To Your Health
May, 2012 (Vol. 06, Issue 05)
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The Nine Best Health Steps To Take

By Marlene Merritt, DOM, LAc, ACN

Remember the last time you had to do something complicated, like assemble a piece of furniture, or get your PC to stop freezing up? There's often a lot of cursing and frustration because the directions were unclear and it's with excessive amounts of effort that you finally finish the job.

Can you imagine what it's like for people who want to be healthy? Faced with conflicting information from the media (eggs are good, no, eggs are bad, no, eggs are good!), medical doctors who don't support them or give them misinformation, an environment that seems to conspire against health — there are lots of reasons to not be healthy.

But what if you were able to give your patients a clear and concise list of where to start, or what they could do to refine their current actions? For example, lots of people know they should exercise, but what if you helped them reduce the time they exercise, yet made it more efficient? In writing this list (and surveying other practitioners to do so), I'm well aware that some readers might have different suggestions, but in my experience, I find that the majority of people who take on these few items create a very solid health foundation that protects them in many ways from future illnesses. So without further ado, here are the best actions to take:

1. Reduce your carbs/eliminate sugar

Nine Steps To Better Health - Copyright – Stock Photo / Register Mark By far, this is the most important step to take, as our sugar and carb intake is the root cause of most major diseases we now see: cancer, heart disease, hypertension, Alzheimer's, stroke, anxiety, depression…the list goes on and on. Most people have used up their lifetime of "carb points" by overeating pancakes, french fries, bread and soda, and now healthy options like whole grains are problematic as well. The average American eats 150 pounds of sugar a year — it's this sugar that has done the most damage. Even if we halved the amount of sugar consumed to 75 pounds, that's still nearly 20 times the amount they ate in the year 1700 (which was 4 pounds a year). I often tell people that if they knew what I knew about how damaging sugar was, it would scare the daylights out of them. If you want to know more about the damaging effects of carbohydrate intake, take a look at my explanation on Youtube: Clinically, we find that this means approximately 60-80 grams of carbs per day, (not including green vegetables because no one got diabetes from eating too many carrots!) or at whatever point that there aren't any sugar/carb cravings.

2. Remove processed oils from your diet

If you squeeze an olive, you get oil out of it, but you might have noticed that if you squeeze corn, you don't get anything like that. That right there should make you nervous, never mind the damage that comes when trying to make oils from substances not naturally oily: vegetable (which vegetable, exactly, is in this oil?), corn, safflower, soy, rapeseed (which makes canola). To make them, they have to be heated far beyond their tolerance, creating a rancidity that you would notice if they weren't deodorized as well. These polyunsaturated oils contribute directly to creating plaques in the arteries. Saturated fat, on the other hand, does not, despite what you might have heard. Read my article "Big, Fat Lies" in Acupuncture Today and start to educate yourself on what good fats are. A quick hint: good fats include saturated fats like coconut oil and butter don't go rancid (you'll notice you can leave them out on the counter), and here's a fascinating fact for you: lard is actually in the same classification as olive oil, as a monounsaturated fat.

3. Eat as organically, and as minimally processed as possible.

"Processed" means how much was it "messed with" to get it into the state you're seeing it. For example, low-fat anything is processed. Cereal is one of the most processed "foods" that exists (the flaked and shaped kind). Those processed oils that have been blended to become a butter alternative (filled with the oils that I just described above). Meat from corn-fed cows, and raised in feed lots. Most things in the middle aisles of most grocery stores — crackers, things in boxes, bags and cans… have you seen the ingredient list of a loaf of bread recently? Never mind fast food, frozen dinners, take-out pizza, Egg-beaters, or GMO foods.

So what are examples of "real" foods? Organic or grass-fed meat. Full-fat dairy. The whole egg. Real butter. Organic produce. Anything from the farmers market. Boxes that have ingredients on them that you would have in your own house. Something you made yourself or a decent local restaurant made for you (yes, some national chains might make real food, but the bigger they get, the more processed their ingredients). When you start reading ingredient lists, you will start to notice exactly how shockingly processed much of our food is.

A good question to ask is, "Would your great grandmother have eaten this? Or recognized it?"