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You Are What You Eat

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Essential nutrients you need to create a strong and healthy new you.

Has there ever been a time, perhaps when you were still young and green to the ways of the world, when you set out to bake a cake only to discover well into the process that you were short a few ingredients—but decided to go ahead and bake the blasted thing anyway, perhaps with a few creative “substitutes” thrown in? “After all,” you reasoned, “how big a deal could a package of yeast and a few eggs be anyway? A little extra flour and a quarter-cup of milk should work just fine.””

Alas, pulling what amounted to a steaming oversized flapjack from the oven, you realized then that the next time you decide to bake anything, you’d best include all of the right ingredients.

In a way, creating a strong, healthy body is like baking a cake. If you want things to turn out right, you’ve got to supply your body with the right “recipe” of raw materials. As far as nutrition goes, scientists have identified six categories of “ingredients” essential to good health, those being water, protein, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins and minerals. Each of these compounds has profound effects on both your physical and mental health, says Prof. Barbara Demmig-Adams, a biochemist at the University of Colorado-Boulder. “Food molecules entering the human body act as hormone-like messengers that regulate pivotal body functions at the cellular level.”

You’re not half the man (or woman) you used to be
There are nearly 100 trillion cells in the human body, which are constantly degenerating and regenerating themselves anew. Depending on which expert you talk with, your entire body replaces its tissues and cells every one to seven years. Within the next month, you’ll have a whole new stomach lining. In about three months, you’ll have a fresh crop of red blood cells. Within the next three years, you’ll have a new set of muscles. And in fewer than four years, you’ll have an entirely updated skeleton.

“The reason you are alive,” says Dr. Arnold Caplan, director of the Skeletal Research Center at Cleveland’s Case Western Reserve University, “is your body is constantly and continuously regenerating tissues. That means that cells are dropping dead and new cells are taking their place.”

For an old cell to be replaced with a healthy, new one, Caplan says it’s imperative that it receives 100 percent of the raw materials it normally requires for regeneration. The problem is, the way the typical American diet is set up, 60 percent of us are deficient in one or more of these essential nutrients, according to a recent government-sponsored survey.

Now, if these ingredients are not provided, a new cell will still be created—but, like that cake, it just doesn’t turn out right. Over many cellular regenerations with insufficient raw materials, you get more and more unhealthy cells, which leads to more and more unhealthy tissues. Over time, you’re left with an unhealthy lot of muscles, bones and organs and poor overall mental and physical health.

Of course, the way you reverse this insidious process is by beginning to supply your body with optimal amounts of the ingredients it prefers to keep cellular regeneration going strong. Let’s now take a look at a few of the most common dietary faux pas as far as this issue is concerned—and how we can fix them before it’s too late.

By now, everyone who lifts weights knows protein is essential to the muscle-building process. In fact, the word protein comes from the Greek word meaning “of prime importance.” Not only does it provide your muscles with their basic building blocks, but protein also contributes to key biological functions like blood clotting, fluid balance, the production of hormones and enzymes and cellular repair. For the most part, resistance-training athletes get more than enough of this vital nutrient to meet their biological and muscle-building needs, however...

The problem is … how we’re getting our protein, and not so much “how much” we’re getting. You see, research has shown that cooking certain meats at high temperatures, such as frying with those popular indoor “lean, mean grilling machines,” creates chemicals that may cause serious cellular damage and potentially increase your risk for cancer, according to a recent report from the National Cancer Institute (NCI). According to the report, heterocyclic amines (HCAs) are the carcinogenic chemicals formed from the cooking of meats such as beef, pork, fowl and fish.

HCAs form when amino acids (the building blocks of proteins) and creatine (yes, creatine, which is also found naturally meats) react at high cooking temperatures. Researchers have identified 17 different HCAs resulting from the cooking of meats that may pose human cancer risk. One study conducted by researchers from NCI’s Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics found a link between individuals with stomach cancer and the consumption of cooked meats. Additional studies have shown that an increased risk of developing colorectal, pancreatic and breast cancer is associated with high intakes of well-done, fried or barbecued meats.

The solution: According to the NCI, meats that are partially cooked in the microwave before cooking by other methods have lower levels of carcinogenic HCAs. In fact, studies have shown that meats that were microwaved for two minutes prior to cooking had a 90 percent decrease in HCA content. In addition, if the liquid that forms during microwaving is poured off before further cooking, the final quantity of HCAs is reduced. Also, oven roasting, baking and stewing are done at lower temperatures, so lower levels of HCAs are likely to form.

Contrary to popular opinion, carbohydrates are not part of a larger conspiracy to make you fat and sick. The truth is, carbohydrates are the most important energy source for your brain, exercising muscles and each of your body’s 100 trillion cells, however...

The problem is … the carbs that make up the bulk of the typical American diet—sugars and refined starches—don’t contribute much of anything as far as nutrition goes. It’s the whole grains, which make up a measly 5 percent of Americans’ carbohydrate consumption, that provide your cells the quality nutrients and energy they need to work efficiently.
“Epidemiological studies find that whole-grain intake is protective against cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and obesity,” says Dr. Joanne Slavin, a professor of food and nutrition at the University of Minnesota. These protective effects, Dr. Slavin says, largely rest in the health-enhancing bran (the outer layer) and germ (the internal embryo) found naturally in whole grains. When grains are refined to make white flour and white rice, for example, the bran and germ—and all of their healthful nutrients and disease-fighting phytochemicals—are stripped away and washed down the drain.

The fibrous bran, protein and fat contained in whole grains also slow their digestion and absorption, increasing satiety and providing the body with a sustained release of energy. Refined grains, on the other hand, are rapidly digested and absorbed, provoking spikes and dips in blood sugar, which, over time, could lead to obesity, diabetes and heart disease.

The solution: Eat fewer sugars and refined starches and more whole grains. In fact, Dr. Slavin recommends replacing sugars and refined starches with whole grains altogether. You’ll not only be getting a more sustained, quality source of energy to fuel your workouts, but you’ll be contributing to optimal cell health. “Whole grains are rich sources of a wide range of phytochemicals with anticarcinogenic properties,” Dr. Slavin writes in a recent review paper published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association. “Some of these phytochemicals block DNA damage and suppress cancer cell growth.”

Quality sources of whole grains include oatmeal, barley, steamed brown rice and whole-grain breads.

Fat is another nutrient that really takes a beating. But what gets forgotten, or at least ignored, is the critical role it plays as a structural component of all cell membranes, among thousands of other important biological duties. The good news is, Americans get plenty of fat in their diets; however...

The problem is … it’s the wrong kind! Epidemiological surveys show Americans are malnourished on the good fats, the essential fatty acids (EFAs), and are overloaded on saturated and trans fats, which are associated with a host of diseases and really don’t play any important role in the body except to be burned as energy.

Disturbingly, the average intake of trans-fatty acids is about 12 grams per day in the U.S.—about 10 percent of our total fat intake, according to dietary fat expert Dr. Udo Erasmus. This deadly fat is abundant in foods like margarine, shortening, snack foods (Oreos) and most fast foods. And as reported recently from the Harvard School of Public Health, they double the risk of heart attack, increase diabetes and kill at least 30,000 Americans every year.

“These damaged oil molecules are intimately involved in the cell, including in gene activation and gene repression—do you think they might affect the way your genetic program functions?” Dr. Erasmus asks. “The answer is a big yes. That’s scary stuff.”

The solution: Dr. Erasmus believes we should work to completely eliminate trans-fatty acids from our diets. Even small amounts can lead to big problems, he says. “You can usually tell that a food contains trans-fatty acids if the term ‘hydrogenated’ or ‘partially hydrogenated’ is on the label,” Dr. Erasmus says. “As we like to say, ‘If you see the H-word on the label, then get the H out of there.’” Replace these fats and saturated fats (the artery-clogging crud found in fatty beef, creams and cheese) with health-promoting essential fatty acids. Besides contributing to optimal cell function, these fats promote healthy skin and hair and speed up your metabolism. Good sources include cold-water fish such as salmon, walnuts, ground flax seeds or flax seed oil, hempseed oil and safflower oil.

Water is a compound we can’t do without for more than only a few days. The human body is about 60-75 percent water, and the brain is said to be about 85 percent water. Even bones are about 20 percent water. Next to the air we breathe, water is the most important substance we need for survival; however...

The problem is … We may be drinking ourselves straight into a state of dehydration with our excessive consumption of caffeinated beverages. And by doing so, says hydration expert Dr. F. Batmanghelidj, author of Water for Health, for Healing, for Life, they are likely interfering with cell function and compromising their health.

“Imagine a juicy plum picked from a tree and left exposed to the sun or wind—it becomes a prune,” he says. “The dehydration of the plum produces the shriveled interior and wrinkled skin that are typical of drying fruit. Loss of water causes the internal and external structures of living things to change, be that dehydration in a fruit or in a person.”
Depending on the area where the dehydration has settled most in the body, Dr. Batmanghelidj says, the cells in that region begin to wrinkle, and their inner functions are affected.

According to a recent survey conducted by the Nutrition Information Center, Americans drink an average of only 4.6 cups of water a day—a far cry from the 10 recommended for optimal hydration and muscle function. Worse yet, results of another recent survey conducted in 14 major U.S. cities showed that most Americans are countring the positive effects of the little water they are getting by drinking an average of 5.9 servings daily of caffeinated beverages like coffee and soft drinks. “Caffeine further dehydrates the body,” Dr. Batmanghelidj says. “You urinate more than the volume of water contained in the beverage.”

Couple this with the fact that it’s not uncommon for individuals to dehydrate by 2 percent to 6 percent of their body weight during exercise, and the result, as you can imagine, isn’t good. Not only is cell function disrupted, but dehydration can result in sluggishness, dulled senses, stalled muscle growth, a general sense of fatigue and an all-around lack of peak performance.

The solution: Drink at least 10 glasses of water a day and limit your consumption of caffeinated beverages, Dr. Batmanghelidj says. “The body needs water—nothing substitutes for water. Coffee, tea, soda, alcohol and even milk and juices are not the same as water.”

Vitamins and minerals
The importance of vitamins and minerals to your health really goes without saying. They play a vital role in maintaining the proper biological functioning of everything from muscles to memory. Now, nutritionists and dietitians will tell you that you can get all these important micronutrients from simply consuming a “balanced diet;” however...

The problem is … few of us even know what a “balanced diet” is, let alone consume one. “The reality is, it’s becoming more and more apparent that many vitamin RDAs may be too low, and food alone doesn’t always provide enough vitamins and minerals,” says MM nutrition columnist Dr. Jeffry Life. A recent report by the Council for Responsible Nutrition found that 80 percent of women and 70 percent of men consume less than two-thirds of the Recommended Daily Allowances for one or more nutrients.

The solution: Consume a good-quality multivitamin/mineral supplement daily. “It’s difficult to obtain protective levels of some nutrients solely from diet,” says Dr. Lester Packer, a now-retired professor in the Department of Molecular and Cell Biology at the University of California, Berkeley. “Supplements are clearly required.”

Closing thoughts
Unfortunately, many people are truly unaware of the damage they could be doing to themselves with the food they’re eating. Nor are most people aware of how much better they could look and feel if they stopped feeding themselves accidentally and started eating with purpose—and with all of the facts at their fingertips.

We are tackling this issue because many people come to see me in the office and expected to get better while still eating like crap. The food that you take in is the body fuel source. So put the right fuel in your body in order for it to work more efficiently. 

If you like what you read, please share it with your family and friends. More importantly, take a look at our website, and see what we do and how we can help you live a healthier lifestyle. Call the office and schedule a complimentary evaluation. It's just a conversation, not a commitment for care. 

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