The Nutritionist will guide the public and provide them with knowledge about the most important element in their lives they can control to take charge of their health: the food on the ends of their forks.
Hippocrates, largely regarded as the Father of Modern Medicine, once opined, “Let food be thy medicine, and medicine be thy food.” For the last 16 years of my life, I have discovered over and over again just how powerful food is at altering health. It can literally be one man’s medicine and another man’s poison. I have learned that each person is unique in their biochemical makeup, genetics, exposures, and experiences and that different foods affect each person a bit differently.
My Nutrition Journey
My personal nutrition journey began in my early 20’s upon altering my own poor health with changing my diet. After my brother was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease a year later, I shared my greatly expanding book collection and newly gained knowledge with him. As a result, he decided to pursue a holistic treatment plan. Nearly fifteen years later, my brother is symptom free, yet never has taken a drug for Crohn’s disease. Instead, he follows an anti-inflammatory diet and takes specific supplements and herbs. Food is his only “medicine.”
My brother and I are not the only people to experience chronic health issues. We are currently in the midst of a health crisis in this country that is largely self-induced. You’ve heard of an economic recession, when debt rises above incomes and many people are without work. They can’t pay their bills; the future looks bleak. Today we could say we are in a state of “health recession.” We have a situation where 80% of Americans are on some type of prescription drug. 1 out of 5 children has a diagnosable mental health disorder and 50% have a chronic health issue, according to the National Institutes of Health. Nearly 70% of adult Americans are overweight or obese, putting them at a greater risk for heart disease, cancer, and diabetes, which are not coincidently, our top three greatest killers each year. The United States healthcare system is ranked 38th out of 40 modern countries in health outcomes. Meaning, we are failing at helping people get healthy. We currently have a disease maintenance system designed to keep you chronically ill; it’s not HEALTH CARE, it’s SICK CARE.
There’s a lot of talk and confusion about what it will take to get us healthy. Different doctors and nutritionists have different ideas as to what foods or weight loss programs or wonder drugs will help us gain health. But what does that word mean? What does it mean to be healthy?? Not just healthy, but to have OPTIMAL HEALTH. The confusion is halted when we understand what optimal health is and look into some relatively simple solutions for gaining it.
- Optimal health is a balance of five areas of health. These areas are emotional, physical, spiritual, intellectual and social health. The concept of optimal health focuses on mental health and healthful relationships, as well as nutrition and exercise.
- As explained in the Preamble to the Constitution of the World Health Organization, health is defined as a “state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.”
- Optimal Health is feeling pretty good every day: good energy, good mood, good digestion, good sleep, little to no pain or illness, positive relationships with oneself as well as others.
Foods that Bring Health are Known as Superfoods
In general, A Plant-Based, Whole-Foods Diet, that is 70% or more plants (vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds, beans, minimal grains) and 30% or less animal foods (fish, eggs, poultry, wild game, meats, shellfish, etc.) by volume.
- Focus on: green leafy veggies (2 cups or more per day)
- Cruciferous veggies: broccoli, cauliflower, kale, brussel sprouts, bok choy
- Orange and yellow colored veggies: carrots, sweet potatoes/yams, squash, yellow peppers
- Reds, Purples, and Blues: Red peppers, radishes, raddichio, purple cabbage, grapes, blueberries, apples, purple potatoes, purple carrots
- Eat the RAINBOW!!! The more plants and veggies (especially), the better!!
Why is food a key component to all areas of health? (including mental, spiritual, emotional, and physical)
Foods affect each and every one of our cells. All of the processes of our biological system depend on nutrients and building blocks from our diets to function properly. You literally are what you eat on a cellular level. Nutrient dense foods nourish cells, organs, mind, body, and spirit.
Health Categories That I Look at to Assess Overall Health:
Mood (and brain health)
Mood affects our relationships with ourselves and others.
- Wild-Caught Fatty Fish
- Nuts and Seeds: almonds, pecans, walnuts, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, etc.
- Green Leafy Veggies: 2 or more cups per day
- Green Tea: 2-3 cups per day
- Tea contains L-Theanine, which is an amino acid that helps with balancing mood and lowers cortisol levels helping us deal with stress. It is also full of antioxidants.
- Good fats: coconut oil, olive oil, full fat coconut milk, fish oil, avocado, nuts and seeds
- Important for satiation (feeling full). Also, all cells are covered in a membrane made of fats, a “lipid raft,” and fats are necessary for the construction and communication of hormones.
Sleep is an important piece of the puzzle for optimal health. It is most beneficial to receive 7-8 hours per night. Sleep helps our cells reset and repair. It helps our memories, moods, and stress management. We know that more and more Americans are relying on drugs for sleep and over the counter sleep aids each year. If you are not having optimal sleep, you cannot have optimal health.
Here are some tips for good sleep…
- No electronics or TV past 9:00pm or 1-2 hours before wanting to go to bed. Read a book or magazine.
- Turn the lights off or make them very dim 1-2 hours before wanting to go to bed. Lighting is key. Melatonin, the sleep hormone, is made by the body when darkness begins (the sun starts to set). Proper levels of melatonin not only help us have a restful sleep, but they are also shown to reduce cancer rates, kill tumors, help mood and are anti-inflammatory.
- Create a calm atmosphere. Certain scents and colors evoke sleep, as well as certain herbs and foods. These foods should be eaten throughout the day, don’t eat less than 2 hours before bedtime (with the exception of chamomile).
- Eat foods to promote restful sleep.
- Walnuts:high in tryptophan
- Almonds: high in magnesium
- Tuna, halibut or salmon: high in B6
- Kale: high in calcium
- Elk and other wild game:high in tryptophan
- Chamomile tea:a relaxant, sedative herb
- Dark and Tart Cherries: source of natural melatonin, the sleep hormone
The levels of dementia and Alzheimer’s in this country are growing overwhelmingly. They are largely due to a diet that is high in processed, refined foods and sugars and not enough food brain foods. “Low-fat”, high sugar/carb is killing us, making us fat and stealing our memories, good moods, and properly functioning hormones.
- Wild Caught Fatty Fish:salmon, halibut
- Green Tea:2-4 cups per day
- Extra Virgin Coconut Oil:1-2 tbps daily
- Blueberries: “brainberries”; ½ cup daily
- Nuts and Seeds: pecans, almonds, walnuts, ¼ cup
- Avocados: ½-1 whole per day
- Beans and lentils: ½ cup per day if no digestive issues
- Dark Chocolate: choose 70% or more cacao content, 1-2 small squares
Our immune systems are intricate, not fully understood, well-orchestrated machines. They are necessary for our survival. We live in a hostile environment where the fittest are competing to live on. It is our immune system’s job to squash any threat or perceived threat. Yet, there is a problem increasingly in the U.S. with our immune systems. 20% of the population, or 1 in 5 now has some type of auto-immune condition, where the immune cells no longer can tell the difference between that is “self” and what is “foreign”. This rise in autoimmunity is largely due to the standard American diet (SAD), poor digestion or “leaky gut”, combined with chemicals in the environment that disrupt our body’s ability to communicate within itself. Foods that boost our immune system include:
- Chicken Bone Broth
- Shellfish- high in zinc
- Wild Caught Fatty Fish
- Green Tea
- Elderberries and Berries
- Leafy Greens
- Asian Mushrooms
- Cruciferous Veggies
- Traditionally Fermented Foods: sauerkraut, kvass, kombucha, yogurt, kefir, etc. are rich in probiotics
Exercise and Movement
Exercise is a key component to better mood, sleep, brain health, physical health, perfect weight, and immunity.
- It sends antibodies and white blood cells (the body’s defense cells) through the body at a quicker rate. As these antibodies or white blood cells circulate more rapidly, they could detect illnesses earlier than they might normally. The increased rate of circulating blood may also trigger the release of hormones that “warn” immune cells of intruding bacteria or viruses.
- The temporary rise in body temperature may prevent bacterial growth, allowing the body to fight the infection more effectively. (This is similar to what happens when the body has a fever.)
- Exercise slows down the release of stress-related hormones. Stress increases the chance of illness.
- Increases the size of your brain = better memory, brain function
- In a study done at the University of British Columbia, researchers found that regular aerobic exercise, the kind that gets your heart and your sweat glands pumping, appears to boost the size of the hippocampus, the brain area involved in verbal memory and learning. Resistance training, balance and muscle toning exercises did not have the same results.
Stress Reduction Techniques
- Stress reduction exercises such as: reading, taking a walk, talking to someone, meditation, prayer, writing, etc. help overall health, mood, and your waistline.
- Inability to deal with stress healthfully results in suboptimal or poor health by increasing cortisol levels. Elevated cortisol robs minerals from your bones, keeps you irritable, affects your sleep cycles, adds inches to your waist, and keeps you craving sugary processed foods.
Feeding your cravings by eating more sugary, processed food will keep you stressed, depressed, overweight, unable to sleep properly and unable to have overall health. A vicious cycle of disease and poor health will result. See how it’s all connected and starts with food??!!
When optimal health is reached, optimal weight is reached.
- A healthy weight is a “side effect” of gaining health. The foods that bring optimal health, bring optimal weight:
- Green tea
- Wild caught fatty fish
- Leafy greens
- Nuts and seeds
- Probiotic foods
- Cruciferous vegetables
- Basic Tennant: A plant-based, whole foods diet, rich in nutrients
- Ideal Plate: 50-75 percent non-starchy veggies
- 25 percent healthy animal or vegetable proteins
- 0-25 percent healthy starch or whole grains
- Low-glycemic fruit as a snack
- Drink water or herbal ice/hot teas