The Food Truth
Weight gain is women’s number one concern about their bodies. With each passing year, our metabolisms slow down more. It seems entirely possible that we get rounder just by drinking water. Everyone knows to eat in moderation, but when the serving plates and drink sizes keep getting bigger and bigger, our brains are tricked into believing we aren’t eating that much. Even clothing brands have accommodated our ever-growing bodies by shrinking the numbers in sizes to make us feel good. According to The Washington Post, “A size 8 dress today is nearly the equivalent of a size 16 dress in 1958.” 51
From the South Beach Diet to Paleo to Keto, so many popular diets promise weight loss by asking us to deny ourselves. Sooner or later, cravings for the foods we deny ourselves will exhaust our willpower, and we’ll go back to the old routines. Instead of aiming for weight loss alone, think about your overall wellness—a sense of happiness and fulfillment, flexibility, endurance, organ function, and bone health.
Is there a way to improve our mental and physical health by eating? Nutritional science researchers from the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) and University of California, San Diego (UCSD) 52 recommend the following.
Take Every Piece of Nutrition Advice with a Grain of Salt
“Nutrition research is an imperfect and evolving field,” the article’s authors write. “Take the ’80s advice to follow a low-fat diet. It triggered a billion-dollar industry of low-fat, high-sugar food with little nutritional value … and contributed to a public health crisis marked by skyrocketing rates of diabetes.” Dr. Frederick Hecht, the Osher Foundation professor and director of research at the UCSF Osher Center for Integrative Medicine, offers, “We, as a field, have made huge mistakes. We need to better convey the limitations of current science when providing advice.”
Beware of Healthy-Sounding Products and Supplements
If you can, skip the packaged foods altogether and eat only things your grandmother would recognize. “Unless you know you have a specific nutritional deficiency, supplements could do more harm than good. We just don’t know,” the article’s authors suggest. “Unlike prescription medications, the FDA has few regulations for supplement manufacturers. In fact, supplements are considered safe by the FDA until proven otherwise.”
Treat Food as Medicine
UCSF family physician Daphne Miller, MD, “spent years traveling and researching the healthiest regions around the globe. She wrote her first book, The Jungle Effect, on the traditional diets and recipes that had kept those communities healthy for generations. In the process, she came to see the dramatic link between certain diets and a striking lack of chronic diseases, including heart disease, depression, diabetes, colon cancer, breast cancer, and prostate cancer.”
Try incorporating these healthy habits into your diet:
Eat five to nine servings of produce per day, and eat more vegetables than fruits.
Buy organic produce whenever possible.
Eat cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, kale) every day.
Don’t overcook vegetables—steam, blanch, or stir-fry them.
Buy organic chicken, and go easy on the eggs.
Eat unprocessed soy (tofu, soybeans, soy milk) and avoid processed soy like fake cheese or meats.
Limit meat consumption.
Avoid processed meats and refined sugar.
Incorporate turmeric into your diet as an anti-inflammatory.
Restrict When You Eat
“Try eating [three meals] within an eight- to 10-hour window can help fend off disease and have more energy,” says Dr. Satchin Panda, a worldwide expert on circadian rhythms research. “Almost every organ in our body has an internal clock that tells our systems when to wake, sleep, eat, and perform other functions. A growing body of research suggests that for optimal health, we need to abide by these innate rhythms. … Just as the brain needs sleep, our digestive organs need downtime to repair and rejuvenate.” Your stomach, liver, intestines, and other organs need to cleanse, which takes between twelve and fourteen hours. By sticking to a consistent eating window every day, your body will know when to expect food.
Introduce Kids to Healthy Eating
Katie Ferraro, MPH, an associate clinical professor of nutrition at UCSF, offers the following advice:
Some flavor compounds are transmitted through breast milk. If a mother mixes up her diet while breastfeeding, the baby’s future palate may benefit. Data show picky eaters tend to come from households where parents have limited variety in their diet. Broadening your food horizons will encourage your kids to do the same. Research shows the more textures and flavors kids are exposed to early in life, the greater food acceptance they’ll display down the road. Some babies need to try a new food about 10 to 15 times before they’ll like or accept it. Try offering the same foods prepared in different ways — boiled, roasted, baked, broiled. Cook with your kids. Start as young as you can. Have them mix, chop, sprinkle, stir. If they help prepare a meal, they will be more inclined to eat it.”
The Bottom Line
Stop chasing diet fads. Treat foods as medicine—watch what you eat and when you eat. Eat real food—not supplements—to recharge. Fuel your body with nature’s best ingredients for optimal health.
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