Proper nourishment, including a diet based on whole foods nutrition, is essential to restoring balance to body, mind and spirit. A healthy diet enhances the therapeutic benefits of acupuncture so that you will get better faster. Moreover, whole foods nutrition is a foundation that will help you to maintain better health throughout life.
Human beings are omnivorous animals. That is our place in the food chain. Our bodies evolved to eat plants, animals and fungi from planet Earth. That is the starting point for good nourishment and a healthy diet.
The Balance Our Bodies Need
Every whole food source contains a complex of different nutrients. We need these nutrients not only in sufficient amounts but also in the proper ratio to each other because they work together. For example, vitamin C enhances the absorption of iron from plant-based foods. Fortunately, it is easy to get enough vitamin C from vegetables and fruit in your diet, so there is no need to take a supplement!
Some nutrients act as limiting factors or co-factors in metabolism. If we are lacking a co-factor, it prevents us from utilizing other nutrients. An important example is magnesium, which is essential for the metabolism of phosphorus, calcium, potassium, sodium, B-complex vitamins and vitamins C and E.
Another important example is saturated fats, which act as carriers for fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K, and are needed for the uptake of calcium into bone. Unfortunately, decades of promotion of a “low fat, no fat diet” by the mainstream food industry has led to a deficiency of healthy fats in the diet of many Americans, contributing to the current epidemic of obesity.
Nutrient Density Starts with Your Dinner Plate
How can we avoid common nutrient deficiencies? Eating nutrient-dense whole foods is the best way. A nutrient-dense diet means that you are getting as much nutrition as possible from what you eat. While supplements and herbs may be recommended for specific health needs, start with your dinner plate!
Are you confused by the many different dietary protocols and recommendations in the popular media? The dietary approaches that are successful all have one thing in common: focus on eating nutrient-dense whole foods. The rest of it is fine-tuning to optimize diet for your health needs.
A nutrient-dense whole-foods diet, in short, means eating lots of vegetables, some fruit, and a small but adequate amount of high-quality meat or seafood. Grains, dairy and legumes are less-nutrient dense, optional food sources. While they are fine for some folks, they can cause health problems for others.
A good general rule of thumb is:
- nine servings of vegetables and fruit per day, including at least six servings of vegetable (serving size unlimited on veggies!)
- two to three servings (4 to 6 ounces per serving) of complete protein (e.g., meat, fish, poultry, eggs)
- grains, dairy and legumes are optional
- avoid processed and artificial food-like products
Finding the Optimal Diet for You
People are individuals. Eating nutrient-dense whole foods is a basic nutritional guideline we all need to follow. Nevertheless, no dietary protocol is one-size-fits-all. The goal of nutritional therapy is to guide you to find the optimal diet for your individual health needs.
Present-day knowledge of nutrition is incomplete. There is still a lot we don’t know about the body’s complex metabolic needs. For this reason, no dietary philosophy or theory can be taken as dogma.
A key benefit of whole food sources is that they contain more than just the well-known vitamins, minerals and nutrients that have been scientifically studied. They also contain many important compounds and phytochemicals (the constituents of plants) whose role as nutrients is only beginning to be understood. There is still more to learn about the benefits of whole foods nutrition.