Nutrition

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Optimum Health

Ever wonder what the optimum diet is all about?  In this article, I break down each component of an optimum diet to explain how, why and how much you should include to support optimum health.

General Characteristics of the Optimum Diet: Variety. Cover all nutritional bases and minimize the intake of any harmful elements in foods. Freshness. The higher the percentage of fresh foods in the diet the better. Unprocessed foods. The lower the percentage of processed foods in the diet the better. Abundance in fruits and vegetables. The more fruits and vegeta­bles you eat, the more protective phytochemicals you take in.

Calories
Depending on sex, body size, and activity level, most adults need to consume between 2,000 and 3,000 calories a day. Women, and smaller and less active people, need fewer calories; men and bigger and more active people, need more. If you are eating the appropriate number of calories and not varying your activity, your weight should not fluctuate greatly.

The recommended distribution of calories is: 50 to 60 percent from carbohydrates, 30 percent from fat, and 10 to 20 percent from protein.

Carbs
Adult women should eat about 225 to 270 grams of carbohydrates a day, while men should eat about 288 to 345 grams. The majority of this should be in the form of whole, unprocessed foods with a low (i.e., below 60) glycemic index, and everyone should try to eat some low-GI carbohydrate with each meal (whole grains, beans, vegetables, and nontropical fruits). If you eat high-GI carbohydrates, try to include them in meals that also contain some low-GI foods.

Try to reduce your consumption of foods made with wheat flour and sugar and increase your consumption of beans.

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Fat
On a 2,000-calorie-a-day diet, 600 calories can come from fat, that is about 67 grams. Use olive oil as a principal oil in cooking. Limit your consumption of polyunsaturated vegetable oils (safflower, sunflower, corn, sesame) and avoid margarine, vegetable shortening, and all products made with partially hydrogenated oils. Also avoid fried foods in restaurants, especially fast-food restaurants. Be sure to eat sources of omega-3 fats: oily fish, fortified eggs, soy foods, walnuts, flax, and hemp seeds.

Protein
Your daily intake should be between 50 and 100 grams on a 2,000-calorie-a-day diet. Eat less protein if you have liver or kidney problems, allergies, or an autoimmune disease. Eat more vegetable protein, especially from beans, in general, and soybeans, in particular, and less animal protein, except for fish and reduced-fat dairy products. Avoid protein supplements.

Vitamins and Minerals
Eating a diet high in fresh foods with plenty of fruits and vegetables will provide most of the micronutrients you need. In addition, depending upon your personal needs, you may also benefit from adding vitamins minerals and herbs into your daily intake.

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Fiber
The optimum diet should provide 40 grams of fiber a day. You can achieve this by increasing your consumption of fruits (especially berries), vegetables (especially beans), and whole grains. Ready-made cereals can be good fiber sources, but read labels to make sure they give you at least 4, and preferably 5, grams of bran per one-ounce serving.

Protective Phytochemicals
To get the maximum natural protection against cancer, degenerative diseases, and environmental toxicity, eat a variety of fruits, vegetables, and mushrooms, and drink tea, especially green tea.

Water
Try to drink six to eight glasses of pure water a day or drinks that are mostly water (tea, very diluted fruit juice, sparkling water with lemon). Use bottled water or get a home water purifier if your tap water tastes of chlorine or other contaminants or if you live in an area where the water is suspected of being contaminated. I recommend that you drink tea regularly for its antioxidant effects, especially green tea. Decaffeinated forms are available.

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