Sunday, August 16, 2009

Nutritional Philosophy

So I haven't been able to find much time to sew. I get a couple hours kid free late at night, but I'm usually tired, and sewing while tired is not a good thing. So, while I haven't been able to make anything crafty lately, I still have been able to make food, since we need to eat. I am not a good cook (I have a strange aversion to following recipes), but I've been getting better, so I'd like to share what I've been eating.

In the past I've never really cared about what I ate. I was a multi-sport athlete through high school and college so I required a lot of calories and I ate whatever was convenient. I mostly ate carbs and not very many vegetables. I took a class in college my senior year called Body Image, and nutrition was discussed a bit and that was pretty much the first time I really ever thought about nutrition. Basically what I took out of the class was that the closer a food looked like its original form, the better it was for you. But since I was an athlete and carbs provide instant energy I still ate very carb heavy. Once Selena was born and I was not anywhere near as active as I used to be and had gained a bit of baby weight I started thinking more about what I ate and reading more about nutrition.

The funny thing about nutrition is that it is very complicated so there are lots of conflicting studies, and advice. The U.S. Dept of Agriculture has changed their recommendations multiple times over the years. There are various diets that recommend low fat, or low carb, or low calorie. There are vegetarians who say meat is unnecessary or vegans who say we don't need to eat anything animal related, or people who think we should eat a lot of meat. Then there are the food producers who spend lots of money trying to market their various concoctions as healthy. It is very hard to know what is really healthy and what is not. I find it funny that if you take a few people who are conscientious about what they eat there will probably be some stuff that one person goes out of their way to eat but that another person absolutely will not touch. Based on my research and readings I try to aim for whole, unprocessed foods. The less processed it is, the better it is for you. I believe in eating when you are hungry and stopping when you are full. I think its better to listen to your body than try to count or measure your intake. I believe in making changes to eating habits slowly so your body can get used to it.

Here are my opinions on:

Meat: I am sympathetic to vegetarian and vegan arguments against the unethical treatment of animals as source of food for us, but I do think that meat is important nutritionally for humans. I do not believe that red meat and/or saturated fat is bad for you. Meat provides lots of proteins, amino-acids, and fats that are body requires. You can get most, but not all, from other food sources, but not in the quantities and ratios necessary. However I think the way we raise animals does not provide us with that best nutrition. In general chickens and cows are fed food they are not meant to eat and thus we have less nutritious meat. They should be allowed to graze on green grass and eat what they are meant to eat. When possible I try to get grass fed and/or free range meat, if not available I try to get organic, and/or supplemental hormone free.

Fish: I think fish is a very important, most specifically for the Omega-3 DHA it provides. There are tons of well conducted studies that show eating fish causes vast improvements to your health. I do not eat enough of it and have been taking a fish oil supplement instead, and it causes dramatic and noticeable differences in my mood, and energy levels. If I forget to take it I am a very grumpy person. I would rather eat more fish than use a supplement, but have not got to that point yet. There are large problems with fish being polluted and environmental concerns about overfishing.

Dairy: I think dairy offers a lot nutritionally. I think we should be eating it in its most unprocessed state. The pasteurization and homogenization of milk kills lots of the beneficial bacteria that make milk healthy. I do not drink raw milk, but if I had a convenient source I think I would. I do drink organic whole milk, or eat whole milk yogurt. I try to get pasteurized versus ultra-pasteurized when I can. I eat free range local organic eggs.

Oils and Fats: I think hydrogenated oils are very bad for you and try to avoid anything with hydrogenated oils. (This guy has a great idea to boycott hydrogenated oils and high fructose corn syrup.) I think vegetable oils are ok when not cooked. Cooking vegetable oils causes free radicals to form, so I try to cook with butter instead. I would use lard if I could find it. I try to avoid all soybean oil as well as other processed soy products as the chemical structure of soy is very similar to estrogen and the body sometimes acts as if it is estrogen and I would rather not mess with my hormones. I do not believe that fats make you fat.

Sweeteners: I prefer maple syrup, honey, or plain sugar. I think not eating any sweeteners would probably be the best, but I'm not ready to make that leap. I avoid high fructose corn syrup as well as corn syrup, but I think plain corn syrup is better than HFCS.

Nuts and Seeds: Nuts are shown in many well conducted studies to improve health dramatically. Nuts are packed with vitamins in amounts you can't find in any other foods. Some people avoid them because they are high in fat, but once again I don't think fat is bad, and I think you should eat as many nuts as you are hungry for.

Grains: I think these should be eaten as sparingly as possible due to the fact that they cause spikes in blood sugar which is stressful for your heart. Also many baked goods have aluminum in them and I don't think that is good for you either. I do eat whole grain bread daily. This one is really hard for me, but I try to avoid crackers, chips, cereal and non-whole grain bread.

Fruits and Vegetables: Eat as much as you want of these. Some say to eat less fruit, or not potatoes, but I say eat away. Eat organic, local, fresh and in season for the best nutrition and the best tasting food.

Vitamin Supplements: I haven't really found any research that supports my opinion, but I don't think vitamin supplements should be necessary if you eat a wide variety of whole foods. Apparently it is impossible to get all your daily vitamins without a supplement or eating fortified foods. I think that means the daily recommendations are not correct. Many argue that our food production is so pitiful that we have removed all the nutrients from our food and that is why vitamin supplementation and fortification is needed. I don't know it seems wrong to me. I do however take a fish oil and vitamin D supplement daily. I also take a prenatal vitamin when I feel like I haven't eaten very nutritious.

1 comment:

Katy said...

Thanks for your insight, Laura! I admire your thoroughness and might even have to reference this blog down the road :)