Foods & Nutrition

GOOD NUTRITION FOR OPTIMAL HEALTH

Good nutrition is paramount to physical, emotional, and mental well-being. A balanced, nutritious, and scientific approach to diet should incorporate a blend of nutrient-rich foods our bodies require for structure, function, energy, and weight management. Optimal health can only be achieved when essential vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, amino acids from proteins, and fatty acids from healthy fats are supplied.

These food sources include healthy proteins from grass-fed meats and poultry when possible; deep ocean fish; eggs from pastured chickens; healthy fats such as olive oil, coconut oil, macadamia oil, and butter from pastured cows; dark green and brightly colored vegetables; legumes including dried beans and black-eyed peas; macadamia nuts; low to medium ranged glycemic fruits and healthy dairy that includes cheese, cottage cheese, and Greek yogurt with low sugar content. This combination of foods enables your body to efficiently regulate blood sugar levels and avoid insulin spikes. These spikes can lead to hunger, overeating, inflammation, and can put you at risk for Western lifestyle diseases.

All calories are not created equal. When you eat these food groups, it is not necessary to restrict calories or place limits on food portions because they are both nutritious and filling. They work with and for your body so that you are less likely to overeat or experience food cravings.

Our best health and nutrition are only possible when we exclude nutrient-deficient sugars, and refined, processed foods. Eliminating what might be termed “the white stuff” is important because it tends to be highly processed, calorie-laden from added sugars and unhealthy fats, and often derived from GMO sources. When you eliminate these carbohydrates and fats, you will immediately notice an increase in energy levels, an absence of afternoon slumps, an increase in satiety (remaining full longer), and a decrease in appetite. These benefits are naturally derived when your blood glucose levels are stabilized.

A nutritious array of food choices ensures sustainability and the freedom to select foods that you will love for life. You’ll be surprised how much you enjoy the tastes and textures of whole foods!

THE BODYQUENCH HAPPINESS LIFESTYLETM

HEALTHY FOOD CHOICES

Vegetables

Artichokes, Asparagus, Bamboo Shoots, Bean sprouts, Beets, Bell peppers, Broccoli, Brussel sprouts, Cabbage, Cauliflower, Celery, Cucumber, Eggplant, Greens (mustard, collards, turnip, others), Green beans, Kale, Lettuce, Mushrooms, Onions, Okra, Peppers, Radishes, Salad greens (arugula, bok choy, endive, chicory, escarole, iceberg, radicchio, romaine, spinach, watercress, others), Squash, Sugar peas, Swiss chard, Turnips, Water chestnuts, Zucchini

High Glycemic – Carrots, Sweet potatoes – eat in moderation.

Healthy Fats

Avocado Oil, Butter (pastured), Coconut Oil (good for cooking), Macadamia Oil, Olive Oil, Olive Oil Mayo

Dairy

(Pastured sources have the best omega 3:6 ratios)

Butter, Cheese, Cottage cheese, Cream, Greek yogurt, Sour cream

Sweetener

Stevia

Proteins

(Pastured sources have the best omega 3:6 ratios)

Eggs

Fish & Seafood: Cod, Crabs, Escargot, Halibut, Herring, Lobster, Mackerel, Mussels, Oysters, Prawns, Salmon, Sardines, Scallops, Shrimp, Squid, Tuna

Poultry & Fowl: Chicken, Dove, Duck, Goose, Quail, Pheasant, Turkey

Livestock: Beef, Bison, Lamb, Goat, Pork

Game: Elk, Rabbit, Squirrel, Venison, other

Legumes: Adzuki beans, fava beans, calico beans, cannellini beans (white kidney beans), black beans, navy beans, pinto beans, kidney beans, great northern beans, lima beans, lentils, and black-eyed peas

Nuts: Macadamias contain the healthiest fats

Fruits

Low Glycemic – Apples, Avocado, Berries (all), Cherries, Grapefruit, Pears, Plums, Tomatoes

Medium Glycemic –Apricot, Banana (small), Grapes, Kiwi, Mangos, Nectarines, Peaches, Oranges   (Highly restrict or avoid high glycemic tropical fruits & melons)

Baking Flour

Coconut, Macadamia, Legume

Beverages

Herbal teas, Water, Coconut milk Coffee and Red Wine in moderation

Vibrant Vegetables

Packed with vitamins, minerals, water and fiber, veggies are truly a perfect food group. Vegetables tend to be lower in calories, yet pack a powerful punch when it comes to keeping you healthy and full for longer. This means you may eat fewer calories because the fiber and water in vegetables fill you up more efficiently than eating processed carbs deficient in fiber and nutrients.

Vegetables keep us from experiencing dips and spikes in our energy levels because the fiber helps regulate blood sugar levels. Eating vegetables as part of your meal will not only sustain your energy, but keep cravings at bay in contrast to processed carbohydrates that have the opposite effect on our metabolism.

The glycemic index rates foods containing significant levels of carbohydrates on a scale of 0 to 100. Those foods with high glycemic values cause a sharp spike in blood sugar levels. Insulin levels rise in response to elevated blood sugar when high glycemic carbohydrates, or too many medium-ranged glycemic carbohydrates are consumed. This tells your body’s hormones to store fat while doing everything it can to maintain body fat that is already present. These carbohydrates, including most grains and whole grains cause weight gain and effectively sabotage weight loss efforts. At the same time, they promote sugar cravings, increased appetite, and high blood triglycerides levels. Typically, both cholesterol and triglyceride levels are lowered when high glycemic carbohydrates are eliminated and medium-ranged carbohydrates are eaten in moderation.

Vegetables that have a glycemic index of 50 or less fall into the low range and can be eaten to your heart’s delight. Vegetables with a glycemic index rating of 50 to 65 are considered medium-ranged and should be eaten in smaller portions and less frequently. Try to avoid foods with a high glycemic index, especially nutrient-deficient white or brown carbohydrates. While carrots have a high glycemic index, a few chopped, brightly colored, nutrient-dense carrots in your favorite soup is always a good choice.

Glycemic Index for Vegetables


Vegetables (per 100 grams cooked) Glycemic Index Carbs (g) G.I Type
 Artichoke 15 2 low
Asparagus 14 1.5 low
Bell Peppers 10 2.5 low
Broccoli 10 1.5 low
Brussel sprouts 16 4 low
Cabbage 10 2.5 low
Cauliflower 15 2.5 low
Celery 15 1 low
Green Beans 14 3.5 low
Lettuce (average) 10 1.7 low
Mushrooms 10 0.5 low
Onion 10 4 low
Potato, sweet 50 20 low-med
Yam 50 32 low-med
Corn 55 19 med
Potato, mashed 70 16 high
Beet 63 8 high
Carrot 70 7 high
Parsnip 98 11 high
Swede 71 1 high
Source: Harvard University School of Public Health
Source: “International tables of glycemic index and glycemic load values: 2008″ by Fiona S. Atkinson, Kaye Foster-Powell, and Jennie C. Brand-Miller, Diabetes Care, Vol. 31, number 12, December2008.

Vegetables supply important sources of fiber, folate, potassium, and vitamins A and C (Source: USDA National Nutrient Database). Scientific studies show that a diet rich in a variety of vegetables may help decrease hardening of arteries, lower cholesterol levels, and prevent inflammation, a component of many degenerative diseases including obesity, diabetes, heart disease, arthritis, and Alzheimer’s disease. Many researchers believe that antioxidants including vitamins A and C combined with minerals are essential to better health outcomes.
Special Tips:
  • Thinly sliced eggplant, zucchini and spaghetti squash are excellent substitutes for   pasta. You may find a spiralizer helpful, but these can be sliced by hand as well.
  • Lentils are an excellent substitute for rice. 
  • Shredded cabbage can be added to many dishes undetected because it absorbs flavorful spices so well.   It’s a great way to add fiber and your family and guests will never even know its there!
  • Cauliflower is an excellent substitute for potatoes.
The Spices of Life

Photo by Michael Stern

You can generously use spices to give any dish that special something (instead of more salt). The health benefits of herbs and spices attributed to their many antioxidants, minerals, vitamins and unique medicinal properties, just adds to the joy of spicing it up. Several studies show that cinnamon, cloves, ginger, oregano, sage, garlic, bay leaves, and turmeric may enhance insulin’s action to regulate sugar metabolism to help us maintain a healthy body weight. Researchers at Penn State University conducted a small study to assess the affect of a spiced meal compared to a comparable meal without spices in overweight men. The results revealed a 21% reduction in insulin response and a 31% reduction in triglyceride response. These findings were attributed to the high concentration of phenolic antioxidants in the spice blend (West, 2006). Black pepper and cayenne pepper have also been shown to increase our metabolic rate.

Salt, friend or foe?

A little salt is a good thing and essential to good health. Iodine in iodized salt helps the body make thyroid hormones and is needed for proper development and growth. An iodine deficiency can cause an enlarged thyroid gland (goiter), slowed metabolism, weight gain, fatigue, cold intolerance, and neurological, gastrointestinal, and skin problems. It is the most common cause of preventable brain damage in the world, particularly in parts of Asia and Africa where iodine is scare.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) recommend that we consume about 150 mcg of iodine daily. Pregnant and nursing mothers should consume more. It can be obtained naturally from eating saltwater fish, vegetables grown in iodine containing soils and from diary of pastured animals that consume vegetation from soils containing iodine. Be aware that most of the salt added to processed foods is not iodized.

Powerful Proteins

At least 10,000 different proteins make up the human body and are often referred to as the building blocks of life. Proteins are found in muscle, bone, skin, hair, tissues, and in every cell. In fact, after water, protein is the most abundant substance in the body. Proteins are vital in the maintenance of body tissue, including growth, development, and repair.

In the United States, the recommended daily allowance for protein is 46 grams per day for women over 19 years of age, and 56 grams per day for men over 19 years of age. Mayo Clinic recommends that we consume 50 -150 g of protein per day. Harvard School of Public Health recommends that healthy persons consume 100 – 125 g of protein per day to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and to promote weight loss.

If proteins are the building blocks of life, amino acids are the building blocks of proteins. Some amino acids are described as essential amino acids. The essential amino acids must be obtained from food sources because our bodies don’t make them. We must consider both the quality and balance of essential amino acids present in the proteins we consume. Protein from animal sources are referred to as “complete” because they contain all 9 essential amino acids. The amino acid composition of animal sources is very similar to our own and these are readily digestible. Non-animal sources found in fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts, and seeds lack one or more essential amino acids the body needs. When eating non-complete protein sources, we must increase the amount and variety of protein consumed to obtain adequate amounts of all essential amino acids.

All beef, poultry, lamb, bison, fish, and eggs are complete protein sources and will meet your protein needs irrespective of the animal’s diet because cellular proteins are genetically determined. An animal or animal product’s fat composition and the amount of nutrients they contain are significantly influenced by the diet they are fed. Additional health benefits are derived by selecting meats, poultry, fish, eggs, and dairy products from animals fed a natural diet.

Eating an adequate amount of protein and replacing high glycemic foods and highly processed foods with more protein is a very important first step to help you achieve healthy body weight, give you lasting energy, and fully support your body’s growth, development, and repair processes. As you are able to substitute pastured protein sources into your diet and deep ocean cold-water fish instead of grain-raised fish, you will gain even more health benefits. Every small step you take in this direction will bring you closer to your optimum health.

Photo by Prayitno Photography

DEEP OCEAN COLD WATER FISH are a source of low fat, high quality protein that contains omega-3 fatty acids and vitamins A and D, along with B vitamins. Fish is a rich source of calcium and phosphorus and other minerals such as iron, zinc, iodine, selenium, magnesium, and potassium (Source: USDA National Nutrient Database). Oily fish in particular are an excellent dietary source of heart healthy coenzyme Q10. The proteins, fats, vitamins, and nutrients in fish can help lower blood pressure and reduce the risk of a heart attack or stroke.

Grain-fed fish have quite a different omega fatty acid profile than deep ocean fish because they are fed an unnatural diet. While they remain an excellent protein source, they do not provide the additional health benefits obtained from fish that survive on a natural diet.

BEEF is a nutritious, delicious, exceptional source of rich protein that will provide sustained energy and build lean muscle mass. It is rich in B vitamins, particularly B3, B6 and B12. Natural B12 is only available from animal sources and is needed to keep us physically and mentally fit while protecting us from cancer and cardiovascular diseases. Beef is a good dietary source of powerful antioxidant, coenzyme Q10 that may play a role in the prevention of heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure and infertility (Pravst, 2010). Beef also contains iron in the heme form that is absorbed and utilized more efficiently than many other sources.

To get those added health benefits, consider flavorful grass-fed beef. The number of ranchers keeping their livestock in open pastures where they forage on high quality grasses and legumes rather than sending their animals to feedlots to be fattened on grain, soy, and growth promoting supplements is growing. Pastured animals grow at a more natural pace and live in low-stress environments. Because they are naturally healthier, they do not routinely require antibiotics, hormones, steroids or other drugs.

Meat from cows, as well as bison, lamb, and goats raised on pasture have less total fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol. Meats from pasture-fed animals also contain more vitamin E, beta-carotene, and healthy fats including omega-3 fatty acids and conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), (Daley, 2010).

Many large scale grocery store and new concept markets sell grass-fed products. Local farmers can also be a great source for purchasing grass-fed products and many city residents have access to Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) groups. If you are unable to find grass-fed products locally, many online sources are available. You may visit www.americangrassfed.org to find certified producers in your area.

CHICKEN is naturally high in rich, lean proteins along with it’s healthful nutrients, including B vitamins, particularly niacin, B5, and B6. Chicken contains many minerals including iron, magnesium, phosphorus, zinc, and selenium. Chicken also offers us a good source of choline. One 4-ounce serving of chicken breast provides about 35 grams of protein, or 70% of the daily-recommended amount (Source: USDA National Nutrient Database).

When you’re ready to up your game, there is growing research to indicate that pasture-raised chickens (and eggs) have significant health benefits compared to factory-raised chickens. Like beef, pasture-raised chickens have higher levels of vitamins and a healthier balance of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids. Pastured chickens contain significantly less total fat and saturated fat compared to their factory-farmed counterparts. When chickens are housed indoors and deprived a natural diet, their meat and eggs become artificially low in omega-3s.

WILD SALMON is a powerhouse of nutritional protein that few foods can match containing 30 – 32 g in 4 ounces. It is one of the richest sources of omega-3 fatty acids on the planet. Wild salmon is a super source of niacin, B-6, and B12. It also contains an abundance of phosphorus and selenium and is a good source of iodine. Several species are rich in Vitamin D (Source: USDA National Nutrient Database).

A significant amount of salmon we consume is farmed. Farmed salmon is sometimes fed an unnatural soy and corn diet rather than a natural diet, so it’s never a bad idea to ask how it was raised.

EGGS are one of natures most perfect protein filled foods naturally rich in Vitamin D. That’s why it’s called the incredible, edible egg! Just one egg contains 6 grams of the highest quality protein and 14 key nutrients (including B vitamins, vitamins A, D, and E, folate, iron, phosphorus, selenium, zinc, lutein, zeaxanthin, and choline) making it a natural choice for a healthy, active lifestyle (Source: USDA National Nutrient Database).

Pastured hen eggs contain 4 to 6 times as much vitamin D as the average factory-farmed egg. This becomes an important factor when we consider that vitamin D deficiency has become a worldwide pandemic (Holick, 2008). Research shows that this common vitamin deficiency may be related to more than just weak bones; it may impact rates of type 1 and 2 diabetes, weight gain, hypertension, heart disease, multiple sclerosis, cognitive function, and depression.

The Cholesterol Myth: For several years we have been led to believe that cholesterol causes heart disease, a myth that has scared many of us away from eating eggs with any frequency. The truth is, the medical community made a tragic assumption when dietary fat and cholesterol were linked to heart disease without scientific basis. There is, in fact, no scientific research that links egg consumption to heart disease.

Recent research suggests that consuming eggs is likely protective against heart disease since it increases the number of large, buoyant LDL particles. These larger LDL particles have the ability to carry more cholesterol, which means fewer particles are needed overall. Large LDL particles cannot penetrate the artery wall like smaller particles that effectively enter arterial walls, where they cause a build up of plaque. 

Once inside the arterial wall, these small LDL particles are more prone to oxidation, which stimulates the release of inflammatory and adhesive proteins. Hence, eating eggs may decrease small LDL particle concentrations, a significant risk factor for heart disease (Greene, 2006).

TURKEY is a delicious treat at Thanksgiving and anytime in between! Turkey breast will provide 32 grams of protein in 4-ounces. Recent studies show that high protein turkey stabilizes post-meal insulin levels (Pal, 2010).

Turkeys raised on natural pasture will spend extensive time foraging through a very diverse food selection that converts to higher levels of healthy proteins, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins, and minerals.

SHELLFISH are an extraordinary source of protein and essential amino acids that are highly digestible because of their lack of connective tissue. Since early history, shellfish, including clams, shrimps, crabs, oysters, mussels, and snails, have supplied animal protein, minerals, omega-3 fatty acids, and other marine nutrients we need to thrive.

The Shrimp Myth: “Eating shrimp pose a health risk because they contain cholesterol.” A randomized crossover trial that specified a diet containing 300 g of shrimp per day showed the percentage increase in LDL “bad” cholesterol was less than the increase in HDL “good” cholesterol. Intake of shrimp did not increase the ratio of total cholesterol to HDL cholesterol or the ratio of LDL to HDL cholesterol. Consumption of shrimp also decreased triglycerides by 13% (De Oliveira, 1996).

Since farmed shellfish are raised in the same manner as wild shellfish, they are just as healthy as their wild counterparts.

PLAIN GREEK YOGURT has been strained to remove the whey, resulting in not only a creamier texture and richer flavor; but the removal of whey makes it a healthier yogurt with about half the sugar, reduced sodium, and more than twice the amount of protein than traditional yogurt. For a snack or anytime, it promotes that feeling of fullness to keep us satisfied. A typical 6-ounce serving contains roughly 17 grams of protein.

LEGUMES including beans, lentils and black-eyed peas are nutrient-dense and a great source of lean protein, fiber and low glycemic carbohydrates. Legumes are rich in heart healthy vitamins and minerals that help lower cholesterol, triglycerides, and blood pressure to reduce your risk of coronary artery disease, diabetes, and osteoporosis. The soluble fiber in legumes keeps you feeling fuller for longer.

Photo by Jessia Spengler

Legumes are also rich in B vitamins, especially B1, B3 and B6. They offer a superior source of folate and contain good amounts of iron, manganese, phosphorus, and zinc. Legumes are rich source of antioxidants and phytonutrients that along with fiber, reduce our risk of several cancers. One cup of legumes supplies 16 – 23 g of protein and 14 to 20 grams of fiber (Source: USDA National Nutrient Database). Women should consume about 25 g of fiber daily while men should consume about 28 g per day (Source: Institute of Medicine, 2012).

LIVER, a terrific source of protein, has been called nature’s multivitamin because it is rich in iron, vitamin A, and all the B vitamins, including folate and choline (Source: USDA National Nutrient Database). These nutrients help boost your immune system, produce red blood cells, and support healthy eyes and skin.

Liver is one the best natural sources of powerful antioxidant, r-alpha lipoic acid (r-ALA) which has the unique capability to regenerate other antioxidants. Scientific studies demonstrate r-ALA’s anti-obesity mechanisms that include increased insulin sensitivity, appetite suppression, reduced fat synthesis and fat storage (Doggrell, 2004; Park, 2008; Carbonelli, 2010).

Most animal foods contain vitamin B12, but liver is by far the best source you will find. Vitamin B12 deficiencies may contribute to poor brain and nervous system function. Adding liver to meals even once a week can boost B12 levels.

Proteins Fight Disease

A growing body of scientific evidence tells us that foods containing healthy proteins can lower the risk of several diseases and even premature death. An expansive 20-year study with over 80,000 female participants found that those who consumed low carbohydrate diets with healthy sources of fat and protein had a 30 percent lower risk of heart disease compared with women who consumed high carbohydrate diets that were lower in protein and fat (Halton, 2006).

More evidence of the heart-healthy benefits of eating more protein (and healthy fats) in place of carbohydrates comes from a randomized trial known as the Optimal Macronutrient Intake Trial for Heart Health (OmniHeart). A healthy diet that replaced some carbohydrates with healthy protein or healthy fat showed the best results for lowering blood pressure, reducing low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, and decreasing triglyceride levels (Appel, 2005).

Healthy Fats

Healthy fats are essential to our overall health and emotional well-being. They are key to optimal brain function and we would have little chance of reaching or maintaining our ideal weight without them. To the detriment of our health, healthy fats are often avoided because of the vast amount of misleading, public information.

Healthy fats are in fact, as important to our well-being as low glycemic fruits and vegetables and nutrient-dense proteins. Healthy fats are key to looking and feeling our best! Our brain matter is composed of roughly 60% fats. Obtaining adequate amounts of healthy fats is absolutely necessary to provide the raw materials needed for good cognitive function.   Studies show that getting too few healthy fats can cause neurological disorders. Monounsaturated, polyunsaturated, and even saturated fats from healthy food sources provide fuel to our brains and energy to our bodies. A group of artificially produced fats called trans-fats are harmful to our health and should be avoided altogether.

The benefits of eating healthy fats not only help to achieve optimal body weight, but also help us maintain a lean body composition. Fats, such as omega-3 fatty acids, increase insulin sensitivity and give us a robust metabolism with less inflammation that contributes to cancer risks. Omega-3 fats also play a role in gene regulation for lipolysis (fat burning) and help to limit fat storage. They support thyroid hormone function that is closely tied to fat synthesis and regulation. Getting enough fat in our diet enables hormonal balance and reduces food cravings. Fat loss and maintenance of lean muscle mass are much easier when our hormones are balanced.

Healthy fats are also needed to produce hormone-like substances that regulate vital functions, such as blood pressure, blood clotting, bone mineral density, blood lipid levels, and immune function including the body’s response to injury or infection. Dry skin and eyes may be caused by a deficiency of fatty acids that are needed to improve the body’s ability to lubricate these tissues. When cooking, consider that saturated fats aren’t damaged easily with high heat, making them some of safest fats to cook with because oxidized (damaged) fats cause inflammation in our arteries.

A landmark study conducted by the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) that included two of the world’s prominent omega-3 researchers, William E. Lands, Ph.D. and psychiatrist Joseph Hibbeln, M.D., evaluated omega-3 intake needs of people in 13 countries, including the US.
One of the groundbreaking aspects of the study was to evaluate the amounts of omega-6 fatty acids we consume. The western diet is grossly imbalanced in favor of omega-6 fatty acids. The largest sources of omega-6 fatty acids typically consumed were found to come from vegetable oils (corn, canola, soy, safflower, sunflower), and factory-farmed sources of butter, eggs, soy milk, poultry, red meats (pork, lamb, and beef with diets high in grains and additives). Conversely, butter, eggs, poultry, red meats (pork, lamb, and beef) from animals fed on pasture showed a significantly lower ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids.
In an earlier study, Drs. Lands and Hibbeln found close correlations between the huge increases in omega-6 intake since 1960 in five developed countries and a 100-fold rise in homicides rates. Researchers explained that “The increases in world omega-6 consumption over the past century may be considered a very large uncontrolled experiment that may have contributed to increased societal burdens of aggression, depression, and cardiovascular mortality” (Hibbeln, 2004).
 

The Ideal Omega-3 Goal

Many experts agree that we consume 10 to 30 times more omega-6 than omega-3 fatty acids when we should be eating omega-3 and omega-6 fats in roughly equal proportions. The maximum amount of omega-6 fatty acids should not exceed 3 grams for every one gram of omega-3 fatty acid consumed.

The NIH study suggests that we need to increase our intake of omega-3 fatty acids dramatically to benefit from the low rates of heart disease, stroke, depression, homicide, and bipolar disorder seen in the fish-consuming country of Japan. This means that the US population would need to consume 3.5 grams (3,500mg) of omega-3s per day to achieve this goal. If we take this approach a step further and reduce our average omega-6 intake by 80 percent (this equates to consuming 4-5 grams per day), then the additional requirement for omega-3s could be reduced from 3,500 mg daily to only 350 mg per day. Sadly, the western daily intake of omega-3 fatty acids averages only 23 mg or less than 1% of omega-3 fatty acids needed for good health.

The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends we eat two servings of oily fish twice a week and that people with heart disease consume one gram of marine omega-3s per day or 43 times more than that consumed in the western diet. Even these guidelines fall significantly short to achieve optimal health and disease prevention because they only address supplementation with omega-3 fats while disregarding our current and harmful over indulgence of omega-6 fatty acids.

There are easy and practical ways to meet the NIH challenge to balance our omega-3 to omega-6 ratio. The first step is to decrease the foods we eat that contain high omega-6 fats. The second step is to increase the foods we eat that contain high omega-3 fats. A sound approach would limit omega-6 intake to less than 2% of calories consumed, while moderately increasing omega-3 fatty acid intake. Enough omega-3 fatty acids (DHA and EPA) can easily be obtained by eating a 4-ounce portion of deep ocean fish twice a week. These combined efforts will change our ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 fats in meaningful ways that nurture both our body and mind.

When we reduce omega-6 fats we reduce their oxidative damage that poses a significant risk factor in today’s vast number of modern lifestyle diseases, including overweight, obesity, metabolic syndrome, diabetes, heart disease, stroke, many cancers, and autoimmune and degenerative diseases such as arthritis. Any scenario that decreases omega-6 fats and increases omega 3 fats to achieve a 1:4 or lower ratio is a winner.

 


Best Foods to Boost Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Seafood:
Mackerel (except king mackerel, see cautionary guidance)
Tuna (except bluefin tuna, see cautionary guidance)
Herring
Salmon, wild (see cautionary guidance)
Halibut
Cod
Sardines
Anchovies
Rainbow Trout
Shellfish: Scallops, Shrimp, Crab, Clams, Oysters, Mussels

NOTE: Fish and seafood raised on soy or grain contain artificially low omega-3 fats.

(Sources: NIH)
(Source: American Heart Association)
(Source: USDA National Nutrient Database)

(Source: Dong, Department of Food Sciences and Human Nutrition, College of Agriculture, Consumer and Environmental Science, University of Ilinois, Urbane, IL, a Washington Sea Grant Publication, NOAA, 2009)

 


Best Food Substitutions to Reduce Omega-6 Fatty Acids

 
Oils:
Macadamia nut oil
Coconut Oil (best for cooking)
Olive Oil
Avocado oil
Butter from pastured animals
(Avoid high omega-6 oils including corn, soy, safflower, sunflower, and cottonseed and foods that contain them. Estimates suggest omega-6 rich soybean oil supplies up to 20 percent of all calories in the average US or western diet.)

Diary:

Cheese, cottage cheese, Greek yogurt from pastured livestock
 
Meats:
Pastured Beef
Pastured Lamb
Pastured Goats
Pastured Bison
Game such as Venison
 
Poultry:
Pastured Hens
Pastured Turkey
Eggs from pastured hens
 
Legumes:
Adzuki beans, fava beans, calico beans, cannellini beans (white kidney beans), black beans, navy beans, pinto beans, kidney beans, great northern beans, lima beans, lentils, and black-eyed peas
NOTE: Limit or avoid these legumes with high Omega-6 to Omega-3 fat ratios:
Garbanzo beans (chickpeas)   25.89:1
Mung bean   13:1
Pigeon beans   21.79:1

Soybeans (most are GMOs)  7.5:1

 
Nuts:
Macadamia Nuts (hands down the healthiest nut! Snack on small amounts of macadamia nuts rather than nuts high in omega-6 fatty acids and/or with poor omega-3:6 ratios)

 

NOTE (1): To make healthy omega-3 hummus, substitute garbanzo beans (chickpeas) with cannellini beans (white kidney beans).
NOTE (2): Omega-3 fatty acids in most plants are present as alpha-linolenic acids (ALAs). ALAs have short chains of carbon that humans and animals must convert into two long-chain fatty acids: eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). EPA and DHA can be readily used by our bodies. However, there is an inefficient conversion rate of only about 5 percent of the ALA in plants, making them a poor source of omega-3 fatty acids.
(Source: NIH)
(Source: USDA National Nutrient Database)
Energy Boosting Fruits

Fruits are not only delicious but contain all those wonderful things that are so good for us. Nutrient-dense fruits contain beneficial antioxidants including vitamins A and C, B9 (folate), minerals, especially potassium, and essential phytonutrients (Source: USDA National Nutrient Database). They are packed with fiber, and most fruits have a low-to-medium glycemic index so they don’t increase blood sugar rapidly, spike insulin levels, promote fat storage, or promote inflammation like processed sugar. All of these benefits work in combination to provide a protective health advantage to reduce our risks of heart disease and stroke, control blood pressure and cholesterol, prevent some types of cancer, and guard against vision loss (Source Harvard School of Public Health).

Delicious peaches hanging on a tree branch

Low- and medium-range glycemic fruits are the perfect combination of nutrients, fiber, and water to give our body energy while keeping blood sugar levels stabilized. The glycemic index for fruits works in the same manner as described for vegetables. Fruits with a glycemic index of 50 or less are considered to be in the low range and those with a glycemic index rating of 50 to 65 are considered medium-ranged and should be eaten in smaller portions and less frequently. Fruits with the least amount of sugar and excellent nutritional value include all types of berries, pears, grapefruit, apples, sour cherries, tomatoes, avocado, and plums. Tropical fruits and melons usually contain the highest amounts of sugar and should be highly restricted.

Glycemic Index for Fruits


Fruits (per 100 grams) Glycemic Index Carbs (g) G.I. Type
Apple 39 12 low
Cherries 22 10 low
Grapefruit 25 6 low
Pears 37 10 low
Plums 38 9 low
Stawberries 40 6 low
Grapes 46 15 low-med
Orange 44 6 low-med
Peach 42 7 low-med
Apricot 57 7.5 med
Banana 54 23 med
Kiwi 52 9 med
Mango 56 14.5 med
Sultanas (pale green grapes) 56 66 med
Cantaloupe Melon 65 3 high
Pineapple 66 10 high
Raisins 64 70 high
Watermelon 72 7 high
Source: Harvard University School of Public Health
Source: “International tables of glycemic index and glycemic load values: 2008″ by Fiona S. Atkinson, Kaye Foster-Powell, and Jennie C. Brand-Miller, Diabetes Care, Vol. 31, number 12, December 2008.

Fruits rule when it comes to nutrition. Rich in potassium, fruits can help to maintain healthy blood pressure and electrolyte balance important for proper function of all cells, tissues, and organs, especially heart function and muscle contraction. Vitamin A supports good eye health, boosts immune function, and supports bone development. Vitamin C is an important antioxidant essential for healthy vision, skin and hair, immunity, reproduction, healing, and absorption of iron.

Vitamin B9 (folate) promotes heart and reproductive health. Women of childbearing age who may become pregnant should consume adequate folate from foods to reduce the risk of birth defects and to promote proper brain and spinal chord development. Anti-oxidants found in fruits protect the body against cellular damage from free radicals and help prevent many disease processes including cancer, diabetes, premature aging, inflammation, and heart disease.

Quench Your Thirst

Water

Making up about 60 percent of your body weight, life-giving water is vital to every system in your body. Water transports nutrients, helps regulate body temperature, flushes out toxins, hydrates and boosts energy levels, supports digestion and regularity, and promotes weight loss.

When you experience a craving, drink a glass of cold, refreshing water. This will give you a moment to think about whether it is really hunger or just habit. If it’s hunger, indulge in a high protein snack.

Herbal teas

Herbal teas make wonderful, fragrant, delicious drinks with a nutritional boost to match. Studies have shown amazing health benefits derived from teas including protection against cancer, heart disease, high cholesterol, and diabetes. Some teas encourage weight loss and support cognitive function. Experiment to find your favorites

Coffee

In recent years, many scientific studies have shown some amazing health benefits associated with drinking coffee including support for cognitive function, thermogenesis (fat burning), decreased risk for type 2 diabetes and neuroprotection against Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases. Just be careful to limit this enticing drink to one cup a day or drink decaf so it doesn’t cause unhealthy side effects.

Red wine

Red wine contains important antioxidants, resveratrol and flavonoids. In addition to absorbing free radicals they promote HDL “good” cholesterol, reduce blood clotting, and protect arteries from inflammation. They may inhibit cancer by causing natural death in diseased cells. Flavonoid consumption has been linked to a lower incidence of Parkinson’s disease. While controversial, resveratrol may play a role in activating a protein that extends cell life.

The best advice when it comes to wine, if you don’t drink, don’t start. If you do enjoy wine, select deep red, aged, dry wines produced in a cool, humid environment to derive the greatest health benefits.

Heavy drinking can promote the very diseases for which red wine in moderation is protective, even heart attack and stroke. Overindulgence can promote obesity, raise triglycerides levels, increase risks of cancer, anemia, dementia, and suppress immune function.

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