It's really not an easy task to be a healthy, balanced individual in the Nervous 1990s.
Taking good care of ourselves can become a full time job. As more and more of us juggle a career, bring up children and try to participate in community activities, sometimes our own health suffers.
As we approach the turn of the millennium, let's take a look at some simple and maybe startling health secrets everybody needs to know to defy aging and ward off degenerative disease.
1. MOVE THAT BODY.
Exercise is still one of the very best natural routes to general well being. It is also one of the best stress relievers known to man. It promotes the production of those happy hormones called endorphins and has amazing health benefits besides. Exercise helps the heart, the arteries and the lungs while lowering blood pressure and cholesterol and triglycerides.
While researching my book Super Nutrition for Menopause, I learned that it is none other than exercise which is the best preparation for menopause because it strengthens bone, stimulates new bone formation, and aides in calcium metabolism. This latter benefit helps to reduce the risk of osteoporosis (bone thinning disease) which affects half of all women over the age of 45.
Well, O.K., this health secret wasn't a big surprise to most of you. But, what I bet you didn't know is that exercising on a full stomach is a lot more effective than working out on a empty stomach. For example, if you take a brisk three-mile walk without eating anything previously, you might burn around 300 or so calories. But, if you take that same walk after a meal, then you will burn 15% more calories in addition to the initial 300. So, try walking a mile or two after dinner for some extra fat-burning bonuses. And, while you are walking, remember to move those arms. Research has shown that exercise which vigorously works both the arms and the legs is a better fat burner than leg movement by itself. That's why cross-country skiing is the best workout for fat burning and that's also why the Nordic Track rates so highly.
2. WE'RE NOT ALL CREATED EQUAL.
Women certainly know that one. Women have more fat cells than men and consequently have more trouble losing weight than men. Lean muscle tissue uses up more calories than fat.
Furthermore, based on our heredity, we're programmed with different biochemical needs. This is why some people thrive on a vegetarian or Macrobiotic style diet while others starve and lose energy rapidly. No one diet works for everyone all of the time.
One of the most fascinating ways to figure out our constitutional requirements is to take a lesson from your blood type. The blood type (either O, A, B or AB) is a genetic blueprint courtesy of our ancestors that can clue us into the right kinds of fuel mix for us and whether animal foods or a vegetarian food plan is a good biological option.
Most blood type research was done in Europe prior to World War II and by the Japanese throughout the 20th century. In fact, the Japanese base a whole psychological profile on blood typing!
Blood Type O appears to be the oldest type known, the cave man blood type, if you will. O's are the majority in North America, and the basic Cave Man Diet of animal protein, veggies, twigs, berries, nuts and seeds, seems to be the best for the O individuals. Those hard core O type vegetarians should consider amino acid supplementation.
O's don't do well on a heavy grain-based diet and are usually sensitive to dairy products as well. You see, both grains and dairy are relatively new agricultural developments to this oldest blood type. The highest number of gluten intolerant individuals (the inability to assimilate the protein portion from wheat, rye, oats and barley) is reported from this blood type group. O's also thrive on vigorous exercise more than any other type.
The A's are the next most prevalent group and they are fairly opposite to the O's. The key to the A's is that genetically there can be a lack of digestive enzyme production and so a hydrochloric acid/pepsin product is beneficial or a plant-based enzyme can be used. The A blood type is considered a risk factor for parasites, particularly giardia whose symptoms can masquerade as hiatal hernia, belching, and tons of flatulence.
The B's like the AB's are later blood types and so seem more biochemically adapted to cultured dairy products (like yogurt and kefir) and a varied grain intake (some rice, buckwheat, millet and wheat as part of a balanced diet). B's need to watch their stress levels and the AB's may need some digestive support because of the A component in their makeup. Word has it that the AB's are from the Gypsies and so be careful of their intuitive and perceptive abilities.
3. THE RIGHT FATS CAN BE YOUR HEALTH FRIEND.
Yes, there is such a thing as the Friendly Fats, Virginia. This good news was recently substantiated by Dr. Edward Siguel of Boston University whose research was hailed in the New York Times by Jane Brody. Siguel believes that a massive essential fatty acid deficiency is affecting America's hearts, hormones and even the intelligence level of our children.
The good fats come from salmon, sardines, mackerel, nuts, and seeds. Flax seed oil is particularly high in the Omega 3 family, perhaps the most deficient essential fatty acid of all. The good fats protect the heart, nerves, and even are beautifying for skin, hair, and nails. If you are aware of that fat friend, then you must be aware when fat can be your enemy.
4. EXCLUDE THE FUNNY FATS.
Fat is a foe, not a friend when it is unnatural and manmade. In May of last year, Harvard Medical School published a study demonstrating how the transfatty acids in margarine, shortening, and partially hydrogenated vegetable oil (like in soybean oil) can double the risk of heart attack by depressing the HDL cholesterol (the good one) and raising the LDL cholesterol (the bad one).
Trans fats may be connected to a whole host of health problems like infertility, breast cancer and prostate cancer. Veteran researcher Dr. Mary Enig of Silver Springs, Maryland has written that the rising levels of both heart disease and cancer correlates with the levels of vegetable fat consumption.
Just think of all that food that margarine or vegetable shortening is part of, pie crust, cookies, cakes, muffins, and even those McDonalds french fries.
5. AX THE ASPARTAME.
Aspartame, as many of you know, is the trade name for NutraSweet or Equal. It is a synthetic sweetener presently consumed in one form or another by over half of all the adults in America today. This substance is contained in over 6,000 different foods. The bad news is that a variety of health problems has surfaced since the introduction of this so-called miracle sweetener. Nearly 80 percent of the 6,500 complaints received by the Food and Drug Administration in 1990 involved aspartame.
Aspartame may also be the reason that the number of overweight individuals has increased in the last seven years despite our low fat, low cholesterol diets. Aspartame has been linked to brain seizures, vision problems, and even dry eye syndrome. So if confusion, memory loss, and difficulty wearing contact lenses due to decreased tears are your problems, stop your diet drinks and aspartame sweetened yogurt. Use a drop of real hone, molasses, maple syrup or stevia instead. And if you don't know what to substitute for those diet drinks, then pay attention.
6. H20 TO THE RESCUE.
This means to remember on a daily basis to Drink Your Water. Many of us eat not because we are really hungry but because we are dehydrated. Our bodies need water because it keeps our tissues moist and lubricated and can help burn calories. Purified or bottled water, taken at least between meals, about 6-8 glasses a day will do wonders for your system. Drink two cups on arising, two cups before lunch, two cups before dinner, and two cups before bed. This is a good way to make sure you get your daily requirement of water. It will also help you rid your body of metabolic wastes and keep everything smoothly flowing. And speaking of flowing...
7. ELIMINATE EVERY DAY.
My favorite health axiom is that death begins in the colon. One of the best tricks to achieving lasting health is to make sure you move your bowels every day. There is no such thing as moving your bowels every four days or twice a week...even if that is normal for you. Where does that waste material go? Remember that fiber will make you free. Healthy fiber in the form of fibrous vegetables like carrots, broccoli, cauliflower and those leafy greens plus beans and legumes will sweep, tone and detoxify the system and help to lower cholesterol levels and provide even blood sugar levels so you are not constantly hungry. Believe it or not, even headaches and bloatedness as well as nervousness can often be relieved when you have proper elimination.
8. IF YOU ARE OVERWEIGHT, BLOATED OR TIRED, CURB THOSE CARBOHYDRATES.
Numerous studies have proved that Americans are getting fatter. According to a July issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association, the percentage of Americans who are overweight is on the rise. Despite improved diets and lowered cholesterol counts, the weight of the average young American has increased by 10 pounds in the last seven years. Although people normally gain weight with age, this weight gain was found in two groups of young adults of the same age. Therefore this weight gain could not be attributed to growing older.
This new statistic demonstrates what I have been writing about all along in Beyond Pritikin and Super Nutrition for Women. Americans have gone overboard in loading up on carbohydrates since the Pritikin explosion in the 1980s and are now suffering the consequences. The indisputable fact that the percentage of overweight Americans is on the rise dramatically supports my stance that a diet top-heavy in carbohydrates without the right kind of fat and small amounts of protein plays havoc with body chemistry and results in weight gain. A biochemical fact of life is that people who are overweight have a higher level of insulin, a hormone secreted from the pancreas in response to eating.
The bottom line is that all excess calories from carbohydrates are converted by the body into fat. Thus a diet with excess calories is just as harmful as a diet high in saturated fat!
9. SUPPLEMENT YOUR DIET WITH IMPORTANT VITAMINS AND MINERALS.
In today's hectic world we don't always have time or energy to fix a good, nutritious meal for ourselves, even though we all know that a diet deficient in essential nutrients lowers the quality of daily life by causing fatigue, forgetfulness, and stress as well as leading the way to poor health and disease. In fact, a new study every day shows that poor diet increases the possibility of such devastating ailments as osteoporosis, cancer, and heart disease. Daily contact with stress and environmental pollutants (like cigarettes and automobile emissions) cause nutritional demands to soar. Adding supplements to your daily regimen helps combat these problems by rounding out your diet. It seems that magnesium, zinc, and chromium are particularly important for everybody's body. Antioxidants such as Vitamin E, beta-carotene, and vitamin C help prevent heart disease and slow aging. When we are unable to eat enough fresh fruits and vegetable, vitamins and minerals are a great help.
10. REST, RELAX AND REJUVENATE ON A REGULAR BASIS.
Just like we feed the body, we need to take time and feed the spirit. Just 10 minutes a day of deep breathing, meditation or prayer time can nourish the soul and revive us again. Toning has been my favorite meditation. It makes me feel grounded and amazingly relaxed. There is a dramatic connection between body, mind and spirit that we need to honor and cherish. Thank God we are living in this wonderful challenging time and we are alive and well for the rest of the millennium.