- Vitamins and minerals--prevents malnutrition and nutrient deficiencies
- Phytonutrients--reduces the risk of heart disease, diabetes and cancers
- Antioxidants--reduces free-radical damage
- Alkalinity--balances out acidic foods (e.g., grains, proteins)
- Fiber--improves blood sugar level, reduces appetite and increases digestive health
Fruits and vegetables should be eaten regularly throughout the day (read: each and every meal). Why is it so important to eat fruits and vegetables? Here are the most notable benefits:
Inadequate nutrition is continuing to affect the health of most Americans, contributing to chronic health diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, obesity, premature aging, vascular disease, kidney disease, joint pain, arthritis, and cancer. Such a shame since all of these diseases can be alleviated by eating a more healthy diet along with exercise. Here are the most prevalent problems associated with the American diet that need to be corrected:
In no particular order, here are some ways you can lessen your risk of incurring the most prevalent disease in America:
The typical American tends to eat a diet characterized by excessive saturated and trans fats due to an overconsumption of fast foods and red meat. Foods high in saturated fat include beef, coconut oil, palm kernel oil, palm oil, butter, cheese, and milk. Foods high in trans fat include crisco oil, margarine, butter, shortening, crackers, candies, cookies, cakes, doughnuts, fried foods, baked goods, nondairy creamers, and meats. This is a recipe for a health disaster! The health consequences of eating this way day after day after day will become apparent soon enough when you go get a medical checkup. Here are just some of the health scares:
More and more research has shown that the Mediterranean diet seems to be the best nutrition plan to reduce cholesterol, particularly LDL (the "bad" cholesterol), whether or not weight loss occurs. The Mediterranean diet has the characteristics of being low in saturated fat and refined sugar while being high in fiber and whole grains. These qualities make the Mediterranean diet more likely to be effective at managing cholesterol levels and associated cardiovascular disease.
Why is the incidence of heart disease, Type-2 diabetes and obesity still prevalent in America in the twenty-first century?
There is a growing body of research that supports the correlation between our food habits and chronic diseases such as obesity, Type-2 diabetes and heart disease. Hypertension, elevated LDL (the "bad" cholesterol), elevated triglycerides, unmanaged stress, heredity, and sedentary behavior are conditions associated with what is collectively known as metabolic syndrome. All of these aforementioned conditions with the exception of heredity are due to lifestyle behavior. A healthy diet and exercise will resolve all of these conditions through time. There is a real concern among health professionals about the progression and serious complications of type-2 diabetes (i.e., kidney disease, heart disease, stroke, glaucoma, poor peripheral circulation, and ultimately premature death) in this country. The most contributing factor for the type-2 diabetes trend in children is due to being overweight. The eating habits of those predisposed to type-2 diabetes should be of primary concert in addition to physical activity level.
A plant-based diet will certainly lessen the risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease, some cancers, obesity, and diabetes. If you do decide to eat a plant-based diet, make sure to take a vitamin B12 supplement as this vitamin can only be found in animal foods. Calcium from green leafy vegetables, tofu, legumes, and nuts is important. Omega-3 fats from flax, hemp, walnuts, and canola is recommended. Vitamin D must be acquired from sunlight (vitamin D3) as well as in supplemental form (vitamin D2). Iodine is also a consideration and can be found in green leafy vegetables as well as iodized salt.
Humans love sugar and salt and may consume foods containing these substances to the point when narcotic (read: drug-like) effects occur within the body. Yes, sugar and salt may behave like addictive drugs within the body. Blood levels of these substances may develop to a certain point of adaptation when the body needs more and more in order to feel comfortable. Classic food addictions are sodas, ice cream and chips. It's no wonder these substances are ubiquitous in our foods today. We love foods which are sweet and salty because of the taste (pleasurable) as well as the cost (cheap). The problem is that eating foods high in sugar can cause insulin resistance which may develop into chronic diseases (e.g., Type-2 diabetes and obesity). Sugar in excessive amounts in one's diet can become toxic to the body and cause metabolic syndrome and fatty liver disease. A diet high in salt may cause water retention which may develop over time into health problems (e.g., hypertension, heart failure and stroke).
The majority of sugar and salt consumed in this country comes from processed and fast foods. Adding sugar and salt to foods is standard practice for food manufacturers because they're inexpensive, mask bad flavors, and act as a preservative (in the case of salt).
How can you limit your consumption of sugar and salt? The key is reading and understanding food labels. Learn to decipher sugar by its many names (i.e., corn sweetener, corn syrup, fructose, sucrose, dextrose, evaporated cane juice, fruit juice concentrates, glucose, high-fructose corn syrup, honey, lactose, maltose, malt syrup, and molasses). Learn to decipher salt by its many names (i.e., baking soda, sodium bicarbonate, monosodium glutamate, sodium benzoate, sodium saccharin, and sodium nitrate).
Here are some tips to reduce your sugar intake:
BOTTOM LINE: Obesity, heart disease and type-2 diabetes need not be an inevitability in the United States and can be eradicated by lessening saturated fat and refined sugar intake while increasing fiber (i.e., fruits, vegetables, whole grains) and unsaturated fat intake.
Eating egg whites and throwing out the egg yolks is a big mistake! To wit: egg yolks contain vitamins A, B2 (riboflavin), B5, B6, B9 (folic acid), B12, and vitamin D in addition to minerals such as selenium, phosphorus, iron, and zinc. Egg yolks are an excellent source of protein (8g each), omega-3 fats and antioxidants such as lutein, zeaxanthin and carotenoids.
Cholesterol should not be thought of as a health concern when eating whole eggs. Why? Because food cholesterol is NOT the same as blood cholesterol. That is, getting more cholesterol from food does NOT necessarily cause higher cholesterol levels within your body. It is a myth perpetuated by the media that cholesterol is the enemy. For one thing, increased blood cholesterol is associated with higher testosterone levels within the blood--that's a good thing! In addition, the media has continued to propagate the myth for several decades that high-saturated fatty diets and cholesterol are the root cause of heart disease and obesity. The irony is that since the eighties, the rate of obesity and Type-2 diabetes in this country has actually increased from eating low-fat, low-cholesterol foods. The real culprit is excessive consumption of refined carbohydrates (sugars)--not fats.
BOTTOM LINE: Egg yolks are a healthy source of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Egg yolks are also a valuable source of protein to maintain strong bones and muscle tissue. The only caveat is to eat the yolks in moderation--two to three daily is okay. Athletes and bodybuilders alike are ahead of the general public on this issue--eating whole eggs is the way to go to stay strong and healthy!
When you lose bodyfat a whole multitude of positive healthy outcomes takes place including:
BOTTOM LINE: Exercise and a healthy diet can resolve many chronic conditions plaguing humans today. Instead of reaching for quick-fix medications which may have side-effects, reach for a dumbbell and eat your broccoli.
Indeed, this trend in eating gluten-free foods is a phenomenon to dieting just as mysterious as the trend in crossfit is to exercise. First a little background. Gluten consists of several proteins present in many grains (e.g., wheat, barley, rye, oats) which provides texture to foods such as breads, cakes, muffins, and pasta but has very little nutritional value. Most people are able to digest the proteins which make up gluten although there are some who either have an autoimmune condition known as celiac disease or have an allergic reaction (gluten sensitivity) to these proteins which prevents nutrient digestion. Celiac disease, an immune disorder affecting about one percent of Americans, causes the development of antibodies which attack the body's intestinal tract, preventing the absorption of the proteins as well as calcium and iron. Symptoms include diarrhea, bloating, cramps, abdominal pain, and loss of appetite. Gluten sensitivity has been estimated to affect about six percent of Americans and is due to a lack of intestinal enzymes needed to properly digest the proteins which comprise gluten.
The intention to eat gluten-free foods may be considered smart since most foods which contain gluten are refined-processed foods with very little nutritional value. But I suspect most people avoid gluten-containing foods not because of low nutritional quality but instead due to a psychological phobia towards gluten. In other words, they believe they are allergic to gluten but in reality this is not the case. The media may be to blame for this unnecessary scare because it has perpetuated the myth that eating wheat may become addictive and make you fat. Moreover, eating wheat may cause an increased risk of certain systemic diseases (e.g., heart disease, diabetes, obesity, arthritis, osteroporosis, etc.). There is no conclusive evidence to indicate eating wheat may make you fat and/or cause chronic health problems.
The recommendation is to eat more whole wheat and less refined wheat to lessen any possible risk of incurring chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and stroke. Good substitutes to gluten-containing wheat, barley, and oat foods are buckwheat, corn, rice, and quinoa. Quinoa, in particular, is a superb substitute since it is a complete protein, meaning that it contains all of the essential amino acids. Quinoa can be cooked just like rice.
BOTTOM LINE: There's no conclusive evidence that eating gluten-free foods is healthier and can effectively cause weight loss. In fact, many gluten-free foods are higher in calories than their regular counterparts. The weight lost from eating gluten-free foods is likely due to eating less refined carbs rather than gluten itself. Since many gluten-free foods are made of refined flour, they lack the fiber found in whole-wheat foods that can aid in weight control. Moreover, wheat gluten may actually have health benefits (e.g., decreases triglyceride levels, provides beneficial intestinal bacteria). Unless you have been diagnosed as having celiac disease or are gluten intolerant, there is no reason to avoid all wheat products. Instead, switch to 100% whole-grain foods and eat less processed foods (e.g., cakes, cookies, pizza, etc.). If you feel better from cutting out gluten foods in your diet, it's most likely due to eating less refined carbs rather than from eliminating gluten.
If you are one of the 30 percent people who believes that you should skip eating breakfast because you don't have time and that you can lose body weight, you are sorely mistaken. There's a reason why that old saying that "breakfast is the most important meal of the day" is true. The word breakfast, when understood in literal terminology, means breaking a fast. Having not eaten while sleeping for at least six hours inevitably causes blood sugar levels to drop and the metabolic rate to decrease.
Here's a nice statistic according to a Harvard University study: people who eat breakfast are nearly 50 percent less likely to be obese than those who don't eat breakfast. In other words, you're risk of becoming obese increases when not eating breakfast!
Here are other reasons why eating breakfast is so important:
If you don't eat breakfast because you don't feel hungry in the morning, stop eating after 8pm. By eating less food later in the day, you will eventually feel more hungry in the mornings.