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Top 5 Myths of Healthy Eating

You may have seen this item in the news recently- the World Health Organisation has fingered processed meat and red meat as contributing causes of cancer. News websites and magazines are frequently inundated with information about this food that’s killing you and that food that’ll magically help you burn fat, and it becomes nearly impossible for the reader to figure out which end is up.

The truth is, a lot of what you read about nutrition, even from ostensibly reputable sources, can be misleading at best. Numerous dietary myths have come down to us from decades past that are hard to overcome, and many more pop up every year.

So, what do you absolutely need to know about nutrition to cut through the fog and chart a clear path?

One Size Does Not Fit All

There are those in the nutrition business who will tell you to eat lots and lots of raw vegetables and whole grains. As Chinese medicine has always recognised, there are many people who can’t digest all that bulk biomass without experiencing gas, bloating and general misery. Chinese medicine often recommends cooked vegetables for this reason. As for whole grains, you may remember our post on that topic, but we’ll circle back to it below.

As for the fad diet of the hour, the truth is that everyone’s digestive system is built a bit differently. You can’t just take a diet off the shelf and expect it to be your own permanent solution. That’s why traditional medical systems such as Ayurveda, Tibetan and Traditional Chinese Medicine evaluate each person individually before making dietary recommendations. In traditional Indian cooking, for example, there is a system for helping those with different dietary needs in the same household by providing spices, chutneys and other additives that will help them to digest foods that are not what their particular digestive system would prefer.

Low Fat Diets Aren’t

The myth of the healthy low-fat diet hangs around like the stench of skunk spray, decade after decade, despite having been long since disproven. You can’t look up a recipe online without running into someone peddling a low-fat version.

The truth is, your body desperately needs healthy saturated fats for some of the main building-blocks of cells and neurotransmitters, for the dissolved micronutrients they carry, and above all for the health of your brain. This doesn’t mean, of course, that all fats are created equal. Transfats, a leading cancer-causing substance created by prolonged heating or chemical alteration of fats, have thankfully been acknowledged as the danger they are. But the truth is that the Omega 6 fats in most vegetable oils aren’t very good for you either. The body requires a certain ratio of Omega 3 to Omega 6 fat, and most fats in processed foods are the latter.

The fact is, we don’t get fat from fat, generally speaking. We get fat because we eat too many carbohydrates, which our bodies can’t immediately burn. When that happens, insulin is released is vast quantities to get the excess sugar out of our bloodstreams, which is then converted to fat. That’s why you crash after a sugar high. If you want to avoid this vicious cycle, you actually have to get to the point of teaching your body to burn fat, a process which includes lower carb intake, intermittent fasting and exercise.

When you’re looking for healthy fats to incorporate into your diet, think olive oil, raw nuts and seeds, coconuts and coconut oil, avocadoes and restrained amounts of free-range meat and dairy.

 

Some ‘Health Foods’ Can Kill

While benign natural alternatives to sugar do exist, artificial sweeteners are among the most pernicious examples of government pandering to industry by allowing substances conclusively linked to major diseases to be placed on the market under a smokescreen of denial.

Among the worst is Aspartame, currently marketed as Splenda. Aspartame was originally developed in a search for an ulcer drug, and was only later marketed as a food additive. The FDA has known since 1974 that the substance caused brain tumours in rats, and that many of the studies paid for by the manufacturers were flawed. Independent studies have linked it to cancer, brain damage and other serious chronic conditions. Under industry pressure, both the FDA and the US attorney hired to investigate aspartame swept the issue under the carpet. Among other effects, aspartame exposed to heat in the body breaks down into methyl alcohol, a poison.

Sucralose, a sugar derivative which the body cannot metabolise, has been linked to massive damage to gut flora, without which our digestive tract cannot function, as well as other illnesses. As with aspartame, the scientific basis for approving this product was deeply flawed, and yet the emergence of a wide variety of health complaints linked to sucralose is continually dismissed.

Another example of an unhealthy health-food is soy. Because it contains estrogen-mimicking chemicals, it can throw off our hormonal balance, a process that is strongly linked to cancer. A little bit of soy was alright in the Asian diet, but now, as a cash crop used in many processed foods and to feed factory-farmed animals, it pervades our diet to a ridiculous degree.

 

The Problem With Industrial Agriculture

The soy problem is just one slice of what’s dangerous about the way our food is created. Corn, as animal feed and as the pernicious additive High-Fructose Corn Syrup which pervades processed food and helps to addict us to sugar, fulfills a similar role.

These crops are used to feed animals raised in filthy, overcrowded spaces. These animals will never see the sunlight or eat a piece of grass. Naturally, they are horrendously unhealthy and need to be pumped full of antibiotics to live long enough to get to your table.

Many of the grains, fruits and vegetables available today are genetically modified, grown intensively in micronutrient-depleted soils through the use of chemical fertiliser, reducing their nutritional value, and saturated with pernicious pesticides. The result is that many of the healthy foods you think you’re eating are nutritionally dead and loaded with chemicals that will assault your health.

Then there’s the processed food industry, implicated by the WHO report. Humans have always processed food to some degree in order to survive- drying, jerkying, smoking, preserves, pickling and other fermentation methods and so on. The problem with many modern approaches is the range of chemical additives they involve and the nutrients they kill.

If you want healthy food, then organic, free-range, hormone and antibiotic-free, unpasteurised products are your friends. The thing about the processed meats the WHO was talking about is that they are fundamentally different from the processed meats of previous generations, from the health and nutrition of the animal to the methods of preservation to the sheer amount being eaten.

Consider replacing some of these new processed foods with old ones. Naturally fermented yogurts, picked vegetables and so on are good sources of the bacteria your digestive tract needs in order to function.

 

Unhealthy Grains

Bulk grains are a recent addition to the human diet in biological terms, and while eating them has helped to sustain our societies, we are now faced with the triple problems of overabundance, overuse and harmful processing.

Overabundance of grains has meant that we are generally eating far too many of them. Grains are basically empty carbohydrates, little more than a sugar hit as far as your metabolism is concerned.

Overuse of grains by the food industry has seen grains pop up in new foods, including meat and most processed foods. We are encouraged to eat grains four meals a day, from our breakfast cereals to our lunchtime sandwiches to our chips to rolls and pasta at dinner. This is far more raw starch than we could ever use.

Processing of grains is another big problem. Processed grains have been robbed of their nutrients, and unhealthy chemicals are left in their place. No amount of “enrichment” can make it healthy again.

Gluten: The rise of gluten allergy is linked to the overabundance of processed grains in our diet, and even low-level gluten allergy can adversely affect your health in numerous ways. Gluten, a protein found in wheat, rye and barley among other grains, interferes with your body’s ability to absorb nutrients and promotes constipation. Undigested gluten causes your immune system to attack your intestines. Over time, gluten causes a number of nutrient deficiencies, unpleasant physical symptoms and degenerative effects.

Research has shown that gluten-intolerance is on the rise relative to past generations, partly because we have created varieties of grain with much higher gluten content, and partly because of the use of high-gluten white flour and the decline of whole-grain and mixed-grain flours.

 

Getting on Track

If you want to optimise the way you fuel your body, try to think in terms of the diet that was natural to human beings before industrial intervention in the food chain. We’re not necessarily talking about a Paleo diet, what the cave men allegedly ate. We are talking about a mix of naturally-grown foods that is right for your nutritional type. If you can make that adjustment, you can learn to steer away from the many threats to your nutrition and health which lurk in the modern grocery store.


Jedi for Real Food

The struggle against the Dark Side of the grocery store continues in this outrageous Star Wars-themed battle of the foods.


Five Fun Facts and Five Important Discoveries About the Human Body

Understanding this human body we inhabit, with all its talents and quirks, is a key for our personal resilience. Here are some fun facts and discoveries that may get you thinking about your body in new ways.

Fact 1: The human nose can distinguish at least 10,000 different odours.

Discovery 1: Epigenetics

We are all pretty much used to the idea that our DNA contains a program that creates the proteins that in turn create us. DNA contains the details of how we work, our susceptibility to different diseases and disorders. Science used to tell us that our DNA was our destiny, that our genetic self was set in stone. Today, we know that this isn’t true. We know, for example, that certain cancers appear to be passed down genetically. But research has also shown that adopted children exhibit the same predisposition toward cancer and other diseases as their adopted family. A new branch of science called epigenetics explores how genes are expressed.

Identical twins with identical DNA, for example, will start life with the same set of epigenetic predispositions that govern how their DNA is expressed. As they go through life and their experiences start to diverge, those epigenetic tags start to differentiate, to the point where the twins may end up looking very different, experiencing different health challenges etc.

There are at least 30,000 different combinations of ways in which any genetic code can be expressed, depending on the epigenetic tags. Thus, the genome is more like a set of building blocks than a complete blueprint. The way the blocks are put together determines the outcome.

Fact 2: Medicine attributes around 1/3 of all healings to the placebo effect.

Discovery 2: Heart Thought

Within the heart, there are many neural cells, and specialists now believe that these cells act to imprint the heart’s substantial electromagnetic charge with the information needed to regulate the cells of the body. Studies have shown that the heart responds faster than the brain to outside stimulation.

Fact 3: Cow’s milk, peanuts, egg whites, wheat and soybeans account for 90% of allergies.

Discovery 3: Muscle Fibres

There are basically three types of muscle fibres- slow, fast twitch and super-fast twitch. The fast and super-fast twitch fibres make up the “white” muscle. While the normal “red” muscle gets the lion’s share of the blood supply, fast-twitch fibres are largely glycolytic in metabolism- they are working off the body’s stored energy. By triggering these fibres, you switch to the body’s anaerobic metabolism, which in turn has been shown to release significant amounts of human growth hormone (HGH), a significant factor for health, longevity and muscle growth.

Fact 4: The brain uses 20% of the body’s oxygen and glucose intake.

Discovery 4: Good Fat

Low-fat diets were all the rage a few decades ago and haven’t yet died out completely, but the truth is that it matters more what kinds of fats you eat than whether you eat them (and your body does need them).

Unfortunately, modern diets tend to be weighted toward Omega 6 fatty acids rather than Omega 3, while our bodies are designed for the opposite. This is of particular concern, because there is evidence that one particular kind of Omega 6 molecule is associated with memory loss and neural degeneration. We get Omega 6 from grain-fed factory-farm animal products, but especially from vegetable oil (corn, sunflower, canola and soybean), which is the main source of this imbalance in our diet. These are present in most processed foods.

Conversely, Omega 3 is quite important for brain health. Dietary sources can be supplemented by krill oil or fish oil capsules, but beware of eating too much fish, as fish in our food chain is often contaminated with mercury and PCBs.

Fact 5: All the human body’s blood vessels, laid end to end, would measure around 96,000 kilometres (60,000 miles). So your blood vessels could circle the earth at the equator nearly two and a half times!

Discovery 5: Psychoneuroimmunology

Psychoneuroimmunology is a field of study that has helped us to understand the link between your emotions, the neurochemical state of your body and your immune system. It turns out that our stress responses and our immune systems are wired into the same system.

If you are always experiencing stress, you are always triggering your fight or flight response, the neurotransmitter chemicals are going out and screaming at your immune system to get going. The trouble is, this becomes your new neurochemical baseline, and your shell-shocked cells decrease their sensitivity to all these neurochemicals. In response, your body sends out more and more of them. It’s like trying to keep a military on war alert all the time- after the fiftieth false alarm, they’re not going to respond as quickly. This chemical state affects us not only on the emotional level, as fear, anger and stress become suffering and depression, but on the genetic level as well. And your immune system is even worse off. A persistent adrenal response causes the immune system to activate again and again, sending messenger chemicals throughout our bodies.

The immune organs- the bone marrow, the thymus gland, the spleen and the lymph nodes- have abundant connections to the nervous system and act in response to impulses received from the brain. Likewise, white blood cells and lymph cells provide feedback to the brain, because they are capable of secreting almost all of the hormones, endorphins and messenger chemicals the body produces, and can also read these substances when sent by other cells.

The hub of this system is the glands that answer the phones, so to speak, in the body’s defence system. These are the adrenals, pituitary and hypothalamus. These are the organs that dispatch epinephrine and cortisol to activate the body’s defences when a threat is sensed, whether physical, emotional or health-related.

This switchboard gets its instructions from the emotional centres of your brain. It doesn’t know the difference between a hungry tiger and an unsatisfied emotional need or constant low-level stress. All that this system knows is when we achieve what’s called consummation, when we’ve done something to remove the danger or relieve the tension. If we can’t do that, the system stays active, and that activity wears down all of our body’s defence systems.

~ Dr. Symeon Rodger


Got a Health Challenge? Time to Start JUICING!


As you may have seen in our smoothie-making video, smoothies are a great, versatile delivery system for many kinds of nutrients, from vitamins, minerals and antioxidants to healthy fats and proteins.

Juicing is a little different…

Where a smoothie is essentially mulched solid food, a juicer extracts the liquid component of fruits and vegetables. Its main health function is to extract and deliver the living vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, phytochemicals and enzymes of vegetables in a form that is very accessible and easy to digest for the body. It’s a great way of getting a healthy amount of vegetable nutrients in your diet. Many people juice every day.

But there are also other uses for juicing. Cleansing diets using only juices can have tremendous health benefits if done properly. The simplicity and accessibility of the diet means that the body gets a rest from processing complex foods, while still getting direct access to the nutrients it most needs to regenerate itself and build the immune system. The length of a juice diet varies enormously, from up to one year in medically-supervised treatment of extreme health challenges to one to two week juice fasts to intermittent one or two day fasts.

Juicing can help boost your immune system by ensuring it gets all the trace elements and vitamins it needs to function effectively. It can help your digestive system by giving it a bit of a rest and delivering plenty of plant enzymes. Juicing extracts many nutrients and delivers them directly, important when so many of us have compromised digestive systems. Juicing naturally alkalises your system, making your body a less hospitable environment for disease. As you get more vegetable nutrients, your energy level will improve, and your brain health in the long term will be much improved.

Juicing can not only help us reach a healthy level of vegetable consumption, but broaden our diet as well. For those of us who tend to eat the same vegetables every week, juicing is an opportunity to change things up and get a wider variety of nutrients.

However…

If done improperly, juicing can cause you problems, so it’s a good idea to get some competent guidance before setting out on long-term juicing. Some of the key things to watch out for include:

– Sugar level: You don’t want to juice only or even primarily fruits, because pulpless fruit juice is an efficient delivery system of sugar to your blood – too efficient! Not only diabetics but anyone who has problems with blood sugar or energy levels should avoid this. Some fruit may be added to make vegetable juices more palatable. Root vegetables like carrots and beets also have high sugar levels.

– Sticking with the wrong vegetable: Some vegetables contain elements that the body has trouble dealing with in large amounts. Spinach, for example, contains oxalates, which inhibit iron absorption and can cause kidney stones and have negative impact on people with arthritis or gout. For most people, switching ingredients periodically should address this problem.

– Green juice is icky: Leafy greens are among the best vegetables you can juice in terms of nutrient content. Start with your everyday salad greens flavoured with some fruit and perhaps ginger or lemon juice before tackling some of the more strongly-flavoured greens such as chard or kale.

– Getting the right stuff: Premade juices and juices using non-organic produce are to be avoided as much as possible. Artificial fertilisers mask soil exhaustion, and vegetables grown with them will lack many of the trace nutrients we’re looking for. Juicing pesticide-treated veggies, washed or not, isn’t a great idea either.

– Listen to your body: Some of us react badly to particular vegetables, and if you notice digestive distress after juicing, that may be the signal to change what you juice.

– Nutritional typing: If your notice that you often have difficulty digesting vegetables, especially leafy greens, you may have to approach juicing differently, with more focus on non-leafy vegetables and sources of healthy fat, such as avocadoes.

No juice is a perfect balanced food or even a meal replacement. Short-term juice fasts based on rotating different vegetables are a good way to boost your health, but in the long term, juicing is part of a complete diet, not a replacement for it.

Juicing is one of the easiest ways modern technology has given us to balance our diet and help our bodies by delivering accessible, living nutrients on a regular basis.

~ Dr. Symeon Rodger


Video Post: Your Guide to Nutritious Smoothies

The invention of the blender marks the high point in the nutritional history of the twentieth century, if only because it gave us the smoothie.  The smoothie is the all-in-one nutrition quick-pack for busy people on the go.  This is your quick and easy video guide to a balanced, all-purpose, nutritious smoothie.  Bon appétit!


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