Good health is an important aspect to fulfil our potential in life. What we put in and on our body is central to achieving good health.
In order to have good health, you need to have good nutrition. Creating a habit of eating a nutritious diet from an early age starts a good foundation for your entire life. In modern society, poor diet causes chronic diseases which affect lifestyle. This impacts both adults and children.
In a recent interview with Brent Bultitude, Dr Ron shared his thoughts on good nutrition.
Conflicting Nutrition Messages
One minute you are told you should eat a low fat diet, and then you are advised to eat a high fat diet. Some people will tell you to eat a carbohydrate-rich diet and others will tell you to leave out the carbs. Everywhere you look, someone is telling you a certain food is good for you, while someone else is offering contradictory advice. Why is it so complicated?
What is challenging to come to terms with is that both healthcare and food have become commodities and too often health and nutrition advice is actually marketing… there is often a study to support every point of view.
In today’s world of healthcare, it is difficult sometimes to distinguish between ‘evidence-based medicine’ and ‘evidence-based marketing’. That is the observation of one of the most cited academics in healthcare today… Prof John Ioannides from Stanford University.
Back to nutrition…
That is why it is important for everyone to have some basic health and nutrition knowledge… and common sense based on our evolution. We believe that while the world we live in is becoming more and more complicated, the solutions are often quite simple, cheap and accessible.
“If we can convert information to knowledge, then we are really empowering people to rise above those confusing health messages.” ~ Dr Ron Ehrlich
Make Nutrient-Dense Food Your Guiding Health Principle
In Chapter 12 of Dr Ron’s book “A Life Less Stressed”, he states that “everything you place in or on your body has the potential to improve or harm your health.”
The body, which includes our immune system and our energy production systems requires many nutrients to function optimally….or food needs to be dense with those nutrients.
The nutrients that we get from food that are essential for the human body include:
Vitamins: including water-soluble vitamins B (1,2,3,5,6,12) and vitamin C, as well as fat-soluble vitamins A,D,E & K
Minerals: The body needs small amounts of fifty to sixty of the one hundred and eighteen elements on the periodic table.
Essential fatty acids: Most people have heard of omega-3 (anti-inflammatory) and omega-6 fatty acids (pro-inflammatory) in balance
Amino acids: All protein is made up of twenty-two amino acids, nine of those cannot be produced in the body and must be provided by the diet… they are also referred to as ‘essential’
For our food to be nutrient-dense, it needs to be grown in nutrient-rich soil. That’s why how our food is grown and where it comes from are important pieces of information. Farmers can make food look good simply by adding three or four chemicals to the soil. The plants grow well, but they don’t contain all of the 50-60 elements our bodies need.
Importantly, nutrient-dense foods include animal-based foods grown from ethical sources, including regenerative farms which respect the evolutionary and synergistic relationship humans have had with animals over millennia.
What is good for the animal (humanely grown throughout their entire life), is also good for us (packed with nutrients) – and good for the planet (regeneration of soils).
“That’s why we all should be engaged in how our food is grown.” ~ Dr Ron Ehrlich
Healthy Fats: The Key to Combating Disease
Throughout our evolutionary history fats have been a very important part of the human diet. The low-fat diet advice we have been following since the seventies and eighties is flawed… if the evidence is anything to go by. Diabetes and obesity has sky-rocketed during that time.
’Low-fat’ became shorthand for ‘healthy eating’ but while it is an easy message to sell, your hunger usually increases! In response to the increased hunger, you will eat more of everything else. It is great for marketing and selling food…a great economic model for managing the inevitable disease that follow…the problem is that it has not been a very good health model.
Healthy fats are a critically important for our health. Every cell, nerve, and hormone in our body uses fat as a structural component. Our brain is largely made from fat. So healthy fats are part of being healthy.
When we refer to healthy fats, we mean natural fats. That is not the array of vegetable oils you can buy from the supermarket. We are talking about olive oil, butter, and the fat from animals raised in ethically-grown ways on healthy soils. Beef that is grass-fed for its entire life… it’s omega 3 and omega 6 is in balance. Grain-fed animals grow fatter quicker and while there may be benefits for farmers and chefs, the fatty acid profile in the fat from these animals is unhealthy… there is an abundance of pro-inflammatory omega 6 with negligible amount if any of anti-inflammatory omega 3. This is the reason some people will tell you that red meat is an inflammatory food.
Sugar: The Anti-Nutrient
The dental profession has been talking about sugar for the last sixty years and telling people not to eat it. The official dietary guidelines say that we can consume five or six teaspoons of sugar per day. (The weight of a teaspoon of sugar is 4g). In reality, sugar is completely unnecessary. It is estimated that the average Australian eats about twenty-seven kilograms of sugar every year!
“Sugar is very addictive. It actually could be described as an anti-nutrient.” ~ Dr Ron Ehrlich
Sugar (and those carbohydrates which quickly breakdown to sugar) interferes with many functions in the body, and it is responsible for weight gain. It also results in insulin resistance which is the precursor to type 2 diabetes.
At any given time, we should have between four and eight grams of glucose in our blood. If your blood sugar goes higher than that, then the glucose is converted to glycogen in the liver and stored. Once that storage capacity is full, the excess glucose will be stored as fat.
Sugar in its many forms is hidden everywhere. It is not just the granulated sugar you add to your tea and coffee. A single sugar-laden cold drink can contain ten teaspoons of sugar. And don’t forget the sugar in biscuits, cakes, chocolates, and sweets. If you read food labels, you will be surprised where you find sugar.
Any carbohydrate foods that the body breaks down quickly also result in a spike in blood sugar. Foods such as potatoes, rice, and pasta should also be kept to a minimum in a healthy diet.
The Importance Of A Healthy Gut Microbiome
We share our digestive tract with trillions of microbes. You could argue that the human body is simply a vehicle for microbes. Some are harmful, but the vast majority of them that reside in your gut offer significant health benefits.
Your diet determines how healthy the microorganisms in your gut are. Whenever you put something in your mouth you should be thinking: “Am I feeding friend or foe?” Maintaining the ideal balance between friendly bacteria and harmful bacteria is important. They help us break down parts of our food that we cannot digest ourselves.
“With diversity comes resilience, and with resilience comes health. This is true of our oral microbiome, and our gut microbiome. So our relationship with microbes is really important.” ~ Dr Ron Ehrlich
The best way to feed your gut microbiome is to eat natural, nutrient-dense, unprocessed food.
Foods high in fibre such as fruit, vegetables and whole grains provide fuel for healthy bacteria. Refined carbohydrates and sugars feed the bad guys, causing an imbalance between the friendly bacteria and the harmful ones. The result is poor health.
When it comes to eating a healthy diet, go back to basics. Eat good food that your great-grandparents would recognise. Make sure it is nutrient-dense, natural and free of preservatives or sugars, and provides your body with all the good nutrition it needs. Good health comes from good nutrition.
Thanks to Brent Bultitude for Hosting Dr Ron on 2HD Radio