Currently viewing the tag: "healthy diet"


The-Bright-Sun-Blue-Sky-Clouds (Copy)I am one lucky mother…I love the sun, and I live in Southern California. But like many people, believe it or not, I sometimes neglect my sun needs. Nothing is crazier, I know, when so many regions are sun-deprived for much of the year. It’s the equivalent of “starving children…” in the guilt-trip-you-for-not-doing-something-you’re-supposed-to-category. But, believe me, we pay the price for our negligence.

I had been feeling not so great recently, and frankly I was perplexed. I had been working out regularly; in fact, it was first time in long time I have been completely injury-free. Shoulders felt good. Low back good…I was eating well. Lots of vegetables; good portions. Juicing. Quit coffee, so sleeping much better than…ugh months. On purpose professionally and within my dharma…but somehow, I was not feeling “myself”. I was starting to wonder if this aging thing really has something to it. I have never been an ageist. I just believe that you can be in the best shape of your life at any age. I really do. But I was tired, a little blue, and skin as white as some new veneers. I said to myself, “This year, I am going to channel Apollo.” I will commit to daily sun for the entire summer—beach, canyons, festivals, everything, bikes, stilts, pogo sticks, you name it. No more Mr. Pasty guy. Not this year.

Before

So I started last week at the local swimming pool with my kids. I actually wore sunscreen, cos my white-a** skin was extremely vulnerable. I felt immediately different. That night I had that good ol’ familiar sun-glow; you know the one, that buzz around your entire sun-exposed body. And I had a sort of refreshing tiredness, if you know what I mean. Then Sunday, Fathers Day, I took my girls to the beach. It was overcast, but hot and humid. I used sunscreen again. We sat in the sun for about two hours, which was perfect. While I got a teeny bit red (I’m not worried about it) that night, I felt really good—that, “I just did something real nice for my body,” good.

Then this week, I hit the hiking trail — evening hikes, diminishing sun, cooler temps — and really got my coconut stick legs some exposure. In exactly one week that saw me in the sun five of seven days, I already notice the difference. My energy levels have been boosted significantly, so both for physical exertion, and for mental work that comprises the bulk of what I do. Both are different in need and stamina; in other words, just because you have energy to go to the gym, doesn’t mean you have it to sit down and do your taxes for five hours, and vice versa, of course. My sleep has been deep and satisfying, which has me the most grateful because that area has been real wacky for some time. My mood is uplifted, light and enthusiastic, and I look ten years younger (no seriously…stop).

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And none of this is surprising to me. Like everybody, I sometimes forget how vital sufficient sun exposure is to health and well being, and thus how vital to the way I feel. It’s so easy to forget, especially since I take 5000 IU vitamin D every day. Supplementing is not the same as the real thing. Supplementing is only to fill in the gaps—the bulk of any nutrient must come from its source (write that down). Vitamin D, as we have seen over the last decade and more, is involved in so many processes that it truly is the wonder vitamin. Being sufficient in vitamin D is as empowering as being deficient is debilitating. From increased cancer risk, to immune dysfunction, to increased blood pressure, a lack of sufficient quantities of vitamin D3 in your blood leaves you susceptible to disease, while optimal levels can make you feel and operate at you highest.

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Duh to me…but I am happy to remember the basics when I stop feeling quite right (we all oscillate through high and low health constantly, within our own unique yet variable physiological range). That’s all it takes. Nobody has to feel the need for perfection—it’s up-and-down over and over again—just remain mindful. I challenge any fellow well-meaning hermits to get in the sun daily this summer, even if just for a walk on your lunch break. Eat lunch outside, do your paperwork in the park, drop beats in the heat—whatever you have to do to get your sun in this year. Me…I’ll be at the beach.


earth2 (Copy)When I talk about health, I generally like to focus on universals–that is, what is true for everybody across the board, and not just the nuances of one diet or another. For example, drinking the juice of an açaía berry is not universal. It may be rich in antioxidants (although there is no scientific evidence to support this marketing claim), but it is not an essential food consumed by people all over the world. Having a diet rich in antioxidants, however, is a universal. Drinking water from a hole in Costa Rica is also not a universal, although maintaining sufficient hydration most certainly is. To pound the point home, there isn’t one person reading this that wouldn’t suffer the same fate were he or she to swan dive off a ten-story building. That’s because everybody is subject to the law of gravity–it’s universal, get it?

Okay so when it comes to dietary health, then, only four universals exist. The human diet must fulfill all four of the following:

  • Act as an energy source—food provides us with energy, measured in calories; energy not immediately used is stored as fat.
  • Act as a nutrient source—in the form of vitamins and minerals that are necessary for metabolism, regulation and tissue repair.
  • bigstock-close-up-view-of-bacteria-12354305 (Copy)Provide water for proper hydration—some “experts” believe that we get all the fluids we need from our food, but I am not one of them; no doubt, though, that diets high in plant-based sources get a good portion of their daily water replenishment from food.
  • Maintain a beneficial gut environment—we now know that the foods we eat directly influence our gut microbiota: the organisms that inhabit our intestines and, among other things, help the digestive process.

That’s it. A healthy diet should fulfill these four universal requirements in the most efficient way. This is a point worth elaborating: While many diets (and I’m speaking of a way of eating here, not a fad diet, per se) may fulfill all four universals, they may not do so efficiently. This is likely the case for the majority of people on the typical western diet (some whole foods, lots of processed foods), which is high in calories and low in nutrients. These people often get their necessary nutrients, but at the expense of having to eat more food to do so. They are not malnourished, but instead over-nourished. Think about it, a diet low in essential nutrients will cause the body to communicate, “More nutrients, please!” in the only way it knows how: By increasing the appetite.

malnourished (Copy)Other diets, like those based on junk food, candy, and/or near-starvation (anorexia) lead to none of the universal being fulfilled, which causes malnutrition, and eventually the breakdown of the body.

So, again, the healthiest diets fulfill the four universals most efficiently. But what’s the best diet for you?  The one that fulfills all four universals with the least amount of food.

Now to say there is one diet that can fulfill this requirement for all people would be lie…because everybody is different. My body type is such that I need lots of protein. When I eat carbohydrate-rich meals, regardless of the source, I get weak and shaky within an hour. Thus, I need protein in every meal. Because of this personal nuance, I find that concentrated sources (meat, eggs, dairy) work best for me. This is NOT a universal; it is a nuance of my dietary needs. Believe me, I know plenty of people that thrive on a predominantly plant-based diet. Physiological variability I tell you.

That’s why I say stick to the universals. If veganism gets you there, then groovy, man. If it’s raw foodism—rock out. All that matters is that the four universals are most efficiently met.

Don’t get caught up into dietary nuances. Eat the widest variety of whole, natural foods that your body likes and craves, and try to get everything you need nutritionally with the least amount of food possible. I promise that you’ll get closer to achieving optimal nutrition by following these principles. It’s the human variability that throws the monkey-wrench into most popular diets, but universal is universal, so keep that in mind every time you eat. And if your way of eating already fulfills all four dietary universals, then you’re doing just fine.

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