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Dr Maggie Yu - Functional Medicine MD

Tips for Healthy Eating


When we try to restore your health with nutrition and other natural therapies, we areworking with the body's biochemistry. The most basic, and sometimes most effective therapy is your diet. Many people don't make the connection between their day-to-day habits and the symptoms they suffer. This section will provide you with some basic rules to help you get the most out of your diet.

The Problem with The American Diet

A recent survey conducted by the National Cancer Institute asked Americans about theirdiet from the previous day. Only 9% of those asked consumed three or more servings of vegetables or two or more servings of fruit on the previous day. One in nine surveyed had no servings of fruits or vegetables on the previous day. In the United States, 46% of every food dollar is spent on meals and snacks away from home. Convenience stores have increased by 50% in the last decade.

The typical American consumes 48 pounds of high fructose corn syrup annually, usually in soft drinks. In 1990 Americans consumed their body weight in sweeteners and salt. Four percent (4%) of the energy use in the United States goes to packing food, which is about the same amount as the energy used to grow food. This is almost as much energy as flows through the Alaska pipeline. The 36 million tons of food packaging used in 1990 equals about 290 pounds per person.

Americans drink more carbonated soft drinks than plain water. Soft drink output rosefrom 64 billion servings (12 ounces) in 1980, to 85 billion servings in 1990. In 1990 Americans spent $5 billion on potato chips and corn chips, $66 billion on fast food, and $44 billion for soft drinks.

Improve Your Diet Now

The decision to get rid of chronic health problems, prevent disease, and improve the quality of your life begins with fundamental improvements in your diet and other aspects of your lifestyle. A proper diet provides your body with the raw materials (vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals) to begin to detoxify and heal itself. This is the foundation of your nutritional program. Basic nutrition is an important first step on the road to health.

Following these dietary guidelines will make the other aspects of your nutritional program much more effective. If you are not yet able to follow this plan perfectly, the important thing is to keep improving, set goals for compliance and persist in improving your health.

Drink at least six to seven 8 ounce glasses of water each day: (Adults): You need water to keep your cells hydrated and protected, to eliminate waste and ensure the health of your mucus membranes. Adequate hydration will improve a number of health problems including sinusitis, constipation, inflammation, allergies, fatigue, joint pain, headaches, and many other afflictions. Your body cannot adequately eliminate waste products without enough water. If toxic chemicals or heavy metal poisoning is at the root of your health problems, you will have a much easier time getting better when you are properly hydrated.

Of course there is controversy about which kind of water is best. Tap water can be a source of chemicals like fluorine, chlorine, and even lead. Filtered or bottled water is usually best. The water from the Artesian well in Olympia has been shown to be quite pure Ð and itÕs free.

Eat plenty of vegetables: Plenty means that at least half of the food you eat (by volume). Vegetables are very high in fiber, vitamin C, folic acid and minerals. They provide you with many health benefits:

  • The fiber in vegetables slows the absorption of fat and toxins. One of the best ways to lose weight is to eat plenty of fiber. Eating adequate fiber can help normalize cholesterol levels and blood pressure.
  • They nourish normal gut bacteria which in turn nourish the lining of the GI tract, produce vitamins, and inhibit yeast and other undesirable organisms.
  • They speed up bowel transit time, which reduces bowel toxicity and prevents irritation of the GI lining.
  • Vegetables contain folic acid, which is necessary to produce serotonin (preventing depression and overeating), increases energy and helps reduce the chances for a heart attack.
  • The minerals in vegetables help prevent osteoporosis (other nutrients besides calcium are important for healthy bone). Minerals are also important enzyme cofactors, so most major functions of the body are dependent on minerals.
  • Eating vegetables can reduce the instance of cancer and heart disease, increase your energy and mental clarity, reduce the problems caused by bowel and liver toxicity, help reduce the symptoms of allergies, asthma, arthritis, skin problems, digestive problems, sinusitis, chronic pain, and many other health problems.
  • Ideally one-half or more of the volume of the food you eat should be vegetables. Corn and potatoes don't count as vegetables. Fruit in moderation is also good for you; it is a good source of vitamin C and fiber.

Avoid deep fried food, partially-hydrogenated oil and hydrogenated oil. As time passes, we keep finding out more and more bad things about hydrogenated oil and fried foods. Hydrogenation is the food industry's way of turning a liquid oil into a solid fat. This gives packaged foods a longer shelf life than if they were made with natural oils. Hydrogenation produces trans fats, which have been linked to a number of health problems such as:

  • Cancer: Women with higher levels of trans fats in their cells are much more likely to develop breast cancer than women with low levels of trans fats.
  • Heart disease: High levels of trans fats create platelet aggregation, which is the beginning of the plaque associated with coronary heart disease.
  • Pain and inflammation become much worse for clients who consume hydrogenated oils. They chemically prevent the formation of natural anti-inflammatory substances that are normally produced by the body. If you suffer from chronic pain or have recently been injured, strictly avoid hydrogenated oil.
  • Trans fats are incorporated into the cells and make them less resistant to bacteria and viruses.
  • They are a source of immune system problems.
  • There may be a link between trans fats and ADD, depression, and fatigue. Brain and nerve tissue have a high content of fat. Some researches believe that when trans fats are incorporated into the nerve cells they affect function creating problems like ADD and depression.
  • Muscle fatigue and skin problems are also linked to hydrogenated oils.

Most chips and fried snacks contain hydrogenated oils. Hydrogenated oils are found in a lot of packaged foods like crackers, cereals, and even bread. They are in margarine (margarine is much worse for you than butter), mayonnaise and a lot of bottled salad dressings. Read labels Ð if it lists hydrogenated oils don't eat it! Not all fats are bad for you. Permissible fats include raw nuts (not roasted), virgin or extra virgin olive oil, and avocados.

Avoid refined sugar: The average American eats 170 pounds of refined sugar per year. Compare that to seven pounds per year consumed in England in 1750. Refined sugar increases insulin and adrenal hormone production and can cause the following health problems:

  • Increased production of adrenal hormones causes the body to excrete essential minerals.
  • Sugar consumption increases the body's need for vitamins B & C.
  • Eating a lot of sugar aggravates many of the problems we associate with emotional stress.
  • Sugar stresses the adrenal glands.
  • Sugar feeds yeast and other one-celled organisms found in the bowel, causing them to multiply. These organisms produce toxins, irritate the lining of the GI tract and take the place of normal, more beneficial flora, removing the benefits of helpful bacteria.
  • Eating sugar causes blood-sugar swings. Blood-sugar increases immediately after consuming sugar, prompting the body to produce insulin. Excess insulin creates more sugar cravings. More sugar is eaten, more insulin produced, etc. This stresses the pancreas and sets the stage for adult-onset diabetes.
  • Sugar consumption can make pain and inflammation worse.
  • Sugar can cause or aggravate allergies, sinusitis, asthma, irritable bowel, Candidiasis, migraine headaches, fatigue, depression, and even heart disease.

Avoid refined carbohydrates: The average American gets 50% of his or her calories from refined carbohydrates. Refined carbohydrates are grains that have had the fiber, vitamin E, B vitamins, bran and germ removed. In other words, the nutrients have been removed and you are left with the starch. Refined carbohydrates fill you up,but with a lack of vitamins and minerals. This stresses your digestive system and your endocrine system. Eating them uses up precious vitamins and minerals. Often people eat refined carbohydrates because they are low in fat and mistakenly think that because they are complex carbohydrates,that they are actually good for you. They create all of the same health problems created by refined sugar. Refined carbohydrates include:

  • white bread, white rice, and pasta that's not labeled whole grain.
  • Read the labels on bread. Brown colored bread labeled "wheat bread" isn't usually whole wheat. If the label says "enriched, white flour"on it, you're not getting a whole grain.
  • Use brown rice instead of white rice.
  • Eat whole oats instead of instant oatmeal and try some of the more exotic grains available now, like amaranth and quinoa.

Avoid chemical additives: Avoid processed foods and chemicals. The average American consumes 10 pounds of chemical additives every year. This has had a devastating effect on our health. The FDA tests single additives, but no one has any idea what combinations of additives do to us. Here are some chemicals that you may find in your packaged food:

  • Mono and diglycerides: Used to maintain softness in baked goods. These are on the FDA list of food additives to be studied for possible mutagenic, teratogenic, subacute andreproductive effects. This is medicalese for birth defects, cancer, and reproductive problems.
  • Brominated vegetable oil (BVO): Used as an emulsifier. The FDA has it on the suspectlist. Bromates are highly toxic. They can cause death through kidney failure or nervous system problems. Bromates can inhibit the body's defenses. Between two and four ounces of a 2% solution can poison a child. When they are in oil, they are stored in fat (and nerve tissue).
  • Red #40: Suspected carcinogen. Whenever you see a color followed by a number, avoid that food.
  • Sodium nitrite: Makes meat bright red and kills Clostridium Botulinum spores (botulism). Found in luncheon meats. Nitrites combine with natural stomach acid and chemicals in the food to form nitrosamines, which are powerful carcinogens.
  • Aspartame (sold as Equal and Nutrasweet): Possible link to brain cancer. May cause headaches, depression and anxiety attacks, or memory loss. Some individuals react strongly and may have heart palpitations, nausea, seizures or blurred vision. It also raises the pH of urine and may be linked to kidney and bladder infections.
  • THBQ (Tertiarybutylhydroquinone): Food manufacturers had a hard time getting this approved. Death has occurred from ingestion of five grams (about 1/5 of an ounce). Eating one gram can cause nausea, vomiting, ringing in the ears, delirium, a sense of suffocation and collapse. It gives foods a long shelf-life.

You get the idea. The list of harmful additives is much too long to present here; these are just a few examples. Stay away from packaged foods with chemical additives and you will be much healthier.

Eat slowly, chew your food thoroughly. Ideally, chew your food until it is liquid. You will be satisfied with less food and you will have better digestion. Your saliva has enzymes that facilitate digestion. Also, it is easier to digest small particles than large ones. Most people eat too fast. Not chewing well stresses your digestive system and can lead to poor absorption of nutrients, digestive problems like gas and bloating and promote the growth of harmful bacteria in the digestive tract.

Never skip meals: Skipping meals stresses your adrenal glands. If you are trying to lose weight not eating is a poor strategy since your metabolism will slow down to accommodate the reduction in calories. As a result, you become fatigued and will ultimately gain weight.

Other Considerations

  • Alcohol consumption: In excess, stresses the liver and nervous system and can harm every organ in the body. If you drink, do so in moderation. Wine, particularly red wine, has been proven to have health benefits.
  • Coffee and tea: Caffeine stresses the nervous system. Also, coffee and tea are heavily sprayed with fungicides. Black tea in moderation may be beneficial to the cardiovascular system. Green tea has been shown in studies to help immune function. If you must have coffee or tea, buy organic. Many people experience severe withdrawal from caffeine when they quit consuming it.
  • Stop smoking: The problems here are obvious.
  • Regular exercise:
  • Deep breathing: Increases your energy and removes stress.
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