We’ve all heard an old adage ‘You are what you eat‘. But we do not follow it.
Around 34% of all Americans are obese. Around 26 million children and adults in the United States—8.3% of the population—have diabetes. Heart disease is the number one killer in the United States, accounting for more than 40% of all deaths. In the book Eat to Live – Joel Fuhrman tells that over 90% of the calories we consume come from refined foods or animal products and it is the reason why we get these diseases.
Americans have been among the first people worldwide to have the luxury of bombarding themselves with nutrient-deficient, high-calorie food, often called empty-calorie or junk food. By “empty calorie,” I mean food that is deficient in nutrients and fiber. More Americans than ever before are eating these high-calorie foods while remaining inactive – a dangerous combination.
Formula for healthy living
We can prevent and recover from these diseases by eating healthy foods. Your health is predicted by nutrient intake divided by your intake of calories. The key formula for a healthy living is
Health = Nutrient / Calories
Food supplies us with both nutrients and calories. All calories comes from 3 elements – carbohydrates, proteins and fats. We get our energy by burning these calories. Nutrients are derived from noncaloric food factors – vitamins, minerals, fiber, and phytochemicals.
For optimal health and weight loss, you must consume a diet with a high nutrient-per-calorie ratio.
Let us understand more about these nutrients.
1. Phytochemicals – These chemicals occur naturally in plants (phyto means plant in Greek). Phytochemicals from variety of plant foods work together and detoxify carcinogens. This protects us from getting cancer. They also prevent DNA damage and help with DNA repair.
2. Fiber – It is an indigestible substance that is mainly found in the outer layers of plants. These foods are rich in complex carbohydrates. The fibers slows down glucose absorption and control the rate of digestion. This helps in preventing diabetes. Plant fibers have complex physiological effects in digestive tract that offer a variety of benefits, such as lowering cholesterol.
3. Vitamins and Minerals – They make our bodies work properly. They boost the immune system, support normal growth and development, and help cells and organs do their jobs. Plant foods are abundant in vitamins and minerals.
Best and Worst Foods
For getting high nutrient-per-calorie ratio, Fuhrman recommends eating vegetables, fruits, beans, legumes, nuts, and seeds. Given below is the food pyramid that he recommends.
For a healthy living the 10 best foods that he recommends are
- Green Leafy Vegetables (e.g. kale, collard greens, mustard greens, spinach, lettuce)
- Non Leafy Cruciferous Vegetables (e.g. broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, cabbage)
- Seeds (e.g. flax, chia, hemp, sesame, sunflower, pumpkin)
- Nuts (e.g. walnuts, pistachios, pine nuts, almonds, cashews)
The 10 worst foods that you should avoid are
- Sweetened Dairy Products (e.g. ice cream, low-fat ice cream, frozen yogurt)
- Trans Fat Containing Foods (e.g. stick margarine, shortening, fast foods, commercial baked goods)
- Sausage, Hot Dogs, and Luncheon Meats
- Smoked Meat, Barbecued Meat and Conventionally-Raised Red Meat
- Fried Foods including Potato Chips and French Fries
- Highly-salted Foods
- Refined White Sugar
- Refined White Flour
Other facts to be aware of
1. How many calories come from fat in low-fat 2% milk?
Take a look at the nutrition facts for low-fat 2% milk. 45 calories out of 120 calories comes from fat. 37.5% calories comes from fat. Then why do they advertise the milk as low-fat 2% milk?
The so-called low-fat 2 percent milk is not really 2 percent fat. They call it 98 percent fat-free (by weight) only because of its water content. Low-fat milk is not a low-fat product at all, and neither low-fat cheeses and other low-fat animal foods.
2. Which food has more protein – Broccoli or Steak?
Steak has only 6.4 grams of protein per 100 calories and broccoli has 11.1 grams, almost twice as much.
3. Plant foods does not contain Vitamin-B12
Vitamin-B12 also called as cobalamin, is a water soluble vitamin and plays a key role in the normal functioning of brain and nervous system. Plants does not produce this vitamin. If you follow a complete vegetarian diet then you should consume a multivitamin or get it from fortified soy milk.
4. Omega-3 fatty acids reduces inflammation
Omega-3 fatty acids are considered essential fatty acids. They play an important role in reducing inflammation throughout the body. Flaxseeds and Walnuts will provide us with the required Omega-3.
Bad eating habits and sedentary lifestyle are the primary reasons for getting heart attacks, strokes, and diabetes. These diseases can be easily prevented if we eat healthy foods rich in nutrients. Eat to Live is an excellent book and it got me started on the right path for a healthy living.