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Six new food "rules" for 2016

This is the article I've promised to write since January.  But we've still got most of 2016 left, so let's take a look at some (relatively) new ideas.  These ideas are condensed from the Jan 4th, 2016 edition of TIME magazine.

This new food rule has been creeping into our thoughts on diet for a while now.  It seems that Americans have become over-conscious of the need for protein, to the detriment of overall health.  Proteins are, of course, essential for good health.  The problem is that more is not better.  If you switch from a high carb diet to a high protein diet, you will lose weight for sure.  But research studies show that cancer risk increases nearly 400% among Americans who get 20% or more of their daily calories from protein compared to those who get just 10% of their calories from protein. The Institute of Medicine recommends 56 grams of protein for men and 46 for women on a daily basis.  Most men eat an average of 99 gms protein a day. 
Protein also pays a role in aging.  Eating lots of protein promotes higher rates of both death and disease.
Advice:  get more of your calories from (good) fats like avocado, eggs, olive oil, nuts, whole-milk yogurt, etc and from complex carbohydrates - vegetables, beans, lentils, etc.

Foods that come in a box and have a bar code are best avoided.  Don't pay any attention to the advertisements on the front of the box like "zero trans fats, no artificial colors, low-fat" etc.  If it has a list of ingredients say, beyond 3, just leave it on the shelf and head for the produce isle.  Dr David Katz, founding director of the Yale University Prevention Research center was recently asked "which diet is healthiest?"  He compared the scientific evidence behind several mainstream diets in order to see which was best.  They looked at low-fat, Mediterranean, paleo, vegan and a few more and came up with the (rather intuitive!) conclusion that the winner is ultimately real food.  Stay away from boxes and packages and lists of ingredients that have words you can't pronounce and you'll do fine, he says.  Suit your diet to your own personal requirements, keeping in mind to not overdo the protein aspect. (Dr Katz, by the way, is a big fan of JuicePlus+ and recommends that people use it to fill in the gaps on the phytonutrient side of things. Most people, he says, don't eat the recommended 9-13 servings of fresh produce a day.) 

We're all suckers for health claims. Some of the more recent super-foods to hit the American market have gotten a lot of attention:  kale, acai berries, etc.  But the less expensive humbler berries, like blueberries, and greens like spinach, still win out in the end.  You don't have to be rich to be healthy.

Fiber is, "absolutely, without a doubt" the thing humans need to eat more of, says Dr. Justin Sonnenburg of Stanford School of Medicine. Our ancestors, - foragers of a huge range of plant foods - are thought to have eaten up to 150 grams fiber each day, in contrast to the average American intake of 16 grams.  Fiber is the food for healthy gut bacteria.  Since we know that 75% - 80% of our immune system lies in the gut bacteria we house, having a healthy population of these critters is essential for good health.  Plus, the good bacteria guard against obesity as well as cancers of all types, esp colon cancer. Fermented foods (sauerkraut, kim-chee etc) also provide healthy gut bacteria. Over time, a good diet of high fiber foods and an absence of boxed "food-like substances" can change the bad bacteria to good bacteria and thereby change one's health trajectory.

Don't use artificial sweeteners as a way to lose weight.  (In fact, those substances "trick" your brain and pancreas and actually lead to weight gain.) Artificial sweeteners change brain signals that get in the way of appetite control.  A recent animal study found that zero-calorie artificial sweeteners alter gut bacteria in a way that predisposes mice to glucose intolerance - a precursor of diabetes.  We've known for a long time that sodas are "diabetes in a bottle" and now we know the mechanism - gut bacteria alteration.  (This doesn't mean that one should consume sugary sodas.  Sodas, along with most bar-code foods, promote diabetes, cancer, and heart disease.)  Again: forego fake food and eat real food.

Calories from crackers are nothing like calories from blueberries, though they are both carbohydrates.  It's what your body does with those calories that counts.  Refined carbs (like those in crackers) cause an immediate rise in blood glucose levels, whereas high fiber foods like blueberries do not.  Eating refined carbohydrates leads to the "always hungry" syndrome which leads to weight gain. 
Fat cells can be "retrained" when people eat the right food acc'd to Dr. David Ludwig of Harvard Med. School. Olive and nut oils, as well as certain saturated fats found in whole fat yogurt and dark chocolate not only don't cause the glucose spikes in the bloodstream but also wire you to burn more calories.   "Changing the quality of what you eat means instead of fighting with your body to lose weight, you're working with it," says Ludwig. "It's an entirely new ball game." (note from MA:  the 2 foods most often associated with weight loss are nuts and whole-milk yogurt.) Why not try a bowl of yogurt with nuts stirred into it?  And maybe some blueberries, too!

Mary Anne Robinson, MS Bio-Nutrition
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