Balancing Your Diet
Often thought to be from Thomas Edison, the quote “We are digging our graves with our teeth”, was actually a revised quote from an English physician and naturalist Thomas Moffett in the late 1600’s which stated “Men dig their graves with their own teeth and die by those fated instruments more than the weapons of their enemies.” You are what you eat, and what you eat affects your health. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention publishes statistics on the causes of death in America. Many nutritionists and health experts feel that eight of the top 10 causes of death are directly related to nutrition and lifestyle; I guess you can dig your own grave with your teeth!
Most people are aware they should eat a balanced diet to get all of the necessary nutrients like protein, fats and carbohydrates. A balanced diet also consists of proper amounts water along with micronutrients like vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals. Should you supplement your diet with vitamins, antioxidant pills, protein shakes and other magical elixirs? It is estimated that over 60 percent of Americans take dietary supplements to balance their diet and improve their health.
The Institute of Medicine has created a daily Dietary Reference Intake (DRI) for 36 key nutrients, all of which are believed to be important. Many supplement companies have taken advantage of these recommendations and created pills to help people balance their diet. Unfortunately, most studies comparing supplements with whole foods show that supplementation does not provide the same benefits as whole, natural foods. What this means is that there are many known and unknown elements that work together in a whole food such as an orange. If you take only the vitamin C from the orange, you don’t get the same benefits as you would from the whole orange.
Top nutrition experts like Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn, Dr. Michael Greger, Dr. John McDougal and T. Colin Campbell, PhD recommend anywhere between eight to 12 percent of your calories come from protein and 10 to 15 percent of your calories come from fat. The remaining calories should come from carbohydrates. This makes sense because your brain and nervous system rely on carbohydrates as their main source of energy. Reality Check: One quarter pound cheeseburger from your favorite fast food restaurant would meet your daily protein requirement while exceeding your daily fat requirement and only provide about 10 percent of your daily carbohydrate requirement, depriving your brain and nervous system from the nutrient it needs to properly function.
A balanced diet should eliminate processed foods and incorporate whole foods. What many people don’t realize is that foods like potatoes, tomatoes, broccoli, and whole grains contain the necessary amounts of proteins and fat for optimal nutrition along with the necessary carbohydrates, micronutrients and phytochemicals. Meat does not contain carbohydrates and does not provide all of the necessary micronutrients and phytochemicals. If you were to eat enough calories from whole plant foods, anywhere from 2,000 to 2,500 calories daily, you would also be consuming the proper amounts of protein, fat, carbohydrates and phytochemicals for optimal health. Consuming a plant-based whole food diet, while eliminating processed foods and animal products like meat and dairy, does have some side effects however. The side effects are weight loss, improved cardiovascular health, improved cholesterol, reduced risk of high blood pressure and a reduced risk of Type 2 Diabetes. I like those side effects much better than the ones from the medication and supplement advertisements I see on television!