1. The state of being free from illness or injury.
2. Something we can largely influence through the foods we eat.
Okay, so I made up the second one. Having said that, I believe it is true!
Here are the “Top 5 tips” I often share with people who ask me for advice on how to modify their diet to prevent disease and promote wellness. In my experience, dramatically positive results can be achieved by adhering to as little as 1-2 of these tips. It took me several months to incorporate all 5, so a gradual approach to adopting them is very logical and practical.
1. EAT ORGANIC – A recent study by researchers at Stanford University suggested that organic foods may be no more nutritious than conventional foods. However, the study was primarily designed to look at nutritional content (i.e. vitamins and minerals) and dismissed some other aspects of eating organic vs. conventional. For example, many people value eating produce that is free of toxic residue from pesticide spray. One can certainly argue that the amount of poison necessary to kill insects is negligible to human beings, but poison is poison, and the long-term result of sustained cumulative intake of pesticides is scientifically uncertain. An even more poignant example are some genetically modified crops, such as corn, which have their own “built-in pesticide”. You got that right….so regardless of how well you wash the outside of the corn, you are still eating the full dose of pesticide that systemically lies within the kernels. And then multiply this by the foods (too numerous to mention) which are derived from GMO corn and corn products – anything from bread, chips and cereals to salad dressings, soups and sauces. My personal opinion is that organic products are fundamentally more safe and healthy vs. conventional, but for a list of the most critically important produce to buy organic, please reference the EWG’s Dirty Dozen.
2. LIMIT SUGAR INTAKE – Heart disease awareness was on the rise in the 1970’s, and as a result the “low-fat” diet craze began. Because the elimination of fats from foods destroyed flavor and taste, this was replaced with sugar. So essentially, goodbye fats and hello carbohydrates. Forty years later, we are facing a diabetes epidemic as a result, and heart disease remains the #1 cause of death in the United States. It is one thing to eat natural sugars (i.e. those found in fruit) which I consume in abundance, but I pretty much avoid all foods with “added” sugars and/or sweeteners (i.e. high fructose corn syrup).
3. EAT MORE – Okay, well don’t stuff yourself. What I mean here is to eat more often. Many people who “diet” try to starve themselves (i.e. skip lunch) and I think this is counter-productive. When you are hungry and don’t put food in your stomach, your body goes into survival mode and begins to feed off of itself by eating away at your muscles for nourishment. This is very unhealthy. From a metabolic standpoint, a best practice is to eat smaller meals more often. I typically eat 5-6 meals per day, each spread about 3 hours apart. This way I avoid having big dips and swells in my blood-sugar levels and, because I don’t “over-fuel” my system at any given point, I burn calories evenly and maintain a consistent energy throughout the day.
4. LIMIT PROCESSED FOODS – The more ingredients contained on a label, especially those you cannot pronounce, the more processed the food is. Ideally, we should eat whole foods that do not contain labels. In this day and age, however, that is extremely challenging. So when you do eat packaged foods, select those with minimal processing wherever possible. A very easy-to-follow guide is to limit your purchase of food items in the “middle” of the supermarket. The foods in the middle are typically those non-perishable items which can remain on the shelves, unrefrigerated, for months at a time without spoiling. The way I view these foods is that, because they cannot go bad, they were never good in the first place. In my opinion, the most natural and health-promoting diet is consuming foods which are “alive”, meaning those that contain raw nutrients and enzymes. These foods are normally found on the “perimeter” of the supermarket. Click here for an informative (and humorous) guide to healthy shopping at the supermarket.
5. AVOID DAIRY PRODUCTS – Due to the widespread consumption of dairy products, this is no doubt a somewhat controversial topic. I have written about this topic in previous posts, so I will not go into any incredible detail. But as an adult, nearly 40 years of age, I see no inherent reason to be drinking breast milk any longer, in any form at all (milk, cheese, yogurt, etc), especially breast milk from another species. I do not believe that another animal’s breast milk is intended for us, and I certainly don’t think it is doing us any favors from a health standpoint. Pasteurization, which kills off many of the microorganisms (i.e. blood, pus and bacteria) from the liquid, is thought to eliminate some of the vital nutrients in the process. Plus, dairy consumption is thought to increase Insulin-like Growth Factor 1 levels, which is great for a calf to pack on hundreds of pounds in a matter of months, but not so great for a middle-aged human being who is simply trying to maintain a healthy stable weight. Higher IGF-1 levels have also been linked to cancer cell growth by researchers at Harvard University.
So there you have it, my Top 5 tips. Please feel free to reply with your comments and/or tips of your own that you would like to share!!