||ERINWORLD - your personal guide to wellness||
Did you know that more and more studies are showing that eating processed red meat, particularly bacon, luncheon meats, jerky, and sausage, significantly increases your risk of developing cancer? Not just colon cancer, but a variety of cancers. On the other hand, eating low-mercury fish (such as wild sockeye salmon) instead will reduce your risk of disease. These are just some of the surprising facts that modern scientific studies, including one released this year, have proven. See my References page for a link to the studies and more, or use the custom search on my pages.
Foods to avoid completely
It’s now clear that consuming large amounts of red meat (beef, lamb, and pork consumed daily) makes it far more likely that a person will gain weight due to its caloric density. Even more importantly, processed meat (sausage, smoked meats, prepared salty meats such as deli meats) should be avoided or significantly reduced, as they increase the risk of cancer, plus the excess sodium they contain can raise blood pressure. What other foods should not be consumed? There is growing evidence that dairy products (milk, cheese) cause more problems than they solve because, while they contain useful calcium and vitamin D, they contain so much protein that it actually tends to cause a net loss of calcium from the bones. Why? Because typical non-vegetarian North Americans already eat too much meat and protein in their diets, outside of milk. Unless you're anorexic, underweight, training intensely (i.e. marathons), trying to bulk up, or malnourished, there's no need to consume milk.
Some of you may have also noticed that drinking milk tends to cause bad breath and excess mucous production in the throat. A large percentage of people are also allergic to the protein lactose in milk. At best, milk and cheese are simply not necessary for a healthy adult that is eating correctly.
Cow’s milk is designed to fatten a calf up by hundreds of pounds in just a few short months, and is full of growth stimulating hormones. That’s not what Western countries dealing with serious adult obesity epidemics need to be consuming. Once a person has left their growing years (18+) there is no real need to keep milk and cheese in the diet beyond the occasional rare treat.
On the other hand, yogourt, which contains useful bacteria naturally found in the human gut, is generally beneficial due to those probiotic bacteria it contains. Many fermented foods are more beneficial than their un-fermented versions. Just try to avoid the 100% fat-free yogourt as it's not filling due to the lack of fat, and contains far too much refined sugar. 2-3% fat yogourts, and Greek yogourt, are ideal to consume several times a week.
Sugar is another substance that needs to be significantly reduced because excess sugar consumption leads to weight gain, metabolic syndrome, and eventually Type 2 diabetes – an often crippling disease which wreaks havoc on the body. While sugar cannot be avoided completely in most foods, refined sugar should definitely not be kept in the house. Try using molasses, stevia, xylitol, or brown sugar instead in recipes. Read ingredient labels in the grocery store, and on most days try and avoid all products with sugar, glucose, glucose-fructose, and high fructose corn syrup in the top 5 ingredients.
Most people frequently consume processed and restaurant foods, which means they're usually eating too much salt. If North Americans reduced their salt intake considerably, 30% of all cases of heart disease would be avoided. Too much salt causes high blood pressure, which leads to a whole host of other dangerous problems. On the other hand, if you have low blood pressure below 90/60, then you may find eating more salt will help reduce postural blackouts and dizzy spells since it will raise your blood pressure a few points after several months.
Soda and sport drinks, which are sugar mixed with water and food colouring, should be avoided completely. Soda pop is extremely acidic and causes calcium loss from the bones. For those of you not familiar with the scientific studies in the last ten years, these foods to avoid might seem like shocking news. The food companies aren’t going to advertise about how their products damage your health, and certainly won’t stop selling harmful foods until consumers get educated and stop buying them. Aspartame, an artificial sweetener, is associated with a host of problems and studies have shown that switching to "diet" colas doesn't help people lose weight. Colas need to be removed entirely and replaced with things like green tea, plain water, or sparkling mineral water.
What foods can and should be eaten?
The ideal diet seems to be either flexitarian or pesco-vegetarian, which means mostly plant-based with some fish, lean fowl, or lean game, but few red meats and little dairy. Vegetables, fruits, and berries need to be eaten far more often! Most people do not eat nearly enough greens each day. These foods are rich in fibre, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants – which are plant chemicals that prevent cumulative damage to your cells, thin the blood, and help protect against cancer. It is not possible to eat too many fruits and vegetables. Plants that are dark green, red, purple, orange, or yellow should comprise by far the largest part of your daily volume of food. Regarding vegetables: Kale, broccoli, brussel's sprouts, and sweet potato are good choices. Every larger meal should be 2/3 or more vegetables or greens by volume on the plate, and you should eat several small meals a day instead of just one or two big ones (not eating breakfast is linked to being overweight, as it leads to more daytime snacking). Dark berries, such as blueberries and Brazilian Acai, should be eaten regularly as they are full of beneficial antioxidants. Dark berries combined with a square of dark chocolate is a good substitute for most standard desserts. Follow the optimized food pyramid by Ray Kurzweil in his book "Fantastic Voyage".
Fast ideas for eating healthier immediately:
Omega-3 fatty acids/oils
Fat isn't an enemy, you just need to be careful not to ingest too much, or too much of the more harmful kinds. You need healthy oils that are naturally liquid at room temperature in your diet to maintain peak mental capacity since your brain is mostly fats. If you do not eat fish several times a week, be sure to take a daily fish oil supplement. Be sure it contains oil from wild-caught fish, as farmed fish often contains contaminants. Read the labels carefully, because some pills contain far more DHA and EPA omega-3 oils than others do, and are a better buy.
Corn oil is not a healthy oil to cook with - it's one of the worst, along with trans fats! Instead, use olive oil or canola oil, and don't burn the food or stir-fry it at excessively high temperatures. Instead of adding too much oil, mix the oil with water to keep the foods more moist as you cook, sautee, or stir-fry.
Trans fats are a type of artificially modified (hydrogenated) oil that should not be eaten at all. Trans fats increase the risk of cardiovascular disease and cause by far the most damage of any type of fat or oil. Manufacturers are beginning to remove them from foods, but check the labels for any trans fat content! Eating more than 1 gram a day is proven in studies to be very harmful and to greatly increase the risk of cardiovascular diseases.
The spice of life
Curry, a yellow powdery spice composed mostly of turmeric, is showing promise for reducing inflammation and arthritis. Cultures that use curry spice have a lower incidence of several health issues. Spice up your dishes with curry instead of salt!
Eat like the ‘immortals’ do
The longest lived, healthiest people on the planet are the Okinawan elders of Japan. Their diets have been documented in detail by scientists and are a good model to follow or work toward. They consume more than 5 cups of green tea a day, consume 10 or more servings of vegetables and fruits a day (they are quite fond of sweet potato), only eat until they are 90% full, and eat fish 3 or so times a week. They do not eat any deep-fried foods or processed foods, including processed meats.
A couple of squares of dark chocolate is the preferred daily “bad snack” because while all chocolate is high in calories, dark chocolate is also rich in antioxidants and other vitamins and minerals. Scientific evidence shows it can lower blood pressure a little. Regular, white, or milk chocolate does not have measurable beneficial effects and should be avoided. Dark chocolate needs to be 60% cocoa or more - ideally around 85%.
People who eat very poorly will need to make their changes gradually, otherwise it will be overwhelming! While I was never overweight, I still used to eat far too much sodium, trans fats, refine carbs, and processed meat in my teens and early twenties. My health (especially cardiovascular/circulatory health and cholesterol levels, and energy levels) improved drastically quite soon after I altered my diet to become what I described in this webpage. This is the approach I took: