Ounce of Prevention | Live more - eat less
Without even realising it, most of us are gravediggers, working hard at digging our own graves with our teeth. The major causes of premature death are related to what you put in your mouth - what you eat. My personal congratulations to our current minister of health and his ministry for their campaign to seriously promote good nutrition and healthy lifestyles. Money well spent. Please don't stop, sir.
The American Medical Association has estimated that over 70 per cent of all the visits to doctors in the US are for nutritionally related disorders. Here in Jamaica the major killers - heart disease, cancer, stroke and diabetes - are all diet-related problems and as a society we are busy eating our way to an early grave.
The foods and beverages we consume provide two main things. They provide energy to run the various systems of the body and they are the source of the nutrients for building and repairing the body. The energy in food is expressed in units called calories. The ratio between the nutrients and the calories in the foods we eat is very important. Consuming too many calories with too few nutrients is dangerous to your health.
Different foods have different caloric value
- Fats - nine calories per gm.
- Alcohol - seven calories per gm.
- Proteins - four calories per gm.
- Carbohydrates - four calories per gm.
- Water - 0 calories per gm.
- Fibre - 0 calories per gm.
The modern habit of overconsuming calorie-dense foods has dire consequences even among those who may appear slim and healthy.
Simply eating too much can make you sick or even kill you.
It can result in a 400 per cent increased risk of developing common disorders like diabetes, hypertension, blood lipid disorders, heart disease and strokes.
Are you digging your grave?
Sadly, every year the food industry spends millions of dollars to programme people, especially our children, to become active gravediggers. Then our health services spend hundreds of millions more dollars treating the resulting illnesses. This is short-sighted, self-destructive behaviour of the worst kind. The harsh reality is that the typical modern diet of processed convenience foods promotes disease.
The US-based National Institute on Ageing has reported many health benefits in laboratory animals with a 30 per cent reduction in their food intake. These included:
- A 30 per cent increase in lifespan and a general anti-ageing benefit.
- A significant and lasting reduction in blood sugar, blood pressure and heart rate.
- Increased resilience to stress and toxins.
- Fat loss.
- Lower risk of cancer.
- Better sleep and increased daytime vigour and vitality.
- Increased production of anti-ageing hormones, like growth hormone, DHEA and melatonin.
While practical considerations make it difficult to reproduce this kind of experiment in humans, many experts believe that men and women would get similar benefits from restricting their caloric intake, as long as they ensured that all their nutritional requirements (protein, vitamins, minerals, water and fibre etc.) were met.
Practise calorie restriction
Reducing one's caloric intake over the long-term can seem challenging, especially in a culture surrounded by an abundance of inexpensive, high-calorie, nutrient-poor food. But to live long, healthy lives, we need to find a way to reduce our calories without constant temptations and distraction by hunger. Here are some guidelines.
Avoid most of the modern 'fast foods' as they usually contain lots of calories and little nutrients. As shown above, sweet, starchy and fatty foods are calorie rich. Focus on less-processed high-fibre, water-rich foods, especially fresh vegetables and the not-so-sweet fruits.
Meal replacement shakes
Replacing one or more regular meals with nutritional shakes is a great strategy. Modern food technology has created delicious meal replacement protein shakes designed to be very rich in nutrients and very low in calories. The shakes I use and recommend contain less than 200 calories each, while providing more nutrients than are found in 2,000 calories of regular food.
To give you an example, one of these shakes contains as much high-quality protein as three large eggs, as much vitamin C as an orange, as much fibre as an apple, as much calcium as a tub of yogurt and as much vitamin A as half a cup of broccoli. They are balanced anti-ageing meals and provide critical dietary protein.
Make water your other standard beverage and drink lots of it. Water contains zero calories while helping to make your stomach feel full. Additional liquids can include herbal teas, diluted fruit juices, vegetable juices, coconut water and vegetable broths. So, restricting your food consumption while improving your nutrition can lengthen your life.