The following is a clip from an email newsletter from Spiritual Wealth [firstname.lastname@example.org] 5-25-2012
Our generation is among the first people in history to have the luxury of bombarding ourselves with low-cost, nutrient-deficient, high-calorie food. Mix in a sedentary lifestyle and the result is not only a reduced quality of life but a budding health-care crisis. According to the National Institutes of Health, obesity is associated with a two-fold increase in mortality and costs society more than $100 billion annually.
The best medicine, of course, is preventative. Unfortunately, too many doctors are inclined to prescribe a pill rather than a healthier diet. (Eisenhower warned about the military-industrial complex. But how about the new pharmaceutical-medical complex?)
A stumbling block for many is that eating - the most basic of creaturely activities - seems to have gotten complicated in recent years. You can't listen to a food expert without hearing all about antioxidants, saturated fats, polyphenols, gluten, probiotics or omega-3 fatty acids.
And we're only just grazing the surface. Author and "foodie intellectual" Michael Pollan points out that nutrition science, which started less than 200 years ago, is today approximately where surgery was in the year 1650. We haven't even discovered all the phytochemicals and other micronutrients in our foods, much less how they aid and protect the body.
However, we do know two important things today: Populations that eat a so-called Western diet - lots of processed foods and meat, lots of added fat and sugar, and lots of refined grains - suffer terribly from obesity, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cancer.
Populations that follow traditional diets of high-nutrient, low-calorie foods suffer far less from these maladies. In fact, they enjoy a host of benefits including lower cholesterol and triglycerides, reduced stress, enhanced cellular repair mechanisms, better resistance to cancer, nonappearance of atherosclerosis and diabetes, a delay in the onset of several late-life diseases and greater longevity.
That's a heckuva trade-off. Fortunately, people who get off the Western diet see dramatic improvements in their health - and relatively quickly. And despite all the conflicting claims out there, it doesn't have to be a complicated process. Pollan points out that a healthy eating regimen can be boiled down to just seven words: Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.
A little explication is in order ... Eat food. This dictate sounds puzzling until you realize that most of us today eat not whole foods (fruits, vegetables, nuts, whole grains, and lean meat) but what Pollan calls "edible foodlike substances."
There isn't much profit in selling mushrooms, raw almonds and collard greens. So food companies create - and grocery stores promote - higher-margin food products designed to appeal to our inborn preferences for sweetness, fat and salt. However, it isn't healthy to eat things your ancestors wouldn't have recognized as food. That rules out Lunchables, chicken nuggets, Twinkies, Doritos, Go-GURT, spray cheese, Cap'n Crunch, and most varieties of Hostess Ho-Hos.
The key is to consume naturally nutritious whole foods instead of processed foods with dubious health claims. ("Half the Calories of Regular Potato Chips!" "Zero Trans-Fats!") As Pollan puts it, "If it came from a plant, eat it; if it was made in a plant, don't."
Not too much. The scientific case for eating less than you currently do - even if you're not overweight - is compelling. "Caloric restriction" slows aging in animals and many researchers believe it offers the single strongest link between diet and cancer prevention.
Mostly plants. Vegetarians are notably healthier than carnivores. They also tend to live longer. You don't have to be a vegetarian - I'm not - to recognize the benefits of moving in that direction. In countries where people eat a pound or more of vegetables and fruits a day, the rate of cancer is half what it is in the United States. And there is evidence that the more meat there is in your diet - red meat in particular - the greater your risk of heart disease and cancer.
In addition, how you eat is almost as important as what you eat. Pollan notes that the French consume all sorts of supposedly lethal fatty foods and wash them down with red wine, but are healthier, thinner, and longer lived than we are. Perhaps that's because they seldom snack, eat small portions from small plates, don't go back for seconds and eat most of their food at long, leisurely meals shared with family or friends. These customs may matter more than any magical food combination.
Hospitals are terrific for traumatic care; for acute care. They do a really, really good job in saving lives when it's a sudden bleeding emergency. But in terms of chronic care, they're terrible; (that is) in terms of the illnesses that most people have, endure, that cost the most money, that last the longest and ultimately die from. -Dr. Andrew Saul
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