Photo : Hilda Glickman
Obesity and overeating are all over the news. This might lead you to believe that we are all well fed. However many of us are not. We may be over fed but we are not necessarily well fed.
When I give talks on healthy eating to the public, I often ask if anyone thinks they are undernourished and everyone laughs, especially the women. This is because like most women many of them are not as slim as they would like to be. They, therefore assume that they must be very well nourished.
However, this is not always the case. Most of are lacking in some nutrients and these nutrients are very important for our health. While we may be eating more than enough in terms of calories, sugar, processed fats or carbohydrates, there are certain important nutrients that are very low in the population as a whole. These are:
Omega-3 fatty acids
This comes from oily fish such as salmon, sardines, anchovies and herring. Very many of us are deficient in omega -3 partly because we do not eat enough oily fish and partly because the processed omega-6 fats that we do eat compete with it for absorption into our cells.
This is a pity because lack of omega-3 is implicated in many diseases including cancer, heart disease. Vegetarians can get a form of omega-3 from flaxseeds and walnuts but this is not the same as that found in oily fish. It has to be converted to DHA and EPA in the body while fish has these naturally.
It is not difficult to see why magnesium is lacking in so many diets. It is found mainly in seeds and nuts and green leafy vegetables and these are not foods that are normally eaten often. In addition to this, greens are often disliked by children and adults alike.
Another reason why we may lack magnesium is that if the soil on which the food is grown is deficient the minerals cannot be in our food and therefore it cannot get into us.
Thirdly, magnesium and calcium need to be in balance and we eat far more calcium than magnesium. Just look at all the calcium rich foods sold in supermarkets milk, yogurt, all sorts of cheeses, fromage frais, and so on.
Globally this mineral is lacking in many diets. Vegetarians can be low in this as it is found mainly in animal foods. They also might eat more legumes and whole grains, which bind to zinc. Zinc taste tests are available or you can have a blood test via your doctor.
There are thousands of phyto or plant chemicals that are not vitamins or minerals, protein or carbohydrate. They have just recently been discovered and are contained mainly in fruits and vegetables. Because we eat so little of these most of us are deficient. Wheat based foods like breads and pastas are taking the place of these foods in the modern diet so it is no wonder that we are not getting enough. Examples of these are beta and other carotenes in red/orange vegetables, lutein in yellow produce, anthocyanins, and coumarins and on and on. These perform a valuable function in acting as antioxidants and anti-inflammatories but most of us are not getting enough.
What to do
• Eat a completely natural unrefined diet.
• The bulk of your diet should be vegetables, meats, eggs , nuts and seeds, fruit and yogurt.
• Eat a rainbow of highly coloured fruits and vegetables. Five a day is not enough.
• Vegetables are more nutritious than grains.
• Cook your food from scratch.
• For every meal have some vegetables, some sources of protein and some healthy fats
• Cut out refined sugar, processed oils and anything refined.
• Buy organic if you can afford it.
• Don't fill up on breads, pastas and cereals. Eating too many cereals can take minerals out of your body.
• Don't eat too much high fibre cereal as these can take mineral