Eat your Veggies (and Fruits) (5-10 servings per day)
Eat Fiber (soluble fiber like bran, and insoluble fiber like fruits and veggies)
Reduce Animal Fats, minimize Trans-fats (hydrogenated) & increase Ω- 3 fats (fish and flax) & Ω-9 fats (olive oil)
Multi-vitamin/ Multi- mineral supplement
Eat Phyto-sterols every day (soy and many more – see list)
Eat Cruciferous vegetables every day (broccoli, etc – see list)
Nutrition really matters! Scientific evidence proves significant protection from heart disease, cancer and other degenerative conditions by eating a healthful diet. You will also feel better! In a culture dominated by fast-food ads it may be difficult to change one’s relationship to food, but we can overcome! A nutritious diet is a delicious diet. The cuisines of the Mediterranean region and Asia are examples of eating healthfully with enjoyment. However, you may have to give up some of your favorites, for example – fatty delicatessen or fast foods and sugary foods. Certainly, you will also gain fitness and vitality through Exercise, Spirituality and other healing activities. All paths to wellness sustain each other.
What is wrong with the standard American diet?
The Western diet is essentially a refined wheat diet with a lot of added sugars. The depletion of trace minerals and vitamins, and altered fatty acids in this diet, along with the enhanced hormonal response from insulin are major culprits in the chronic disease of today.i
Processed foods are unequivocally poor for our bodies at best. At worst, they are poisonous. Unprocessed, “natural,” but not organically grown food is also deficient in micronutrients. Most meat is tainted with hormones – strongly implicated in cancer causation, and antibiotics – which may damage the ecology of our guts as well as trigger resistant bacteria that injure and kill. Some pesticides and herbicides are implicated in breast cancer causation and promotion (because they have powerful estrogen-like effects), as well as other cancers and hormone disturbances (such as thyroid problems). Prostate cancer, osteoporosis, some forms of arthritis, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s dementia, attention deficit disorder, depression and others may all be associated with chemical agricultural practices, food additives and excessive processing of our food.
Macronutrients – Fats, Carbohydrates, Protein & Fiber
Dietary fat is a major, some people think the major factor in breast cancer, colon cancer and heart disease. There is substantial evidence that very low fat diets (<15% calories from fat) dramatically reduce the incidence of these diseases. Very low fat diets mean just that. Here is how to calculate “% calories from fat.” Average daily caloric requirements are 1500 (almost sedentary) to 2500 (very active) calories. 15% calculates to 225-375 calories of fat per day. At about 10 calories per gram, you should eat no more than 40 grams of fat per day. That is 3 or 4 tablespoons of olive oil per day. Sorry, I know that’s stingy!
The type of fat is also very important, and it may prove to be as good or better to eat 15-25% of calories from fat as long as they are “good fats.” Good fats include fish oil from cold-water bottom-feeding fishes (Salmon, Tuna, Mackerel, and Sardines) and from Flaxseed oil. Chickens ranging and grazing freely lay eggs that contain substantial amounts of omega-3 fat. Olive oil, though not an omega–3 fat, is also good for you. Most vegetable oils (corn, safflower, etc are omega-6 oils and are bad). Hydrogenation of fats (Crisco, Margarine and many processed foods) makes them into trans-fats, which are very bad. However, margarine without trans-fats is now available, but really – why bother?
Carbohydrates & Proteins
If you are cutting back on fat calories you will need to increase carbohydrates and proteins. It is important to get your carbohydrates mostly from whole fruits and vegetables and to avoid excessive quantities of refined grains, potatoes, sugar and juices. These are absorbed too rapidly, causing excessive insulin levels. Insulin promotes cancer, hypertension and hardening of the arteries. Substitute salads for sandwiches. Pasta is not the answer! Eating sufficient protein with each meal can also decrease insulin levels. Eating sufficient protein without also getting undesirable fats is difficult in the context of the standard American diet. Skiptheburgers;getyourprotein mostly from fish, soybeans (and other legumes), egg whites and non-fat dairy products. You can occasionally eat skinned poultry, but only rarely red meat (if at all). Range-fed and game meat has less saturated fat and more mono-unsaturated fat (this is good).
The ideal ratio is 3 grams of protein to 4 grams of carbohydrate. For those who like numbers: if, for example, if you are eating 2000 calories per day minus 200 calories from fat = 1800 calories from protein and carbohydrate. 240 grams of carbohydrate and 180 grams of protein would provide the correct number of ii calories at the appropriate ratio.
Early on in your new relationship with food you might enjoy one of a number of products on the market that incorporate these principles. I recommend a product called UltraMeal that I can order for you. This is a good way to begin while you are learning real food recipes. Many people feel very good on the Zone diet — very good energy! [The retail price of UltraMeal is $24 for 14 — 150 calorie servings of Vanilla, $26 for Berry + shipping]
The last important macronutrient is fiber. Fiber-rich diets may reduce the risk of breast cancer by reducing estrogen levels. Fiber also prevents colon cancer and lowers cholesterol levels. There are two categories of fiber – soluble and insoluble. Vegetable and fruit fiber is OK, and other ingredients in them are vital, but you also need to eat grain fiber, i.e. – bran. If you indulge in a refined fiber product like white bread, you need to compensate with some bran or psylium supplement. It is best to stick with whole grains! Many people have become sensitive to the gluten in the germ of wheat, because of life-long overdosing. In this case, fiber supplements are necessary. You should eat 20 grams (or more) of soluble fiber plus plenty of fruits and veggies. You will know you are getting enough fiber when your bowel movements are soft and bulky. UltraMeal is rich in fiber as well.
Micronutrients – Vitamins & Minerals
Vitamins and minerals may be important in preventing the development of some cancers, heart disease, strokes, diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, cataracts, osteoporosis, and more. I view taking supplements, however, as secondary to eating a diet rich in fruits, vegetables and fiber and low in fat. Nonetheless, I recommend:
Vitamin A and Beta-Carotene. Beta-carotene (from carrots) is a precursor to Vitamin A. These substances may be important, but are toxic to the liver in high doses. You will be getting lots anyway in all the veggies you will be eating (right?!) If you are going to eat more than 100,000 units per day, liver enzymes in blood need to be tracked. I suggest supplementation at 20,000 IU per day. Women who might become pregnant should not take more than 7500 IU per day.
Vitamin C 500mg per day is probably enough for most people. There are some unresolved questions about higher doses. Vitamin C needs to be consumed in divided doses — ideally 3x per day, 2x is probably OK. There is a fairly remote risk of oxalic acid kidney stone with high dose vit C. If you have never had a kidney stone, I would not worry much about it except to be sure to drink lots (8 — 8oz glasses) of water each day.
Vitamin E 400 – 800 IU a day should be sufficient.
Pyridoxine(B6) Not a lot is needed. A typical multivit should have enough. However, some people need more to keep their homocysteine levels down.
Cobalamin (B12) Again, take a multivit.
Folic Acid 400 micrograms (along with B’s 6&12).
Vitamin D 50 IU per day is important for prevention of osteoporosis and colon cancer.
Coenzyme Q-10 may turn out to be quite important for breast cancer. It is not usually found in multivits and is pretty expensive. Stay tuned for further developments.
Selenium is very important as well. I recommend not more than 200 micrograms per day. [UltraMeal has 30 mics per serving]
Zinc Not more than 50 mg per day.
Calcium may prevent Colon cancer and of course is very important for bone strength. Women should take 1 -1.5g (1000-1500mg) per day along with 500-750 mg of magnesium.
Magnesium, Chromium, Vanadium, Iodine and other minerals are also important.
B complex (Thiamin, Niacin, Pantothenic Acid, Riboflavin, Biotin…) are probably a good idea too.
A good multivitamin, multimineral should meet all your needs. There are laboratory tests available to measure whether individuals are getting enough vitamins and minerals. Dark leafy green vegetables (Chard, Spinach, Kale, Lettuce [but not iceberg]) are an excellent source of minerals (particularly if organically grown).
Dietary non-nutrient factors:
There are a wide variety of substances in plants that are not proteins, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins,
minerals or fiber. For want of a better name they are called “non-nutrient dietary factors.” Whatever they are called, they are very important to your health. This is why there is a consensus of expert opinion that eating 5-10 fruits and vegetables per day is more important than taking vitamins.
The champion health promoting plants are those that contain phyto- sterols, Indoles (cruciferous vegetables), and flavanoids:
Soy, Apples, Rhubarb, Carrots, Pomegranate seeds, Dates, Onions, Radishes, Cucumbers, Peas, Cabbage, Legumes & Hops
Indoles (Cruciferous Vegetables) (promote detoxification)
Broccoli, Cabbage, Cauliflower, Brussels Sprouts, Onions, Garlic
Grapes (dark), Raspberries, Strawberries, Melons, Cherries, Cranberry, Blueberries, Tomatoes, Winter Squash, Tea, Citrus fruits, Wine, Beer, Coffee, Soy, Gingko, Burdock, Carrots
However, fruits and vegetables that grow near the ground may be laden with harmful chemicals. Buy organic produce, particularly if it grows near the ground and does not have a thick peel.
“Garlic is like a thousand mothers!” Parsley is very good at improving one’s breath when eating the stinking rose!
Tofu (from Soy) is an excellent source of protein, phytosterols and flavanoids! UltraMeal contains a lot of soy. “Japanese who consume Miso (also soy) soup daily have significantly reduced risk of cancers of all types compared with those who consume miso less often.” Even soy sauce is good!
Flavonoids exist in a wide variety of plants, including most common fruits and vegetables. They are particularly plentiful in citrus fruit, berries, grapes and pomegranates; also in such beverages as beer, wine, tea and coffee. I particularly recommend green tea! Ginkgo biloba is an interesting herb, but don’t take it if you are on blood “thinners” (anticoagulants).
“Flax seed has demonstrated anticarcinogenic effects in animal studies.” They also are rich in omega-3 fatty acids and fiber, which along with lignans makes 3 reasons that flax fights cancer. Burdock, a common vegetable in Asia, is high in lignans, and is an important constituent of both the Essiac and Hoxsey formulas, which may be of real anti-cancer value.
OK — lots of information! You will probably have some questions. By all means raise these questions with your physicians. You must educate them as well as yourself!
i Kirk Hamilton, Clinical Pearls
ii There are two books by Barry Sears Ph.D., concerning this concept — called the Zone diet — which explain why it works and how to do it, and include extensive recipes (especially his second book).