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Alternative Approaches: Simple Foundations For a Healthy Diet

Alternative Approaches
Simple Foundations For a Healthy Diet

Diets everywhere - no carb, low carb, low fat, Zone, Atkins, Beverly Hills, Maker's Diet, Blood Type Diet.
What's a health conscious person to do?
Diet plays a major role in determining your level of health. Certain dietary practices prevent - and others cause - a wide range of diseases and illnesses.
By eating a diet that is whole, vital, and balanced, you will take a major step in promoting a long and happy life.
Research tells us that the most healthy and -effective weight control diets- are diets that have worked for centuries.
These age-old diets (such as The Mediterranean diet and The Okinawa diet) are satisfying and can be enjoyed and therefore maintained for the long term.
Here are some of their top guidelines for a healthy diet.
(BOLD)Maintain a balanced diet
Nutritious eating has nothing to do with "fad" diets. Restrictive diets serve little purpose other than to increase the likelihood of nutritional deficiencies and compromised health. Avoiding even one food group can jeopardize your nutritional health by increasing the risk of developing deficiencies of the nutrients supplied by that food group.
The human body is complex and has specific requirements for health. There are at least 45 different vitamins, minerals, essential fatty acids and other components that we know our bodies need and must be obtained from our diet for us to remain healthy. A deficiency in any one of these components can result in poor health or a wide range of serious symptoms and diseases.
To ensure balance in your diet follow this simple plating rule at each of your meals: using an 8 inch plate fill half of your plate with vegetables; 1/4 of your plate with protein; 1/4 of your plate with whole grains and/or low to moderate glycemic index carbohydrates.
(BOLD)Eat more plant-based foods.
Humans are omnivores. We are designed to eat and digest both plant and animal foods. However, based on our evolution and our anatomy humans are designed to process a diet that is mostly plant based - with animal foods contributing a smaller portion of our dietary needs.
It is believed that humans have evolved to eat approximately 1.5% of their diet as animal foods. Most Americans eat well over 50% of their calories from animal foods.
The meat that our ancestors ate was much different than the supermarket meat of today. Today's supermarket meat contains 25 to 30% fat (to make it tender) compared to wild meat, which has a fat content of less than 4%. The fat composition of domestic meat is primarily saturated fat with almost no omega-3 fatty acids (the good fat). The fat of wild animals contains more than five times the polyunsaturated fat per gram and has about 4% (a substantial amount) of omega-3 fatty acids. Range fed animals contain ten times as much conjugated linoleic acid (CLA - which has been shown to have anticancer effects).
When including meat in your diet follow these guidelines:
* Limit your serving size of meat to 3-4 ounces (about the size of a deck of cards)
* Avoid eating well-done or charbroiled meat.
* Don't eat meat with added nitrates or nitrites
* Buy organic, free range meat and poultry or wild game
* Choose the leanest cuts of meat:
* Beef- extra lean ground beef, sirloin, round steak/roast, rump, strip sirloin stew beef or tenderloin. Pork - leg or butt roast, tenderloin or center cut loin. * Poultry- white meat (50% less fat than dark meat) and skinless.
(BOLD)Eat more vegetables.
The Latin root of vegetables means "to enliven or animate". Vegetables give you life and vitality and are the main focus of any health promoting diet. Vegetables are full of nutrients and low in calories. Even those "high carbohydrate" vegetables are good for you.
Include 8-10 servings of cooked vegetables every day. A serving of vegetables equals 1/2 cup of cooked vegetables or 1 cup of raw leafy vegetables.
Yes, that is 4-5 cups of vegetables a day!
We are not a nation of vegetable eaters.
Only one in five children eat the recommended five servings of fruits and vegetables daily, and nearly 25 percent of all the vegetables they consumed are French fries (are these really veggies!). On any four consecutive days, only 14 percent of women eat even one dark green vegetable.
Vegetables provide the broadest nutrient range of any food group. They are rich sources of vitamins, minerals, carbohydrates and protein.
Eating more vegetables and salads will create a stronger immune system, help you fight fatigue, and maintain a healthy weight. Fresh vegetables and salads contain essential minerals and vitamins. They also supply powerful phytochemicals that are protective against cancers and other degenerative diseases.
Numerous population studies have demonstrated that a high intake of carotene rich and flavonoid rich fruits and vegetables reduces the risk of heart disease, cancer, and strokes. Eating more vegetables also decreases your risk of high blood pressure and obesity.
Eating vegetables keeps you looking younger, acting younger, and thinking younger.
There are many dietary substances in vegetables that promote health. Vegetables are a major source of antioxidants such as vitamin C and folic acid that protect us against free radicals. Vegetables provide phytochemicals such as carotenes, chlorophyll, and flavonoids. Vegetables are a good source of dietary fiber and enzymes.
Generally, more nutrients are absorbed from cooked vegetables (but it is a good practice to include 1-2 serving of raw veggies daily). Cook vegetables by steaming, baking, or quick stir-frying in olive or coconut oil. Don't overcook vegetables as this will result in nutrient loss as well as loss of flavor. Avoid boiling vegetables unless you are making soup. Fresh vegetables are the first choice with frozen vegetables preferred over canned.
There are many systems for eating vegetables that ensure you eat a balanced variety of vegetables. My favorite is to fill 1/2 of your plate with veggies and to eat vegetables from every color of the rainbow.
(BOLD)Increase the variety in your diet.
Eating a variety of foods will improve the likelihood of getting an adequate intake of all the nutrients needed for health, well-being, and growth.
Try the easy rainbow rule for each of your meals. In each meal, include red, yellow, white, brown, blue, green, purple, and orange foods. By including a rainbow of colors in your diet you help assure that you are getting the full spectrum of antioxidants and nutrients that are needed for optimal functioning and protection against disease.
The longevity standard for variety is 18 different foods a day. The old trick of having the same thing every day for breakfast or lunch does not really serve you - no matter how healthy the food is. Instead, try a modified 4-day rotation plan. If you eat oatmeal on Monday then wait until Friday to have it again. For increasing variety, rotating your foods will go a long way in providing a more healthy diet- and makes your diet more fun and adventuresome!

Mary Ann Copson, a Certified Licensed Nutritionist and a Wellness and Life Coach is the founder of the Evenstar Mood & Energy Wellness Center for Women. You can visit her online at or reach her by phone at 434-263-4996.

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