Here, I want to focus on certain of aspects of food. Some are obvious and others not so.
We all need food to stay alive. This is something the we all take for granted and don’t really put much thought into. But we concentrate on stuff that sometimes is not as important. For example, organic food. Of course organic is healthier than commercially farmed food, but if you eat a lolly instead of an apple it does not really matter if the lolly was organic and without artificial flavours and colours. Even if the apple was not organic it still beats the lolly hands down.
So, let’s start with nutrition. Mainly, macro-nutrients versus micro-nutrients. Everyone worries about vitamins, minerals, enzymes and other micro-nutrients. The complimentary medicine industry is loving it all the way to the bank. Blackmores has so many products that their website does not even show them all but gives you a search tool. You can click on “show all” button, but the results will take about 15 pages.
So what’s wrong with that, you may ask? Nothing at all – micro-nutrients are necessary for optimum health. However, macro-nutrients like protein, carbohydrates and fat, are more important. According to Dr Barry Sears, if you eat them in the right proportions then your body will actually regulate itself to extract the essential micro-nutrients from food and will keep the right balance of eicosanoids, which are hormones that control all other functions in the body.
One thing I must point out here. The information on his website is somewhat different to what Dr Sears has written originally in “The Zone”. In the book, the proportions (in calorific terms) were 40% carbohydrates, 30% protein and 30% fat. He has toned down on the fat these days. Also, the focus was on eicosanoids more than cellular inflammation (although, this is controlled by eicosanoids). If you can find the early edition of the book in some second hand book shop, it would be priceless. I have read it and followed his advice and highly recommend the book. Now I am really happy not to take all these multi-vitamin pills, fish oil capsules or whatever other pills.
Next on the agenda is the glycemic load of food. There are 2 things that may be confusing: glycemic load and glycemic index. Glycemic index is a comparison scale of different carbohydrate foods showing how quickly does it raise glucose level in the blood. However, it does not take quantity into account. As an example, bread has a high GI (Glycemic Index) of over 70, depending on the type of bread, while fruit and vegies have low, about 55 or less. But if you just eat one slice of bread you will raise the blood glucose less than by eating a kilogram of apples – much higher Glycemic Loading.
One way to judge the food you’ve just eaten is see how you feel within the next 30-60 min. If you find yourself tired, without energy, or sleepy, you know there’s something wrong. No amount of coffee will help, although people are under the illusion that it will. A cup of licorice tea would be a better choice as it tends to reset the insulin levels.
Alternatively, if you crave something sweet after a meal, then it also shows that something is wrong. Either with the food, you, or both. We are creatures of habit. We develop habits subconsciously. As an example, most kids learn that you can eat desert after a meal. So, eating (or craving) something sweet as an adult is no surprise. However, it does not have to be this way. My young son is a perfect example. I ask him if he’s hungry and he replies no. A few minutes later, he asks for something sweet. “Aha!”, I say, “you must be hungry. After you eat your lunch/dinner, you can have as much ice-cream/smoothie/mousse/chocolate as you want.” He agrees, and we eat. After we finish, I ask him if he still wants the dessert. He usually tells me that no, because he’s full. And that’s the way it should be.
A bit of explanation is due here. The habit is nothing else but the body learning to produce enough insulin to cope with the influx of glucose from the food you eat. If your body is used to something sweet after every meal and one day you deprive it, then you still have the lernt/habitual release of more insulin than necessary. Don’t forget that insulin’s job is to deliver the glucose to every cell in your body. The excess insulin will deplete your blood’s normal glucose level and consequently you will feel tired, sleepy (the brain being the largest consumer of glucose in your body, will start to shut down when there’s not enough energy).
Of course, you can keep the habit going. That’s what people do. Some justify it with a saying that if you crave something it’s because your body needs it. Well, it’s true… to an extent. But by keeping this habit, you run a risk of developing diabetes. Again, I will refer to Dr Barry Sears book “The Zone” (the early edition). Keeping the right proportions of macro-nutrients, will have the optimal effect on hormones including insulin and will keep you from feeling tired, sleepy or peckish after a meal.
I used to always know when my ex had Uncle Toby’s Quick Oats for breakfast, without even seeing her eat. She used to get back in bed not long after breakfast and stay there for another 2 hours half asleep. She would cook it as per instructions, and add a bit of milk. I don’t know what it is about this product, but I think that heavily processed foods are more highly glycemic. After all, this product is supposed to be low GI. Anyway, after reading “The Zone”, I would add an egg or two and some butter or olive oil into the mix. Never have I felt sleepy afterwards.
(To be continued. Part 2 will tackle allergies versus intolerance amongst other things.)