Part of the wonderful thing and the challenge in today's world is that there is so much information on health and the "best thing" to do to achieve your health goals. Hopefully the following sheds some light and provides some clarity:
What Hasn't ChangedSome healthy habits are still true, even though they are overlooked. For example:
- Drink adequate water. Dehydration remains a common symptom associated with most conditions. Most people associate dry skin or eyes and dry throat with dehydration, but other symptoms that are generally caused by or aggravated by dehydration include heartburn, muscle pain, fatigue and mental fatigue. A general rule of thumb is 1/2 your body weight in ounces per day. You also want to take into consideration your exercise level and your diet. Individuals with kidney disease may need to limit the amount of water that they drink so that they do not overwork the kidneys.
- Eat your vegetables. Many people find vegetables boring or they are unsure what to do with them, but adequate vegetables are an essential component to any healthy diet regimen. Vegetables are full of minerals, fiber and water. The aim is a minimum of three (3) cups a day. You really can't eat too many vegetables.
- Don't avoid any food group. One of the biggest areas of conflicting information on the internet is about what diet or food is best. Some diets recommend avoiding carbs (starch), others encourage avoiding most forms of protein and others suggest that avoiding fat is best. Often the rationale for these diets is about weight loss, not about health. The healthiest diet includes all food groups. Every nutrient has a specific role to play in the body and you can not maintain health if you do not include all of them. Check out this website to learn more about the benefits and role of the different components of food. For example, diets low in starch (grains, bread, root vegetables) are also generally low in fiber and fiber is essential for helping the body eliminate toxins and for maintaining normal bowel movement. It is all about balance and proportions of each one.
Modification Of "The Rules"
Hopefully the following helps you follow "the rules" a little easier:
- Avoid eating salads in the winter. One of the "rules" is that the temperature of your food should be opposite to the temperature outside. This generally means that you should avoid cold, raw salads in the winter. For many people, salads are their way of ensuring that they eat enough vegetables and some of the foods added to salads, like cucumbers and tomatoes, are also high in water and help with hydration. For those where dehydration is a common problem, avoiding cold and raw food may still be the best strategy. For those that feel better with salad, we would recommend that you stick to winter greens like cabbage and brussel sprouts or more bitter greens such as arugula, spinach or kale and add foods and spices that increase the warmth to the salad such as onions, ginger, radicchio, black pepper, grilled vegetables and cooked protein. Sprouts are nutrient dense and have a high water content. Adding sprouts to your salad is a good idea, even in the winter.
- Minimize your consumption of fruit. Many of the "rules" around fruit are still true - you should eat three to four times more vegetables than fruit; don't end your day with fruit; if you struggle with blood sugar concerns ensure that your fruit is always part of a meal, not as a snack. Some slight modifications include:
- The best fruit for most people includes berries (especially those that are blue or black) and apples (especially local apples)
- Bananas are best used if you have concerns with diarrhea or vomiting. There are much better fruit options that are lower in sugar and less likely to cause mucous and congestion.
- Choose fruit that is local, as much as possible
There is always new research and it can be confusing and conflicting. Here are a few of the highlights:
- Coffee can be good for you. It is true that coffee is dehydrating and that it can deplete the body of needed minerals, but there are also some advantages including: helping with constipation, improving memory and cognition. Keep in mind, for many coffee can be a cause for insomnia, hypertension and mineral deficiency. Also, some people can not breakdown coffee and it can be associated with irritability, heartburn, dehydration and other symptoms. Some research promotes 3 or more coffee a day. I still believe that it is best to limit coffee to one or two a day, preferably before 2 pm. If you are going to drink coffee, it is important to know the full impact that it has on you. If you have hypertension, anxiety, insomnia or chronic dehydration you are probably best to find an alternative.
- Food reactions may be because of the chemicals in food. There is a growing body of research that is linking people's reaction to food to the pesticides, herbicides and other chemicals sprayed or used on food. For example, there is a growing concern that many people that react to wheat-based products may in fact be reacting to the roundup or other chemicals used in the growing of the wheat.
- Organic is better. Some research has shown that the nutrient value of organic and non-organic is similar or the the same. The main reason for choosing organic meats and food is to decrease your exposure to chemicals and environmental toxins.
- Choose antibiotic-free meats and dairy. 80% of the exposure to antibiotics comes from food; not from taking antibiotics. When choosing meats and dairy, ensure that they are grown / raised without any antibiotics.
Everyone is different and the best advice is to work with your naturopathic doctor to determine what is best for you, but I hope that the information above makes it easier to live a healthy life.