start date June 2008 revised Dec 2008
A healthy diet can be compared to a cookie recipe. A variety of ingredients are needed in certain given proportions. There is some room for variation and occasionally a substitution can be make. if more fluid is added, the baking temperature would have to be a little hotter or the baking time increased. Sometimes the finished product is a little different, but still recognized as a cookie.
So too does the body need certain nutrients in given ranges. And the body has built in mechainsms which can adjust improper levels of one nutrient to the desired level. But this often takes other nutrients away from vital functions. High sodium from salt intake casues calcium to be eliminated by the kidneys in a compensation action. If enough potassium from fruits and vegetables is available, calcium is spared this compensation elimination process. Like firefighters on a call to rescue a cat in a tree when a call comes in of a house on fire, the body tries to allocate scarce nutrients to the most important functions first.
Like consecutive moves in a chess game, body processes cascade along until something occurs that changes the routine, such as a deficiency of a critical nutrient, or a surplus of one nutrient that crowds out other nutrients. Macro-nutrients, or nutrients needed in greater quantities, are often involved in creating these situations. Proteins, fats, and carbohydrates have long been used in various diets at a variety of percentages to try and discover the optimal levels. It appears opposite levels exhibit some benefits and also some risks for different health parameters. Sometimes one diet such as low fat will show benefits at first say in heart conditions but not over the long term. Other diseases may develop to offset the gains in the targeted disease.
Within each nutrient group exist many possibilities such as the balance between the many types of fats, or sources of proteins, or amounts of fiber in carbohydrates. Nutrition is not an exact science. But one has to be realistic in an accessment or evaluation given the high rates of disease in many populations, especially in so called "developed" countries. What is happening as affuence goes up to create so much dis-ease?
Many studies look at one nutrient or another, but the first place to start is with the changes to the macro-nutrients and see how they differ.
Based upon many studies and the test of time, here are the corrective trends from a study of macro changes that appear most healthful:
- Increasing vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, and legumes. This increases fibers, vitamins and minerals, and other protective plant nutrients.
- Include some wild fish and naturally raised meat. Grain feedlot animal meat is not fit to eat.
- Increase ratio of plant to animal proteins ref This reference shows the value of this type of diet on controlling blood sugar, one of two vital functions leading to many degenerative conditions. The other condition is systemic or chronic low grade inflammation.
- Maintain natural levels of different types of fats, the balance between omega 6 and omega 3 should be under 4 to 1. All fat types are needed, it is just the balance that is critical between saturated, monounsaturated, and polyunsaturated.
- Dairy is simply not an acceptable food based upon current production methods in the United States. Plus, over 75% of the world's population has adverse reactions to it, either from lactose intolerance or milk protein allergies. High IGF-1 (insulin growth factor 1) levels may not be desirable.
Simple refined grains and sugars suffer from a lack of fiber. Their ingestion rapidly increases blood sugars and all to often the results are increased body weight and cross-linking of proteins (glycation) accelerating the aging process. Increased numbers and size of fat cells create chronic inflammatory conditions. NOTE: It is possible to be fat and FIT. A cardio stress test shows that "in shape" overweight people can lower their cardiovascular risks.
RESEARCH: Every study comparing the health of people in the USA who have come from other countries to the health of the people with the same genetic make up who still live in the native countries reveals much higher disease rates in the USA. This pattern has been true for many years.
Simply, the diet and lifestyle in the USA are not condusive to maintaining the health that these people developed while on their native diets. Three biggests changes, increased sugar and white flour, plus reduced fiber.
For comparison, below are the USDA's Guidelines for Dietary Health 2005:
Key Recommendations for the General Population
ADEQUATE NUTRIENTS WITHIN CALORIE NEEDS
- Consume a variety of nutrient-dense foods and beverages within and among the basic food groups while choosing foods that limit the intake of saturated and trans fats, cholesterol, added sugars, salt, and alcohol.
- Meet recommended intakes within energy needs by adopting a balanced eating pattern, such as the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Food Guide or the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) Eating Plan.
- To maintain body weight in a healthy range, balance calories from foods and beverages with calories expended.
- To prevent gradual weight gain over time, make small decreases in food and beverage calories and increase physical activity.
- Engage in regular physical activity and reduce sedentary activities to promote health, psychological well-being, and a healthy body weight.
- To reduce the risk of chronic disease in adulthood: Engage in at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity, above usual activity, at work or home on most days of the week.
- For most people, greater health benefits can be obtained by engaging in physical activity of more vigorous intensity or longer duration.
- To help manage body weight and prevent gradual, unhealthy body weight gain in adulthood: Engage in approximately 60 minutes of moderate- to vigorous-intensity activity on most days of the week while not exceeding caloric intake requirements.
- To sustain weight loss in adulthood: Participate in at least 60 to 90 minutes of daily moderate-intensity physical activity while not exceeding caloric intake requirements. Some people may need to consult with a healthcare provider before participating in this level of activity.
- Achieve physical fitness by including cardiovascular conditioning, stretching exercises for flexibility, and resistance exercises or calisthenics for muscle strength and endurance.
FOOD GROUPS TO ENCOURAGE
- Consume a sufficient amount of fruits and vegetables while staying within energy needs. Two cups of fruit and 2½ cups of vegetables per day are recommended for a reference 2,000-calorie intake, with higher or lower amounts depending on the calorie level.
- Choose a variety of fruits and vegetables each day. In particular, select from all five vegetable subgroups (dark green, orange, legumes, starchy vegetables, and other vegetables) several times a week.
- Consume 3 or more ounce-equivalents of whole-grain products per day, with the rest of the recommended grains coming from enriched or whole-grain products. In general, at least half the grains should come from whole grains.
- Consume 3 cups per day of fat-free or low-fat milk or equivalent milk products.
- Consume less than 10 percent of calories from saturated fatty acids and less than 300 mg/day of cholesterol, and keep trans fatty acid consumption as low as possible.
- Keep total fat intake between 20 to 35 percent of calories, with most fats coming from sources of polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fatty acids, such as fish, nuts, and vegetable oils.
- When selecting and preparing meat, poultry, dry beans, and milk or milk products, make choices that are lean, low-fat, or fat-free.
- Limit intake of fats and oils high in saturated and/or trans fatty acids, and choose products low in such fats and oils.
- Choose fiber-rich fruits, vegetables, and whole grains often.
- Choose and prepare foods and beverages with little added sugars or caloric sweeteners, such as amounts suggested by the USDA Food Guide and the DASH Eating Plan.
- Reduce the incidence of dental caries by practicing good oral hygiene and consuming sugar- and starch-containing foods and beverages less frequently.
SODIUM AND POTASSIUM
- Consume less than 2,300 mg (approximately 1 teaspoon of salt) of sodium per day.
- Choose and prepare foods with little salt. At the same time, consume potassium-rich foods, such as fruits and vegetables.
- Those who choose to drink alcoholic beverages should do so sensibly and in moderation—defined as the consumption of up to one drink per day for women and up to two drinks per day for men.
- Alcoholic beverages should not be consumed by some individuals, including those who cannot restrict their alcohol intake, women of childbearing age who may become pregnant, pregnant and lactating women, children and adolescents, individuals taking medications that can interact with alcohol, and those with specific medical conditions.
- Alcoholic beverages should be avoided by individuals engaging in activities that require attention, skill, or coordination, such as driving or operating machinery.
- To avoid microbial foodborne illness:
- Clean hands, food contact surfaces, and fruits and vegetables. Meat and poultry should not be washed or rinsed.
- Separate raw, cooked, and ready-to-eat foods while shopping, preparing, or storing foods.
- Cook foods to a safe temperature to kill microorganisms.
- Chill (refrigerate) perishable food promptly and defrost foods properly.
- Avoid raw (unpasteurized) milk or any products made from unpasteurized milk, raw or partially cooked eggs or foods containing raw eggs, raw or undercooked meat and poultry, unpasteurized juices, and raw sprouts.
Note: The Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2005 contains additional recommendations for specific populations. The full document is available at www.healthierus.gov/dietaryguidelines.