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 Integrative Medicine: Dietary Guidelines 

If you cannot buy organic fruits, vegetables, and grains, wash everything thoroughly. Use a mixture of warm water and vinegar (1/4 cup of vinegar for each gallon of water); vinegar accelerates the breakdown of some pesticides. When serving vegetables like cabbage and lettuce, always remove the outer leaves, which often contain many times more chemical residue than the inner leaves do. Root vegetables (carrots, potatoes turnips, etc.) should be scrubbed and peeled. Any fruit or vegetable that has been waxed (this is often done to' apples, cucumbers, eggplants, peppers, tomatoes, and citrus fruits to make them look shinier and more attractive) should be peeled as well. Even with these precautions, however, you should be aware that there will probably be some residue in the foods you eat. Some chemicals can be washed away and some cannot. Some chemicals can be peeled away, some cannot.

Offer a diet of 50 to 65 percent complex carbohydrates, 15 to 25 percent proteins, and 20 to 25 percept fats. Complex carbohydrates include whole grains (wheat, rye, barley, rice, oats, millet), vegetables, legumes (dried beans, peas), and whole fruits. The sugars found in complex carbohydrates are more gradually absorbed into the bloodstream than those from processed refined sugars. A diet rich in complex carbohydrates will help the whole family feel more alert and energetic during the day.

Complete proteins are found in milk, cheese, eggs, meat, fish, poultry, nuts, and most legumes. Combining grains and vegetables will also provide a complete protein. Proteins are essential for the growth and repair of all body tissues, including organs, muscles, bone, skin, blood, and nerves. Each cell in the body requires protein.

Fats are essential for metabolizing fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E, and K), for normal growth and development, and for maintaining healthy skin, hair, and nails. Fats regulate digestion, influence blood pressure, and are needed for the production of prostaglandins, chemical "messengers" that are present throughout the body. It is important to remember, however, that all fats are not created equal. We recommend using unrefined, minimally processed, cold-pressed organic oils. Use flaxseed, linseed, pumpkinseed, soybean, and walnut oils in order to get important essential fatty acids. Safflower, sunflower, canola, and olive oils are also acceptable sources of fat. Polyunsaturated oils should be kept refrigerated after opening. Try to avoid animal fats and the so-called tropical oils (including palm oil and coconut oil), and steer clear of any and all products containing hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated oils. Margarine and solid shortenings are manufactured with partially hydrogenated oils (see The Hydrogenation Process, page 45). In fact, even though animal fats are not generally recommended, a small amount of butter is healthier for your child than any amount of margarine.

Offer a variety of foods. Along with the fun of trying new and different foods, variety ensures that your child will get the full range of nutrients his growing body needs. Next time you shop, buy something new. Include a vegetable and grain with each lunch and dinner.

Prepare foods simply. Foods that are steamed, baked, or broiled are easily digested. Use water, lemon juice, broths, flavorful herbs, and fruit juices to steam, bake, or broil. Avoid frying foods. Fried foods are more difficult to digest, heated oils and fats turn rancid quickly, and oils and fats add calories.

Give your child three meals a day, with wholesome snacks as necessary (see page 46). To supply the fuel your child needs, make breakfast and lunch the larger meals; offer lighter foods at dinner to support your child's body as he slows down and prepares to rest for the night. Allow at least two hours between dinner and bedtime. Sleeping on an overly full stomach can cause restless sleep and a groggy feeling in the morning.

Reduce or eliminate refined sugars. The sugar issue may be the greatest dietary challenge a parent faces. Food advertising targeted at children often promotes products that are laden with refined sugars-breakfast cereals, candy, and cookies, among others. Even foods that don't seem like sweets, such as peanut butter, often contain sugar. Refined sugars, including glucose, fructose, and sucrose, are simple, fast-acting sugars. They cause a rapid rise in blood sugar, followed by a rapid drop. Children may react to these changes in blood sugar with hyperactive, excitable behavior and an inability to concentrate, followed by tiredness and irritability. And we all know the association of sugar with tooth decay and obesity.

There are alternatives to refined sugar. Honey, rice syrup, molasses, barley malt, and maple syrup are fair substitutes. But these too should be used sparingly, as in excess they add little to the diet except calories.

Processed foods can contain a surprisingly large amount of sugar. Thus, decreasing consumption of processed foods can significantly decrease refined sugar consumption. It is important to read food labels carefully so you know exactly what you are feeding your child.

If you can't eliminate sugar entirely, limit it to early in the day. When your child eats sugary sweets before bed, he may have difficulty settling down for sleep and may wake up groggy and tired the next morning.

Give your child lots of clean water. The only way to be absolutely certain the water your family drinks is safe is to buy clean and pure spring water from a reputable source. If you opt for purified bottled water or a water filter in your house, choose a water purification system that uses reverse osmosis. In reverse osmosis, water passes through a semipermeable membrane. The tiny water molecules pass through the membrane easily. The molecules of many pollutants, chemicals, and heavy metals (such as lead, chlorine, and fluoride), as well as bacteria and viruses, are all too large to pass through the special membrane. The undesirables are caught and flushed away.

Basic Nutrients Your Child Needs
The four basic building blocks of your child's diet are water, complex carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. A proper balance of these essentials is necessary for optimum health. The table on page 48 provides a brief introduction to your child's fundamental dietary requirements, as well as a guide to the functions and food sources of these four dietary elements. A diet based on a wide variety of simply prepared whole foods is most likely to meet your child's basic nutritional needs.

Parents who raise their children as vegetarians must take special care not only to provide adequate protein for healthy growth, but also to teach their children about a nutrient-rich and protein-adequate diet. Many plant foods do not contain the full spectrum of eight amino acids that make up a complete protein. At one time it was thought that to provide a complete protein, certain foods--such as rice and beans-had to be combined and eaten at the same time. Now we know that a diet based on a variety of vegetables, legumes, and grains will provide adequate protein for a child. However, it is important that vegetarian children eat a varied, balanced diet in order to get the full spectrum of amino acids, and therefore complete protein.

Also necessary for good health are nutrients that together are classified as micronutrients, which include vitamins and minerals.

Vitamins are essential to normal body function. They are not a form of energy or fuel, as foods are. But they play an indispensable role in the normal metabolism, growth, and development of your child's body.

Vitamins are classified as either water-soluble or fat soluble, depending upon which type of molecule (fat- or water-based) transports them in the bloodstream. Water-soluble vitamins include all of the B complex and vitamin C. These vitamins are quickly used by the body or excreted in urine, so they must be replenished daily. Water-soluble vitamins may leach out of foods during cooking, be damaged by overprocessing, or be destroyed when foods are overcooked.

The fat-soluble vitamins-A, D, E, and K-are fairly stable during low-temperature cooking. However, antibiotics, mineral oil, and certain drugs (steroids, for example) interfere with their absorption from the digestive tract. Frying foods alters the fat-soluble vitamins in them as well.

For a review of the vitamins your child needs every day, as well as their respective functions and food sources, see the table on page 50.

Minerals are part of all body tissues and fluids. They are essential in nerve responses, muscle contractions, maintaining proper fluid balance, and the internal processing of nutrients. Minerals influence the manufacture of hormones and regulate electrolyte balance throughout the body. The term electrolyte refers to the form in which various minerals circulate in the body. Calcium, potassium, and sodium are examples of important electrolytes. Calcium, for example, is not only an important constituent of bones and teeth; it is also involved in the transmission of nerve impulses, the transmission of energy from cell to cell, and the contraction and relaxation of muscles, including the heart. Calcium, potassium, and magnesium together control the continuous cycle of contraction and relaxation of the heart muscle and blood vessels. If these electrolytes are out of balance, resulting fluid shifts may cause swelling or dehydration, the neuromuscular system may become irritable, or an irregular heart rhythm may develop.

Minerals are excreted daily and must be replaced either through the diet or in supplement form. Of all the vitamins and minerals, calcium and iron are probably the most important for children, and may be valuable to take as supplements. For a quick review of the minerals your child needs every day, as well as their functions and food sources, see the table on page 52.

Diet and nutrition comprise a huge subject that deserves your time and attention. Read more, experiment with new and different foods, use cookbooks devoted to whole-foods cooking, and ask lots of questions. The more you understand about food and nutrition, the more committed you will be to providing a healthy, wholesome diet for your child.

Working with a Nutritional Counselor
There are many different kinds of professionals, with varied educational backgrounds and philosophies, who can recommend dietary programs and nutritional supplements. Registered dietitians, nutritionists, naturopathic physicians, chiropractors, medical doctors, and nurses-to name only a few-may all practice nutritional medicine. When interviewing a nutritional counselor, whether the person is a medical doctor or macrobiotic counselor, find out about his or her educational background, work experience, and nutritional philosophy.

Nutrition is a broad and constantly changing field. Providing a healthy, well-balanced, allergen-free diet, along with nutritional supplements when needed, may be the most important thing you can do to support your child's health. You may need assistance planning the optimum diet. Choose a counselor you feel you can work with, a person who believes in the fundamental importance of a healthy diet. As with any health care practitioner, choose a person who knows the current research, who is compassionate, and who will work with you as a partner to create the healthiest, most manageable plan possible.

Nutritional Supplements
Unless a child or teenager has a chronic illness or is unable to eat a varied, healthy diet, he is unlikely to need nutritional supplements on a daily basis. If you are unable to provide a nutritionally complete diet of wholesome, organic foods for your child, you may want to talk to your physician about supplementing your child's diet with a good multivitamin and mineral formula.

Nutritional supplements can be helpful in supporting your child's body during illness. For example, in many of the entries in Part Two we suggest boosting your child's infection-fighting capability with three specific vitamins. Vitamin C is a well-documented anti-inflammatory that eases the common cold. Bioflavonoids help fight infection, reduce inflammation, and decrease allergic reactions. Beta-carotene, which the body uses to manufacture vitamin A, helps mucous membranes to heal.

(Excerpted from Smart Medicine for a Healthier Child ISBN: 1583331395)
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 About The Author
Janet Zand LAc, OMDJANET ZAND, O.M.D., L.Ac. is a nationally respected author, lecturer, practitioner and herbal products formulator whose work has helped thousands of people achieve better health....more
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