Friday, January 29, 2010

Sodium Levels and Processed Foods

There is a laundry list of reasons why people should greatly reduce the amount of processed foods in their diet, high in refined sugar and flower, food colorings and chemical additives, nutrient deficient empty calories, and of course high sodium levels just to name a few.

A recent news article Huge range of salt found in processed food sheds some much needed light on the subject, but in my opinion falls short of educating the public on the importance of maintaining a healthy diet by consuming whole natural foods in the complex unprocessed unrefined form.

It is very important to realize that even though the body requires certain levels of sugar, and fat, and sodium, it is no where nears the levels the westernized "processed food diet" provides. The problem with processed foods is that they are made with refined ingredients that have basically been processed to the point where not only do they lack any nutritional value but in the refined "simple" form they cause more harm than good.

Take unrefined sea salt for example... it can be considered a "complex food form" since (depending on the verity) can contain up to %15 minerals, compared to refined white table salt that is nearly %98 sodium-chloride and %2 chemicals from processing. These refined salts can actually prevent the body from absorbing water Iodine.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Counting Empty Calories

Counting calories has become a popular weight loss strategy, but are we missing the big picture?

Sure calories = lbs and therefore limiting your caloric intake should reduce your overall weight, but what if these calories we count are empty calories. An empty calorie is a calorie that lacks much if any nutritional value, and these empty calories are a plenty in the average American diet. We are probably the only obese starving nation, and obviously it's not calories we are deprived of but rather nutritional substance. So even though reducing your overall caloric intake will assist you in losing weight, it is rarely a habit that sticks and for good reason... our nation is starving for nutrients so we always feel hungry, and the hungrier you are the more chance you have of falling off the wagon.

Obesity is an epidemic in this country because our diets consist primarily of processed foods lacking nutritional value and resulting in empty calories. Since these empty calories do not supply our bodies with the nutrients it requires to maintain a healthy state they fall short at satisfying our hunger as well, which is why we turn to more food.

This creates an endless loop of craving more but supplying ourselves with less, nutrients that is. So if most Americans slightly and morbidly obese alike are starving for nutrients does it make sense to focus solely on the act of reducing calories?

It is important to understand that the quality of each calorie should be your primary focus. I can assure you that if you make each calorie count by consuming a diet that consists primarily of fresh organic produce, natural whole grains and legumes, you will begin to realize that your body will crave fewer calories.

Maintain a healthy diet and your body will maintain a healthy weight.

Friday, January 22, 2010

1 and 5 Teens... Unhealthy Cholesterol Levels

This is the headline of an article I found today (Original Article) and although not surprising to me, should be a wake-up call to our society. The article is informative and the last paragraph which reads...

"For all youth, healthy eating habits and physical activity are good ways to reduce their risk for abnormal lipids and heart disease in the long term." the right advice, but I feel it stops short of explaining what a "healthy eating" is or should be. Most people feel that switching to an apparent healthier processed food is healthy eating; if it says low sodium or low sugar, or fat free, or low calories than it must be healthy, but this is not the correct approach to a healthier you.

A healthy diet, at its core, must revolve around fresh (organic when possible) fruits and vegetables, and natural whole grains and legumes. That's where a healthy diet starts. Fresh fruits vegetables and natural whole grains must be the foundation, with any and all red meats being grass-fed and poultry and eggs being free-range.

It doesn't mean processed foods must be eliminated all together, in today's world it's just not practical, but when you have a good foundation (to your diet) adding some 100% organic processed foods will not kill you.

Be smart... Start fresh and you'll end up healthy!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Super-Size This

When did our society become such gluttons when it comes to food? When did "more for your money" become such a huge selling point when it comes to food shopping? When did people start choosing quantity over quality? And when did our sense of "quality" get so distorted?

It's evident everywhere you turn from fast food joints to your local grocery store, gluttony has engulfed an otherwise starving nation... Starving of nutrients that is! But why is this so?

The only answer I can come up with is that we've been brainwashed into thinking "bigger is better" and "more for less" are good things, and by good I mean healthy, but healthy is not on most people's minds when food is. Not when hamburger joints are shoving 2, and 3 burgers into 1 sandwich to help it sell, and it works. Isn't it obvious that if it's cost effective for them to add more garbage to the "dollar menu" and sell it for less that it can't possibly be good for you... Haven't you ever heard of "you get what you pay for"?

It's not just the fast food joints though restaurants do the same; bigger portions sell. Look at the container of whatever packaged processed food impostor your local grocery store has to offer and compare it to the competing product next to it, and see if you can recognize what the biggest attention-getting best selling point that manufactures are dumping most of their money into. "More for less" definitely tops the charts.

They have been doing it for so long that "bargain shopping" has taken over food shopping, which has only made it easier for food manufacturers to easily come up with a handful of new deceiving marketing tactics that "Joe or Jane Public" just eat up with a spoon. How many times have you seen "Now with more flavor" on the package? What does that even mean? Have they figured out how to do what Mother Nature already does quite well, but only better?

Are the fruits or vegetables or grains that are supposedly in that box or bag or can of "food" grown in such a way that they actually contain more flavor, or are they the same pesticide grown overly processed nutrient deficient tasteless ingredients with even more chemical additives put in that make a glutinous misinformed society only think the product is "new and improved"?

I can tell you for a fact that most people in our society have either forgotten or have never known what chicken really tastes like, because that grain fed bird that has never seen daylight let alone felt grass under its feet, that you're buying at the grocery store or getting at a restaurant IS NOT CHICKEN!

It is time we start educating ourselves on what a healthy diet really means and stop listening to what large profit driven corporations want us to believe.

Eat Fresh Organic produce, natural whole grains, and grass fed beef or free grazed chicken instead of the science experiments that you currently call food. Sure, you will pay more for less, but you will get what you pay for and that's a healthier life.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Spaghetti Squash In Place of Pasta

Want some noodles to go with that chicken soup, but with a little more substance and more nutritional value than say that back of egg noodles? Are you looking for a pasta side dish, but without the refined carbohydrates?

Try Spaghetti Squash... it's a winter squash that when prepared looks like, well spaghetti.

*Cut the squash in half long ways and core the center by removing the seeds (save them if you want they are editable and can be toasted like pumpkin seeds).
*In a large pot place the squash halves face down and add about 1 inch of water, then steam for about 20-25min; until soft.
*Remove the squash (careful they're hot) and with a fork scrape out the insides over a plate.
*Simply run the fork on the inside, long ways, and the spaghetti strands will come out.
*Add some olive oil and garnish with parsley to taste.


Keep the Comfort Food Healthy

We all turn to "comfort food" when our bodies or minds are stressed and often this comfort food we crave is carbohydrates or the infamous sugar, but that doesn't mean we can't give our bodies what it's asking for.

We all know that sugar (glucose) is fuel for our brains and I've mentioned many times the importance of complex carbohydrates; they may be the most important nutrient our body can get, but the biggest problem with most people is that they misinterpret these cravings for unhealthy nutrient lacking empty calorie processed foods high in refined carbohydrates and simple sugars.

Complex carbohydrates (fresh vegetables, natural whole grains, and legumes) contain an abundance of nutrients most of which is lost during processing, so all you are really getting with that bread or bagel, plate of pasta, or precooked processed grains is empty calories and an unwanted spike in blood sugar.

And the same goes with that candy bar or sugary snack you call "brain food"... unlike complex sugars simple sugars (refined white sugar, high fructose corn syrup, etc.) is that the same processing that rendered the carbohydrates useless has removed any nutrients from the sugar, so all you're left with is, well, sugar.

So give your body what it wants, not what generations of misleading and misinforming information have lead us to believe.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

More Environmental Hazards

More and more I'm seeing top stories in the news related to environmental (more or less man-made) hazards and their links to Cancer. This is not surprising to me since I've been reading such things for years in many books written by accredited N.D.'s or even ordinary people with a deep interest in a natural approach to health and wellness. Only now though is a light being shed on such topics bringing some much needed attention to a previous over looked and hidden truth. The facts have been there and the research has been done, but for some reason bringing these startling conclusions to the masses has not been any easy task.

It is a fact that we willingly yet unknowingly expose ourselves to cause cancer agents on a daily basis; from Cell Phones, to Laser Copiers, to Household Cleaning Products Paints and Chemicals, to Cosmetics... the list goes on and on.

Below is a link to yet another example of people putting themselves and others in harm's way.

Toxic goo tracked from parking lots into homes

Be smart and make the conscious healthy choice not to continue putting yourself your family and the environment in danger.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Eat Healthty for Your Immune System

A healthy diet is important for many reasons, but the most important is to maintain a healthy immune system. The immune system is an amazing yet complex system composed of lymphatic vessels and organs, and specialized cells including white blood cells whose main objective is to protect the body against infection, viruses, and disease.

When healthy it's like Fort Knox... simply impenetrable to all intruders. On the other hand an unhealthy immune system is like, well, this Microsoft operating system that is currently on my computer... a hacker's delight if not for the help of add-on anti-virus and spyware software, and an external firewall.

So where can you find the secret to a healthy immune system?

It's not in that box or bag of precooked pre-prepared and or package of microwavable food... and it's definitely not at the fast food joint you often frequent. No, it's not at any of those places, and as a matter of fact it's those heavily processed high fat high sodium high cholesterol chemical infused foods that are undoubtedly causing the chronic immune deficiency that plagues so many Americans.

The good news is the secret to a healthy immune system isn't a secret at all. In fact you can find it in the produce aisle and organic section of any supermarket, or at your local farmers market, or at your local health food store, or at a local farm stand... it's fresh (organic preferably) fruits and vegetables. It's natural whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds, and organic grass fed beef and free grazed chicken.

It's nutrient rich foods with vitamins like B, C and D, minerals like selenium and zinc, it's the antioxidants and anutrients like carotenes that enable the body to fight off most anything that comes its way.

Unfortunately it's the nutrient deficient diets of processed foods high in saturated fats, sodium, cholesterol, refined flowers and simple sugars that depress the immune system and have cultivated a civilization of people suffering from chronic illnesses and disease.

Make a healthy new choice for the new year... choose to be healthy!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Rethink "Diet"

It's time to rethink the word diet and what it means to you...

Most see "diet" as an ugly word that translates into an undesirable shift from the unhealthy but palatable processed foods that make up the majority (if not all) of your current meal regimen, to a much less palatable and surprisingly (but not really) not much healthier selection of processed foods; often consisting of pre-made meals, shakes, bars, and other "approved" snacks.

*The problem with this, other than the fact that you are replacing processed foods with processed foods, is that the word "diet" symbolizes work or an undesirable and subsequently unachievable goal; you have to stop thinking of diet as homework!

*Another common misconception and poor assumption health-wise is that protein is the most important food source, automatically labeling all other food on your plate a "side-dish". This is not the case... In fact Complex Carbohydrates are by far the most important part of a healthy diet (Vegetables, Grains, Legumes) and should make up at least 65% of your daily caloric intake. Due to their chemical make-up they're broken down by the body into simple sugars SLOWLY therefore maintaining better blood sugar control.

*That means that Proteins and Fats, although very crucial to a healthy diet and nearly equally important, should only make up about 35% of your daily intake of calories. One important note here is that the complex carbohydrates listed above can and are good sources of protein, which is why that piece of steak or chicken or pork does not have to take up three quarters of your plate. Another important note is that although animal sources of protein (beef primarily) get a bad rap due to the content of saturated fats (fats that are solid at room temperature), you will find as I have that Grass Fed Beef is very lean as they should be; so much so that its recommended you coat them with olive oil prior to grilling.
  1. The most important part of your diet, hands down, are vegetables. Vegetables are so important they should be the "centerpiece of your plate". Fresh Raw vegetables are usually the highest in nutrients and anutrients and should account for the bulk of your vegetable intake; look for Organic vegetables whenever possible.
  2. Whole grains are also very important part of a healthy diet, but it's important not to confuse the more familiar unhealthy processed foods labeled "whole grains" as your main source. The best whole grains are Natural Whole Grains or those in their NATURAL form (organic when possible); Long Grain Rice, Millet, Oat Groats, Buckwheat Groats, Hulless Barley, Kamut, Quinoa, and Amaranth just to name a few of my favorite grains. They typically take anywhere from 20 - 45min to cook, and they're great for breakfast, lunch, or a dinner side-dish.
  3. Another important and healthy addition to your diet should be Legumes (beans). Once again these should be purchased in their natural state for the most health benefit. For legumes this means either fresh (like peas for instance) or dried; avoiding canned as your main source due to the high amounts of sodium. Nuts and Seeds should be fresh unsalted and with the shells (nuts especially). Fact: Legumes + Grains = Perfect Protein
  4. Fruit is also an important food and just as vegetables should be consumed fresh not processed (and organic whenever possible). It's best to avoid pre-bottled fruit juices (due to the high sugar content) or pre-cut/pre-packaged fruits (due to a loss of nutrients) as your main sources.
  5. Nuts and Seeds are Great sources of Healthy Fat, and should be apart of any healthy diet... Allergies permitting of course.
  6. Finally a healthy diet should consist of Organic Grass Fed Beef, Free-Grazed Chicken and Eggs, Wild Caught Fish,*Cheeses and milk. I put them last on the list because most Americans or those with a Western diet often put them at the top. Because of the quality of most of the meat consumed in this country (corn/grain fed, non-organic, high in saturated fat) as well as the quantity (main focus of every meal) meat consumption, especially red meat, is one of the leading causes of many of the health issues plaguing Americans today. The surprising thing to most people though is when consumed as previously stated (Organic Grass Fed and Free-Grazed) they no doubt provide important nutrients without the high levels of saturated fats and harmful hormones and antibiotics found in grain fed animals.
*Note: I truly believe that the human body can and should do without anything derived from cow's milk", it is not easily digested resulting in food allergies and its importance due to Calcium has been highly exaggerated and even falsely presented. In its place I use Goat or Sheep products (Organic Grass Fed or course).

So there you go... No fancy point system or gimmick, no specially designed "health" shakes bars or pills, just healthy foods consumed in their most natural healthy state. If you rethink they you eat as stated above then you WILL be healthy, and that is Priority 1; a healthy weight will follow suit.

And yes it's inevitable that you will consume processed foods, but they must NOT be the primary sources of any of the 6 food groups listed above. It is also important to make sure that the processed food you do consume is organic whenever possible.

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