Too often, a patient will ask how they can transform their health. They want a quick fix or a prescription, but I tell them there’s a better way to get what they want: nutrition and exercise.
My explanation that follows is:
There are 6 Basic Nutrients:
1. CARBOHYDRATES: need to comprise approximately half your daily intake. Complex carbs are necessary: potato, whole grain bread, red or brown rice, & whole wheat pasta.
- Ignore fad diets including ‘keto’
- Only those with accurately diagnosed celiac disease need a gluten-free diet
2. PROTEIN: should make roughly 25% of total calories each day.
3. FATS: are the remaining 25%
- Trans: man-made & really bad! Think fast foods, frozen foods, ketchup, margarine. Always look at the nutrition labels & even if it says 1% or 2% of trans fats, just see if you can find an alternative.
- Saturated: eg. butter, some oils, are debatable
- Unsaturated: eg. Peanuts, other nuts, some oils, avocados and fish, are good!
4. VITAMINS & (5) MINERALS: generally ubiquitous. America’s obsession with supplements is astonishing! Only a few medical conditions necessitate them, such as surgical removal of a portion of the bowel, for instance, which would normally participate in the absorption of these
6. WATER : Drink away! Sip throughout the day & track it. Goal is to keep urine clear-looking (as opposed to a concentrated yellow). Try fruit-infused water if you’re having trouble.
But that’s not all we need to remember when it comes to nutrition. Here are 4 different principles I also ask that my patients follow:
- Our body has a limited capacity to store carbohydrates, no ability to store proteins, but unfortunately, unlimited capacity to store fats.
- Have your breakfast ideally within15to 20 minutes (but no more than 1 hour) of waking up. Have a light mid-morning & mid-afternoon snack, prior to proper lunch and dinner respectively.
- Caffeine guidelines: 3 medium cups or less. Start your day with a fistful of nuts, black raisins, dates or figs, and have coffee later. Do not have caffeine within the few hours prior to bedtime.
- Local and Seasonal fruit and vegetables make healthy snack options: watermelon, mangoes, grapes, tomatoes, coconut meat, olives, strawberries, eggplant, cucumber, sweet lime, beetroot, sugarcane.
Ultimately, everything in excess gets converted into fat. So fat alone does not make you fat but overeating in general does (portion sizes matter!), as will having a stressful lifestyle.
I concede there is controversy around dairy products but until the debate is settled, a daily omelette (with feta cheese, spinach and sun-dried tomatoes!), and whole milk (instead of the skimmed versions) are just fine.
Aside from great nutrition, it’s also important to exercise. In order to do that:
- Avoid excuses
- Develop endurance, muscle strength and flexibility
- Hate the gym? Try sports, aquatic aerobics, energetic versions of Yoga, home work-out routines
- Get a BCA (Body Composition Analysis) test at any standard gym. It is an imperfect test but a fair guide.
- Best to start the day with exercise but if it doesn’t fit your life schedule then any time is better than not exercising at all.
- Traveling/Vacations : incorporate simple 20-minute exercise sequences; dine out but balance with healthy options.
- Do NOT over-exercise
- Learn from a qualified trainer / exercise professional about correct form and technique, flight and desk stretches
- Have a mindset of commitment and a constant active search for physical activity
For some extra nutritional suggestions, I tell my patients to try:
- Seeds: lotus, chia, pumpkin, flax, fennel seeds are a source of protein, fiber, micronutrients
- Arrange home-made hummus, yogurt, peanut butter, salads, oven baked sweet potato fries.
- Coconut Water: from the tree not Tetra-pack!
- Turmeric: has an active ingredient called Curcumin. Curcumin is correlated with alleviating depression, helping in controlling heart disease and it has antibacterial, antiseptic and other healing properties.
- Sugar is not the problem, it’s the fact that we are getting too much of it. Raw/brown sugar is less processed with slightly more nutrients (calcium, iron, potassium).
- Avoid artificial sweeteners
Finally, introducing variations in dietary intake and exercise programs are key to break monotony.
Try to love this habit of healthful behaviors, and find a support system (spouse, family, friends), in order to sustain it long-term, like your life depends on it! Because, it really does.
Dr. Topiwala, MD FACE, Endocrinologist
Dr. Topiwala is a guest writer for InCrowd.