Getting your nutrition right is the most important way to prevent or reverse disease. To protect your health, avoid these 5 nutrition mistakes.
#1 Eating everything in moderation
Well-meaning doctors and nutritionists often tell patients to eat everything in moderation. One reason this fails is that you are left to figure out what “moderation” means for you. Can you eat sugar cookies once a day, once a week, or once a month? How many French fries are okay? Is a cheat day harmful? Smaller portions of junk tend to leave you hungry, irritable, unsatisfied, and you don’t even know if you are doing it right.
Furthermore, inflammatory diseases like atherosclerosis, autoimmune disorders, diabetes, and certain cancers are directly related to what you eat. Inflammation occurs with even small amounts of junk food. Even though you’ve “cut back”, your health may not be improved. If you are using moderation, you may be choosing a life of moderate disease.
On the other hand, nutritious, unprocessed, whole foods are healing and require no portion control. Nutrient-rich whole food plant-based foods help you reach your health goals faster.
#2 Exercising so you can eat whatever you want
Exercising to compensate for a bad diet is one of the worst things you can do to yourself. With enough rigorous exercise, people on a high fat, fast food diets can still burn enough calories to lose weight and look great. But, their blood vessels will not be in good shape at all.
As an anesthesiologist, there were times when I took care of athletic-looking, slender men who came to the O.R. for quadruple bypass heart surgery. Some were even runners, swimmers, bikers, etc. All of them had experienced heart attacks caused by clogged arteries.
Exercise is not enough to stop your arteries from clogging. The main factor is what you eat. Even strenuous workouts cannot compensate for the arterial damage caused by inflammatory animal products and processed junk foods.
#3 Cutting out carbs
We depend on starchy carbohydrates for energy. Reducing carbohydrates is a struggle because it is unnatural. Even if this helps you lose weight, you will feel weak, deprived, and hungry all the time.
Willpower only works for so long. One day you will break down and eat everything in sight. It is better to focus on the type of carbohydrate you are eating not the quantity. Many carbs are good for you. The human body thrives on nutrient-rich, high-fiber, unrefined carbs, like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, potatoes, and beans.
As much as possible, avoid the bad carbs (processed sugar and refined flours) and increase the good ones. Soon you’ll be delighted that you can eat larger portions and feel comfortably full.
#4 Eating more meat and eggs to build muscle
Stop fixating on protein. An obsession with protein acidifies your body, clogs your arteries, and causes inflammation. Some personal trainers are still promoting the myth that you need to eat animal protein to build your muscles.
Commonly, Americans eat 40% carb, 30% protein and 30% fat. Large portions of animal proteins increase the risk for diabetes, heart problems, gastrointestinal diseases, and overworked kidneys. You can easily get all of the protein you need from plant-based foods. A healthy goal is 80% carb, 10% protein, and 10% fat. Beans and lentils are very high in protein. The best way to increase muscle tone is by exercising. As long as you are eating enough calories, you will be getting enough protein.
#5 Relying on supplements to improve your nutrition
These “natural” supplements or nutraceuticals can be fraught with risk. Companies are pushing supplements to help you lose weight and protect your heart, joints, eyes, brain, prostate, etc. However, these products are not regulated to the same extent as pharmaceutical drugs. Many vitamins and supplements are mega dose formulations that cause toxic side effects.
That being said, there are some exceptions. Vitamin B 12 is a supplement that is required for people on a vegan diet because vitamin B 12 is not found in plants. If you don’t eat meat, you must take this supplement. Vitamin B 12 deficiency is very dangerous and can cause permanent damage to the nervous system and brain.
Unless you live in a year-round sunny place, you probably need a Vitamin D supplement. Vitamin D is important for your immune system, bones, heart, breasts, and brain. It plays a role in fighting a variety of diseases. Before taking a vitamin D supplement, get tested to determine your level and how much you need.
If you are looking for a way to improve your health with nutrition, rely mainly on eating good food. Good nutrition includes fruit, vegetables, whole grains and beans. Nourishing yourself with the right types of food is always the best way to protect your health.
Carla Hightower, MD, MBA is a physician, health coach, workplace wellness consultant, and speaker. She helps people heal themselves with food. Through wellness workshops and courses, she helps companies create healthy, energetic teams.
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