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Articles: #1 Optimize Nutrition
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Change Your Body, Change Your Brain series...
#1 Optimize Nutrition
“You are what you eat”. The most powerful tool you have to change your health is your fork. The nutritional choices you make can play a big role in how you feel and your quality of life. Unfortunately, especially for the past 60 years, nutrition has become very confusing.
“What should we eat?”
Protein provides the building blocks (amino acids) for healthy tissues. Our DNA strings amino acids together to make thousands of molecules in the body. Many of these molecules are important for proper functioning of the brain. Neurotransmitters like serotonin (happy molecule), norepinphrine (stimulating molecule), dopamine (pleasure molecule), acetylcholine (memory and focus molecule), and GABA (excitatory control molecule) are made from proteins and control almost every function in your body.
Eggs; organic, free-range, without antibiotics.
Eggs are one of the best and cheapest quality proteins available.
Fowl; organic, free-range, and antibiotic-free.
Fatty, cold-water, wild fish; excellent source of omega 3s.
Grass-fed, hormone and antibiotic free meats and wild game; Feed-lot cows are routinely given synthetic estrogens to grow faster and fatter. This is one of the greatest sources of estrogen in our food supply. This estrogen is stored in the animal’s tissue and consumed by us. More and more diseases associated with estrogen dominance are occurring: polycystic ovarian disease, fibroids, endometriosis, increased estrogen cancers, reduced fertility rates, early puberty, etc. Plus, synthetic estrogen makes YOU FAT!
The meat of grass-fed animals is significantly lower in saturated fat and contains higher levels of CLA – Conjugated Linoleic Acid than grain-fed animals. CLA is a fatty acid found in beef, lamb and dairy fats. Research has shown CLA to be a potent cancer-fighting substance and can reduce body fat.
Fermented dairy: yogurt, kefir, cheese, sour cream... Fermented dairy has already been digested and can provide a small amount of beneficial bacteria for the large bowel.
Dairy is another deadly source of synthetic estrogen in our diets.
Look for “rBST or rBGH free” on the label. Trader Joe’s dairy products are all rBST free.
The dangers of hormone replacement therapy (HRT) have been exposed, but we are still eating synthetic, carcinogenic, female hormones everyday!
Eating higher on the food chain (animal proteins) exposes us to hormones, pesticides, mercury, antibiotics, etc…..which the animals have been subjected to. Buying quality proteins, free from these toxins, protects your health and your brain.
Vegetarian protein; Includes legumes, nuts, seeds, and grains.
Legumes provide about 20-25% protein, tree nuts and seeds contain healthy fats in addition to protein, and grains are ~8-12% protein. Sprouting legumes and seeds releases digestive enzymes and makes their nutrients more bioavailable - an excellent source of veg. protein.
Unfermented soy is not recommended: tofu, soy milk, etc..
Action step: Substitute vegetarian protein for animal protein at one meal each day.
Carbohydrates are sugars and starches. They provide energy for bodily functions.
The best carbohydrates also contain fiber; legumes, vegetables, fruits, and whole grains normalize our digestive function and slow the absorption of sugar and fats.
Plant foods also contain phytonutrients or antioxidants. Phytonutrients offer protection by eliminating free-radicals that can cause cell damage (changes the cell’s DNA), i.e. aging.
In order of importance:
1. Vegetables: organic, seasonal, non-irradiated, non-genetically modified; and eaten raw or minimally cooked. Including raw or fermented vegetables at every meal is advisable.
1a. Legumes: an excellent source of complex carbohydrates, fiber and protein. Soak beans overnight, change the water then cook.
2. Fruit: whole, seasonal, organic fruit. Fruit juice contains too much sugar and little fiber and should be avoided. Read “Dirty Dozen – Clean Fifteen” for better choices.
3. Grains: organic, whole grains. Even whole grains contain more sugar than an average adult will burn off. Grains contain phytic acid which reduces the absorption of calcium, magnesium, zinc, and iron. They are not the best choice of carbohydrates.
Vegetables are the best choice of carbohydrates.
Avoid Refined Carbohydrates, Sugar makes you fat!
Foods like soda, fruit juice, white flour, white rice, baked goods and processed foods.
Refined carbohydrates rob the body of nutrients, create huge fluctuations in blood sugar, damage blood vessel walls and are the primary cause of weight gain.
Read labels, look at the food’s sugar content, or better yet don’t buy anything that requires a food label, and avoid high fructose corn syrup.
Action step: Include raw fruit or vegetables at every meal.
Do you need an oil change?
Quality oils and fats provide a concentrated source of energy, they provide the building blocks for a variety of hormones and hormone-like substances, are an essential part of our immune system, they act as carriers for the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E & F, aid in the metabolism and utilization of other fats, and compose the structure of cell membranes. Every instruction you body needs to survive is communicated through your cell membranes. As part of a meal, fats delay the emptying of food from the stomach which provides longer satiety and more stable blood sugar.
There are 2 essential fatty acids: Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), an omega-3 fatty acid and Linoleic acid (LA), an omega-6 fatty acid. Over the last 150 years our diets have changed from a balanced ratio 1:1 of omega-3 to omega-6; to a ratio today more like 1:20+, O-3 to O-6.
The Omega-3 fatty acids DHA & EPA are found abundantly in cold-water, fatty fish: salmon, trout, mackerel, sardines, and herring.
Another rich source of Omega-3s (ALA) is flaxseeds and hemp seeds and their oils.
Omega-6 fatty acids are abundant in vegetable oils which make up the majority of fats in the American diet today: corn, soy, safflower, sunflower, cottonseed, grapeseed, peanut oils.
Coronary artery disease is the leading cause of death among Americans; 40% of all U.S. deaths. We have been led to believe that heart disease is caused by the consumption of cholesterol and saturated fats.
Here are the facts:
From 1910 to 1990 the consumption of saturated fat has declined from 83% to 62% and dietary cholesterol has increased by only 1%. During this same period the consumption of vegetable oils (omega-6) in the form of margarine, shortening and refined oils increased by 400% and the consumption of sugar and processed foods increased 600% (1).
Consuming vegetable oils and hydrogenated oils combined with excess refined carbohydrates in the form of sugar and white flour is a recipe for illness. These rancid, oxidized polyunsaturates create free-radicals which damage strands of DNA/RNA that trigger mutations in tissue, blood vessels and skin. Free-radical damage to the skin causes wrinkles, skin cancer and premature aging, free-radical damage to tissue and organs sets the stage for cancer, and free-radical damage to blood vessels initiates the buildup of plaque.
The # 1 nutritional change you can make to protect your body and your brain is to completely eliminate hydrogenated oils and trans-fats.
#2 Reduce your consumption of PUFAs, especially those high in Omega-6s: safflower, grapeseed, sunflower, soybean, and corn oils. Found in salad dressings, margarine, “whipped” oil spreads, baked goods, fried foods, etc….
#3 Never heat oils or butter. Fats are very fragile and you can turn a “good” oil into a toxic oil when you heat it. Sauté in water or broth and add oils and butter after cooking.
(1) Enig, Mary G, PhD, Trans Fatty Acids in the Food Supply: A Comprehensive Report Covering 60 Years of Research, 2nd Edition, Enig Associates, Inc., silver Spring, MD, 1995, 4-8.
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