Eating Well for Optimum Health
Do you think you eat well for optimum health? Perhaps you are being careful to limit harmful fats and excess salt and sugar, and making sure you're getting enough fiber, but is that enough for healthy cells and nutrition as we age? Let's take a look.
Most of us base our diets on the standard food pyramid and try to balance fats, carbohydrates, and proteins from a wide range of sources. Humans are designed to be omnivores, although we benefit greatly from vegan diets as long as good protein sources are included. Some of us do better at eating whole foods with less sodium and sugars, while many of us give into the convenience of processed foods. Our doctors recommend we eat 2,000 calories per day on average, so foods need to be chosen carefully. The high fat and sugar content of convenience foods quickly add up without giving our bodies the nutrients needed for optimum metabolic function.
Fats: Our doctors encourage us to keep fat calories at 30% of our total caloric intake per day. Based on the 2000 calorie recommendation, those derived from fats should be kept at 600.
- We need essential fats for our bodies to process the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K.
- Fats provide the fuel that keeps us energized.
- Among the healthiest types are omega 3-polyunsaturated fats and omega-6 fatty acids, which help increase good cholesterol and aid heart function.
- Mono-saturated fats improve insulin function and blood sugar levels. Good sources are nuts, seeds, avocado, and olives. These oils are liquid at room temperature.
Protein: A person weighing 160 lbs would require 58 grams of protein daily. The formula to determine the number of grams required per day is as follows: divide your body weight by 2.2 then multiply by 0.8.
- Proteins are the building blocks of our cells.
- They provide the 9 essential amino acids that our bodies can't make.
- Soybeans and animal sources are the only foods that provide all 9 essentials.
- Vegans can get ample nutrition from beans and quinoa.
Carbohydrates: Complex, rather than simple carbs, break down more slowly and go further in regulating even amounts of blood sugar over a longer period of time. Candy bars and other simple sugars lead to a short-lived energy surge followed by a crash and burn. Insulin is a hormone produced by the pancreas, which regulates fat metabolism. Your calories derived from carbs should be 50% of your total or 1000 based on the average recommendations. Your calories derived from carbs should be 50% of your total or 1000 based on the average recommendations.
- Carbohydrates are a good source of dietary fiber.
- Carbs are used primarily for energy.
- Carbs regulate insulin and blood sugar levels and aid the brain and nervous system.
- Carbs are broken down by the amylase enzyme and stored as glucose by the liver and muscles.
- Excess amounts of carbs are stored in fat cells.
Understanding How We Absorb Nutrients
When we exercise, our muscles release lactic acid. When we are stressed or exposed to things that set off our immune responses, our bodies produce acids. As our bodies digest these foods and process the nutrients in them through cellular respiration, glucose is oxidized into the energy that supports all metabolic functions. The by-product is acidic waste that enters the bloodstream. There, it is filtered by our organs, then removed through respiration, perspiration, and urination.
Our bodies work so efficiently that we don't think of the potentially harmful effects of these acids. Healthy cells are alkaline. Excessive acidity is thought to facilitate cell mutation, weaken immunity, and encourage the growth of viruses, bacteria, and fungi. Think of gout, ulcers, candida, and cancers. It is important that we counteract the effects by trying to maintain a neutral pH of 7. Eating a good diet is the best way to buffer these acids so they don't deplete our natural stores of minerals and weaken our bones.
The Importance of pH Balance
Sugar, caffeine, red meat, alcohol, and fatty processed foods are all acidifying offenders, and our bodies naturally will find ways to neutralize them. If we do not consume enough alkaline foods or take mineral supplements, the body may seek to draw from the stores of calcium and magnesium in our bones. This is especially dangerous for post-menopausal women who typically lose density in the spine and hip areas.
Excess acid waste accumulates in fat cells which serve to encapsulate it as a protective measure against its harmful effects on the body. This may be the reason for stubborn weight gain or ineffective weight loss.
Many of us subsist on a typical high protein diet of meat, eggs, and dairy, and those of us who consume high volumes of processed foods live in a state of chronic acidosis. Although not dangerously high, it can still lead to gradual cell damage, fatigue, bone and muscle weakness, kidney stones, arthritis, and auto-immune disease.
How to Restore a Healthy pH
Re-establishing a healthy and balanced pH is not difficult.
- Take a pH reading with simple strips that test either urine or saliva. They are available in dispenser packs from the pharmacy or online.
- Examine your diet and make adjustments. Make it your goal is to eat 60% alkaline foods and 40% acidic ones.
- Consider adding a daily supplement of calcium, magnesium, and vitamin D. Vitamin D should only be taken with a doctor's order and requires a minimum of 30 minutes of sun exposure for absorption.
- Limit sodas, caffeine, and alcoholic beverages. Better choices are green tea and freshly juiced fruits and vegetables.
- Drink plenty of water. This aids your body in getting rid of acid waste.
The key is to balance favorite proteins with ample vegetables, fruits, seeds, and nuts. Totally eliminating favorite foods only serves to make a diet fail. Instead, go to a farmer's market and load up on fresh leafy greens and vegetables, vine-ripened fruits, whole grains, honey, agave syrup, and olive oil. Go ahead and get that fresh blueberry cobbler. When you make a habit of healthful eating, it's okay to indulge without feeling guilty. Live well.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.
© 2012 Catherine Tally