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The Optimal Diet
The optimal diet for any one individual is as unique as the individual. I suppose the title of this article is a bit misleading, but it did grab your attention, didn’t it? The purpose of this article will be to provide you with the general parameters, the basic outline for you to achieve optimal health through your diet. The diet of the average person in today’s developed nations is appalling. It is a huge contributor to the mess that is the health system of the United States. How many billions of dollars in medical care would be saved annually if we just fed our bodies in a non-abusive manner? Cost of medical care is very nearly out of reach for the family of average income. The problem is just getting worse. Do yourself a favor, eat right and be a part of the solution, not the problem.
There are a few don’ts that must be adhered to in your quest for a healthy body (and a healthy body is always a more physically attractive body). Avoid refined sugars. Refined sugars are nearly all pervasive in today’s foods. You should endeavor to avoid as much of them as is possible. Now, this does not mean you cannot have the occasional treat, it means (as do all of the “rules” set forth here) that these foodstuffs should be the exception to your diet as opposed to the rule. There are many diets today that preach the avoidance of carbohydrates. These diets work, but they do not foster optimal health. Carbohydrates in the form of refined sugars should be avoided, not all carbohydrates. There are two important forms of carbohydrates; complex (starch and fiber) and simple (sugars). Do not confuse the naturally occurring sugars with refined sugars. Fructose, the sugar that is found in fruits is very different from table sugar. The difference is in the “packaging”. Fructose, which occurs in fruits, is greatly diluted by the water content of the fruit and exits side by side with fiber and a myriad of needed vitamins and minerals. There is a vast difference in the health quality of calories consumed from an apple vs. a candy bar. The candy bar contains virtually no health promoting nutrients.
Fiber is a very important form of carbohydrate, one that should be plentifully included in your diet. Fiber is similar to starch with the exception that the bonds between glucose units cannot be broken down by the digestive system proper. This is the property that makes them so useful. There are bacteria that exist in your digestive track that can partially break down the bonds in most fibers. This allows for the body to receive some nutritive value from fibers. The indigestibility of fiber, as already stated, is its value. Some fibers, like fats, provide satiety to the diet. When consumed they give you a feeling of fullness. Other fibers aid with control of insulin levels. Insulin is the hormone that controls bodily glucose. Insulin has another function, to encourage fat deposition. This is one of the reasons that low carbohydrate diets work, they greatly reduce insulin secretion by the body. Again, while low carbohydrate diets work, they also limit intake of many important vitamins and minerals as well as fiber. This does not promote optimal health, only fat loss. Fiber can help control insulin and allow for a healthy consumption of carbohydrates (and the accompanying nutrients).
Starch is another form of carbohydrate that should be included in the diet. Foods such as grains, peas, and beans are all excellent sources of starch. Many beans also contain high amounts of protein as an added bonus. Avoidance of these foods will rob you of many important nutrients that may or may not be replaced by other foods.
Avoidance of refined sugars is very important, but so is the avoidance of overly refined foods in general. This is the next don’t. The vast majority of foods people in North America purchase at the grocery market are highly refined. Highly refined foods have the natural goodness removed from them. Take bread for example. Wheat is refined into bread by the processing of the kernel. A wheat kernel has four important components. There are the germ, endosperm, bran, and the husk. The germ and the endosperm contain the bulk of the nutrients. The bran contains fiber and nutrients. The husk is of no use to humans. Prior to the modern mechanization of food processing, people would mill wheat by grinding it with stones. As they did this they would sort out the husk and retain the rest of the kernel. This resulted in highly nutritious bread. With the advent of new technology it was possible to remove the darker germ and bran and be left white flour. This became the “in” bread to consume. As bread is a huge staple in many people’s diets this soon lead to problems. As the bulk of the nutrients had been removed to make the white flour, people soon began to show signs of nutritional deficiencies. This brought about the Enrichment Act of 1942. White flour became “enriched” with iron, thiamine, niacin, and riboflavin. While this improved matters, enriched bread is still not as nutritionally sound as bread that contains the germ and bran. The naturally occurring combination of nutrients found in unrefined foods is superior to foods that have been reverse-engineered by the enrichment process. There is something about the specific ratios of nutrients that seems to cause superior absorption and utilization of the nutrients in natural foods.
If most of the foods are overly refined, then what should one purchase at the store? Organic foods are a great option. A recent study performed at the University of California-Davis indicates that organic foods have a higher level of cancer fighting flavonoids. Organic foods should have lower levels of pesticides (although some still have them due to the land they are grown on) and higher levels of vitamins and minerals. In a nutshell, organic foods are much more likely to be healthy for you. Nearly all chain food stores throughout the country now have sections devoted to organic and other “health” related foods. Below you will find a list of some of the best foods to eat:
Nuts of all types, but especially peanut butter
Milk and other dairy products such as cheese and yogurt
Please note the list above (it is certainly not comprehensive). What do you see? A key piece of information you should take from this article has already been mentioned, avoid overly processed foods. Some of the greatest foods you can find are ruined in processing for the masses. Take peanut butter. This is one of the greatest foods you can consume. The fat in peanut butter is primarily unsaturated. Peanut butter is a good source of antioxidants, fiber, and protein. The problem arises with its preparation for the masses. Most peanut butter manufacturers add refined sugar in order to make it taste more palatable to the general public. While not ruining the positive benefits of this great food completely, it certainly compromises it.
You should also take heed of another food listed above, brewer’s yeast. You will not find this food in most chain grocery stores, but you can find it in natural and health food stores. I consider brewer’s yeast to be a must for the vast majority of people. Brewer’s yeast is a fabulous source of the B vitamins that could the basis for an entire article themselves (and probably will be in the near future). Brewer’s yeast is also a great source for minerals. Vitamins are necessary for health, but they are nothing without minerals. Brewer’s yeast contains both in relatively high concentrations and is one of the best overall foods one can consume. Brewer’s yeast does present us with one interesting conundrum, its taste. Unfortunately brewer’s yeast is not particularly pleasing to the palate. The best method I know of overcoming this fact is a little dietary secret I have been using for some time. Each day I consume a homemade smoothie for lunch. This smoothie consists of skim milk, liberal amounts of fresh fruits (usually 2 bananas, 5-7 strawberries, and a third fruit which I rotate every few days), one serving of AtLarge’s Nitrean, 10-12 oz. of skim milk, and 1-2 servings of brewer’s yeast. The other ingredients in the smoothie mask the taste of the brewer’s yeast to an acceptable degree. In fact, I really look forward to this treat each day!
I consume the smoothie daily because I, like many others in my generation, have never had a great fondness for fruit consumption. My fast-food guzzling generation really never seemed to develop much of a taste for fruits or vegetables. Old habits and preferences aside, I have found that by greatly reducing the consumption of refined sugars and foods in general I have gained a new appreciation for both fruits and vegetables.
As a final and important note, if you heed my advice in this article you WILL enjoy an increased sense of well-being, energy, and robust health. Since I have adopted this manner of eating, I have not been sick for even a day, and my blood pressure has dropped. Do yourself a favor; do everyone else a favor, and start eating a healthy diet today!
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