Diet is one of the most important contributions to our health. It is up to us to eat to keep ourselves healthy. Nutritional deficiencies are linked to many of today’s chronic degenerative diseases such as heart disease, arthritis and even cancer.
Unfortunately today our food is of a lower quality than it was even 20 years ago. Modern farming methods have lessened the quality of soil, meaning what we eat contains fewer nutrients than before. It is also less natural and more adulterated with harmful chemicals. It is likely that we are not getting what we need from our food, yet getting too much of what we don’t need e.g. sugar, salt, additives, pesticides and herbicides.
Here are some basic guidelines to help understand what is best to eat.
Avoid or Limit
Packaged and processed foods as these will contain unnecessary sugar, salt, hydrogenated fats, preservatives etc (and can contribute to our toxic burden).
Smoking and alcohol: both of these are anti-nutrients, meaning they destroy vitamins and minerals, whilst also causing the body to need more as well. Aim for no more than two drinks a day to avoid depleting your levels of vitamins and minerals.
Tea and coffee also deplete vitamins and minerals and stress various organs.
Sugar and refined carbohydrates e.g. biscuits and cakes, interfere with blood sugar balance and offer no real nutrition.
Excess salt upsets the balance of electrolytes and leads to high blood pressure.
Aim for at least 5 portions of fresh fruit and vegetables a day – preferably some of it raw, ie,”Five Alive”. Try apples, pears, plums, berries, broccoli, spinach and red cabbage to get started.
Only cook with butter or good quality olive oil. Other vegetable oils change their chemical composition when heated and become potentially harmful.
Cut out margarine made with hydrogenated oils, and use butter instead. Despite what the margarine advertisers tell us – used in small quantities butter is better.
Consume essential fatty acids, of which there are two kinds
- Omega 3 found in oily fish eg, salmon, trout, mackerel, herring and sardines. These fish should be eaten twice a week. If not then linseed/flaxseed oil should be eaten every day. Walnuts are also another good option.
- Omega 6, found in good quality safflower and sunflower oil and evening primrose oil. The ratio omega 6 to omega 3 in most modern diets is thought to be around 20:1. Ideally this should actually be 3:1, so cutting down on omega 6 is a realistic goal for a lot of people.
When possible eat organic fruit and vegetables and free range eggs, meat and chicken.
Drink and cook with filtered water
Reduce dependence on dairy products. They are not natural in the adult human diet and are difficult to digest. Non organic dairy produce is also packed with the growth hormones fed to cows to maximise their milk production. These can be absorbed by humans as well, interfering with certain body systems. Try goat or sheep products as these tend to be less processed and are more readily digested.
Watch your consumption of wheat. Quite often a typical diet can consist of too much toast, sandwiches, and pasta. Use whole wheat products and think about brown rice, rye, corn, oats and potatoes as alternatives.
Avoid being faddy or restrictive with your diet. Eating a large variety of foods is an easy way to improve your health. Aim to try a new food every week, as this encourages the diversity of foods in your diet. For example pulses ie, lentils, chickpeas and kidney beans are full of minerals, especially magnesium which is very easy to become deficient in. Pulses also become a complete protein when mixed with a grain eg, rice or wheat. This is especially important for vegetarians and vegans.
Avoid dieting at all costs, as it does not work. In fact, it has the opposite effect, slowing down your metabolism and can add to weight gain!
Following the above guidelines will be more likely to help you maintain your weight than counting calories. If losing weight is important also talk to your chiropractor about exercise.
Vitamin and Mineral Supplements
Good quality products should always be used, as these use superior ingredients that are more readily absorbable than others; it is well worth the extra price.
Rather than self prescribing, get the advice of the chiropractor; we are pleased to help. Here are few tips:
Choosing a multivitamin supplement
If you are perfectly healthy, have a good diet, don’t smoke and have no evidence of poor absorption, you may be able to get away with taking a low-dose multi-vitamin. Adjusting your diet and adding high-dose, specific nutrients according to your personal needs may further improve your health. If you are taking a daily standard multivitamin/mineral tablet, the general advice is to take it with food so that your body can draw co-factors from your food resources to aid absorption.
Consider the following to help you choose the best supplements:-
Check the label. Make sure your chosen multi includes the full range of essential minerals as well as vitamins.
Check the label again. Look for the words ‘citrate’, ‘picolinate’, ‘aspartate’, ‘glycinate’, ‘glutamate’ and ‘amino acid chelate’. These refer to the way the vitamin/mineral is processed (and usually follow the name of the nutrient, as in chromium picolinate) and are considered the easiest forms for the body to use. Compounds such as carbonates, sulphates and oxides are generally less well absorbed, and can irritate the stomach.
Look for the expiry date. Supplements can lose potency over time, especially in hot and humid climates. Choose supplements with an expiry date as far into the future as possible. If a supplement doesn’t have an expiry date, don’t buy it.
Reject junk. Watch out for excipients such as binders, fillings and coatings. In tablets, these are part of processing the supplement, but you can reject those with unnecessary additives such as artificial colours, and sweeteners such as glucose, lactose, mannitol and xylitol.
Buy from reputable shops and manufacturers. The bigger the shop and/or manufacturer, the more they are able to demand quality ingredients in their products.
Keep it simple. Avoid supplements that use a ‘kitchen-sink’ approach to formulation, with added herbs, such as ginseng, alfalfa, bee pollen and Ginkgo biloba. These are seldom present in therapeutic quantities and are usually only there to jack up the price. If you truly require these things, take them separately.
Avoid specialist formulas, such as ‘women’s formulas’, ‘men’s formulas’ or ‘over-50s formulas’. These are not usually based on any solid science and are more expensive. The exception is for very young children, who may benefit from the lower doses of vitamins found in some children’s products.
Vegetarians and Vegans look out
Omega 3 essential fatty acids, linseed oil must be eaten if no oily fish consumed. Ideally buy any essential fats in an opaque, glass bottle as this protects the fats from oxidation or damage. Also keep them in the fridge as well to keep them in top condition.
Iodine should be supplemented in the form of kelp if no sea salt or fish is eaten. It can also be found in seaweed.
In vegans B12 and folic acid should be supplemented. Although Marmite is a possible source, the salt content is too high to rely upon.
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