Eating Beyond the Numbers

Photograph By Richard Burbridge
 What with all the news stories on pink slime, antibotic resistant bacteria in our meat, GMOS, the obesity epidemic and all that other fun stuff, it seems like there is more and more interest in what we ought to be putting in our bodies. On the whole, I think this is totally awesome. After all, all change must start with education. But (and it’s a big but), almost all the pop-culture nutritional information I’m seeing is grossly over-simplified. And it’s not that proper nutrition is even particularly complicated, per se.

The most common fallacy I see over and over again is the assertion that weight loss (or gain) is all a simple equation of calories in versus calories out. The simplicity of this concept is certainly tempting, but this is simply not true. Our body is far more complex than this teeter-totter equation.

Consider this: each second around 400 billion chemical reactions are occurring in your body. Each of those processes requires co-factors, chemicals that assist with these reactions. Some of these co-factors are made internally but many of them must be acquired from outside of ourselves, generally through our diet. Co-factors in our diet are the vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients we consume in our food. The food we ingest acts as a message to our body. When we eat nutrient-dense foods, our bodies are providing with all the necessary cofactors to break down that food and turn it into energy. When we eat food that lacks micronutrients (vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients), our body turns it into glucose but then lacks the co-factors necessary to complete the chemical reactions required to process that glucose into energy. Continue reading

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The Heart/Liver Link

My head feels so stuffed with information, I’m surprised it’s not coming out my ears. The pace at school has really picked up over the last couple of months and it’s all so fascinating. I feel as though I could write hundreds of blog posts on everything we’ve been learning—but alas, I barely find the time to do my homework. One of the most fascinating subjects we’ve delved into recently has been fat, and the link (or lack thereof) to heart disease. I’ve personally seen so many people in my life grappling with heart disease, I feel it’s important to get this information out there – please share it!

As a culture, we’ve been grossly mislead as to the causes of heart disease. Ansel Keys, who in the 1950s published a “definitive” study showing a correlation between diets high in fat and cardio-vascular disease worldwide, has been continually disproven and is now aknowledged to have used questionable evidence and statistical methods (at best) to support his findings. Despite this fallacy, the “low fat myth” persists.

In actuality, heart disease stems from inflammation in the body (as does all other disease). Inflammation can be caused by poor quality foods (overabundance of omega-6 oils , trans-fats, sugar, GMOs, etc.), food allergies, exposure to toxins, poor digestion/ leaky gut, drugs (perscription or otherwise, including alcohol, nicotine and caffeine) and, perhaps most widespread, stress. Inflammation is a natural and important reaction in the body, but is intended to be an acute reaction when we hurt ourselves or are fighting off a viris. Systemic inflammation or chronic inflammation from repetative lifestyle choices that encourage inflammatory reactions are what cause many of the so-called “chronic” diseases of our day, from heart disease to diabetes to cancer.

When the body is inflammed, including the arteries in the heart, the body responds by sending out “bandaids,” in the form of cholesterol, to the infected area. The heart gets a heavy dose since it is absolutely vital to human survival. In a healthy body, cholesterol is an extremely important and healthful substance. The body essentially coats inflammed areas with a layer of waxy cholesterol to allow it to heal and, in the case of an acute inflammatory response, this is just what we need. The tissue heals and the cholesterol is recyled and all is well. Of course, when we don’t treat the cause of the inflammation, the same tissue simply becomes inflamed over and over again and layer after layer of cholesterol is futily deposited in an attempt to heal the area. Continue reading