My Diet for the New Year
Happy New Year and here’s to a healthy and prosperous 2016. Although I consider myself a healthy eater, as I reflect on the last year I think there’s room for improvement within my diet. The average American consumes 60% of their calories from processed food, 150 pounds of sugar, and 150 pounds of flour which is basically sugar every year. These are some pretty staggering figures and are directly correlated to the state of health in this country. Although most of my diet is real and whole food a very small percentage of my diet comes from sugar, flour, and unhealthy oils like soy, corn, sunflower, canola, and safflower . I plan on completely eliminating these from my diet this year. No flour, including whole wheat flour and no refined sugars. All types of flour and sugar create the same metabolic changes to the body in an unhealthy way and cause weight gain. For the occasional home made treat requiring a sweetener, I will use more natural & wholesome sweeteners like honey or maple syrup. All flour quickly turns to sugar, may raise blood sugar, and is converted to fat within the body. To avoid this I will occasionally use almond, coconut, or quinoa flour which doesn’t ellicit the same metabolic response. Comparing them to grain flours, they are higher in fat and/or protein which makes them a better options. By only using these sweeteners or flours it will greatly limit what I can grab while out which is a good thing. I will continue to avoid gluten and dairy. Yes, there’s still plenty to eat so keep reading.
My plan is to eat a whole food plant based diet plus limited animal protein (4 oz of organic chicken and 4 oz wild seafood per week) for variety. A whole foods plant based diet is one that is mostly or all plants, beans, whole intact gluten free grains like brown rice or quinoa, nuts, seeds, and limited low glycemic fruit like berries. Shifting to a more plant based diet has been shown to not only prevent chronic disease but in some cases reverse them. Of course we are all different & everyone needs to find their own balance but the more plants the better.
My breakfast will continue to be a green smoothie with greens, berries, and seeds like hemp and flax which takes 5 minute to make. Lunch is focused on a big salad with a variety of vegetables, seeds, and beans. Tons of options and variety here. I’m not talking about iceberg lettuce with store bough dressing. My dinners vary greatly but are centered around a salad and cooked vegetables along with a healthy protein like quinoa, beans, organic chicken, or wild fish. Yes, I do love, love vegetables. I think one of the reasons most don’t is because they have never had well prepared and seasoned vegetables. For snacks rather than reaching for chips or crackers I will munch on nuts, seeds, roasted chickpeas, or roasted seaweed. Seasnax are roasted seaweed snacks with olive oil and onion. They make a great crunchy snack without the added calories. A local DC company called Watusee Food makes a great roasted chickpeas snack with just olive oil, sea salt, and rosemary. These snacks will keep me from reaching for the higher calorie and more processed snacks.
Plants, which are pretty absent from the typical American diet, will be at the center of my diet. With the exception of b12 they provide all the micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) we need for good health. Besides the micronutrients they also contain phytonutrients which there are thousands of and most have not been discovered. These micronutrients and phytonutrients work on a cellular level to protect us from most major diseases which scientists are learning are mostly related to diet and lifestyle. Genes play a small part in our health and what we do with our feet and fork has a powerful impact on our health. Researchers such as Dr. Dean Ornish have shown over the last 30 years we can change how our DNA expresses itself by changing our diet. Diets consisting mostly of plants have the power to turn off hundreds of genes that cause many diseases and turn on the genes that may protect us these same diseases and major illness. No drug can do that.
By simply eliminating flour, sugar, and industrial oils I automatically eliminate extra calories. All of these have been linked to a long list of health concerns. One of the biggest and least understood is fat. We all grew up and were told by the government to limit and avoid fat as it will make us fat. Its not that simple. There are the healthy fats like omega 3’s (cold water wild fish, hemp seeds, flax seeds), olive oil, coconut oil, avocados, nuts, and seeds versus the unhealthy industrial oils from soy, corn, sunflower, canola, and safflower which are inflammatory have been linked to mental health problems, cardiovascular problems, sugar imbalances, and weight gain.
Why I’m avoiding dairy. Half of the world’s population can’t digest dairy which one can argue is an indication that we were never meant to consume dairy in the first place. Were are the only species to consume the milk of another animal species, and for some reason we chose cows. Milk is the perfect food if you’re a baby cow and need to grow several hundred pounds in a short period of time. Most people were taught that dairy is required for healthy bones yet for a variety of mechanisms which I don’t want to bore you with, dairy is a very inefficient source of calcium and actually makes bones weaker. Not to mention that bones are made of many minerals besides calcium but for some reason we are obsessed with calcium when it comes to bone health. The research doesn’t support this. Several studies have shown countries with the highest consumption of dairy have the highest rates of osteoporosis. Eating lots of green leafy vegetables and other plants is a much better source of calcium. One of the nations most respected researchers, T. Colin Campbell (coauthor of the China Study) was able to turn on and off cancerous tumor growths by adjusting the level of casein (the main protein in dairy). Also, dairy is one of the top food sensitivities for lots of people and may be linked digestive issues and psychiatric diseases as its been linked to anxiety, depression, and ADD/ADH, arthritis, and migraines.
Gluten the main protein in wheat and other grains is another top food sensitivity for lots of people. In the last 50 years wheat has been modified to contain more gluten which is why we are seeing more and more people who are sensitive to the higher amounts of gluten. More and more people are aware of celiac disease where the person has a serious reaction to gluten but most are not aware that many people have delayed gluten sentivity which may manifest in a variety of ways and days after consuming gluten. These sensitivities can’t be tested for and since they may occur days after eating gluten most people don’t make a connection. Gluten has been scientifically linked to 55 different diseases including irritable bowel disease, inflammatory bowel disease, anemia, cancer, fatigue, rheumatoid arthritis, and almost all other autoimmune diseases. Gluten is also linked to many psychiatric diseases, including anxiety, depression, schizophrenia, dementia, migraines, and autism. That’s enough for me to avoid it.From my personal experience, when I avoid gluten and dairy I feel much more grounded, relaxed, and can think clearer. You can see the benefits yourself by simply eliminating gluten and dairy for at least 30 days but preferably a little longer.
Well, that’s the plan for 2016 and I hope this will inspire you to make some healthy changes. Like Michael Pollan said “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”