The Fabulous Five

August 28, 2013

By Anna Varriano

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All good programs start by covering the basics, and this article does just that. The five tips you’re going to read about are what I consider to be foundations of good health.

Tip #1: Drink plenty of pure, filtered water.

Our bodies are approximately 60% water.  Water is critical for the proper functioning of all our body systems, including our immune system. Water revs up our body’s metabolism and hydrates our cells so that they can process nutrients more efficiently.  It is so fundamental to our health, yet many of us don’t drink nearly enough! How much is enough? A popular general guideline is to take your body weight in pounds and divide it by 2. The result is the number of ounces you should drink per day. For example, if you weigh 150 pounds, divide that by 2 and you get 75 pounds…so you should strive to drink 75 ounces of water per day.

Many of us have very weak ‘thirst sensors’, that is, we rarely feel thirsty. If that is the case, we may have to make a very conscious effort to drink more water at first. In addition, some of us mistake thirst as hunger, and instead of reaching for a glass of water, we reach for something to eat.  Next time you feel a little hunger pang, try having a glass of water and wait a bit before you reach for something to snack on. Interestingly, in a study conducted at the University of Washington, one glass of water shut down late night hunger pangs in almost 100% of participants.

Your body is happiest when it gets water throughout the day. Try having several 4 ounce drinks of water throughout the day rather than guzzling several glasses at a time to meet your daily ‘water quota’. It’s also best to drink most of your water between meals, as having more than a glass or so of water (or other fluids for that matter), can dilute our digestive enzymes, compromising our digestion.

And one last thing – not all water is created equal. I recommend you look into system that will filter your tap water.

Your Body’s Many Cries For Water by F. Batmanghelidj MD, is an interesting book that covers how important drinking enough water is for so many aspects of our health.

Tip #2. Eat more veggies and fewer grain products.

Vegetables are an important source of vitamins, minerals, fibre, antioxidants, and special phytonutrients, many of which have been shown to reduce the risk of numerous diseases, including diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, obesity, and cancer.  While we know that eating more veggies is good for us, most of us aren’t eating anywhere near enough. Strive for the goal of making 75% of your lunch and dinner plate veggies, and go for lots of variety and colour, as different veggies (and colours!) offer different health benefits. Eat more salads, steamed veggies, vegetable soups/stews, vegetable stir fries, and raw veggies on their own or with dips, and drink veggie juices (try making your own!). Try more dark leafy greens and more orange veggies such as squash, pumpkin, and sweet potatoes.

Vegetables are alkaline-forming in the body, and a slightly more alkaline body is generally a healthier body. One of the very first concepts I cover with clients and students is how get more alkaline-forming foods into their meals and snacks. Cutting back on grains is a good idea, since most of them are acid-forming in the body, and an acid body is at greater risk for developing health issues, Another consideration related to grains is that most grains and grain products are highly refined, aren’t prepared or processed properly, and basically metabolize into glucose (sugar), regardless of whether they are refined grains or whole grains. In his popular book Wheat Belly, cardiologist Dr. Williams Davis states that eating two slices of whole wheat bread can increase blood sugar more than two tablespoons of pure sugar can (and for you Dr. Oz fans, he even proved this in a mini-experiment during one of his shows)!

Tip #3. Buy more fresh, whole foods and fewer processed/packaged foods.

An easy way to do this is to avoid buying foods that have labels on them! If you buy packaged foods, read the labels carefully. Beware of sugar in all its forms (anything that says ‘sugar’ or ‘syrup’, ends in ‘ol’, or ends in ‘ose’), and especially avoid fructose and high fructose corn syrup. Note that there are all kinds of loop holes in labelling laws that allow manufacturers to claim less than the ‘whole truth’. For example, a product boasting ‘Zero Trans Fat!’ on the front of its package may still contain trans fats as long as there is less than 0.2 grams of trans fats per serving. Make the serving size small enough (usually unrealistically so), and BINGO! …manufacturers can make the claim. I challenge you to avoid packaged foods for the next month, or at least avoid those with labels that list more than 5 ingredients or ingredients that you wouldn’t have on hand in your own kitchen to make the food yourself. On top of that, try buying local and organic when you can. A list of resources for healthy shopping can be found in the Tool Box section of the website.

Tip #4. Eat healthy fats.

I offer a very popular 2-hour workshop on this topic called “The Skinny on Fats: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly’. It’s a real eye-opener and attendees love it! Over the past many decades, thanks to misguided marketing by an industry that capitalizes on using cheap, highly refined fats and oils to increase packaged food shelf-life (and more importantly, profits), we’ve moved away from healthy fats such as those from naturally raised and pastured animals, coconut oil, and butter, and moved towards way too many highly refined liquid oils and processed spreads including numerous vegetable oils margarine. A recent study published in the British Medical Journal, a well-respected peer-reviewed medical journal, concluded that substituting dietary polyunsaturated omega-6 linoleic acid (the prominent essential fatty acid in most liquid oils and margarines) for saturated fat  increased the rates of death from all causes, coronary heart disease, and cardiovascular disease. http://www.bmj.com/content/346/bmj.e8707 Unfortunately, when it comes to fats, many individuals have it all wrong. We need to eat plenty of healthy fats. Fats are critical to our health, including the proper functioning of our nervous system (our brain and nerves), our immune system, and our endocrine (hormonal) system.

Tip #5. Take some supplements.

In my opinion, there are three supplements from which just about everyone would benefit from: a bio-emulsified vitamin D, a potent, high quality omega-3 fish or Neptune Krill oil, and a clinically proven probiotic. These three supplements offer incredible benefits (they are covered in detail in my free e-guide) and unfortunately, most of us are deficient in all three. I supplement with all three daily. I also take a high potency multi-vitamin and mineral supplement just as insurance that I’m covering all of my nutritional requirements. I like the position that Dr. Hyman (Chairman of the Institute for Functional Medicine) takes regarding the need to supplement:

 “If people eat wild, fresh, organic, local, non-genetically modified food grown in virgin mineral and nutrient-rich soils that has not been transported across vast distances and stored for months before being eaten…and work and live outside, breathe only fresh unpolluted air, drink only pure, clean water, sleep nine hours a night, move their bodies every day, and are free from chronic stressors and exposure to environmental toxins, then, perhaps, they might not need supplements.”

One more thing about supplements – you get what you pay for. Quality and bioavailability (how well the supplement is utilized by the body) are extremely important. Self-treatment with the least expensive brands isn’t the best option…and when some brands are tested, they are found to not contain ingredients in the amounts listed on the label. Some also contain unnecessary (and sometimes unhealthy) ‘non-medicinal’ ingredients and fillers. This issue of quality alone makes it important to get professional help when choosing supplements.

There are so many more things we can do to improve our health through nutrition, and everyone has unique needs, but the above five tips are a great start – and you don’t have to start doing all of them at the same time. I suggest you start by picking the one you feel you are most likely to be successful with. Once you feel like you’ve done a pretty good job making it part of your daily routine, move on to another one, and so on. Remember…even the most challenging journey is accomplished one step at a time!

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