What is Healthy Eating?

** As with all my posts they are constantly being updated with the latest scientific research and discoveries. I don’t want to leave outdated ideas around to misinform people. So, if you find something inaccurate, please reach out here and provide a link to the updated science and I will update the post. **


[DISCLAIMER: I’m not a doctor, nor do I play one on the Internet. Speak with a medical professional before doing anything medical-related] [?]

What is Healthy Eating?

The answer to this question has evolved over the past 100 years several times. We have gone through many phases and food items have gone through cycles of being considered healthy and unhealthy again. (Eggs, grains, fats etc…) Do to the confusion it has left many nutrition novices feeling like they don’t know what is healthy anymore.  I want to take the time to write an introductory level post on what I believe healthy eating should be as of the information available in 2018.

Enter Science And The Information Age

In the era of the internet boom the scientific method and it’s methodologies are needed more than ever to sort through the endless information available.  The combination of scientific discoveries and the access to all this information via the internet really makes it possible for those interested and willing to spend the time to be able figure things out.  For the last 5 years I have been consuming health and nutrition content pretty obsessively. During this time I have slowly developed what I believe to be a definition and direction for what healthy eating looks like.

Heathy Eating Is

Eating in a way that is complimentary to your lifestyle.  Eating habits that do not decrease your length or quality of life. Aging is inevitable, however I believe we can eat in a way that quality of life is preserved through preventing a few easily preventable diseases and disorders that have a slippery slope like ripple effect to a whole slew of other diseases. (Type-2 Diabetes, Metabolic Syndrome, Micro Nutrient Deficiencies)

 

Thin / Skinny Isn’t The Face Of Healthy Anymore

Health has for the last several decades been determined by the massed based on appearance. Appearance we now know is not indicator of good health anymore.  Here are some headlines painting the picture:


“Gene could mean thin people are less healthy, says study” – diabetes.co.uk

“The Hidden Dangers of ‘Skinny Fat'” – TIME

What is the common threat?


The fact is that you can be thin individual with the the same health issues as an overweight person. The common threat that affects both individuals is their Metabolic health. This is the missing link between unhealthy thin and unhealthy overweight individuals that is becoming more and more apparent over the last few decades. In fact, putting on subcutaneous fat (body fat under the skin) and becoming obese is the appropriate healthy body response to chronic over fuelling, where skinny gene individuals tend to develop insulin resistance, Type 2 Diabetes, and Heart Disease first instead of putting on the fat.  Excess carbohydrates should become fat stores in a healthy body without insulin resistance.

Metabolic Health – Defined as your ability to efficiently and effectively take the foods you eat and turn them into viable energy and building blocks for your body without developing insulin resistance and related metabolic diseases. Insulin resistance show the body’s inability to process glucose efficiently and is a sign of chronic over fuelling over time. High fasting blood triglyceride measurements would also be an indicator of poor metabolic health as Triglycerides are stores of unused calories.

Why Metabolic Health?

Poor metabolic health leads to Type 2 Diabetes and increases your chances of getting Heart Disease and Cancer and a whole host of other problems. Look at the below chart from the CDC for top causes of death and you can see that just these two alone should be more than reason enough to make your metabolic health the focal point of your healthy lifestyle goals. Stroke, Alzheimer’s (Type 3 Diabates in the brain), and Diabetes are also linked to poor metabolic health.

Number of deaths for leading causes of death[1]
Heart disease: 614,348
• Cancer: 591,699
• Chronic lower respiratory diseases: 147,101
• Accidents (unintentional injuries): 136,053
• Stroke (cerebrovascular diseases): 133,103
• Alzheimer’s disease: 93,541
• Diabetes: 76,488
• Influenza and pneumonia: 55,227
• Nephritis, nephrotic syndrome, and nephrosis: 48,146
• Intentional self-harm (suicide): 42,773

On the Macro Level

Metabolic Health is maintained by consuming the appropriate amount of fuel based macros and specifically limiting carbohydrates to your own personal metabolic health threshold. Type-2 Diabetes and Metabolic Syndrome are easily preventable when this is done right. Metabolic health can not be maintained by never allowing the body to enter fat burn. Type 2 Diabetes is rampant in North America currently due to people’s ignorance when it comes to fat and glucose burning abilities of our bodies through the proper management of macros in our diet. If you are constantly eat carbohydrate based meals 3 times a day or more every day, eventually your body is going to become very poor at burning fat and eventually develop insulin resistence to try and deal with excess amounts of carbs being ingested. The destination of this life style is Type 2 Diabetes, Heart Disease, high blood pressure, Hyperglycaemia, high cholesterol, and Obesity if your genetics are the type to easily put on subcutaneous fat.  So managing your macros should be step one when it comes to healthy eating as you will receive your most bang for your buck in managing them.

Don’t Worry About The Rest For Now

If you are trying to better your health and you have anything but normal fasting glucose and normal fasting triglycerides you should be focusing on your metabolic health as your first goal. You need to fix your engine before you worry about a new paint job and detailing on your car. Put yourself on a path to reversing your metabolic health issues first.

I see far too many people being pulled into these big corporate health initiatives pushing extreme exercising regiments and heavily supplemented (branded products) eating plans. If you want to get run down and sick, exercising with poor metabolic health is a fast track to bed rest and missed work.

Even worse are the cleanse and antioxidant band wagon trends that for a metabolically unhealthy individual makes arguably little to no difference in over all health compared to fixing your metabolic health. I like to think of it like cleaning and putting gas in your car when the engine is in desperate need of servicing first.

Even Type 2 Diabetes Can Be Reversed

Not only can varying degrees on the spectrum of insulin resistance be reversed, but recent research has shown that with carbohydrate restriction in the diet, one can even reverse Type 2 Diabetes. [2]

Ok I’m On Board, Where Do I Start?

  1. Macros – Know what they are and why they matter for your metabolic health.
  2. Metabolic Syndrome –  Know the enemy and what you are trying to avoid.
  3. Fat Loss – Although not directly the goal, the thing that makes people fat is also the same thing that makes people unhealthy. This includes people who can’t get fat meaning they don’t physically show their poor health in the form of body fat. So it is important to understand how the body works in terms of creating and losing fat.

Focus in order of importance

  1. Eating in a way that ensures a healthy metabolism.
  2. Get enough sleep.
  3. Consume enough essential micro nutrients to prevent disease and sickness.
  4. Exercise in a way that doesn’t leave you burned out and maintains strength and mobility into old age. (This can even be something as simple as yoga and walking.)
  5. Leverage small dietary tweaks that can reduce disease risks. (What people usually focus on first.)  Organic products, drinking out of glass instead of plastic containers etc.
Click for References:
[1] https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/leading-causes-of-death.htm

[2] http://diabetes.jmir.org/article/viewFile/diabetes_v2i1e5/2

Tim Ferriss Blog – http://fourhourworkweek.com/blog/

 

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