The type of diet that will best support health is comprised of the kinds of foods that were available to us thousands of years ago – like the “Cave Man Diet.” Hamburger, coke, and french fries were not included in that list! Is it any wonder that eating packaged, processed foods, laden with sugar, salt, and fat contribute to obesity, heart disease, cancer, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, arthritis, inflammatory conditions, and chronic pain? The average American diet contains 40 – 50% fat and 15 – 20% sugar. If 70% of your calories contain no vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, or anti-oxidants, how can that possibly sustain the needs of your body? If you would like to see what happens with eating McDonald’s foods morning, noon, and night watch the video “Super-size Me.” The healthy subject ate 3 meals a day at McDonald’s and supersized the menu whenever it was offered, gained 28 lbs in 30 days, and developed depression, erectile dysfunction, chest pain, and digestive problems.
So what should we be eating? The foundation of a healthy diet is 5 – 9 servings of vegetables and fruits a day. A serving is a ½ cup, 1 piece of fruit, or what will fit in your hand. If you want a visual, figure that ½ of your plate should be vegetables, ¼ should be starch, and ¼ should be lean meat or protein. Rather than chips, crackers, or cereals for snacks, go for fruit: peaches, pears, plums, nectarines, bananas, apples, oranges, mangoes, watermelon, cantaloupe, honeydew, pineapple, berries, grapes, cherries, etc.
Vegetables include broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, onions, mushrooms, peppers, zucchini, yellow squash, okra, Brussel sprouts, cabbage, green beans, beets, lettuce (the darker, the better), spinach, greens, etc. Look for recipes on the internet and try to add veggies to everything – like adding shredded zucchini to tomato sauce in chili or with pasta, and adding vegetables to meat and potato or rice dishes.
Try to eat as much organic food as possible. The nutritional content is amazingly better in organic than conventionally grown food. See the following table.
In conventional farming, the N-P-K fertilizer contains nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorus. But a crop pulling and removing all trace minerals from the soil year after year depletes zinc, selenium, magnesium, iron and other nutrients essential for health. Since the plants can’t take minerals out that aren’t in the soil, eventually the plants are nutrient depleted as well – and so is the person eating them. Organic foods contain no pesticide residues, which surely cannot be good for us, and some data actually links pesticides to cancer, Parkinson’s disease, and other immune and neurologic conditions.
Starches should be modest in quantity, whole, and unprocessed. Food coming out of packages and boxes, white flour, white bread, grits, white rice, Rice-a-Roni, and Hamburger Helper are examples of processed and nutrient-depleted foods. Beans, peas, lentils, sweet potatoes, potatoes, whole grains like brown rice, rolled oats, whole grain cereals, and whole wheat bread and pasta have not had the nutrient-dense bran and germ removed and are much better choices. It’s best not to eat a lot of wheat and dairy, as some people have frank allergies to them, and others have difficulty digesting these largest proteins in our diets.
Meats should be lean and unprocessed. Fish, chicken, and turkey without the skin, lean (90/10 or better) ground beef, round steak, lean pork baked, broiled or pan-fried with pan-spray are good choices. Luncheon meats like salami, bologna, and pepperoni are high in fat and salt, contain nitrates and nitrites (linked to cancer), and certainly lose nutrients in the processing. If it comes in a nice regular shape, it’s processed and should not be a regular part of your diet.
It’s possible to get a really varied and healthy diet with choices widely available, but it certainly isn’t easy with the barrage of advertising and fast foods the path of least resistance. If you want to be healthy long into your golden years, rather than a statistic, make the difficult diet choices that keep you energetic and free of debilitating diseases!