Optimum nutrition is not about low-fat meals, fat-free carbohydrates, low carbohydrates, or high protein regimens. These programs all have health risks because they increase markers for chronic inflammation. The key to successful aging is to understand that the foods you eat control your intricately connected and delicately balanced hormonal system. Hormone levels and sensitivity change as you age and must be controlled to prevent or reduce silent and chronic inflammation. The greatest threat to your health today is likely a result of what you are eating. Food is not simply a source of energy, but a crucial factor in mental and physical well-being. Optimal nutrition contributes to the prevention and reduction of risk factors for many diseases and enhances certain physiological functions.
Preparing a Balanced Meal
The human body was designed to graze as opposed to the way we usually eat – having a few large meals in 24 hours. To maintain food-sensitive hormones in balance and at optimal levels plan to eat 5-6 meals throughout the day. You can do this by having three main meals and 2-3 light, nutritious snacks daily. Properly prepared, the major meals should give you 4-6 hours of energy and hormonal balance. A proper snack will give you balance for 2-3 hours.
Just as important is the way in which food and eating is part of life. That is why it is called a nutritional lifestyle. It is by way of a healthful lifestyle that the details of nutrition make the difference between failure and success, frustration and pleasure, boredom and joy. If you take away nothing else from this chapter, it is that a healthy nutritional lifestyle is an act of mindfully, intentionally, and consciously engaging life through food.
Another challenge to achieving optimum nutrition comes with increasing age; eating wisely becomes progressively more important as we grow older. It is estimated that 1750% of the country’s seniors are undernourished because of reduced metabolism, diminishing appetite, effects of medication, and consumption of processed foods of low nutritional value.
The place to begin the journey to youthful vitality and optimal aging is within. Listen to your body and what it has to tell you about what it needs. Take time to become aware of how your body feels in different situations, including before, during and after eating.
What does food mean to you?
At its most basic, it is a necessity for fueling your body and it provides nutrients essential for various bodily functions. At other times, food plays a significant part of social connections. Food can bring great pleasure and joy. Many times, too, we eat out of boredom or to deal with stress. Eating can simply turn into a mindless habit. Becoming conscious, mindful, of why you are eating is necessary before behavior can be changed in a desirable way.
Another step toward a balanced nutritional lifestyle involves making good choices about what and when you will eat, rather than grabbing whatever you can find at the last minute, or choosing to stop at a fast-food restaurant.
Being mindful while eating, and not being distracted during meals (e.g. watching television), improves digestion and helps keep weight gain at bay. Stop multi-tasking while you eat. When you eat, eat. Lack of attention to eating translates into decreased blood flow to the digestive system. The brain must experience taste, pleasure, aroma, and satisfaction so it can accurately assess a meal and catalyze the most efficient digestive force needed for that particular meal. Eat fast and your brain simply says, “I don’t remember eating anything. I am still hungry.” For extensive information on how to get started with Optimal Nutrition, please ask us for a copy of Living Younger by Dr. Gregory Petersburg and he will be glad to share the book with you.
(©Gregory W. Petersburg, D.O. All rights reserved. Living Younger, pp. 43-82.)
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