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WHAT EXACTLY IS A HEALTHY DIET?

Updated: Mar 11, 2023

We’ve all been to the doctor and been asked if we eat healthy and exercise, to which most of us reply “mostly”. But what does that exactly mean and do we? Do we get so much contradictory information that it is easier to give up and be comfortable where we are at? Is it too difficult to lose a few pounds and too scary to think about chronic disease and cancer?

Movement & Exercise. Let’s start here since the CDC, Harvard Health, Mayo Clinic and Stanford Health are all close in their recommendations. Each week adults need 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity and 2 days of muscle strengthening activity. That translates loosely to the American College of Sports Medicine’s recommendations of (5) 30–60-minute sessions of moderate exercise or 3 days per week of 20-60 minutes of vigorous exercise or a combination of the two. Moderate exercise elevates your heart rate, but you’re still able to hold a conversation; vigorous exercise leaves you unable to talk. For strength training you need to work all of your muscle groups two or three days of week and two or three exercises per muscle group.

Exercise isn’t an all or nothing. Doing whatever you have time and energy for is always better than not doing anything. I like a combination of both a routine on my calendar – a variety of hot yoga, vinyasa, strength training/HIIT/Pilates, and swimming, as well as “fun” exercise – hiking, surfing, kayaking and cycling. The hardest part isn’t the working out. It’s trying new things, changing our habits and schedules, and just showing up.

Healthy Eating. Here’s where the information gets muddled in most of our minds. Are everyone’s dietary requirements different? Do some people or blood types need meat? Is plant protein as good as animal protein? Are plant-based diets, dairy, eggs and chicken safe? What about mercury and pesticides in fish and animals? Is grass fed beef, pasture raised poultry and wild seafood, ok?Are carbs bad? What about nightshades and lectins? Is organic produce really any better? Are oils ok? Is salt bad? Isn’t red wine good for you?

The American Heart Association recommends that an overall healthy dietary pattern emphasizes a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, healthy sources of protein (mostly plants such as legumes and nuts, fish and seafood, low-fat or nonfat dairy, and, if you eat meat and poultry, ensuring it is lean and unprocessed), liquid non-tropical vegetable oils, minimally processed foods, minimized intake of added sugars, foods prepared with little or no salt, and limited or preferably no alcohol.

The American Cancer Association recommends that a healthy eating pattern includes; foods that are high in nutrients in amounts that help you get to and stay at a healthy body weight, a variety of vegetables – dark green, red and orange, fiber-rich legumes (beans and peas), and others, fruits, especially whole fruits in a variety of colors, and whole grains. No red and processed meats, sugar-sweetened beverages, highly processed foods or refined grain products. Separately, it states that it is best not to drink alcohol and, that dairy can have good and bad outcomes.

The USDA, after being sued by Physicians for Responsible Medicine and changing the Food Pyramid to My Plate (which recommends more plants), still recommends foods made from seafood; meat, poultry, and eggs; beans, peas, and lentils; and nuts, seeds, and soy products. Meat and poultry choices should be lean or low-fat, like 93% lean ground beef, pork loin, and skinless chicken breasts. Choose seafood options that are higher in beneficial fatty acids (omega-3s) and lower in methylmercury, such as salmon, anchovies, and trout.

What Does the Latest Research Recommend? John Shin, M.D., Hematology/Oncology, Mayo Clinic states very clearly a whole food plant-based diet can fight and heal cancer. There has been evidence for 35 years demonstrating that 1/3 of all avoidable cancers can be prevented with diet. This means plants that are minimally processed and NO animal proteins. The World Health Organization has issued a statement labeling processed meat (this means cooked as well) as a cancer-causing agent with tobacco and asbestos. Plants are full of phytochemicals and polyphenolic compounds that in synergy together, like a symphony, fight disease and promote health.

A new study from Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) researchers has found that red meat consumption is associated with an increased risk of total, cardiovascular, and cancer mortality. Dean Ornish’s Preventive Medicine Research Institute (PMRI) in collaboration with the University of California and San Francisco , have conducted a series of research studies and created the first Medicare reimbursable program that is composed of nutrition, fitness, stress management, and love/support for reversing heart disease. They also have evidence of reversing prostrate cancer, diabetes, and other chronic conditions. They recommend eating mostly plants in their natural form — predominantly fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, soy products, nonfat dairy, and egg whites in their natural forms, as well as some good fats that contain omega 3 fatty acids.

The Stanford Center on Longevity Research agrees on the benefits of consuming plant-based foods (sometimes alongside animal protein and sometimes without) and the avoidance of sugar, refined grains, and ultra-processed foods. They comment that many adults are consuming more protein than is necessary (our bodies cannot store excess protein) and the common belief that plants do not supply certain amino acids, while all can be found in animal protein is just untrue; the proteins in plant foods contain all 20 amino acids. They also highlight that one of the most important additions to nutrition science is the study of the gut microbiome (including dietary fiber and fermented foods) and its strong correlation to a strong immune system as well and how unhealthy gut bacteria can lead to increase rise in diseases or cancer.

*Learn more about evidence-based science on health and nutrition at NutritionFacts.org Charissa Farley-Hay lives in Indian Wells and Kauai. She loves food and wine, yoga, surfing, and fitness, plants as medicine, foraging, and innovating gourmet culinary preparation of local and uncommon plants. Wildest Restaurant offers grass fed beef, pasture raised poultry, wild seafood, a third of the menu plant-based, gluten and allergen free-offerings, live music, hand- crafted cocktails and mocktails, and a wine spectator award. Coachella Yoga is yoga for everyone.



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