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 Healthy Kitchen: Foods for a Healthy Diet 
 
This section provides an evaluation of the various food categories, such as fruits, vegetables, grains, and so on. This is not a discussion of the nutrient groups, such as protein or carbohydrates, which were previously reviewed, or the categories such as the four food groups classically used to describe a wholesome diet. These aspects of our diet, along with many other nutritional principles, will be discussed later in Part Three entitled Building a Healthy Diet.

Food availability varies around the world. Earth provides different plants according to climate. The peoples of our planet have also spread pleasurable and nutritious foods from culture to culture and country to country by carrying seeds or plants to cultivate in a new area. Many foods present in America, such as potatoes, rice, and even wheat, were not originally grown here.

One of the most natural concepts of eating is that of consuming primarily foods that are grown in the area in which we live, and consuming them near the time when they are grown—in other words, seasonal eating of fresh foods. Some foods, such as root vegetables, grains, nuts, and seeds, store better than others, and may be consumed in times, such as winter, when in many areas, most foods are not available in their fresh state.

Overall, it is important to eat a variety of foods. As we will see in the descriptions of specific categories of food, eating only one type will usually provide limited nutrition and an imbalanced diet. Also, in general, I advocate eating a predominantly natural diet containing fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, and beans, with only moderate amounts of the more concentrated proteins such as eggs, milk products, and flesh foods, rather than the opposite—one consisting mainly of meats, dairy products, and refined foods and only occasional fresh foods, a diet that is all too common in our society.

I will discuss the basic foods from the least concentrated to the most, basically, from fruits to animal meats. I actually begin with even higher octave or vibration foods, flowers and pollens, and move through the food chain to animal products, and then finish with seasonings and beverages. With each category, I will describe the basic nutrient makeup and vitamin and mineral content and give specific examples of foods that are part of that group. For the exact nutrient content of each food I refer you to food source books such as the Nutrition Almanac, where this information can be found in a section entitled “Table of Food Composition.”

Using this information, we can analyze what we eat in regards to our exact nutrient intake. That, however, is a fairly complex and time-consuming process. I often suggest doing a diet survey to individuals wanting to see how their diet is balanced and what specific nutrients it contains. Appendix I has an example. A diet survey basically involves recording onto a special form all food consumed over a one-week period. This information is transferred into a computer programmed to analyze the daily intake of calories, fiber, cholesterol, and nutrients from vitamin A to Zinc. The percentages of fats, carbohydrates, and proteins are also important, as is the percentage of calories from various food groups. These all help us to see more clearly how the diet is balanced and how to shift to a potentially healthier one. This is a valuable exercise for anyone interested in personal nutrition.

Fiber
Before discussing the particular types of food, I want to say a few words about fiber, an important component of many of the “nature” foods. Fiber is basically the indigestible parts of plants, such as the skins of apples and other fruits and the coverings of wheat and rice. There are some nutrients contained in these fiber parts that may be extracted out for the body to use, but the basic fiber structure passes through our digestive tract to clean our intestines and give more bulk to our excrement. It actually helps the bowels function most efficiently.

Fiber is being found more and more to be important to health and prevention of many serious diseases. Our modern refined diet and fast food consciousness have taken many of us away from a fiber-rich diet composed of salads, fresh fruit, whole grains, and so on. This current inadequate diet is likely a big contributor to our main chronic diseases; specifically, the low-fiber component of the diet has been shown to be correlated with an increased level of heart disease, several gastrointestinal diseases, and cancer, particularly of the colon and rectum, one of the most common areas affected in both sexes. And when we avoid the fiber foods, we often replace them with higher fat or sugar ones, which have other disease associations. Some people eat a little daily bran with their “typical American” diet, and though this may help colon function somewhat, it is a poor substitute for eating more nutrient-rich fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.

Let’s explore the foods in our diets so we can make more knowledgeable choices.



(Excerpted from Staying Healthy with Nutrition ISBN: 1587611791)
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 About The Author
Elson Haas MDElson M. Haas, MD is founder & Director of the Preventive Medical Center of Marin (since 1984), an Integrated Health Care Facility in San Rafael, CA and author of many books on Health and Nutrition, including ...more
 
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