March 2008 – Nutrition


Yoga is a lifestyle.  This being understood, what we put into our bodies greatly influences our health and well being.
My topic this month is spurred by the new “all natural organic cheetos”!  Organic is good, but cheetos are not—even if they are organic!  Many manufacturers of food are more interested in selling their product than honestly telling you what their product is about.  Now that organic foods have risen in interest manufacturers want to “cash in” on the vibe—but instead of doing good by trying to produce their food organically (true organic methods are better for us and better for the environment) the manufacturers try to have the standards lowered on what can be marked organic so they can slap on a label that basically means nothing.  In today’s market you must be a sleuth just to go to the grocery store!

Processed foods in general = poor nutrition—dead food.  Fat and cholesterol are not the culprits we have come to believe they are!  The foods that are causing the most disease in our society today are processed foods.  Most of us have become so used to buying processed foods that we think it is real food.  Be aware of “healthy” processed foods too (for example, Trader Joe’s –many of their products are just glorified processed foods), if you are buying a food that is in a box or plastic that is a sign it is processed!  So pay attention the next time you go to the grocery store, how many foods are you buying that are boxed (this includes cereals!)?

So it can be easy to tell you what not to eat, how about if I tell you what to eat (or at least what I eat)?  This will be a more positive approach!

  1. First and foremost – LOCAL in SEASON vegetables and fruits!  Some of the latest research shows that locally grown produce is better than organic produce grown who knows where!  The Earth provides, and when we eat foods grown locally it is richer in the nutrients our bodies need that may be lacking due to our location.   Where to buy:
    1. Spiral Path Organic Farms (local and organic) Each week you get a big box filled with vegetables 🙂  You should plan your meals around these foods.
    2. Farmers Market –however, beware—how sad it is that most of the food at the farmers market is not local, you need to ask where the food is from.
    3. Grocery stores and health food stores:  grocery stores have been starting to mark where the food is from and paying attention to provide local foods.  Karns now is offering local organic milk from grass fed cows in glass bottles that you return and re-use 🙂
  2. Your cart should mostly be filled with vegetables and fruits, next grains (what grain depends on the season), protein foods thirdly, and last fats, oils, etc.—very few boxes 😉
  3. Seasonally change your diet, in the winter we need more protein and heavy foods, in the spring we need low fat, low mucus production foods–spicy foods like chili is an ideal spring main meal, in the summer we need a higher carb diet to fuel us for the longer days—and in the summer we have the most abundant produce available to us.  I hang at the studio seasonal eating notes, a grocery list and recipes each season.  I will be happy to email you the information and recipes, just send me an email requesting them.
  4. Breakfast should be light and include fruit.  Cereal is not really a healthy breakfast; first of all it is processed and usually high in sugar!  Second of all it is easy to make your own hot cereals and top with fruit and honey or syrup (this will have way less sugar than commercial cereals).  In the winter you make hearty oatmeal, in the spring grits, and in the summer rice cereal, or you could do yogurt topped with seasonal fruit and syrup, or pancakes topped with fruit—there are many options!  Your main meal should be mid-day between 11-3pm.  This is when our digestion is strongest and we will absorb more nutrients and burn off the most calories.  Evening meal should be light and consist mostly of cooked vegetables.  (The easiest weight loss trick is to not eat after 3pm!)
  5. SLOW FOOD.  Make your own food.  An occasional night out for dinner should be a treat and above all avoid buying pre-made meals and foods.  And eat SLOW too, if we are eating while driving or doing some other chore we will be less satisfied from our foods and eat more than we need trying to get satisfied.  Slow food means slowing down and enjoying what you eat.  Eating is not a filling station—where you drive up, inhale the fuel and speed off.  And keep in mind savoring your food begins with eating something worth savoring!

(Ancient Ayurvedic saying:  “If you eat while standing up, death looks over your shoulder.)

On Snacking
You want to avoid snacking.  Due to the increase in blood sugar issues with Americans some dieticians say you should eat several small meals or snacks throughout the day to avoid the sugar crash—and this may stabilize your blood sugar—but it stabilizes it high!  It makes your body become a sugar burner; when you eat food your body breaks down the food to sugar and uses the food you just ate for energy before it taps into your fat storage.  So when you eat frequently throughout the day you are training your body to burn sugar—not fat, as soon as your burn off one snack your body wants another snack to use as fuel, on this cycle our energy levels “crash” (and emotions too).  Our bodies run more efficiently when we become fat burners instead of sugar burners, when burning fat as fuel we have a nice steady mood and energy level.  To become a fat burner you need to have periods of “fasting” each day, with a longer period of fasting from early evening until breakfast (break-the-fast) the next morning.  If you are accustomed to snacking all day long you will have to suffer a little while to turn your body back into a fat burner; but you will be happy that you did!  As I mentioned earlier the best eating habits are to eat a small breakfast of fruit, a large mid-day meal, a very small light supper (=supplemental meal) and a good 13+ hour fast each night—and no snacks.  Your meals should be satisfying—you should not be hungry or uncomfortable with this eating schedule.

Another good reason to have periods of “fasting” each day; each time we eat our body’s energy goes into digesting, using and storing the food, and elimination.  When we are not eating our body’s energy goes toward cleaning house or detoxifying.  We absorb toxic chemicals from some foods, drinks, and the environment; our body is able to eliminate some of these toxins but many remain in our body and contribute to premature aging, heart disease, and cancer.  Periods of fasting allow your body the chance to get rid of these toxins!  It also increases your blood’s white cell count (white blood cells boost immunity and help protect us from disease), fasting is also good for your circulatory system giving you better skin, hair, and nails.  So remember when your body is not working on digestion it is working on cleaning you! (Ayurveda does a seasonal fast –an easy fast lasting anywhere from 4-6 days where you eat only vegetable soup and rice.)

On Beverages
Aisles and aisles of drinks in the grocery store—even in the health food section!  So many bottles and so much sugar!

  • Bottled juice is not a health food! Most juices contain HFCS (High Fructose Corn Syrup), HFCS is converted to triglycerides in the body, not glucose and therefore can not be used as fuel. Even juices that do not contain HFCS are still not very nutritious—best to eat the whole fruit.
  • I have read soda described as “liquid satan” and I would have to agree with it—however diet soda is even worse than that! Fake sugars are in reality a neurotoxin and excite the brain cells—it is one of the items on my absolutely avoid list (along with hydrogenated oils, HFCS, and MSG). Aspartame breaks down to formaldehyde in the body!
  • Sports drinks are really just sugar drinks and very few people exercise long or hard enough to actually need a sports drink! In addition the sugar in the sports drink blocks the absorption of the water into the cell—so you are getting less hydration by drinking sports drinks. On hydration: Water has an electrical charge; it attracts “things” to it, which can serve a purpose on getting some nutrients into our cells. However when the water molecule is too weighed down with sugar (or any other substance—anything that dissolves in water will stick to it (ex. Salt and sugar) it can not fit into the cell—our cells work like a key, they have a special “lock” that is made to fit H2O—if that H2O has too much sugar attached to it, it can not fit into the lock leaving the fluid outside our cells where it basically escorts you right to the bathroom.
  • Now we know the benefits of green tea and manufacturers brew it and sugar it up and sell it to you in a bottle. Your green tea should come from a tea bag not a bottle!
  • And then there is Vitamin water? Really do we need vitamins supplemented into our drinks now?? Vitamins are seldom useful when taken outside of their natural source (the best way your body absorbs vitamins is when you eat the fruits and vegetables they naturally occur in!). And most sources of Vitamin C are from ascorbic acid—ascorbic acid kills the good bacteria in your body! An important issue these days is keeping the good bacteria count high in your body and so few of us know this effect of ascorbic acid!

What to drink?
Water for starters, warm water preferably; warm to hot water is best absorbed by the cells.  Cold water is not absorbed very well by the body—it constricts the esophagus and stomach compromising absorption, also cold water puts out your digestive fire.
As for the source of your water—well I have no direct answer as I am still struggling with that one myself.  Currently I buy SPRING water from a local source (Roaring Springs)—not bottled or filtered water—read the label on water from dasani and aquafina (among many others) they are just filtered water put out by pepsi and coke!  I also use the Brita filters to use my tap water—even though I prefer spring water.  I keep a tea kettle on my stove and fill it up, bring the water to a boil and then let it set and I drink that water throughout the day.

Other beverages I drink:

  • I make one perfect cup of Kona coffee each day (I grind pure Kona beans fresh, use a French press and brew my coffee with herbs; cardamom, cinnamon, and licorice powder). Although my Ayurvedic Dr. tells me I should not drink coffee everyday, I do! (Coffee is best in the spring time; it is bitter and helps to balance kapha.)
  • Herbal, green, and white teas from leaves or tea bags
  • Occasionally I drink juice—but only freshly juiced (from Juicy Rumor at the Farmers Market) or I blend it myself with a blender using the whole fruit. (Only once or twice a week I drink juice—better to eat the whole fruit).
  • Pellegrino sparkling mineral water in glass bottles (this is my splurge 😉
  • Red wine . . .

The 51% rule
As you incorporate healthier eating habits into your lifestyle, remember to relax with it as well!  Don’t try to be somewhere—as if you are not already there!  You are perfect 🙂  As long as you eat this way most of the time (more often than not) you will be healthy!  For example, sometimes on the weekends I will eat my supper as my main meal and enjoy a night out with a friend, or I do occasionally buy the processed Kraft macaroni and cheese for my daughter as she likes it and refuses to eat my homemade version!  So enjoy your life and take your time shifting your eating habits—enjoy your food, if one of these suggestions is not good for you then keep trying other suggestions until you find what works for you.

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