By Shana Perkins, HHC
There’s a lot of conflicting information out there about what to feed yourself, and it can be very confusing to know what’s actually good for you. This is because like everything else in life, there is no “one size fits all” plan that will work for everyone. Everyone’s system is unique: many people have food allergies, people have different levels of physical activity, different preferences, different goals etc. This is why you really have to figure out what’s right for your particular body.
Before we get into individualizing your eating plan, let’s talk about some core concepts that apply to everyone. First off, it is extremely important that whatever you feed yourself is a “whole food.” Whole foods are food that are in their original unaltered state and haven’t been processed at all. Unlike whole foods, which actually nourish the body, processed foods are the root of modern disease. They are filled with chemicals, preservatives, and addictive ingredients that make us fat, dumb, and sick.
After you stop putting in all the hazardous material that comes with eating processed food, you can then you can shift your focus on putting food in your body that makes you feel alive, gives you sharper thinking, and a huge supply of energy. These feelings will come naturally when you give your body a huge supply of vitamins, minerals, enzymes, and phytochemicals. These almost magical substances will allow your body to function at its highest potential. Some people scoff and say they feel fine eating a diet rich in unhealthy foods. However, if your body is designed to run off better fuel than what you’re feeding it, and you feel fine, imagine how great you will feel when you give your body what it has been craving.
Taking in ample supplies of fruits and vegetables day in and day out is how we can give our body what it both wants and need. This will re-mineralize your body, combat some of the toxicity already in your system, and help to sweep those toxins out. A good habit to get into is to make half your plate of whatever you are eating fruits and vegetables. Trying to reach 9 servings of vegetables a day, and 2-3 servings of fruit. Green smoothies and green juices are an excellent way to make reaching your quotas easy. Moreover, raw leafy greens are king when it comes to nutrition, and you can easily pack in a salad worth of greens and virtually mask the taste with some fruit in a smoothie. Getting in at least one salad a day is a great practice to develop, and it’s a much better insurance plan than anything you could buy.
Salads, fruit, green smoothies, and green juices are also important to have in your diet because they supply you with much needed enzymes. Enzymes are a catalyst for every action in the body. We are born with a finite amount of enzymes, and the only way to obtain more is through raw food and supplementation. Enzymes will keep you young, beautiful, with a quick wit and a steady supply of energy.
The types of fat you choose to put into your body are a big deal. Some fats such as those found in avocados, coconut oil, nuts and seeds, olive oil, and fatty fish are all very healing to the body, whereas vegetables oils and shortening, margarine, and any other unnatural fat are incredibly harmful to your body. It is important to put fat in your diet, just make it the right fat.
Protein is also essential to have in your eating plan. Most people in modern society have blood sugar problems, and making sure to include a protein and sometimes a healthy fat at each meal will work wonders at getting your blood sugar under control. There are vegetarian sources of protein, and animal sources of protein, and I do not recommend combining them. Animal sources need an acidic environment in the gut and vegetable sources need an alkaline; when eaten together, different digestive enzymes get secreted and nothing digests properly. It is imperative when picking out your vegetarian sources of protein to ensure that they are as minimally processed as possibly. Beans, nuts and seeds, hummus, quinoa, quality protein shakes, and goji berries are all phenomenal options. If you decide to go with animal protein, try to make sure to choose grass-fed organic meat whenever possible. Factory farmed animals are given massive amounts of hormones, antibiotics, and are raised in the most inhumane ways imaginable. Remember, whatever was injected into them, and whatever diseases the stress from living in such a toxic environment caused are being fed to you and will become a part of you.
People vary with their preferences for meal timing but it is generally advisable for people who are just transitioning to healthy eating to eat 4-5 small meals per day, as this will keep their metabolism high and blood sugar stable, making it easier to overcome cravings. When you break your meals up, you always want to wait at least 3-4 hours between meals so each meal can be fully digested. Eating before your previous meal is digested will lead to proteins that putrefy and carbohydrates that ferment, creating a breeding ground for bad bacteria to thrive in your intestinal tract.
Many people have food allergies, and finding out what yours are could make a huge difference in your day-to-day living. The most highly allergenic foods are eggs, dairy, gluten, sugar, peanuts, and caffeine. The easiest way to find out what you are allergic to, and to know exactly how your body reacts to them, is to go on an elimination diet. An elimination diet consists of a very strict diet where you eliminate all potential allergenic foods for a period of your choosing, usually a minimal of two weeks is recommended. Then, add in each food one by one. Make sure to pay attention to your body’s reaction when you add a food back for about 48 hours, as some reactions take a little time to manifest. Give yourself another day or 2 before adding another food back in and then repeat the process. Pay attention to your energy level, your digestion, your skin, and your mood as these are all telling tale signs that something could be amiss.
Next, if you are looking to lose or gain weight, it’s smart to have a good idea of what your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) is. Your BMR is the number of calories you burn at rest. This is the number of calories you need to eat to maintain the same weight if you were to do no exercise. A pound of fat is 3500 calories. To lose one pound a week, you need to have a 500 calories a day deficit. Likewise, if you were looking to gain weight, you would need a surplus of calories per day. For men, your BMR can be calculated by the following formula: BMR = 10 x weight (kg) + 6.25 x height (cm) – 5 x age (years) + 5.
For women, the formula differs slightly: BMR = 10 x weight (kg) + 6.25 x height (cm) – 5 x age (years) – 161
Another huge part of healthy living in an adequate water intake. Water helps to transport nutrients to cells and helps to carry the waste away. People often time mistake hunger for thirst because most people today are chronically dehydrated. Your water intake will vary from day to day, but staying properly hydrated is always of the utmost important, especially when being physically active.
One very important point I’d like to close with is the unfortunate need for supplementation due to modern agriculture. Our soils are depleted due to chemicals and overuse, and we are just not getting the same amount of nutrients from the land that we once were. As early as 1936, Congress is told that the land is lacking of micronutrients causing over 99% of the American people to be deficient in essential minerals. The main reason for this is the industrialization of the farming process. Growing crops in the same soil year after year has depleted the soil of nutrients, and this results in lower nutrient content in our food. In fact a 2003 report from a Canadian news agency stated that over the last 50 years fruits and vegetables had become significantly lower in nutritional content. For example, Potatoes had lost 100% of Vitamin A content and 57% of Vitamin C and iron. Lettuce, spinach and tomatoes had a decline in average mineral content from 400 mg to 50 mg. More than half of the general US population is Vitamin D deficient, regardless of age. According to Dr. Mark Hyman 92% of us are deficient in one or more nutrients at the RDA level, and this level is the bare minimum for survival, it does not say anything about optimal health. Even the American Medical Association changed its longstanding stance against multivitamins, and has advocated the use of a daily multivitamin. Cover your bases and fill in the gaps by choosing a high quality multi vitamin and a purified fish oil to get those critical omega 3’s.