By Howard J. Luks, MD
Why is an orthopedist talking about dietary habits? Because it is important. All I know about nutrition I learned after medical school. Schools do a poor job of educating doctors regarding proper nutrition… and hence, docs do a poor job of counseling patients about the huge impact their diet has on their overall health.
The number one reason we die is cardiac disease – and most of it is preventable.
Since the 1980s we have been barraged with the notion that fat is bad… all fat, period. The food industry took notice, and took advantage. Everything became low-fat, but they substituted carbs for the fat they have removed from the foods. It’s now become clear, and more research proves this every day, that not all carbs are good and not all fats are bad.
Since the low-fat craze began…
- Obesity rates have skyrocketed
- The incidence of diabetes is off the charts
- Systemic inflammation within our body has become the norm
When it comes to fat, animal-based fat is the enemy. There are many different reasons why.
- Animal fats will increase your cholesterol level, which increases plaque formation and clogs your arteries
- Meats can lead to diabetes
- Fat from animals causes an increase in systemic inflammation, which means certain chemicals and cells are circulating around your bloodstream and causing further problems for your arteries and organs
- Fat and read meat are metabolized in the liver to different compounds –TMAO being the main culprit. The choline and L-carnitine in meat appears responsible for this. TMAO will worsen the atherosclerotic process.
- Saturated fats, or fats found in meat, are a “problem.” Mono-unsaturated fats (think nuts, avocados, olive oil, etc.) do NOT raise your blood cholesterol levels or the levels of inflammation in your blood.
Carbohydrates are now getting a bad rap. Many of them should.
When thinking about which carbs are OK and which aren’t proper nutrition — here are the key issues.
- Basically, processed carbs are bad. Think cereals, instant oatmeal, white rice, bread, etc.
- If a big food company touched it or cooked it… it’s likely not going to end well
- Processed carbs metabolize easily and cause a spike in your blood sugar
- A rise in blood sugar triggers your insulin to ramp up (and a high insulin level actually will make you hungrier!)
- Your body will lose its sensitivity to insulin
- That will predispose you to diabetes, and a host of other problems like systemic inflammation
OK … What are “good” carbs, then?
- Good carbohydrates are “complex” carbs
- Think plants, nuts, and fruits
- Complex carbs take longer for your body to metabolize
- They do not result in an insulin rush and do not result in insulin resistance
- Think beans, apples, bananas, nuts, carrots, and oatmeal
- You want foods with a LOW glycemic index. Those are foods that take a while to metabolize in your gut and do not result in a rush of sugar.
- The fiber in fruit binds the sugars … so they do not have same effect as a bowl of cereal (no sugar rush, no cravings)
Proper Nutrition Is Worth It
There is a lot of hype going around, everyone has a diet book. Diets really aren’t necessary – sustainable lifestyle changes are necessary.
Plants, fruits, vegetables and nuts are part of the proper nutrition answer. Avoiding red meats and processed foods is a big part of the answer, too.
It’s not an easy change. But look at all the people around you who would enjoy having you around a bit longer than your current lifestyle will support.
It’s worth it. You’re worth it.
A version of this post originally appeared on howardluksmd.com.
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