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Common Sense Nutrition:

Guidelines for a Healthy Diet

Introduction

People are becoming more and more aware of the connection between diet and health. Research has linked conditions such as obesity and cardiovascular disease to diets high in fat; kidney stones and osteoporosis to diets high in protein; diabetes mellitus to diets high in dairy at a young age; and colon cancer to diets low in fiber. What may not be so obvious, however, is that a poor diet can also be a contributing factor to such day to day problems as fatigue, headaches, mood swings, indigestion, constipation, skin problems, menstrual discomfort, allergies, etc. The information given below is designed to help you begin making more healthful food choices. Changing lifelong, deeply ingrained eating habits can be difficult. As you strive to follow these principles be patient with yourself, keep a sense of humor, enjoy your successes.

Some Guiding Principles

  • Include plenty of fresh vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and legumes. These foods promote health by providing an abundance of fiber, vitamins, minerals, enzymes (if eaten raw), and many other life-giving substances that science is just beginning to discover.
  • Include a moderate amount of protein from beans and bean products like tofu, lentils, seeds, nuts, yogurt, fish, and a lesser amount from meat, poultry, and eggs.
  • Try to minimize the fat in your diet, but keep in mind that some fats are essential to health. (see section on fats)
  • Wherever possible, eat foods in their natural rather then processed form. For example, fresh vegetables have more food value then frozen vegetables, which in turn have more food value then canned vegetables.
  • Wherever possible, choose organic over non-organic foods. Foods grown non-organically often contain pesticides and other chemical residues which have been linked to certain cancers. Organic farming also helps preserve farmland and decreases contamination of ground water.
  • Keep yourself well hydrated. Drink at least the equivalent of one-half of your body weight in ounces (about 6-8 glasses of water daily). Add lemon or lime to the water to help alkalize it. Being well hydrated helps with bowel regularity.
  • Whole Grains: Brown rice, millet, oats, buckwheat, barley, quinoa, amaranth, corn, whole wheat, spelt, teff.
  • Legumes: All dried beans - navy, white, black, mung, garbanzo, pinto, etc.; lentils, split peas, tempeh and tofu.
  • Vegetables: Broccoli, cauliflower, beets, beet greens, spinach, chard, red and green cabbage, squash, kale, carrots, spouts, etc. Chose the darkest color possible.
  • Fruits: Apples, berries, melons, grapefruit, oranges, kiwi, etc. Most juices are high in simple sugars and devoid of fiber. One can decrease the concentration of sugar by diluting juice 1:1 with water. Choose the whole fruit or vegetable instead of the juice whenever possible.
  • Nuts/Seeds: Walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts, pecans, brazil nuts, sunflower seeds, and sesame seeds. It is also important to be aware that commercially "roasted" nuts have often been deep fried. Look for "raw" and seeds that are "not hulled".
  • Fish: Salmon, cod, trout, tuna, mackerel, ahi, etc. Fresh salmon is an especially good source of healthy oil called eiosapentaenoic acid (EPA). Avoid farm raised fish. It tends to be higher in mercury. Tests of sushi have found it to be high in mercury. The smaller the fish the lower the mercury concentration.
  • Dairy products: People are often intolerant or allergic to dairy products. However, if you tolerate them well, choose non-fat dairy products. "Low-fat" dairy still contains a significant amount of fat, as with 2% milk which still derives 25% of it's calories from fat. Unsweetened, non-fat yogurt is an especially good choice and is protective against several diseases. Limit your milk intake. It is very hard to digest. Remember, the calcium in milk does not prevent osteoporosis.
  • Meat and poultry: Due to the high fat content in most meats, they are best used sparingly. Skinless turkey breast is lowest in fat. Buy organically fed or free roaming meat, poultry and eggs, whenever possible, because they do not contain the hormones and antibiotics present in most animal feed. Be sure to choose meats that do not contain nitrates as these have been linked with stomach cancer.
  • Fats and oils: See special section on fats and oils below.
  • Salt and Spices: Increased salt intake had been linked to high blood pressure and fluid retention. Humans require between 2-5 grams of salt per day (5 grams equals 1 tsp.). Most Americans consume in excess of this amount. Therefore, salty seasonings like soy sauce, tamari, Bragg's Liquid Amino's, and miso should be used in moderation. Garlic, lemon juice, fresh herbs and other spices can be used liberally.

Foods to Avoid

  • Avoid artificial sweeteners like NutraSweet. Aspartame is dangerous and will hopefully be off the market soon.
  • White flour products like bread, pasta, pastries, and white sugar (use whole grain breads and pasta instead).
  • Stimulants like coffee, black tea and soft drinks. Drink in moderation if at all. Do not drink diet soda.
  • Processed foods which are low in fiber, high in fat, sugar, and salt contain chemical colorings, flavorings and preservatives. Remember on apple instead of applesauce, apple pie or apple juice!

Fat Facts

To ensure that you are getting sufficient good quality oils in your diet, follow the following guidelines:

  • Avoid commercial oils found in supermarkets. Most have been heavily processed and have some oxidative damage and vitamin depletion. Look for "organic" and "cold pressed".
  • Avoid margarine, Crisco, and other hydrogenated fats. Trans fatty acids formed in the process have been linked to cardiovascular disease. Butter is best, but sparingly.
  • Purchase expeller-pressed (or cold-pressed) vegetable oils such as corn, sunflower, sesame, and canola, preferably in their unrefined form. To help preserve the oil, add a few drops of liquid vitamin E and store it in the refrigerator. Olive oil can be stored on the shelf.
  • Prepared foods and salad dressings do not contain expeller-pressed oils unless stated on the label. Therefore, use them in moderation
  • Cook only with olive oil. Olive oil resists oxidative damage during cooking. If you like the flavor of butter, add a drop to the pan after cooking (a hint from Wegmans).
  • Try using a squirt bottle with olive oil or sesame oil to cover your wok or frying pan. This decreases the amount of oil needed to cook.

Examples of Healthy Main Meals

Health oriented cookbooks and magazines contain many ideas for healthy meals. Try some of these simple combinations for lunch or dinner:

  • Eat a wide variety of foods. Rotate your foods. (Don't eat the same food over & over). Remember if you crave a certain food you're often allergic or sensitive to it.
  • A seasoned vegetable stir-fry with a few cashews or walnuts over a bed of grains (rice, millet, quinoa, and buckwheat are good choices).
  • A corn tostada layered with refried beans (low-fat varieties are available), sliced avocado, salsa, and topped with a shredded carrot.
  • Lightly baked or broiled salmon with lemon and olive oil drizzled on top, and a steamed vegetable on the side.
  • A whole wheat pita-bread sandwich stuffed with hummus (a Middle-Eastern dish made from pureed chickpeas and sesame butter; available at most natural foods stores), sliced black olives, lettuce, and sprouts.
  • A large raw salad with marinated tofu (available in natural foods stores) and Dijon vinaigrette dressing.

Cookware

Avoid aluminum cookware. Aluminum tends to accumulate in the brain and nervous tissue and may be implicated in Alzheimer's disease. Safe cookware includes stainless steel, Pyrex glassware, and cast iron skillets. A seasoned cast iron pan doesn't need oil to prevent sticking.

Vitamins

  • Chose vitamins from a reputable company (ask Barb, Dr. Chuck, or Dr. Andrew).
  • Make sure they are free of gluten or dairy (if you are sensitive).
  • Give your body a day of rest. Take them for 6 days and don't take on the 7th day (this prevents cellular saturation).
  • It's best to get your vitamins form the food we eat, but since it's not always possible, a multiple vitamin is a good idea.

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