By Linda Haught
It’s difficult for the average person to determine a balanced approach to meeting nutritional needs. There’s too much junk science to wade through. Much of the nutritional research has been done by marketing interests whose studies are scientifically flawed. Statisticians who evaluate these studies point out that the majority fail to use formulas that correct for chance results, they have few subjects, and/or they don’t use control groups. Even studies presented in major medical journals have been found to be fatally flawed.
Some people spend a lot of time and money acquiring special foods and supplements in order to ensure good health. It’s a way of feeling in control, and it can become a major mission in life. However, the Lord never intended for us to leave no stone unturned in the pursuit of our health, happiness, or any other earthly thing. Remember that the chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.
We need to set a reasonable course, applying common sense to a balanced view of the medical literature. First, let’s put dietary concerns into perspective by examining the research on Centenarians. These studies reveal that the most common characteristic in the extremely aged is emotional stability and satisfaction with life. One researcher commented that these people know how to relax and take life as it comes to them. What a verification of Paul’s statement in I Timothy 6:6-9: “But Godliness with contentment is great gain.” The emotional climate in your heart may have more to do with your health than physical maintenance.
The second most common attribute of these elderly people is that they led active lives and exercised regularly. Third, a little over half of them practiced good nutritional principles. Eating right is important and deserves a place on our priority list –but perhaps not at the very top.
An overview of all the dietary research definitely points to the importance of eating five to nine servings of fruits and vegetables every day. In fact, people who did this had over twenty percent less cancer compared to those who only consumed three to five servings of fruits and vegetables per day. Vegetables contain the most nrf2, a protein that spurs cells to produce enzymes that detoxify cancer-causing substances in the body. Broccoli, cauliflower, and green leafy vegetables are best.
Another important consideration is the limitation of dietary fats. A good formula for figuring your own personal quota would be to multiply your weight times .454. That gives you the approximate number of grams you need daily to maintain the fat you are currently carrying around. A big burger and fries packs a total of 46 to 47 grams of fat, and that’s okay once-in-awhile as long as your other meal that day is a low fat meal like pasta, tomato sauce, and vegetables.
Beware of restaurant food! One major chain serves potato soup with a half stick of butter per bowl. It’s a good idea to share a regular meal with someone or else take half of it home in a box for another day.
Experts agree that you should keep calorie-dense fats and simple carbs to a minimum. Eat high fat meats like bacon, hotdogs, sausage, steak, and ground beef only twice a week or less. Fried foods should be eaten no more than twice a week. Simple sugar acts as an appetite stimulant and provides little nutrition, so eat desserts and sweets with restraint especially if you are overweight.
The recent news in medical journals about metabolism (the rate at which you use calories) is that a sagging metabolism is not a function of aging but of inactivity. The less active you are, the lower your metabolism drops. Recommendations for keeping your metabolic rate up include eating a substantial breakfast with carbohydrates, fat, and fiber; eating often (every 3 ½ hours); and most importantly exercising aerobically 30 minutes a day. It’s also important to avoid drastic caloric cutbacks because when you consume less than 1400 calories per day, the body begins making changes that result in a more sluggish metabolism.
Snacks, once thought to be a bad idea, turn out to be helpful in maintaining metabolism, stabilizing blood sugar, and preventing heavy caloric intake at mealtimes. Eating a lot at one sitting causes the body to store more food as fat. Some of the more delicious snacks are breakfast cereal (avoid the real sugary, low fiber cereals), fruit, almonds, ginger snaps, crackers with peanut butter, celery with pimento or low-fat cream cheese, raw veggies with low-fat dip, and low-fat yogurt.
There are other foods that experts say we should definitely incorporate in our diet. Fish should be eaten twice a week or more because it contains the healthy Omega3 oils. Be sure and get 1200 to 1500 milligrams of calcium per day even if it means you have to take supplements to do it. You probably heard on the 6:00 news that a glass or two of wine a day makes you healthier too. However, they often fail to mention that the same antioxidant qualities found in wine can be found in grapes, grape juice, cranberries, and blueberries. So, don’t forget to add these to your list.
Perhaps one of the simplest ways to manage your daily nutrition habits is to ask yourself one question on a daily basis. That question would be, “Did I eat more servings of fruits and vegetables combined than I did of fried foods, fat-saturated snacks, and sweets combined?” If the answer is no, then your diet is too high in fat and sugar. You are most likely at least borderline deficient in vitamins A and C, and you aren’t getting enough fiber, calcium, iron, or the B vitamins. Try to answer this question affirmatively most of the time.
The Lord put us here for spiritual purposes. So, keep your nutritional strategies simple, and don’t obsess over physical things.