Energising your cells – Nutrition for Health & High Performance in Sport and Daily Life
Skip the BS, fad diets, anyone out there preaching the way to eat with vested interests, ditch the government’s food diet pyramid (because that obviously has not created a more vibrantly healthy nation) and look at the science behind what foods our biochemistry function best on. Some foods rev up our metabolism, others suppress it because certain foods are perceived as toxic in some way, and some may come of a surprise.
Food to feed your cells optimally – the bulk of your diet is best to be:
- Meats, Fish, Shellfish, Organ meats, Bone Broth and Gelatinous Food –grassfed, hormone/anti-biotic free meats, fresh (not farmed) fish. Limit oily fish (salmon, mackerel etc) which is high in PUFAs
- Vegetables – include starchy and tuberous for carbohydrate (potatoes, pumpkin, carrot, beetroot, squash, zucchini, yam, taro, parsnip, suede, etc).
- Quality Saturated Fats – coconut oils, ghee, butter (grassfed, organic) quality olive oil (not heated)
- Grains / Gluten (bread, pasta, cookies, pastries, crisp breads, many condiments, many processed foods and ready-made meals, oats, muesli-bars)
- Legumes, seeds and nuts
- Modern day vegetable oils (canola, vegetable, sunflower, safflower, sesame, avocado, soy and nut oils)
- Processed foods (toxic vegetable oils, chemical preservatives, food colourings, artificial flavouring, MSG, genetically modified foods, high fructose corn syrup, excessive sugars, and other junk).
The Digestive System and the Immune System
Gut health is number one for overall health. You are what you do not eliminate. All of your nutrient uptake/waste removal occurs in the gut, and a large portion of your immune system resides in there. One primary goal is to eliminate the foods that could potentially damage your gut, and get back to a style of eating that is more similar to what humans evolved with. The basic premise is to not eat foods that are damaging to the gut, eliminate foods that have higher levels of anti-nutrients, stop eating foods that are potentially damaging or excitatory to the immune system, and choose foods that are nutritious and supportive of optimal cell function.
It is Wise to Limit….
GRAINS: grains can be highly irritating to the gut (particularly from their gluten content), prevent mineral absorption of other foods (they contain phytic acid), create digestive burden (they are difficult to digest), they can spike/quickly lower blood sugars and are often pro-inflammatory. White rice, and the occasional use of gluten free grains IF there are no immune system issues or gut problems is fine. White rice carries none of the detrimental effects of grains and is a great source of easily digested carbohydrate.
Dangerous Grains by James Braly MD and Ron Hogan MA, turn the Food Guide Pyramid upside down by exposing the myriad health risks posed by gluten grains (wheat, rye, barley, spelt, kamut, and triticale). The authors, leading experts in the field of food allergies, and celiac disease, present compelling evidence that our grain-centered diet is to blame for a host of chronic illnesses.
Note: there have been cultures that subsisted on a largely grain based diet when they’re properly prepared. (this preparation involves soaking, fermentation, and actually using quality grains: read Sally Fallon’s Nourishing Traditions book).
PASTEURISED AND HOMOGENISED DAIRY: Allergies to dairy, which are pretty common, can originate from either lactose or casein. If you have an allergy to a food, and a problem digesting it, it’s likely going to excite your immune system, degrade your gut health, and lead to some health issues.
On the flipside, milk and other dairy products can be a great source of nutrients if you have no problems metabolising it. Kefir (a fermented yoghurt) and traditionally made yogurts are high quality foods, and are at times critical for getting healthy bacteria thriving in the gut. Organic, raw milk (unpasteurised, unhomogenised) is usually well digested and contains a high level of nutrients. Commercial dairy is basically a crappy food – it is pasteurised (high temperature heated) which denatures proteins and destroys enzymes required to digest lactose, and it is homogenised (treated to ensure the cream does not separate from the watery part of the milk) which can lead to leaky gut syndrome and other problems. The Raw Truth About Milk by William Cambell Douglas explains raw versus commercial milk.
I would also recommend going dairy free for two weeks, see how your body feels not consuming it, and then re-introduce while noticing your reaction to it (energy levels, bloating, mood, concentration).
VEGETABLE OILS AND FISH OILS (containing polyunsaturated fatty acids or PUFA): They’re toxic, oxidise in the body causing inflammation and free-radical formation, are heavily processed and are often rancid by the time they reach the supermarket, and are not required for human health. Polyunsaturated fatty acids are fragile oils which are easily damaged by heat, oxygen and sunlight. Extensive research on this, as well as other topics discussed in this article, can be found at www.raypeat.com . A specific article by Ray Peat is named Unsaturated fatty acids: Nutritionally essential, or toxic??
LEGUMES: The issue with legumes speak of gut health also. Legumes contain lectins (so do grains), and other anti-nutrients that are damaging to the gut, and lead to degradation of your health. They’ve also got masses amounts of fibre which can end up being a burden to the intestines – stretching the intestines and fermenting/festering inside the gut walls if not eliminated, which ends up exciting the immune system and creating toxins that circulate in the bloodstream. Glycemia, starch and sugar in context by Ray Peat raises the issue of legumes and grains.
SOY: Soy is not a health food. Never in the history of humanity has soy been consumed in the manner it is today. Unfermented soy foods (which include tofu, soya oil, soy proteins, soy flour, soy milk) contain high levels of substances that block mineral absorption (called phytates) and interfere with protein digestion. The phytoestrogens in these soy products are potent endocrine disruptors (they act as an oestrogenic hormone) that have been shown to depress thyroid function, cause premature development of secondary sex characteristics in children and disrupt the oestrogen / progesterone balance in general (effects are numerous). Check out The Hidden Dangers of Soy by Dianne Gregg and The Whole Soy Story by Dr Kaayla Daniel.
Low carb dieting is not a good idea, and neither is eating the unhealthy carbohydrates. Healthy carbohydrates for me are primarily fruit, rice and starchy, tuberous vegetables such as potato, sweet potato, parsnip, beetroot, suede, pumpkin, carrot, taro, etc. We need carbohydrates and sugars for energy production, especially athletes or highly active people. The main thing is that you remove flour/gluten carbs (bread, pasta, pastry, biscuits, wraps) and too much processed sugar. Too low carb is detrimental to your health, I have experienced it amongst many others. Glucose/carbs are the body’s primary and preferred source of fuel. Your body can manufacture glucose from protein and fat, however this is not the preferred method for producing energy. When carbohydrate intake is restricted, which restricts glucose, bodily systems will utilize hormonal mechanisms to create glucose from protein or fat. This is fine short term, but can put hormones out of balance if it continues for too long, and strain the organs that create the hormones required. Glycemia, starch and sugar in context by Dr Ray Peat can be studied for further evidence.
Filter your water.
Chlorine disrupts our balance of healthy bacteria required for metabolism and just about every chemical process in our body. Humans are composed of about 75% water, with many key roles to perform such as maintaining a stable internal environment for all our cells and metabolic processes, allowing us to acquire nutrition and aid elimination of wastes. The water we consume must be clean and supply all the naturally occurring electrolytes, minerals and trace elements for our bodies to be biochemically in balance. Today, municipal water systems are repositories for millions of tonnes of chemicals, medicines, waste products, fertilisers, herbicides and pesticides from water run-off.
Use Rock or Sea Salt.
Salt is vital to the extraction of excess acidity from cells, balancing blood sugar levels, absorption of food particles across the intestinal tract, clearing mucous and phlegm from the lungs, acts as a natural antihistamine, aids in prevention of muscle cramps and is required for healthy bone formation. Salt is not something to fear in the diet, unless it is white refined table salt which is basically pure sodium chloride plus anti-caking agents, aluminium and other nasties.
Saturated Fat and Cholesterol is Good (from organic sources).
Get into pasture-fed and antibiotic/hormone free meat, olives, unheated EV olive oil, EV coconut oil, raw, organic butter and ghee. Get rid of trans fats – vegetable oils (canola oil, soy oil, sunflower oil, flora proactive are all bad choices), heated olive oil, breads, biscuits, pastries, bagels, margarine, mayonnaise, commercial sauces and shortenings and avoid fats from conventially raised animals/meats.Fats contain fatty acids that are essential for good health, efficient immune function, normal hormonal production, cellular respiration (energy production), proper cell membrane permeability – in short, for life itself. Heart attacks are caused by too much starches, stress and trans fats, leading to cell oxidation and inflammation, not from eating saturated fat. Most people need to eat much more fat to lose weight and to be healthy; otherwise our bodies produce more cholesterol in attempt to save us. What happens next is usually a trip to the GP that tells you that you need to take cholesterol-lowering drugs and the cycle continues. The cholesterol is not the problem, it is the messenger that tells us something is wrong. Cholesterol is anti-inflammatory and actually comes in reduce cell damage. Since the body cannot always keep up with the damage, it has been falsely concluded that the inflammation is caused by the cholesterol, rather than just noticing that the inflammation is correlated with the cholesterol. Eat Fat Lose Fat by Dr Mary Enig and Sally Fallon is a good resource on the benefits of saturated fat.
Increase the amount of fruit and vegetables.
Go easy on the nuts.
Nuts can easily lead to a very high caloric intake but also can cause digestive problems and allergies whether mild or serious. Nuts also contain a high level of PUFAs. They are yummy though!
Go easy on the alcohol.
Get your meat / eggs / poultry / butter / cheese / milk/ yoghurt organic and eliminate as much processed foods as you can.
This comes down to toxins (we store toxins in fat tissue) and if we wish to mobilise fat, we need to get rid of these toxins found in commercial meats and plant foods. Such toxins include anti-biotics, hormones, pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, artificial colourings, preservatives and GMOs. If buying organic food is a challenge, at least strive for organic, free-range, anti-biotic and chemical free chicken/eggs and pasture-fed meats. When buying fish go for the ‘fresh’ fish over ‘farmed’ fish. You can ask your local butcher whether they have any grass-fed only meats and ask for chemical and hormone free. For veggies and fruit, going to any other fruit/veggie store/fresh market than a big supermarket chain is ideal!
Avoid using the microwave to heat foods.
The negative effects of foods heated in the microwave have been well researched and documented. The microwave heats food aggressively from the inside-out by vibrating particles at such a speed to result in the breaking apart of cell membranes and the denaturing of proteins, to name just two effects. There existed a lawsuit in Oklahoma in 1991 concerning the hospital use of a microwave to warm blood for a transfusion which ended up killing the patient. This was instantly banned of course and I believe there is a reason why mothers are recommended not to heat their babies’ bottles in the microwave. Dr. Lita Lee of Hawaii reported in the December 9, 1989 Lancet:
“Microwaving baby formulas converted certain trans-amino acids into their synthetic cis-isomers. Synthetic isomers, whether cis-amino acids or trans-fatty acids, are not biologically active. Further, one of the amino acids, L-proline, was converted to its d-isomer, which is known to be neurotoxic (poisonous to the nervous system) and nephrotoxic (poisonous to the kidneys). It’s bad enough that many babies are not nursed, but now they are given fake milk (baby formula) made even more toxic via microwaving.”
Allow for days off and your favourite foods from time to time and don’t stress too much about 🙂