The Importance of Nutrition and Lifestyle
by: Dr. Tara Barker
The Importance of Nutrition and Lifestyle
Eating healthy and taking care of yourself is essential to obtain optimal wellness. Most people roll their eyes or moan when confronted with these ideas, but, in reality, taking care of yourself is not as hard, time consuming, expensive, or dull as most would have you believe. In fact, once people decide to choose a healthy life, they notice more energy, increased self-confidence, more time to do things that really matter, and they spend less time in the doctor’s office or hospital. It is less expensive to buy organic foods and shop for most items at a health food store than it is to buy candy, soda, chips, pizza, alcohol, and cigarettes. Not only do people consume less food on a healthy diet (you really can’t just eat one Pringle), they help their bodies to become stronger and more able to fight disease, which makes their health costs lower as well. The foods are not dull or tasteless either. It does depend on what you like, but, in general, unprocessed and whole foods right from the garden (or produce section) are the tastiest and most satisfying. If you don’t like fresh snap peas, maybe you’ve not had them done right!
In our current society of hustle and bustle, we often go for the cheapest and quickest foods to get rid of that nasty hunger sensation. But what does that do to you? Really? Most people don’t know and they don’t care. They will care more when they discover they have heart disease or diabetes or the variety of other conditions caused by this type of lifestyle. But patterns get established and it is so difficult to stay away from the burgers or sodas for long. Tastes get perverted (yes, that is the word for it) to like too much fat, sugar, and salt in our diets. Foods don’t taste as good without additives. In reality, they don’t taste as good because cheap food is cheap food and you wouldn’t eat it if you weren’t fooled by the extras added in to either make it look, taste, or smell better. A McDonald’s thin hamburger is grayish to begin with, never mind that it has comparatively loads of fat in its small size. Try just the burger without the cheese, ketchup, mustard, onions, or pickles. Pretty bland. That cheese (if you could call it that) is what they call ‘cheese food’. They cannot call it ‘cheese’ because of the processing. This ‘cheese food’ makes up most of the sliced cheeses in supermarkets. Look at the labels. The ketchup has corn syrup (sugar) and sugar added. I could go on, but I won’t. The point is, these additives are added to make an inferior product taste good enough to sell at a cheaper price so the public will buy. I guarantee in a taste test of a more expensive, yet organic ketchup made with tomatoes that taste good, and regular ketchup without any added sugar to either sample, you would choose the organic one over the non-organic based solely on freshness of taste. The same goes for burgers, ice cream, breads, and many processed products. The better the ingredient quality, the better it tastes and the healthier it is for you.
It is best to limit the use of anything processed (processed meaning things were done to it, it is not directly or closely linked to the whole, natural food; usually these foods are in boxes or bags), but whole grain rice with spices and herbs in a box with no unnatural additives is much better for you than the usual Rice-a-Roni, mac and cheese, and the like. Read those labels as well. If you cannot pronounce or understand what an ingredient is, do not consume it. If a product says ‘enriched’, this does not make it a better product. In fact, things are enriched when they have had those enriching items taken away. Processing foods uses heat, cold, light, drying, or crushing which all serve to deplete vitamins and minerals in the food. To replace these essentials means the food was already compromised. Look for foods that are as close to their natural state and as fresh as possible. The best foods are fresh straight from the earth. The next best is fresh from the produce or bulk section. Then comes frozen, dried, and canned, respectively.
You may wonder how the Standard American Diet (SAD diet) affects your health besides flavor and price. Processed foods, as mentioned above, typically contain less vitamins and minerals than the original foods that made them up. If you eat food mostly from packages or boxes and are not reading labels, not only are you not getting valuable nutrients, but also you are consuming items that may be depleting nutrients in your body. Sugar uses B vitamins from your body. Preservatives and additives put an extra burden on your liver, whose job it is to break these compounds down so your body can get rid of them. What your body cannot get rid of, it will store in fat, so these chemicals will not be running around causing harm where they do not belong. No where in nature will you find a body needs ‘blue dye 2’ or ‘propylene glycol’ necessary and good for survival. Fat is the best storage place for these toxins. Fat is found not only right under your skin but also lining your nerves and in your brain. These may not be places you wish toxins stored.
We commonly hear that fat is bad and cholesterol is bad from the media. We do need fat and cholesterol to live. Fats and cholesterol are large components in healthy skin, all your cells, hormones, and your brain and nerves. They are also a good source of energy when needed. It is not good to severely limit these items from the diet. It is the quality of the fats that you consume that makes the difference. Some fats that are good for your body are called essential fatty acids, or EFA’s. Your body cannot make these fats, therefore the essential aspect. You can find these helpful fats in flax seeds, fish, evening primrose oil, borage oil, and some other oils and foods. If you eat fat mainly from grass-fed animals, butter, fruits, vegetables, grains, fish, and get some EFA’s in your diet, you will do well. Margarine contains fats called ‘trans fatty acids’ which helps it stay solid at room temperature. These trans fats contribute quickly to atherosclerosis and heart disease. Trans fats are also found in many processed foods like chips, fries, and some diet foods. Please read labels. Do not eat any foods that say ‘trans fatty acids’ or ‘hydrogenated’ or ‘partially hydrogenated’. Hydrogenation is the process that forms the trans fats.
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