Nourishment - Food is foundational to physical wellness
Our food choices affect our health. As we age, we metabolize differently and may even develop a sensitivity to foods that were not a problem in the past. Health issues may require certain foods to be added or eliminated. You are ultimately responsible to determine what foods "work" for you and what foods cause you harm. Trust yourself!
It is always best to choose foods that are locally grown, free of pesticides and as close to nature as possible. Nature-made foods will give you the most nutrition per calorie while most man-made foods are processed and contain non-nutritious fillers.
How many grams of protein, fat and carbohydrate are ideal?
Science/dieticians/research all have different opinions about this, and they change! These three building blocks are all important, but the source is even more important. Plant-based nutrients will provide the most well-rounded delivery of nutrition, including valuable enzymes! Plant-based oils/fats are especially good, and a diet that contains up to 50% of calories from this source will be satisfying any nutritious!
There are several good resources to determine your individual needs and track your health:
MatthewsCalorieCounter is a good resource to determine calorie, protein, carbohydrate and fat content of foods and become more conscientious about your food choices; A Calorie Counter and Nutrition Data are also good resources.
My Lean Body Mass can help you determine your Lean Body Mass (lean mass). Protein intake should be a minimum of 0.7 grams per day per pound of lean mass (your lean mass x 0.7=daily grams of protein).
"LoseIt" is my favorite quick and easy app to track each meal and exercise.
Available online at www.loseit.com or as an app downloaded free through your smartphone store. I LOVE "LoseIt!"
What about Glycemic Load?
Glycemic Load is a number associated with how much a food raises blood glucose levels. Sticky processed foods (crackers, bread, pasta, etc.) slow down the body's ability to metabolize and many people develop "insulin resistance" which can lead to health problems, including persistent weight gain. Keeping your daily "glycemic load" consumption below 500 is very helpful to your overall health.
What is Glycemic Load? provides some more great information and "A Word about Carbohydrates" below is more specific.
If you work-out or lead a very active life, be sure your protein needs are met. Clean, ethically raised meat is okay, but did you know that you can get all the protein, fats and carbohydrates you need from a plant-based diet? Good fats from plant sources are important for many bodily functions (animal fat is NOT healthy for humans.) Plant carbohydrates are easily digested and most have a low glycemic load.
For a natural detox - to reset the body's natural digestion, eliminate mucous and inflammation, decrease allergies and acid reflux , I highly recommend removing all grain, dairy and sugar from the diet for at least 3 weeks. Drink 1/2 your weight in ounces of water each day. Adding fresh squeezed lemon to the water is an added bonus! Most people are amazed at how their skin clears up, many unwanted physical symptoms disappear, and their energy returns! Some people make ONLY THIS CHANGE to reach their ideal weight. Anyone can do this for 3 weeks, some have such great results, they never go back to their former eating habits. If you think you just can’t live without grains, dairy and sugar, slowly add them back in – one at a time over 3-4 days – and compare how you feel.
The ideal diet for weight loss or maintenance should include the following:
Vegetables and fruits: should make up the foundational bulk of daily food intake. Using a variety throughout the week supplies necessary vitamins, minerals, enzymes, and a good source of carbohydrate, protein and fats. Choose leafy greens and a variety of colors. Avocados are filling and one a day is recommended for their many benefits. Starchy vegetables are harder to digest (and contain more 'sugar') than watery vegetables and should be eaten in moderation. For example, white potatoes, bananas, dates, grapes and raisins have a high glycemic load.
Animal protein sources: meat, eggs, fish are dense calories and harder to digest. Wild-caught deep ocean fish is a good choice. Some people are misled to thinking they need more protein than what is necessary. You CAN get all the protein you need from plant sources. Interesting fact: 100 calories of lean steak=5.4 grams of protein BUT 100 calories of broccoli=11.2 grams of protein!
Nuts & seeds: for snacking, cooking, and extra nutrition – dense calories but nutritious and filling - a good “go to” for satiety. Raw are best, try soaking raw nuts/seeds into sprouts - LIVING FOOD!
Plant-based oils: are super healthy (avocados/oil, olives/oil, coconut/oil, flax seeds/oil) for cooking and nutrition.
Herbs, spices in abundance for flavoring, variety, nutrition.
Supplements as needed. If eating whole, nature-made foods, grown organically, locally - and enough fruits/vegetables, you should get most required nutrition - however, if you are unaware of where your food comes from, remember that many soils are depleted, there is toxin exposure in our environment, we live stressful lives. It is advised that you use a whole food multi-vitamin. If you don't eat meat, a sub-lingual vitamin B-12 is recommended. Most people (even those who get good sun exposure are VERY deficient in Vitamin D - a minimum of 2000 IU daily is recommended (take with food).
Alcohol in moderation – 6 oz. of red wine per day is recommended
Dark chocolate (70%+) – 1-2 oz. for a healthy snack
A word about carbohydrates:
Limiting carbohydrate load is critical to healthy metabolism. As we age, especially due to hormonal changes, we don’t process carbohydrates as efficiently. The following guidelines are important!
300 or more grams/day - Danger Zone! Easy to reach with the “normal” American diet (cereals, pasta, rice, bread, waffles, pancakes, muffins, soft drinks, packaged snacks, sweets, desserts).
High risk of excess fat storage, inflammation, increased disease markers including Metabolic Syndrome or diabetes.
Sharp reduction of grains and other processed carbs is critical.
150-300 grams/day – Steady, Insidious Weight Gain. Continued higher insulin-stimulating effect prevents efficient fat burning and contributes to widespread chronic disease conditions. This range – irresponsibly recommended by the USDA and other diet authorities – can lead to the statistical US average gain of 1.5 pounds of fat per year for forty years.
100-150 grams/day – Healthy Maintenance Range. This range based on body weight and activity level. When combined with appropriate daily exercise, allows for genetically optimal fat burning and muscle development.
50-100 grams/day – Sweet Spot for Effortless Weight Loss. Minimizes insulin production and ramps up fat metabolism. By meeting average daily protein requirements (.7 – 1 gram per pound of lean bodyweight formula) with satisfying meat, fish, eggs, nuts, seeds and eating nutritious vegetables and fruits (easy to stay in 50-100 gram range, even with generous servings), you can lose one to two pounds of body fat per week and then keep it off forever by eating in the maintenance range.
0-50 grams/day – Ketosis and Accelerated Fat Burning. Acceptable for a day or two of Intermittent Fasting towards aggressive weight loss efforts, provided adequate protein, fat and supplements are consumed otherwise. May be ideal for many diabetics. Not recommended as a long-term practice for otherwise healthy people due to resultant deprivation of high nutrient value vegetables and fruits.
What about dairy?
If you do choose to eat dairy and have no adverse reaction, fermented dairy products (yogurt, kefir – with no added sugars) are a good first choice; butter, cream, milk and cheese can all be an additional source of nutrition in moderation. Raw dairy is more nutritious and preferred, but absolutely choose organic dairy that has been ethically processed (grass fed, no added hormones or antibiotics.) Some people do not metabolize dairy (lactose-intolerant), the result being mostly digestive upset with gas and cramping. Lactose-free or fermented dairy products may be an option, or seed/nut/grain milks (coconut, almond, hemp, rice) are a good substitute.
What about legumes, soy products and other starchy vegetables?
Legumes and soy products can be a good source of protein and other nutrients, but these and other starchy vegetables are also high in carbohydrate, glycemic load and can increase insulin resistance. Use in moderation.
Other good sources for a more "starchy" feel is to use squashes, eggplant, mushrooms and lentils creatively.
What about breads, pasta, rice, wheat, corn, other grains and cereals?
Dense carbohydrates and high glycemic load make this choice ultimately a negative source of nutrition for anybody. Recent evidence supports that consuming grains and cereals increase the potential for insulin resistance.
***Quinoa and buckwheat are the best substitutes for "grain." They are both gluten-free but also rather high on the glycemic index (high carbohydrate load.) Quinoa is an excellent source of protein that is actually related to the beet family. Buckwheat groats is a fruit seed, related to rhubarb and sorrel. Both are cooked similarly and can be substituted for rice in moderation.
A homemade Green Smoothie is a GREAT way to start the day with a full complement of cell nourishing nutrition! A super blender such as a VitaMix is an investment that will pay back many times its cost in vibrant health. Use organic produce when possible.
Tasty Green Smoothie for 2
Use organic produce if at all possible!
1 cup clean water
2 handfuls of any combination: chard, kale, spinach, or other dark green leafy vegetable,washed
Handful fresh parsley
1-2 juice oranges – cut away thin layer of peel, leave some white pith
½ lemon – cut away thin layer of peel, leave some white pith
2 Tbsp. flax seeds – good source of Omega-3
2 Tbsp. hemp seeds – good source of Omega-3 and 35% protein!
2 Tbsp. chia seeds - add more nutrition!
½ cup of fresh or frozen strawberries (*organic) or blueberries - will turn “green” smoothie into a “purple” smoothie but also adds antioxidants and some sweetness!
*if grown conventionally, strawberries have one of the highest concentrations of pesticides
½ cup ice if needed for chilling
Blend on slow, then on high for 2 minutes and serve in 2 tall glasses.
There are MANY books and online resources for making different kinds of smoothies. The idea is to use greens as your base and add one or two fruits or berries (low sugar fruits) for sweetening. Be creative! Add one or two other juicy fruits, or some other green veggie like Romaine lettuce. Use a variety of fruits / vegetables. Green (granny smith) apples, celery, cucumber are good choices for variety.
Children LOVE these - a good way to get them to “eat” their veggies!
The difference between a blender and a juicer:
Using a blender, you add water to dilute the bulk of the whole fruit or vegetable, thereby getting the whole food nutrition. (If using organic fruits, you can even use the peel.) Using the whole food gives the benefit of fiber which slows down absorption and helps with digestion.
Using a juicer, the produce fiber is separated from the juice and thrown away or composted and only the pressed juice is used as concentrated veggie/fruit juice without the fiber. The juice should be sipped over time to absorb slowly as it is VERY concentrated.
A RADICAL idea for RADICAL change - an idea whose time has come:
I understand that people have very complex attachments to food (and drink!) and those habits are hard to change. I have given some advice above on how to improve your nutrition while maintaining a connection to the mainstream eating habits of our culture. However, I truly believe that a mostly raw vegetable & fruits diet is the most healthy way to nourish your body, mind and soul. The life of plants is well integrated into our cells and truly heals from the inside out. (Eating animal products is not necessary - you CAN get all the nutrition you need from living plants!) Consider having a "meatless Monday" - or what about a "Meat Monday" and fruits/veggies/seeds/nuts the other days? Or take a week off from cooked foods to experiment with how you feel. At least consider adding whole plant foods into your daily diet - up to 75% if you can! There are many websites about 'eating raw' and I am happy to help you explore this further if you are interested. Many people are discovering the amazing health benefits of what many people consider a radical way of eating - perhaps it is right for you even for a short time?