The Seven Pillars of a Healthy Diet that Changed My Life
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Remember that time not so long ago when many cities decided to clean up their rivers because they were disgusting and unhealthy? People had been pouring garbage into them for centuries as an easy way to get rid of it. Out of sight was out of mind and they would let nature do the dirty work.
But as garbage became more sophisticated, it started to include not just filthy but hazardous chemicals, and the rivers which represented a source of water became agents of disease and death to both animals and humans.
The human body is like a river in many ways. Without a healthy lifestyle, we shovel and pour all sorts of things into it and expect our organs such as liver and kidneys to take care of it. But we’re giving them too much to do and that’s why we must do two things: detox, i.e. get rid of the harmful, poisonous elements in our body; and start being more careful about what we put in it.
In my case, what I was subjecting my body to was not just fats, salts and cholesterol, but harmful chemicals which the body was never designed to handle. I was an alcoholic - so far so traditional, but still harmful. And I was a drug addict. My drug of choice was the thoroughly untraditional methamphetamine, also known as meth or speed.
The story of my descent into alcohol and drug abuse is irrelevant here. Suffice it to say, I started drinking spirits at the age of nine and progressed through marijuana to cocaine, magic mushrooms - anything I could get my hands on - until I landed in prison for two years and began the long road back to health and normality.
Now, in addition to the crucial element of never drinking or taking drugs again, an addict has to return his or her body to a reasonable condition and having done that, you have to keep it that way. I’m here to tell you it can be done - and it’s more enjoyable than it sounds. You just need to rethink your priorities.
Here are my seven pillars of dietary wisdom based on a mixture of scientific facts and common sense which can help you keep your body in tip-top shape:
1. Amino acids
The building blocks of protein, which the body needs to build itself. Amino acids help with anti-aging, fat-burning, sleep and sexual performance, among other things. If you have a particular problem, you should check out which amino acid is helpful and make sure you eat and drink things that contain it. Eggs, lean meat, tuna or salmon, they’re all good sources of complete protein, so it’s not hard to find.
For vegetarians, grains, nuts, seeds and beans contain some amino acids. And the reason I’m talking about them as individuals rather than protein as a whole is that some foods contain certain amino acids but not all, however, if you combine them with others you get the whole thing. Lentils, for instance, are a good source of some amino acids that if you combine them with rice, you’re getting a complete nutrition. Black beans and rice, pasta and peas, the list of combinations are endless and it’s fun working out your own optimum diet, which is both balanced and enjoyable.
There is a constant battle inside us between antioxidants and free radicals, and we must always be on the side of the A team. Despite their appealing name, free radicals are the baddies here, causing damage to the body. Thankfully, antioxidants are there to destroy them. And where do we find the A team? In fruits and vegetables.
What could be better than launching a rescue team into our system by eating an apple or a nectarine? With my track record and my consequent desire to stay healthy, I eat fruit morning and evening, I snack on nuts and dried fruit and I always have some vegetables, lightly cooked or raw, every day.
Another technical-sounding name for a natural good thing. Probiotics are good bacteria, the sort of things you need in your gut, gobbling up the bad stuff. They were particularly helpful to me because my chemical diet had wiped out a lot of my good bacteria, and unfortunately antibiotics do the same. Look at the word: antibiotic. That’s discrimination against all biotics, and we have to redress that balance.
Probiotics can be found naturally in yogurt, and you have probably seen probiotic dairy products in the supermarket chiller. For once, it’s not a gimmick, this stuff works.
4. Eat less but more often
If you take all your daily food in two or three large doses, your blood sugar levels rise temporarily and then plummet in the long interval before the next meal. To keep the energy distributed evenly throughout the day, try eating smaller amounts at shorter intervals. You won’t get the heavy feeling of being full after one of your pig-outs, but you will maintain a nice balance if you keep refueling rather than running low.
5. Ditch the sugar
The only sugar the body needs is what comes naturally in food, particularly fruit. Putting the white crystals or even the slightly better brown sugar into coffee and tea is nothing more than a bad habit, and you can stop it if you want to.
There is a whole catalog of reasons to stop using sugar. It rots your teeth, it makes you fat and it can cause diabetes. These reasons should be enough to completely eliminate sugar from your diet.
6. Ditch The Refined Carbohydrates
What are carbohydrates? We often think of potatoes, pasta, and rice as carbohydrates. But sugar is one, and we’ve just seen how bad for us that is. The refined stuff, that is. And what a misleading refined is, don’t you think? Sounds clever, glamorous. But what it really means is messed around with. It means someone has taken one of nature’s brilliant natural foods - and broken it. Taken away the texture, made it smoother, blander and more appealing to the mass market. And on the way, they have stripped it of goodness.
So, if you’re going to eat bread, make it whole grain. If you are addicted to spaghetti bolognese, try the whole wheat variety or just give yourself less of the pasta and more of the bolognese. Have a salad with it. Just don’t shovel the carbs down your throat in such large quantities.
7. Keep Track Of What You Eat
You need to be a bit of a detective, and detectives take notes to analyze. So, you ate a load of this and sometime later you felt like that. Coincidence? I don’t think so. There must be a connection.
I wasn’t keen on this when I was detoxifying, but it was something the staff insisted on, and I soon found they were right. Cause and effect. Consequences. We need to keep track of our consumption and find out what works for us and what doesn’t. Not just the negative things, but the positive ones - and there will be positive ones. Maybe it’s not what you did eat but what you didn’t. But it’s better to know.
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