So what does a doctor mean when they say, "You need to eat a healthy diet"?
Many people understand they should not be eating the Twinkies and candy bars or drinking sodas, but is there more to it than that. Where should you begin in a world that is full of misinformation and fad diets? Start with the basics of whole foods.
Whole foods are original foods, from the natural source and unprocessed. An apple from the tree is better than apple sauce, raw broccoli is better than frozen and steamed, fresh green beans are better than canned. Remember, the closer to the natural source the more nutritious it is for your body.
Fruits and vegetables, whole grains, beans and seeds should be the primary source of nutrition for you and your family, with animal proteins making up a smaller percentage. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has recommended creating a healthy plate with half of it fruits and vegetables, with a wide variety of colors. The more your plate looks like a rainbow, the more nutritious it generally is.
Chronic diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol and heart disease can be improved, if not reversed, by eating a primarily plant-based diet. In one extensive study, entitled Pritikin Residential Lifestyle Intervention, participants took part in a 26-day physical and dietary intervention. That included prepared meals with 10-15 percent of calories from fat, 15-20 percent of calories from protein, and 65-75 percent of calories from unrefined carbohydrates.
Proteins were mostly plant derived, carbohydrates were in the form of high-fiber whole grains (at least 5 servings a day), vegetables (at least 4 servings a day), and fruits (at least 3 servings a day). Most of the study participants had known heart disease, including patients who had been recommended to have bypass surgery.
By the end of the 26 days, most had been taken off high blood pressure and heart medications. They also noted an improvement in cholesterol values and decreased angina or heart-related chest pain.
You may find yourself frustrated with fatigue, obesity, chronic disease and now you are ready to step into better health, so where do you begin? First, speak to your doctor regarding a primarily plant-based diet. There are several options to consider when changing your diet, including vegetarian and vegan diets, or just decreasing the amount of saturated fats and cholesterol in animal products, such as meat and dairy.
To improve your odds of sticking to your new and healthier lifestyle, try to think of food as a fuel for your body, much like gasoline is for your car. Would you put grease into your car and expect it to run well? The same goes for your body; junk in results in junk out, such as obesity and chronic disease.
Nutritious foods allow your body to run efficiently and repair damage that occurs. The natural state of your body is healthy, not sick, so give your body what it needs to heal itself and you will be amazed at how good you feel.
Dr. Laurie Marbas is a family physician at Grand River Hospital and Medical Center in Rifle.