The main objectives of a good diet are to 1) maintain optimal bodily
functions, 2) avoid nutritional deficiencies and excesses,
and 3) make eating tasty and enjoyable. Our diet must incorporate
the proper proportions of food components in the right quantities
so that the amount of energy (measured in Calories) obtained
from the food is appropriate for our level of activity and
our age, since as we mature our bodies require fewer Calories.
The diet must provide essential vitamins and minerals, avoid
harmful substances that degrade health, and take into consideration
individual allergies and intolerances to specific foods.
The human body does not function in isolation from its environment. The mouth and intestines
harbor many types of bacteria such as Lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidobacterium bifidum
that have adapted to live within our body. These probiotic bacteria prevent harmful bacteria
from becoming established, help to digest some foods, and produce some necessary vitamins and
nutrients. Yogurt, kefirs, cheese, sour cream and other foods have these beneficial bacteria.
Sanitation. Since many diseases are caused by environmental contaminants and disease-causing organisms,
one of the most important things that we can do for our health is to reduce our exposure to
them. Here are some helpful sanitation tips:
Wash your hands before cooking or eating.
Wash your hands after shaking hands, handling money, touching door handles, elevator buttons, light
switches, and handrails in public places and after using the bathroom. Do not touch your eyes,
nose, mouth, or any food after touching any contaminated surfaces until you have washed your hands.
Vegetables that are eaten raw, such as carrots, lettuce, tomatoes, etc., should be
washed thoroughly. It is a good idea to wash fruits that are cut, such as melons, to
avoid transferring any dirt or contamination from the outside of the fruit to the inside during cutting.
Do not eat spoiled or rancid food, or any food that has an unpleasant smell or taste.
Breathe clean air. Do not smoke.
(Click here to learn how to QUIT SMOKING)
Avoid smoky, dusty, musty environments, or confined places
where people are coughing or sneezing. Also, avoid fumes from paints, solvents,
stoves, motor vehicles, and burning candles.
Avoid environmental toxins and avoid coming in contact with
organic solvents, fuels, and pesticides that may be absorbed through
the skin such as turpentine, gasoline, kerosene, paint thinners, dry-cleaning agents, and
insecticide sprays. These substances can damage the liver, the kidneys, and the nervous system.
Avoid contact or ingestion of toxic heavy metals such as lead or mercury. Ingestion of
heavy metals is often unintentional and is caused by being unaware of the chemicals in the
environment or in household items.
Lead contamination can occur by handling ammunition, solder, or lead weights used for fishing, by
chewing on painted objects, by handling or using hair colors such as Grecian Formula which contain lead
acetate, by drinking liquids stored in lead crystal decanters, or by eating foods from lead
crystal or ornamental ceramic dishes.
Mercury contamination may be caused by leaching of silver
amalgams used to fill dental cavities or from exposure to
mercury from broken thermometers. The dental amalgam issue is
controversial. Dentists claim that they are quite safe, whereas some
scientific studies show that there may be renal, neurological, and other
complications from the mercury released by amalgams.
Cadmium and other toxic metals are found in artists' colors.
Arsenic and chromium are present in many pressure-treated woods used for outdoor decks and
furniture. The metals may be absorbed by direct contact of the skin with the wood or by breathing
dust from the wood.
Carpenters who handle treated wood and young children crawling on wooden decks or
using playground equipment made from treated wood are specially at risk.
Heavy metal poisoning is difficult to diagnose because it may cause dizziness, anemia, confusion,
loss of weight, neurological problems, and other symptoms that can be attributed to other more
There are two main reasons why a large percentage of the population is overweight. First of all,
eating gives us pleasure and we frequently overeat. Secondly, we tend to have sedentary life
styles. We start by sitting in a car or a bus to go to work or school, then we sit at a desk
all day and, when we come home, we sit on the couch to watch television while we snack. The
combination of too much food, the wrong balance of nutritional components, and lack of exercise
often results in obesity and poor health.
Discus Thrower 450 B.C.
Ancient Greek statues portray ideal proportions of the human body. Today, we still
admire those old statues and the muscular structure of body builders. What do modern
body builders eat to achieve such spectacular form? Without counting the water, 75%
of our body weight is protein. So it is not surprising that along with a strenuous exercise
schedule, body builders enhance muscle growth with diets that are high in protein and
low in carbohydrates and fat. They eat five or
six small meals per day to constantly nourish the muscles and to prevent the
stomach from stretching. Even if improving our physical appearance is not our main goal in life,
we can take the idea of a protein-enriched diet that is low in carbohydrates and contains
the right fats as a basis for our menus. The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) of protein
for both men and women is 0.8 grams of good quality protein per
kilogram (0.35g/lb) of body weight per day. This is the minimum to prevent protein
deficiency for low levels of activity,
but for active people it should be increased to 1.4 grams per kilogram of body weight.
Professional body builders consume about 4.4 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight
(2.0g/lb). The quantities of carbohydrates and essential fatty acids
should be proportioned to promote health and sustain an adequate level of activity.
A typical high-protein diet would derive 30% of the Calories from protein, 40% from carbohydrates, and
30% from fat.
There are many factors that contribute to the development of a trim and muscular body, but
a diet rich in protein is a fundamental requirement.
How much should you eat? The following form calculates daily energy
requirements in Calories based on sex and height for persons whose
Body Mass Index is in the normal range. The minimum applies to
persons who are relatively sedentary and the maximum applies to persons
who are physically very active. World class athletes, like the
Tour de France bicycle riders, consume about 6,000 Calories
per day during competition and their diets are established by
To measure the Calories that you consume, you will need a diet scale
and a list of Calories per gram or per ounce for the foods that you eat.
Eating fewer Calories than required for your level of activity will result in weight loss,
whereas eating more Calories than required will result in weight gain because the extra
Calories are stored as muscle or as fat, depending on the composition of your diet.
Research in the biology of aging indicates that caloric restriction,
that is, eating somewhat less than you would eat to feel full, and spacing your meals so that
you only eat when you are really hungry helps to extend life. Calorie restricted diets
must be carefully balanced to avoid nutritional deficiencies.
Breakfast. Start the day with a bowl of granola (1/2 cup), with two tablespoons
of plain yogurt, and milk. The granola should contain oats, nuts (pecans, walnuts, almonds),
seeds (pumpkin, sesame, sunflower), and no hydrogenated fats. Sprinkle blueberries,
or add slices of fresh fruits such as strawberry, banana, or peach.
Add a tablespoon of soy or whey protein powder. This is a very satisfying breakfast with
whole grains that contain complex carbohydrates, healthful fats, fiber, and beneficial
bacteria. If you eat it at 8 AM you will not feel hungry until 1 or 2 PM. This makes
it possible to have a light meal for lunch.
Lunch. Light meal suggestions:
a medium salad and one leg of baked chicken.
a sandwich made of whole wheat bread with two or three slices of turkey, lettuce,
tomato, and pickles. As a condiment, use mustard, ketchup, or hot salsa.
a milk shake with one cup of milk and four tablespoons of whey protein powder and a fresh fruit.
Dinner. A reasonable meal with vegetables and dessert.
It is a good idea to put all the food
that you are going to eat on your plate before starting to eat. In this way, you will see how
much you actually eat. When you have multiple-course dinners, second helpings, or snack before
eating, you lose perspective of the amount that you eat. Dinner Suggestions:
Beef stew with mushrooms, peas, and carrots accompanied with one slice of whole grain bread.
Baked chicken and steamed peas, lima beans, and cabbage.
Salmon steak with asparagus and three bean salad.
A bowl of chili with beans and a fresh garden salad.
For dessert: flavored gelatin, fresh fruit cocktail, or one small scoop of frozen yogurt.
What happens if you are still hungry after eating a meal? Wait twenty minutes and then, if
you are still hungry, eat an apple, a pear or an orange. When you wait, you give your body time
to digest the food that you just ate and your hunger will diminish. A high-protein snack fills
you up longer than a high carbohydrate snack. A sardine on a cracker, hummus on a pita bread
chip, or a dab of peanut butter on a celery stick will satisfy your hunger longer than the equivalent
weight of carbohydrate snacks.
General dietary suggestions:
Eat fresh fruits and vegetables. Raw fruits and vegetables contain many healthful
antioxidants and nutrients, although they are high in carbohydrates.
Drink purified water. Metropolitan water systems use chlorination to kill bacteria that
might be harmful, but the organic chlorine compounds created by this process may not be safe.
Use olive oil for cooking. This oil has been used for thousands of years and has
some beneficial health effects.
Trim fat from meat before cooking, and drain fat after cooking ground meats to reduce
your intake of excess calories.
Restrict the amount of candy, sugar, sodas, cakes, white bread, pasta, white rice, and potatoes. These
foods are mostly carbohydrates which are good sources of energy, but don't have much
nutritional value. Regular consumption of high-fructose corn syrup used for sweetening
soft drinks and other products may promote obesity.
Analyze your nutrition and take vitamin or mineral supplements to make up for deficiencies.
CRON-o-meter is a free nutritional analysis program.
Don't eat hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils and
the foods that contain them. Hydrogenated oils generally
contain Trans fatty acids with unnatural shapes that cannot be metabolized properly and cause
Manufacturers use hydrogenated oils because they do not turn
rancid as fast as natural oils and the products using them
have a longer shelf life. Hydrogenated fats are far worse for
your health than the saturated fats found in lard or butter, and
unfortunately, they occur in high proportions in commercially
prepared fried foods, margarines, pastries, and baked products.
Don't eat charred or burned food. Cooking carbohydrate-rich
foods at high temperatures creates acrylamides which are known to cause cancer.
Restrict consumption of grilled or smoked meats and cheeses because they contain
many toxic chemicals from the smoke and the chemical breakdown of the food components.
High temperature cooking also binds sugars to amino groups in proteins and nucleic acids to create
advanced glycation end products (AGEs) that can have harmful effects over time. Restrict
consumption of roasted nuts, toasted breads, crispy fried foods, and sauces and glazes made from
roast pan drippings.
Avoid or restrict consumption of meats cured with sodium nitrite because such meats
almost always contain detectable levels of carcinogenic nitrosamines.
Avoid potato chips, corn chips, and French fries or deep-fried potatoes. They are
mostly carbohydrates and fat.
Avoid caffeine; it is addictive. Caffeine occurs naturally in coffee, cola nuts, and
tea, but soft drink manufacturers add it to soft drinks like Coca Cola, Pepsi Cola, and
Mountain Dew because it increases repeat sales. Caffeine is a central stimulant and people
who regularly consume caffeinated drinks get an initial energy boost from caffeine, but
later may suffer headaches, restlessness, and other withdrawal symptoms when they stop
consuming the products.
Avoid hard liquor. Alcohol is toxic to the liver, disrupts the functions of the
nervous system, and slows your reflexes. If you drink, do not drink more than one glass
of wine or beer per day, and always drink with a meal. Do not drive or operate mechanical
equipment after drinking to avoid accidents.
Do not store food in aluminum containers. Metallic aluminum reacts with acid foods
to create soluble aluminum compounds that may be unhealthy. Avoid using baking powder
and self-rising flour that contain aluminum.
Read food product labels carefully to know what you are eating.
Pay particular attention to the list of ingredients. Many products claiming to be "fat free"
or with "no trans-fats" achieve that status by mathematical rounding and by using
unrealistically small serving sizes.
Additional information about DIET is found under WEIGHT CONTROL.
When evaluating diet advertisements, keep in mind that the Federal Trade Commission has determined that
any product claims are false if they state
that you can lose more than two pounds per week for more than four weeks without diet and exercise.
Mary G. Enig, Trans Fatty Acids in the Food Supply: A Comprehensive
Report Covering 60 Years of Research, 2nd Edition, 1995,
Enig Associates, Inc., Silver Spring, MD
Michael R. Eades, M.D., and Mary Dan Eades, M.D., "Protein Power",
Bantam Books, 1996.
Describes a low carbohydrate diet that has had great clinical success in reducing
obesity and normalizing insulin levels. The book explains the biochemistry and metabolic pathways
that are the basis for the diet.
Robert C. Atkins, "Dr. Atkins' New Diet Revolution", Avon, Revised edition 2001.
This book describes experimental results of diets with different ratios of macronutrients,
their effects on fat metabolism, and the application of this knowledge for weight control.
Roy Walford, M.D., "Beyond the 120 Year Diet", 2000. Describes Caloric Restriction
with Optimal Nutrition (CRON) as a way of losing weight, retarding aging, and increasing life span.
Numerous scientific studies are referenced to support the claims.
Barry Sears, Bill Lawren, "The Zone: A Dietary Road Map to Lose Weight Permanently",
ReganBook, 1995. Advocates a diet with 30% protein, 30% fat, and 40% carbohydrates.
A. Scott Connelly, M.D., Carol Colman, "Body Rx", 2001., The Berkley Publishing Group,
New York, 2001. Describes a high-protein, high-fiber diet that combined with strength training
stimulates muscle building and fat burning.