SIGN ME UP: Start the year with a healthy goal, says Port Moody naturopath
By Sharon Gurm
With the New Year here, many of you will commit to making resolutions to improve your life on some level, often involving your health.
As you contemplate what you need to do for 2013 to better your health — whether it’s to lose weight or just be healthier — you can turn your resolution into a real solution by making the choice to adopt a permanent lifestyle change for the better.
As part of your plan for better health, I’m sure many of you are considering modifying your diet. Whether your goal is to shed some pounds or to just improve overall health for you and your family, the following is some sound, evidence-based advice for your top four action items to get the most benefit from your diet.
When you make the decision to change something — whatever it is — commit yourself to three weeks, as research shows it takes 21 days to establish a new habit.
EAT WHOLE FOODS
Fact: “Whole wheat bread” or “whole grain bread” does not constitute a whole food.
What exactly is meant by whole foods? The concept applies to foods that appear on your plate much like they did when they were grown and pulled from the Earth — before they undergo any processing. Whole foods retain all the nutrients and enzymes for consumption the way nature intended.
When you adopt a whole foods approach to diet, food is more easily digested (producing less gas, bloating and indigestion) and nutrients more easily assimilated and absorbed, thereby reducing inflammation in the gut — along with the rest of your organs. By optimizing digestion, you optimize the utilization of nutrients to support the pathways of health.
Following a whole foods diet also means that you can’t consume much in the way of foods that are bad for you — all baked goods, pastries, candy, crackers, chips and the typical junk foods.
Here are a few examples of how to replace a typical processed food item with a whole food:
• Replace pasta with a whole grain such as brown rice, wild rice, quinoa or buckwheat.
• Swap your cold morning cereal with a whole grain like old-fashioned oats, steel cut oats or millet.
• In place of a sandwich for lunch, make a healthy mixed-green salad with chickpeas, walnuts and your own dressing of balsamic vinegar, rosemary, olive oil and lemon.
• For a snack, bake yam fries (slice yam, coconut oil, sea salt) instead of eating a bag of chips.
When I tell patients how much water they should drink a day — 2 to 3 l, filtered — I’m often faced with the following response: “But if I drink that much water, I’ll have to pee all the time!”
That’s the point. Your body is made up of 60% to 70% water. Cells cannot produce oxygen or energy if water is not available to drive these reactions forward. The result? Fatigue, muscle weakness, joint aches, irritability, lack of mental clarity and a slew of other symptoms that occur from the build of toxins that ensues from dehydration — damaging every cell and vital organ in your body, including your brain and kidneys.
There are many solutions to staying hydrated through the day. You can drink straight water or caffeine-free herbal teas to get meet your daily hydration quota. Try adding lemon, lime or fresh fruits to your water to get some flavour.
If you drink coffee or caffeinated teas, be sure to replenish the water lost from these diuretics. As a general rule, for every cup of caffeine you consume, you’ve got to drink an extra cup of water (in addition to your two to three litres) to balance your hydration.
Fact: Organically grown, unmodified food is not the same as conventionally grown food.
There is no doubt organic fruits and vegetables have a higher nutrient content, vitamins and minerals than their conventional counterpart.
In addition to having higher levels of vitamins, minerals (such as vitamin C, iron, magnesium, phosphorus) and antioxidant phytonutrients, organic foods also contain far less toxic chemicals.
If that’s not enough reason to choose organic, perhaps the future of our environment is. It is undisputed that organic farming methods are better for our planet. Support a healthier environment by choosing to purchase organic foods.
Fact: Eating “sugar-free” foods and beverages that contain artificial sweeteners is not healthy or healthier than consuming the real thing.
Please stop using artificial sweeteners like Splenda, aspartame, NutraSweet and Equal. Aspartame has neurotoxic effects. If you need to use low-calorie sweeteners, xylitol is a safe, natural sugar substitute and studies have demonstrated that it actually helps prevents dental cavities and tooth decay.
Type 2 diabetes and insulin resistance (a condition that precedes diabetes), mainly develops from consuming a diet high in carbohydrates and other high-glycemic foods. Glycemic impact refers to the effect of a given food or meal on your blood-glucose (sugar) level. The more elevation of blood-glucose induced by a food, the higher it’s glycemic impact.
Eating low-glycemic means avoiding foods that are high-to-moderate in glycemic index, including sugars, bananas, grapes, dried fruits, alcohol and refined carbohydrates. It also requires that every meal consist of proper balance of macronutrients, meeting the following criteria: protein, healthy fat, complex carbohydrate and fibre. Other guidelines to having glycemic balance with diet include:
• eat small portions;
• consume three main meals and two snacks daily;
• do not go longer than three hours without food;
• consume three to four servings of vegetables daily.
While it’s true that following a diet like this takes more thought and meal preparation, like anything, it takes 21 days to make a new habit and 21 days to break an old one.
The first three to five days are the most difficult. Sure, you will mourn the loss of your bad eating habits at first but soon you’ll get past that hump and realize you’ve never felt better.
Trust me, you won’t even think about going back to your old ways. What better way to start the New Year?
– Sharon Gurm (BSc, ND) is a naturopathic physician and founder of Port Moody Naturopathic Health & Wellness. She is also a board member and expert health advisor for the Pink & Green Ribbon Health Campaign for breast health and cancer prevention.