How to Balance Your Diet for Optimum Health
Do you think you eat well for optimum health? Are you being careful to limit the harmful fats and getting enough fiber? I have always been careful about what I eat, taken care to avoid sodas, quit smoking, exercised, taken my vitamins, and made efforts get ample sleep. It wasn't until I hit 60 that I stopped to really examine my eating habits.
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.
If confused over serving portions and balanced diet, the USDA has a very helpful website called Choose My Plate.
Fats: Vitamins A, D, E, and K are all fat soluble, so our bodies need fat to process these nutrients. Fats also provide the fuel to keep 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. Also beneficial are the mono-saturated fats which improve insulin function and blood sugar levels. Good sources are nuts, seeds, avocado, and olives. These oils are liquid at room temperature. 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.
Proteins: Proteins are the building blocks of our cells and provide the 9 essential amino acids that our bodies can't make. Although soybeans and animal sources are the only foods that provide all 9 essentials, vegans can get ample nutrition from beans and quinoa. Here is a formula to determine the number of grams required per day: divide your body weight by 2.2 then multiply by 0.8. A person weighing 160 lbs. would require 58 grams of protein daily.
Carbohydrates: Carbohydrates, in addition to providing dietary fiber, are primarily used for energy. They also 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 are stored in fat cells. 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.
Putting It All Together
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, is filtered, and then removed through respiration, perspiration, and urination. Our bodies work extremely hard yet so efficiently that we don't think of the potentially harmful effects of these acids. Healthy cells are alkaline, so 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 therefore imperative 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 bones.
The Importance of pH Balance
When confronted with excessive amounts of acid from too much sugar, caffeine, red meat, alcohol, and fatty processed foods, our bodies will find ways to neutralize the offenders. If we do not consume enough alkaline foods or take mineral supplements, the body may seek to use the natural 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. Acid waste often 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, acid reflux, arthritis, and auto-immune disease.
Re-establishing a healthy and balanced pH is not difficult. First, take a pH reading with simple strips that test either urine or saliva. They are available in dispenser packs from the pharmacy or online. Second, examine your diet and make adjustments by adding delicious fruits and vegetables while reducing saturated fats, red meat, and sugary processed snack foods. The goal is to eat 60% alkaline foods and 40% acidic ones. Consider adding a daily vitamin supplement of calcium, magnesium, and D.( Get 30 min. of sunshine each day to process the vitamin D). Limit sodas, caffeine, and alcoholic beverages. Better choices are green tea, freshly juiced fruits, and vegetables, or ginger tea. Drink plenty of water to aid your body in the elimination of acid wastes. Water is especially important after workouts, chiropractic adjustments, and physical therapy.
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, vine-ripened fruits, honey, blackstrap molasses, agave syrup, and olive oil. Better yet, grow your own garden and get the added benefit of fresh air and exercise. When you make a habit of healthful eating, there is no guilt after an occasional treat. Live well!
Questions & Answers
© 2012 Catherine Tally