurant food?
Let me ask this: do you or any family members suffer from fatigue or low energy, diarrhea, constipation, confusion, grouchiness or irritability, gas, bloating, stress, frequent illness, PMS, weight gain, poor concentration, headaches, or go long periods between meals?
Let us address the last issue first. When you are driving your car, do you allow the gas gauge to go beyond the ‘E’, and continue driving? Of course not, the car would stop running. We do allow our bodies to go past the ‘E’, and we allow it for our children, too.
Once properly fueled, we start getting nearly empty at approx.3-4 hours. For people with a high metabolism (rate of burning fuel), such as most children, the time can be as short as 2-3 hours.
I know children that are on the school bus for a minimum of one hour before even reaching school. Depending on how soon they before boarding the bus they ate, increase the time. Their little bodies may be long past the need to refuel before they even enter the classroom. Yet, they are expected to perform at their best for up to several hours before a break. If they are young, a break means running around playing with friends and burning more fuel. Even for older children, breaks often do not include time to eat.
We do this to ourselves as grownups, also. Eating is often inconvenient, not available, there might be concerns about weight gain, or we simply may not feel we have the time to stop and eat.
Repeating this pattern over and over again tells our bodies that food is scarce, and therefore must store what it receives. Grown-ups tend to put on weight, even after reducing the quantity of food consumed. Most children burn it up before it can be stored. If they burn too much, the body draws nourishment from bones, muscle, and the brain, potentially leaving the child deficient in essential nutrients.
These continued deficiencies will lead to weight and health problems showing up by the third decade of life. By the sixth decade, unnecessary suffering from declining health manifests, and may even lead to premature death.
Consistently eating devitalized, processed and packaged foods leads to blood sugar regulation problems including hypoglycemia or diabetes, hormonal imbalances, excessive weight gain or loss, confusion, anxiety, poor concentration, dizziness, depression, mood swings, digestive disturbance, heart problems, high cholesterol and a host of other medical problems.
When asked the question, “What’s for dinner?” How many of you respond by naming the meat that is being prepared? How many of you say, “Chicken with rice and broccoli”, or do you say, “Broccoli with rice and chicken”?
Protein deficiency is virtually non-existent in most developed countries. Though deficiency is remotely possible, one should be more concerned about the quality, not the number of proteins they eat. Also, a total elimination of carbohydrates from one’s diet would surely, ultimately, lead to death.
This is where the misunderstanding about carbohydrates comes in. Carbohydrates are getting a very bad rap in health news today. Carbohydrates are the prime fuel we need to make it through each day. That does not negate the importance of proteins or fats, but, we Americans tend to make the fat/protein content the center of our meals, with carbs being incidental.
People say, “Eat lots of protein and eliminate carbohydrates from your diet to be more healthy and to lose weight.” This is only partially true.
There are two types of carbohydrates – complex and simple carbohydrates. It is true if you eliminate all simple carbohydrates from the diet, better health and weight loss will result. But, it is the complex carbohydrates that will keep your body going.
Simple carbohydrates are those that immediately raise the level of sugar in the blood. Sources of simple carbohydrates include ANY processed, packaged, non-meat foods. Examples: white bread, pasta, candy, cookies, box-mix potatoes & pasta, white rice, and all the foods I listed earlier. These are so devitalized of any natural nutrients as to make them equivalent to eating straight sugar! We eat it, our blood sugar increases right away, and we feel satisfied and energized, or surprisingly sleepy.
This sugar rush throws several of our internal systems into absolute chaos. These systems ‘see-saw’ back and forth trying to accommodate this onslaught, and are rarely successful at doing so. If continued, this ‘see-saw’ mechanism leads to several inner-system failures. Maybe not today, or tomorrow, but it is a definite fact that health issues WILL arise for those who continue to eat this way.
What is the solution?
Complex carbohydrates. These are the whole foods our bodies are designed to utilize. Examples: fresh vegetables, fruits, grains (whole!), legumes (beans), nuts, seeds, roots – ANY plant WHOLE food is a complex carbohydrate, some may also contain fats and proteins.
These are perfectly compatible with our inner workings. Our bodies are designed to assimilate and use these foods. These foods still turn into sugar in our bodies. This is good, as this sugar fuels us.
The BIG difference is the operative phrase: ‘turn into sugar’. This means that our bodies can go through a process to convert these foods to the needed sugars. It does not happen immediately, as with straight sugar or simple carbohydrates. Instead, the body goes through a series of activities during conversion to allow these sugars to be absorbed at a NATURAL rate – sort of like a time-release capsule.
This activity provides a sustained release of sugar into the blood, which maintains a consistent level of energy, not just spurts, and crashes. Thus, complex carbohydrates are less likely to produce an overabundance of blood sugar – as do the simple carbohydrates – which are then converted to fat.
Fiber is also something everybody requires to facilitate proper detoxification and elimination. We tend to make more high-fat/low-fiber food choices. Meats, fats, and simple carbohydrates offer little to none in terms of fiber. Instead, these foods tend to clog and block channels throughout the body, mainly but not limited to, bowels and arteries.
Plaque and cholesterol build up in the linings of these channels and eventually do block them if not properly ‘cleansed’ with fiber. Resultant illnesses eventually manifest, such as clogged arteries or atherosclerosis, heart problems, bowel/colon/other cancer, colitis, diabetes, liver dysfunction, gall bladder attacks, and many, many other diseases.
By eliminating processed foods and eating whole fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and grains, we are adding usable fiber to the diet, thus aiding the cleansing process. Bowel habits will improve as will digestive function. Just improving these two systems will improve a lot of dysfunction faced by both adults and children. Examples: constipation, diarrhea, heartburn, memory problems, even some learning disabilities, and many more.
Picture, if you will, a tube of Jimmy Dean sausage. Now imagine that you have cut the top from the tube. Squeeze the contents out and observe their texture. Next check the insides of the tube and notice that there are clumps of meat and fat stuck to the walls of the tube.
Now, imagine your blood vessels. Cut through one of these and squeeze out the contents. Sure, blood will come out, but what else? Chances are, if you, like most of us, have lived on the SAD you will also see clumps, or a thick wad of Jimmy Dean-like stuff coming out as well. Looking at the lining of this vessel, you will also see clumps of this goo clinging to the interior walls of the vessel. If you are clogged too much, even the blood may have a hard time squeezing its way around this mass. Gross, isn’t it?
You have the power to erase this mess before it is too late and to prevent it from EVER happening to your children. The solution is quite simple, eat more fresh, whole fruits and vegetables, legumes, grains, nuts, seeds, or any of the complex carbohydrates.
Like a brillo pad in a bottle, fiber will scour out those arteries and bowels. A bonus is increased absorption of needed nutrients, the establishment of beneficial flora and fauna to aid food processing, and a general feeling of improved health. If you already suffer from one of the ‘blocking’ diseases, you will also start your body on the road to natural healing.
Fiber powders, pills, and mixes are all well and good, maybe even necessary to regain movement in otherwise blocked systems. But, why spend your money on these products when help is available by simply eating correctly?
Though protein and fat serve very different functions in the body, the choices we make often exceed our proportionate needs.
Many people eat mass quantities of meat for whatever reasons. Ostensibly, to increase protein intake. Some of these same people, and others, supplement their meals with protein powders, again to increase their protein intake.
I am not going to tell you protein is bad for you, but let me reiterate what I said earlier: protein deficiency is near to non-existent in this country (USA). Far more common are the diseases that develop from too much, or the wrong kinds, of protein. Over-consumption of these biologically unavailable ‘wrong kinds’ of protein and fat can lead to those Jimmy Dean-like illnesses we spoke of earlier.
Fats are as necessary as proteins. Again, we over-consume and are prone to selecting fats that hurt our health as opposed to those which help us heal.
Fats are generally solid, liquid oil, or somewhere in between. If the fat you are using becomes solid at room temperature, do you want it in your body? It will solidify, or become solid, in your body, too. Again, they will clog vital pathways in the body. Generally, if oil solidifies at any temperature, you might stop to consider its use in your diet.
One oil that solidifies, but does not fall into the ‘harmful’ territory is olive oil. Olive oil is the only oil that has not raised controversy about its health benefits. All the experts agree that olive oil is good for you. The next choices would be sesame and corn oils. Yet, there have been issues brought forward for corn oil as well.
Heat, air, and light degrade oils. Processing is usually done under high temperatures for most oils, leaving what nutrients that may have been present initially, devitalized and on their way toward rancidity. Packaged in lightweight, clear plastic bottles, storage at fluctuating temperatures from cold to hot, or for long periods before reaching the consumer increases this rancidity.
Virgin or extra virgin olive oil is your best choice. Try transitioning from using butter to using olive oil. Mixing olive oil with butter reduces the ‘bad’ fat content of the butter you would normally get and improves the amount of good oil. Start adding small amounts of building to a 1/2-1/2 mix. Or substitute olive oil altogether!
Barring that, look for oils that are cold expeller pressed, preferably, in a tinted glass bottle. For those with the available budget, you may wish to explore the virtues of more expensive oils such as flax, hemp, or almond. Walnut is one of my favorites. These add a delightfully nutty flavor to your dishes while providing essential fatty acids to the diet. They can also be used as you would olive oil.
Structurally, at the molecular level, fats that heal are different from those that are harmful. Adding good oils to the diet helps in many ways. While harmful fats will clog and block systems, healthy oils help break up those clogs, aiding the systems in running more freely.
I could make an entire presentation about the effects of different fats and oils on the body.
Given the length of the article to work with, let me press home one, single point regarding your choice of oils.
****Avoid, as much as possible, any oil or food that contains the word ‘hydrogenated’ or ‘hydrogenation’ as part of its ingredients or process.****
Unfortunately, this process is not always listed on labels. However, if the oil or fat you are considering arrived in a see-through bottle, even if it says 100% pure, you are better off avoiding it and choosing a more naturally prepared oil available in a dark glass bottle.
This also includes the choice of butter as opposed to margarine. Margarine is a mixture of hydrogenated oils, whereas butter, at least, comes from a less-processed source. Butter also tolerates the high temperatures of cooking with less toxic side effects than margarine and most cooking oils, including olive oil. Sesame is a better choice for cooking as it degrades with high heat less than most oils.
This does not mean everyone should begin to eat butter as their most common source of fat. Eating too much of any one food will increase the likely hood of disease onset. Instead, I suggest that butter, sesame, and olive oils are simply better choices than highly processed, refined oils. However, reducing or eliminating fried or otherwise heavily fatted foods is still your best choice. Use these added fats sparingly, preferably, without adding heat to the preparation process.
As an example: if you currently fry your meats, consider steaming, baking, broiling, or boiling these, instead. If you stir-fry most of your vegetables in oil, consider using water, soy sauce, tamari, mirin, broth, or some other liquid, instead of oil. The whole purpose of the oil in stir-frying is to prevent sticking to the pan. Other liquids provide the same effect, add flavor, maybe more nutrients, and eliminate the oxidation damage to oil from excessive heat.
Am I advocating that all people become vegetarians? Not at all. Meat as your protein source CAN be a good thing in the diet, and for some people, it is essential. Fats are necessary for our survival, too. However, the amount and quality consumed are what I question. Back to the: chicken with broccoli or broccoli with chicken.
The average serving of meat should weigh only about 3 ounces for an adult. Yet, we, as eaters of the SAD, eat portions of up to 16 or more ounces at a meal, occasionally adding other fats to it, like cheese, mayonnaise, and margarine. Frequently, similar amounts are served at every meal. This far exceeds the amounts our bodies can process and use.
Given a healthy body, the average need for protein is only 15-20% of the diet. Fats constitute another 20-25%, and complex carbohydrates equal 60% of the diet. This is the basic need for healthy survival. A person with existing health issues may require different percentages, such as more carbohydrates for cleansing, or more fat/proteins for building the system during certain illnesses.
If we take an honest look at our regular diet, most of us will find that we eat far too much protein, fat, and simple carbohydrates. Moderation and variety are key concepts I must impart to you.
The consumption of these processed foods on our health has another significant impact. As stated earlier, these foods are devitalized and dead. Regardless of how good the ingredients were initially if they are deadened this way, they become devoid of any enzyme activity.
Enzymes are an essential aspect of digestion and absorption of available nutrients. Without them, food just hangs in the digestive tract. If possible, the body will attempt to extract what nutrients it can find and discard the rest as waste products, or store it as fat in vital organs. The re-introduction of whole foods to the body help restore and balance enzymatic functions.
Think of the TV commercials for laundry or other cleaning products with their ‘scrubbing bubbles’ and active enzymes. These show the need for enzyme activity to ‘eat’ the protein-causing stains in our clothing. A similar process is required for our digestion of foods to avoid ‘gray laundry build-up’ staining in our bodies. This is oversimplified but hopefully will place enzymatic need in context for you.
Dairy foods also play a large role in most of the diet. There are some benefits to the consumption of dairy products. Calcium and protein are available in dairy products, to a minimal degree. Products like live-culture yogurt, acidophilus, and kefir aid in the restoration of good flora and fauna to the bowel.
However, consider the fact that a large majority of the population is allergic to milk products at some level. In children and adults, it often results in a stuffy nose that most of us blame on pollens and blooming plants. For adults and some children, it frequently manifests as lactose intolerance causing bloating and flatulence, or worse.
Though our children may think it is cute to produce such an attention-getting sound, this ability is often the result of not properly digesting these foods. Consider this, too: as humans, we are the only mammal known to consume the milk of other mammals, and the only species continuing with this practice after weaning and into adulthood.
The milk we find on supermarket shelves is producing milk only as good as what the cow eats. If part of that diet includes antibiotics, hormones, other chemicals, or genetically altered feeds, there will be residues in the milk, cheese, yogurt, butter, sour cream, etc. produced.
There are organic versions, and raw-milk versions available for every dairy product there is. There is also a variety of other milk available like soy (my favorite), almond, rice, etc. Other familiar dairy products are also available using alternate milk.
Finally, not enough can be said about water. Water hydrates cleanse and aid the vital transportation of chemicals within the body. We can live longer without food than we can without water. It is one of the most vital elements we put into our bodies. Children can easily be taught to love drinking water, with juices as an occasional treat. Soda, kool-aid, and other processed beverages have no place in a healthy food plan and are responsible for contributing to numerous serious health issues within our society.
Water is a large portion of what we are made as humans. It is essentially a life-giving force. On that basis, consider the water your family drinks. In our country tap water is generally safe to drink. This can however be adversely affected by environmental toxins and pollutants leaching into our groundwater. Some are removed and some are not. Therefore, I advocate using filtered or bottled water when possible, both for drinking and cooking.
If we are generally healthy, nobody has to stop eating anything. Many of those “bad for you” things just taste good. Why would you make yourself live in deprivation?
Unless you have health problems that require a specific diet, such as diabetes, no one food is going to cause you severe damage, IF eaten only occasionally. The key is to add items to the diet, not take them away. You may find, after improving your food choices that you no longer like the way lesser-quality foods make you feel. Once your system is conditioned to eating healthy foods promptly it will no longer find ‘junk food’ agreeable. Funny how that works.
So, spend a little more time, and maybe even a little more money on your menu planning and shopping lists. Save money somewhere else. The fuel you and your family require should be top-grade. The overall benefit to yourselves and your families cannot be beaten. Besides, you are worth it!
©2004,Thorp,E.,C.N.E.,C.D.C.,C.L.P.T.; Nutribytes; WINTU WORKS,CA