Eat to meet your needs
Eating right is a matter of applying simple dietary rules to your personal dietary needs, says a local meals and cooking consultant who bases her advice on more than a quarter century of formal and informal nutritional studies.
Throw away the regimens and diets that try to be everything for everybody, understand the unique nutritional needs of yourself and your family and plan and prepare meals guided by a few nutritional principles, counsels Leah Embre, who recently left Co-Lin after opening its Wolf Den snack bar hangout, which offers healthy food alternatives to students, college staff and faculty and members of the wider Wesson community.
“Plow your way through the massive confusing and conflicting nutritional advice available like a cow that chews hay and spits out sticks, remember that no one size fits all and you can change and improve your diet and health a little bit at a time,” Embre told an Institute for Learning in Retirement (ILR) member luncheon.
To understand your unique nutritional needs, she advised:
Knowing your numbers -- the results of blood tests showing levels of sugar and body chemistry. “Get a print out of laboratory blood work so you can see what dietary changes you need to make, and how your adjustments are making a difference,” says Embre.
Journal what you eat and how it affects your health and well-being.
Find a doctor who doesn’t mind answering your health questions.
Watch your bowel movements. “Constipation and diarrhea reflect your dietary habits,” she says.
Within this context, gut health is the foundation of overall health and lifestyle, Embre explained. Through the digestive system, the body gets the nutrients it needs. The goal is to reduce or eliminate inflammation – the cause of most diseases -- throughout your body.
“Increasingly, nutritionists say the gut is our first brain,” she added. “It sends seven times more messages to control the body than the brain. It makes serotonin and dopamine – the hormones used in the brain to create feelings of happiness.”
So watch what you send to your gut, Embre told her ILR audience:
Decrease the sugar – “dietary enemy number one.” On a daily basis, she said, a female should consume 24 grams of sugar and a male, 37 grams. In fact, most people overconsume sugar, getting their nutritional requirement in two meals.
Decrease processed foods – ‘dietary enemy number two.” Fresh whole foods – fruits, vegetables, meats – retain critical vitamins and minerals, while processed packaged foods add chemical, often toxic, preservatives. “Eat food close to the way God made it,” Embre said.
Decrease dyes – chromosome-damaging and cancer-causing food coloring chemicals listed on food labels.
Increase protein consumption up to half your body weight in grams.
Increase fiber. Nuts and grains. Eat the peals on fruits and vegetable.
Increase healthy fats. Avocado, coconut, fish and olive oils, butter, grass-fed beef without cortisol and whole fish, olives and avocadoes are good sources.
Drink lots of water – as much as one gallon daily. “Your body is 80 percent water, so it is very beneficial,” she said. “If you’re thirsty, you are dehydrated. Don’t drink it all at once. Sip it throughout the day.”
“The big challenge is planning and preparing your meals,” she pointed out. On food preparation, Embre suggested:
Get it out the food, wash and dry it and prepare it – all at the same time.
Don’t fry foods to curb another source of inflammation in the body.
Prepare and save snack foods that offer a ready alternative to sugar-laced candies. For example, boil or scramble eggs in advance and refrigerate.
Serve at least one fresh fruit or vegetable with every meal.
Oven-bake meals on a sheet pan. Cook different meats – chicken, beef, pork – at the center of the pan with varied vegetable on the side. Use different seasonings and sauces with each meal.
There's nothing hard about making healthful meals if you take time to plan, follow simple nutritional rules and don’t over-complicate preparation, Embre summarized:
“Keep it simple, Sunshine!”