Diet and Nutrition
“Those who think they have no time for healthy eating will sooner or later have to find the time for illness” Edward Stanley
Because Alternative Medicine encompasses the body as a whole, all aspects of health are taken into consideration. Illnesses are not isolated events happening in just one particular part of the body. Illnesses encompass many aspects of a person: mental, physical, psychological, spiritual and so on. In order to successfully treat an illness, these aspects cannot be over looked.
Diet and nutrition play an extremely important role in health and well being. Diet not only sustains physical health, but all other aspects of health as well.
In Alternative Medicine, diet and nutrition are of utmost importance as it truly is the cornerstone of good health and well being. In addition to acupuncture and herbs, your acupuncturist can provide diet and nutritional counseling as part of your treatment plan.
Like herbs, all foods have different properties and perform different functions in the body. During your treatment program, you will learn what foods may or may not be beneficial to you and your health condition. You will learn which foods to avoid and those to include in your diet to support you in your quest for health.
Proper nutrition and a healthy diet is considered one of the first steps towards good health. Part of staying healthy is avoiding foods and substances that wreck and derail our health. Secondly, we need to educate ourselves and learn how to chose the healthiest foods. Most of what you find in grocery stores isn’t even fit for human consumption. What passes for food these days can be astounding. You can’t rely on the FDA to have your best interests at heart. More than half the “food” available to us in grocery stores is loaded with chemicals. In order to truly be healthy you have to take your health into your own hands and be responsible for it.
Diet: What to Avoid
What is a proper diet anyway? First let’s start with what is not. Generally any food that is lacking in nutritional value, commonly referred to as junk food or processed food, is not considered a proper diet. Not only are these foods void of nutrition, they are loaded with chemical additives that have adverse effects on health.
Junk foods are typically high in refined sugars, saturated fats, refined flours and a concoction of chemicals known as preservatives. They include all packaged/processed food items (cookies, chips, candy, gum – basically anything with a very long shelf life), canned foods, fast foods, and fried foods. Chemical additives have been linked to relatively mild symptoms like skin problems or allergies to more serious problems, such as asthma, seizures, heart disease or cancer.
Also hidden in these chemical concoctions are ingredients that have been irradiated to allow bug-infested or moldy ingredients to be used as fresh. Many of these products also contain ingredients that have been Genetically Engineered* or modified.
Canned Foods are dead foods. Generally speaking, dead foods don’t provide us with the nutrition our body needs. To prepare canned foods, they must be cooked at high temperatures which destroys a lot of the vitamins, minerals and enzymes. All living things have a vibrational frequency or life force that can be measured in megahertz. A healthy body has a frequency ranging from 62-78 megahertz, while disease begins at 58 megahertz. Fresh foods and herbs measure in megahertz between 10 and 27, while canned foods have a zero megahertz frequency. It’s obvious to conclude that eating foods of high vibrational frequency will contribute to our health and well being, while those foods with zero frequencies will eventually contribute to an overall lower vibration in our body leading to ill health and disease.
Fast Foods are very high in saturated fats and contain foods grown with herbicides, pesticides, growth hormones and antibiotics. The quality of produce and meats used in the fast food industry is of very low quality to keep costs down. Fast food may be cheap, but it’s certainly costly to your health. Fast foods have been shown to contribute to heart disease, high cholesterol, obesity, diabetes and cancer.
*Genetic Engineering (GE) is a radical new technology that manipulates the genes and DNA – the building blocks of all living things. Genetic engineering creates new life forms that would never occur in nature, creating new and unpredictable health and environmental risks. To create GE crops, genes from bacteria, viruses, plants, animals and even humans have been inserted into plants like soybeans, corn, canola, and cotton. Because they are living organisms, GE crops can multiply, spread and reproduce indefinitely and at will. Once released, genetically engineered organisms can never be recalled, so their effects are irreversible. Adverse effects on health include food allergies, other allergic reactions such as skin rashes, lowered resistance to antibiotics and probably many more that are yet to be discovered or admitted. Unfortunately, the FDA doesn’t require manufactures to label foods as genetically modified. It’s safe to assume that many processed foods (approximately 70%) contain some form of a genetically modified ingredient. Another reason to avoid processed foods altogether.
In short, Genetic Engineering is an unpredictable technology that, for the sake of corporate profits, puts our environment and health at risk. Don’t eat them.
Diet: What to Consume
Healthy eating is simply eating the foods your body needs for energy and for growth. Healthy food nourishes your body with essential nutrients, vitamins, minerals, trace minerals, protein, carbohydrates, fats and enzymes. These nutrients are necessary for life. Without them, your body does not receive the proper fuel it needs to function optimally and it increases your chance of developing health problems. It may be something minor at first, like headaches, allergies, skin problems or mild fatigue. Eventually, it will lead to major illness, like diabetes, cancer or heart disease.
Choosing healthy food is simple if you just remember a few guidelines. First, select fresh, unprocessed whole foods. This includes fresh fruit and vegetables, whole grains and legumes, raw nuts and seeds, and fresh sprouts. Raw, unprocessed foods are live foods. They contain the greatest amount of vitamins, minerals and enzymes and provide the body with the greatest amount of nutrition. Select animal foods-eggs, poultry and meat-that are free range, grass fed and hormone and antibiotic free. Choose fish with the lowest amount of mercury contamination.
Choose Organic Food over commercially produced food if possible. Organic foods are the purest and healthiest foods. They are not contaminated with pesticides, growth hormones or antibiotics. They generally have a higher nutritional content and what’s more, they are not irradiated or genetically modified.
Be aware of foods that are referred to as natural foods. “Natural” does not mean it is organic. There is no official definition for “natural” food, so food producers and manufacturers may call anything natural, even if there is nothing natural about it, so be careful to read labels when choosing food products and opt for foods labeled “organic” or “certified organic”.
When choosing a beverage, the best choice is water, followed by herbal teas. Juices, while promoted as being healthy, are often heated or pasteurized which destroys many of the nutritional benefits, leaving you with a beverage high in sugar and carbohydrates. The best way to consume juice is to have it freshly juiced- either in the comfort of your own home with a juicer, or at a juice bar where it is made fresh to order.
Fermented drinks like Kombucha Tea or Kevita (fermented coconut water) are beneficial drinks to consume. Raw fermented beverages are loaded with enzymes and probiotics that have many health benefits.
It’s best to stay away from carbonated sugary drinks, coffee, and black tea. These beverages are very dehydrating to the body and lack nutritional value. Herbal teas, however, are medicinal in nature and are a great beverage choice.
What about coffee? Is coffee really that bad for you? Although coffee gets knocked into the category of not-so-healthy, there are times when it can be included in a healthy diet. If you’re going to drink coffee, the first rule would be to buy good quality organic coffee. If you drink decaf, it’s best to opt for Swiss Water Process decaf, this process uses water instead of chemicals to decaffeinate coffee. The second rule would be to limit your amount. If you’re needing several cups throughout the day just to maintain energy levels, then your health is already in trouble, and it would be best to investigate the underlying causes of your low energy instead of crashing and burning. Be nice to your adrenals and keep the caffeine to a minimum. The third rule, I know, so many rules- last one. Promise. Don’t load your cup of joe up with sugar and fake creamers. A cup of coffee with spoonfuls of sugar and chemical creamer equal one very unhealthy beverage. Bleh. At the very least, use a little real cream or almond milk and skip the sugar.
Guidelines for Balanced Healthy Eating
Every body is unique and there will always be variations from individual to individual depending on specific needs. There are, however, some very basic guidelines that are appropriate for anyone who seeks to have balance and harmony when it comes to eating and diet.
Emotional frame of mind is very important when it comes to eating and is imperative to proper digestion and assimilation. Eating while upset or angry can cause food to go sour in the stomach and not digest and assimilate properly.
Chewing is a fundamental part of digestion. Digestion literally begins in the mouth. Without chewing properly, the entire system becomes burdened as it has to work that much harder to break it down.
Liquids should be consumed at least 15 minutes to a half hour before and after meals. Drinking too much liquid during a meal dilutes the digestive fluids in the stomach and inhibits proper digestion. Warm tea or room temperature water may be taken with meals in small sips to aid digestion.
Preparing foods properly is important to insure that vitamin and mineral content is not lost during the process of cooking. The best ways of preparing foods are steaming, stir frying in water, stewing (soups) or baking. Steaming leaves the food in it’s most natural state, while baking enhances or adds heat to foods and is particularly good for those with cold conditions. Stir frying in water is healthier than using oil since oils become toxic in the body if overheated or burned. It’s better to add oils after cooking or only use them in low heat cooking.
Foods should be eaten in their wholeness to get the most benefit from them. The peels on fruits and vegetables usually contain high amounts of vitamins and minerals. Only peel fruits and vegetables if the peel is hard to digest or if they have been sprayed or contaminated with chemicals. Consuming organically grown foods will help you avoid toxic chemical residues of commercial produce.
Avoid irradiated or Genetically Modified Foods (GMO) and Microwave Ovens. Use utensils and cookware that are glass, earthenware or stainless steel. Avoid cooking in aluminum, copper or teflon coated pans. Metals can easily leach into foods and Teflon releases toxic particulates when heated to certain temperatures, including carcinogens, global pollutants and MFA, a chemical lethal to humans even at low doses.
Microwave ovens, aka death ovens, destroy your foods and your health. The microwave heating process causes carcinogenic free radical formation in many foods and destroys nutrients. There are many well documented studies showing the dangerous effects on microwaved foods and how it negatively impacts our health. Throw it away and invest in a good toaster oven instead!
Follow the Seasons If possible, diet should follow the seasons. Eat what grows locally and seasonal. Nature is perfect in her plan for providing us with foods appropriate for certain seasons. The fruits and vegetables available to us in the summer time often have cooling properties and winter foods tend to have more warming qualities. It’s also important to eat a wide variety of foods for good balance. Even good foods can become toxic in our systems if they are overeaten. Eating a variety of different foods assures us a wide range of vitamins and minerals.
Raw Foods While raw foods have been promoted as healthy, they can be hard to digest for some people. Most vegetables can be lightly cooked for easier digestion. From an Eastern perspective, cold foods can be difficult to digest and should be avoided by people who have very weak digestion. Cold foods can put out the digestive fire, slowing both digestion and metabolism. Chugging down a cold milk shake would be comparable to dumping a bucket of water on a fire. It puts out the flame. We need our “digestive flame” to be lit at all times for proper metabolism of foods. Consuming cold foods causes slowed metabolism and stagnation. Balance cold foods with food that are hot in nature. For example, an all raw veggie salad is cool to cold in nature, but if you add in hot peppers, cayenne pepper and some cooked foods, you’re balancing out the food properties making it easier for your digestive system.
Don’t eat until FULL! It is best to stop eating before you actually feel full. When you eat to the point of being full, you don’t leave enough room for qi to begin the digestion process properly and you’re left feeling lethargic and miserable. It’s also best not to eat just before going to bed. Eating at least 3 hours before bed will result in better digestion and more restful sleep.
Eat a healthy Breakfast. It sets your metabolism for the day and provides you with the necessary fuel to make it through your day. If you typically don’t experience hunger within an hour of waking in the mornings, this could be a sign of weak or impaired digestion. Drinking a warm cup of tea first thing will stimulate digestion and appetite and help strengthen digestive function.
Always avoid highly processed foods and keep meals as simple as possible. A balanced diet consists of the following:
Whole Grains such as rice, millet, barley, wheat, oats, corn, rye, quinoa, amaranth, etc. This group of foods should account for about 40% of the diet. If you’re gluten sensitive (and many are and don’t realize it!) stick to gluten free grains.
Fresh Fruits and Vegetables including dark leafy greens, cabbage, broccoli, squash, yams etc. and seasonal fruits should account for 40% of the diet. Root vegetables like yams, sweet potatoes and squashes are a great substitute for grain carbohydrates if you’re sensitive to gluten and/or grains.
Legumes/Seeds/Nuts including peas, beans, lentils, sunflower seeds, almonds, walnuts etc. will account for about 10-20% of the vegetarian diet and less than that for those who eat meat. Beans should be soaked prior to cooking to make them more easily digestible. Nuts and seeds contain high amounts of oils and should be eaten as fresh as possible and stored in the refrigerator to avoid becoming rancid as quickly.
Animal Products including dairy foods, meats fish, poultry, and eggs should occupy no more than 10% of the diet. These products should be organic as commercial animal products may contain growth hormones, antibiotics and steroids.
Seaweeds such as nori, wakame, dulse, kombu, hiziki, and arame are valuable sources of minerals and can be consumed in small amounts, added to soups and salads.
One should strictly avoid foods containing chemical preservatives, additives, colorings, flavorings, and MSG. One should limit their consumption of fried or greasy foods, coffee, ice-cream, refined sugar, and alcohol.
Health Hazards of Overeating
Overeating is a very common imbalance in the US that contributes to and causes many diseases. Not only do Americans typically overeat, but they overeat the wrong foods, and tend to eat too fast. The environment in which you eat is very important. Eating on the run too quickly creates indigestion and poor assimilation. Eating in a relaxed environment and chewing your food slowly and thoroughly is essential to proper digestion and assimilation of nutrients.
Many studies have shown that American consumption of protein is too high. Protein is essential but in excessive amounts it leads to health problems, including such diseases as cancer and heart disease. Statistically, the US leads the world in both protein consumption per person and cancer incidence. A high protein diet usually results in a high percentage of cholesterol and saturated fat in the diet, another big contributor to disease. Meat companies have mislead us into believing we need more protein that what is really healthy. Moderation is the key to good health.
Ideally, the healthiest diet, suggested by the results of many studies, would include a diet that consists of at least 80 to 90% plant food. Countries who only consume 7 to 10% of their calories from animal products have the lowest incidences of heart disease, colon cancer, and osteoporosis.