400 B.C. — Hippocrates, the “Father of Medicine”, said to his students, “Let thy food be thy medicine and thy medicine be thy food”.
Nutrition is one of the major pillars in Naturopathy. There is a lot of truth in the often heard phrase that “you are what you eat”. A good diet is a balanced diet and that means eating from all of the food groups: fruits, vegetables, legumes, meat, cheese, nuts and whole grain bread/pasta. This influences overall health in a very substantial way. It is no surprise that the average American is overweight. Nutritional specialists have attributed this to a SAD diet – Standard America Diet. Where fast foods focused on meat, cheese and simple carbohydrates, foods with chemical preservatives and genetically-modified food encompasses the majority of the diet providing empty calories and little nutrition.
A well balanced diet should take into consideration various factors: macronutrients, micronutrients and acid-alkaline ratios. The three macronutrients are: carbohydrates, proteins and lipids. Carbohydrates can be divided among complex carbohydrates– including legumes, grains, whole grain bread and pasta. While simple carbohydrates for example include fruits, honey, maple syrup and other natural sweeteners, whereas refined carbohydrates include refined flour, breads, pastries, soft drinks, and refined sugar.
Another type of macronutrient is the proteins; these can come from animals or vegetables for example: cheese, meat, eggs, fish, seeds, nuts and legumes. The other final macronutrient group is the lipids. They can be subdivided into saturated and unsaturated fats. Some examples of saturated fats include animal fats, lard, butter, cheese and bacon; the unsaturated fats include nuts, vegetable oils, and seeds.
Micronutrients are nutrients such as vitamins, minerals and amino acids. Most vitamins cannot be manufactured in our body and while a few are found in animals most come from plants. Even though one can use nutritional supplements, nothing takes the place of a good diet. Nutritional supplements should be used to “supplement” or to aid the individual and complement his/her diet but not to serve as a substitute for it. Vitamins help convert the macronutrients- Carbohydrates, Proteins and Lipids, to a more metabolically useful form. They function principally as coenzymes (with enzymes) in a variety of metabolic reactions. Each enzyme is specific to one biochemical reaction. Enzymes are catalysts; they speed up specific chemical reactions that would proceed very slowly or not at all without them. Vitamins are necessary to life but we cannot live on them alone, we need food for energy. The deficiency of vitamins however can cause an array of diseases and disorders.
Another consideration is the balance of alkaline and acid foods that are consumed. This is classified not based on their taste but based on their residual impact after they have been metabolized in the body. The ideal is to consume a 70-80% alkaline diet which includes vegetables, most fruits, brown rice, corn, honey, and tofu. These are just a few examples. The other 20-30% of the diet should include “acid” foods some examples are bread, eggs, meat, fish, cranberries, strawberries, cashews, pecans and peanuts. Changing your diet may be a difficult thing to do, however it results in an opportunity to achieve your best health. A healthy diet is an achievable goal. It requires the application of good common sense and paying attention to the food groups we eat.
As always, before making major dietary changes, check with your primary healthcare practitioner for any possible issues.
This article is Part 4 of 7 in a series explaining the various sub-categories within Naturopathy – more articles to come soon! In the meantime, you can review previously published articles Part 1 of 7, Part 2 of 7, and Part 3 of 7. Stay tuned to read more about the individual methodologies behind this safe, effective, natural approach to managing your everyday health!
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