Thursday, May 19, 2011

Defending the Balanced Diet

This article will also be available on the Total Cleanse website

Defending the Balanced Diet
Sarah Reid, RHNC

I came across a rather poignant quotation in the L.A. Times today:
"If Americans could eliminate sugary beverages, potatoes, white bread, pasta, white rice and sugary snacks, we would wipe out almost all the problems we have with weight and diabetes and other metabolic diseases."
A good sentiment when you look at most of what’s mentioned: vitamin and mineral-devoid, refined calories that feed yeast and disease-causing bacteria in the gut. None of the refined things on Dr. Walter Willett’s list I mentioned above have any sort of fibre to keep you full, or any natural B vitamins for energy. It would stand to reason that a nation plagued by degenerative, hormone and digestion-related issues would be depriving themselves of the very basic necessities for healthy nutrition.

I take issue with this article on three fronts: firstly, the potatoes mentioned by Dr. Willett are not to be classified in the same vein as white bread and polished rice. Potatoes, especially when prepared (by baking or steaming) with their skin, provide a wealth of vitamins, minerals, and protein – all in a neat little package of fibre-filled complex carbohydrates. These are the very types of carbohydrates diabetics and those trying to lose weight are told to consume. Not only do these tubers have a nutritional “yes list” behind them, but the starch found in the flesh is of a particular composition that is a boon to anyone counting their calories or carbohydrate grams. Called resistant starch, this compound that naturally occurs in lentils, beans and starchy vegetables and fruit like apples and, yes, potatoes, it prevents your body from absorbing anywhere between 1-2 calories per gram of (usually 4-calorie) carbohydrate that you eat. Considering that the general recommendation for a healthy person is to consume a minimum of 50% of their daily calories from carbs (most nutritionists will range between 55-60%), a 2000 calorie diet can save about 50 a day by eating mainly resistant-starch laden carbohydrates.

Not a single practitioner in this article mentions the importance of regular exercise in managing metabolic disorders and weight. Needless to say, without adequate burning of your calories, regardless of what you eat or don’t eat weight will continue to pile up.

The riskiest thing I read in this article – from some of the interviewed “experts” – is the mention of ketosis as some kind of “fat burning miracle”. Far from being a halo of health to aspire to, finding your body in that state indicates it’s extreme cry for the very basic foundation of any metabolic process: carbohydrates. Your brain can’t use the fat “burned” in this state, and left unchecked it can cause comas that can become irreversible. High protein levels without adequate carbohydrates are another problem. Proteins acidify the blood, leaching vital minerals out of your bones and nerve cells to balance out the pH. Eventually, these minerals need a place to go, and it’s not back where it came from – instead, hardening arteries, kidneys, gallbladders and cystic breasts emerge and interfere with the organ’s functions.

Loading up on just carbohydrates, fat or protein to the exclusion of the other macronutrients is not going to solve the obesity or degenerative diseases in Western society. Just as carbohydrates have their place for energy and mental health, fat builds cell membranes and hormones and protein keeps your blood, muscle and gut healthy. No matter which one you pick, they all have calories, and too many calories equals too many pounds. So please, stop pinning the blame on a single, important cornerstone of nutrition, and start looking at what your life is missing. Chances are, a few fruits, vegetables, glasses of water and brisk walks outside with your friends or family are on your body’s “wish list”.

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About Me

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I started my "working life" as a holistic and allopathic nutritional consultant with a love of cooking. Teaching the value of wholesome meal choices to families became close to my heart after I battled a long history of struggles with weight and health, and the passion for teaching led me into where I am now. My blog, which focuses on "bringing good taste to healthier food" through creative use of whole grains, fresh produce and acknowledging the importance of the occasional treat, also features a wealth of "specialty diet" friendly recipes for gluten-, egg-, dairy- and sugar- tree nut-free items that everyone can enjoy without alienating those who need them.

Overall, I want to bring back the desire for good quality, homemade, (mostly) healthy food into the hearts and kitchens of families so that the next generation will be less box-reliant than mine. I firmly believe that any “homemade” food, even when labelled as "naughty", is a more wholesome treat than pre-packaged, cookie-cutter junk. With the knowledge of good food (and how to cook good food) as a base, a healthy lifestyle can follow, and then anything is possible!

Today, my love for teaching is branching out even further - I'm in Montessori training to solidify my love for the system and working with children and families!