Sorry, docs, but according to a recent study, “most graduating medical students continue to rate their nutrition preparation as inadequate.” In all 126 US medical schools that participated in this study, the average number of classroom hours was less than 24 on the topic of nutrition. This is like a three-day course.
What I have experienced in my practice is a lot of people either
A) receive NO nutritional information from their doctor or
B) receive BAD nutritional information from their doctor.
OK, some doctors have studied advanced nutrition in addition to their current specialty, but they are the exception, not the rule.
I remember as a child with skin problems I was never told there was a link between food and my skin. I even had a doctor laugh at the notion. What do you know, as soon as I changed my diet, my skin cleared up. Definitely a direct correlation.
Some doctors think candida problems or gluten sensitivity are “in your head.” But when people make those changes, they feel better. It never ceases to amaze me that docs who specialize in digestive issues (gastroenterology) don’t first look at diet before medicating. Doesn’t it make sense that the substances constantly flowing through the gasto-tract would impact how it is working?
I want to go into more detail for diabetics, kidney problems, and hypertension (high blood pressure):
DIABETES AND DIET
BAD ADVICE: “Avoid sweet vegetables like carrots, potatoes, and yams. Use artificial sweeteners. Eat whole wheat bread. Eat a low-fat diet.”
- Sweet vegetables (sweet potatoes, carrots, yams) are full of things that are good for you like trace minerals and vitamins. Eat them as part of a balanced meal with proteins.
- Artificial sweeteners not only cause a buildup of toxins in your body, but actually make you crave more food and sugar and hence, make you gain weight! Avoid them at all costs.
- Eat plenty of good fats. Saturated fats are not bad for you. Repeat after me: SATURATED FATS ARE NOT BAD. Eggs, real butter, grass-fed beef, free-range chicken, hormone-free full fat yogurt are fine. Not only fine, but essential to keep your sugars regulated. Have a bit of high-fat protein before bed and wake up with lower sugars in the morning. Pair your proteins with vegetables.
- Stay away from processed grains and wheat products. As a general rule for diabetics, I would stay totally away from grains 90% of the time. Grains are carbs and carbs convert to sugars in your body. If you do eat wheat, use sprouted grain breads like Ezekiel. They will cause less of a spike in your insulin than “regular bread.” You can find it in the freezer section of your grocery store. Keep grains in general to a minimum. If you do grains, do whole grains such as brown rice, quinoa, whole grain oats, or organic corn products. Stay away from: pizza, pasta, “regular bread,” pastries and flour tortillas.
- Increase the variety of vegetables in your diet. Figure out which veggies you like and keep them as regulars on your grocery list. Plan your meals around them. Use avocados on anything and everything. Have a salad with real salad dressing. Try new things: have you ever ate seaweed? Make soup in a crock pot. If you like games, try to eat 5 different colors of vegetables every day.
- Use real butter and sea salt to cook greens. They will be delicious.
- Keep nuts in your purse / man-bag just in case you need a snack.
- Beans have fiber and are OK to eat in moderation.
- A little bit of cheese from time to time is OK provided you are not allergic or lactose intolerant. Use full-fat dairy that is hormone-free. Fats = full and you will eat less overall. Fats also help keep you relaxed.
- Overall, focus on two things: PROTEIN and VEGETABLES.
- The fats hold it all together so don’t worry about them!
- If all else fails, take a cooking class that focuses on healthy eating, like macrobiotics or Paleo.
KIDNEYS AND DIET
Kidney problems like stones and interstitial cystitis (IC; pain of unknown origin in the bladder)
BAD ADVICE: “Avoid foods that are high in calcium, including leafy greens and dairy.”
- Most kidney stones are made of calcium oxalate, therefore docs recommend avoiding calcium, but really you need to watch the oxalates. Foods high in oxalic acid include: rhubarb, chocolate (sorry, bummer), nuts, spinach, soy, beans, pepper, beer and wheat.
- But, probably the bigger reasons for getting the stones in the first place are from too much fructose (fruit-based sugar) in the diet. Fructose places a high amount of stress on your kidneys and should be limited. One piece of fruit per day is plenty. Stay away from fruit juices.
- Drink plenty of fresh water daily. Sodas and other sugary drinks are too stressful for your kidneys…among other organs.
- Avoid processed foods. This means “TV dinners,” foods you can’t pronounce, and table salt / iodized salt. They are full of sodium which causes an imbalance of potassium in your body, and potassium deficiency leads to kidney malfunction. On the other hand, use real sea salt as much as you would like to season your food. The difference is the quality, how it is absorbed, and the fact that if you are adding salt to season fresh food that you cook, the amount of sodium is going to be negligible, and your food will have plenty of potassium because I know you’re including plenty of veggies in there.
HYPERTENSION, HIGH CHOLESTEROL AND DIET
BAD ADVICE: “the DASH diet: Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension” Eat tons of grains (6-8 servings a day); minimal fats and proteins; and count your sodium intake. (And we wonder why when people get on these medications they usually stay on it for life!)
- Watch your sugars. Grains –> carbs –> sugars. This is also why most people with hypertension are also diabetic. Their docs are telling them to eat plenty of “whole grains.” Then people buy “whole wheat bread,” eat 2 slices at each meal and wonder why the numbers keep going up! Aye-yi-yi! Just cut the grains out for now. If you do grains, keep them whole and not “whole wheat.” Read your “whole wheat” bread label: full of sugar? You bet. Plus, wheat is high in oxalates which are hard on your kidneys (see above) which is related to hypertension. If you MUST have a tortilla, use corn. If you must have rice with your beans, do brown rice. If you must have cereal in the morning, use whole grain oatmeal and pair it with proteins.
- Ease off the fructose. (That means fruit sugar.) One piece of fruit per day is plenty. Stay away from sodas, lemonades, or fruit juices. If it takes cloyingly sweet, it’s probably bad for you!
- Salt is OK. No, it’s not a typo. It’s the quality that counts. SEA SALT IS FINE. #1) If you cook veggies and meats with sea salt to flavor, you’re not going to over-season. #2) If you cook fresh veggies with sea salt the potassium / sodium ratio is FINE. #3) Sea salt is full of minerals that are actually good for you! Salt away!
- Saturated fats are OK. Your doctor is going to be so mad at me, but I don’t care. Yes, put a big ol’ pat of butter in the pan and fry up some eggs or some leafy greens. Butter is better. Bacon is best! Saturated fats are not going to raise your “bad” cholesterol levels significantly. Triglycerides tend to go up from too much sugar, grains, or alcohol in the diet. Also, your body needs cholesterol to make hormones! Every cell needs cholesterol to function. When cholesterol number are “too high,” the real problem is inflammation. It’s a sign that your body is trying to heal. Your cells are reusing the cholesterol from your Liver to heal. Taking drugs to artificially stop the process of your body trying to heal…well, can’t you see that it just doesn’t make sense? The best way to reduce inflammation is through diet. And the best diet…see above and below sections.
- Focus your diet on a wide variety of vegetables and proteins. Read through some recipes online and in magazines. Pick out the ones that sound good (aka “delicious”) and that DON’T include stuff like: sugars / non-whole-grains and that DO include lots of veggies, variety of proteins and fats, and of course FLAVORINGS! Onions, garlic, spices, and tomatoes can turn any dish into an amazing feast, I’ve found.
The best way to learn how to cook and eat healthy is by experimenting and doing it. I might use a new recipe and the next time I make it I might change something in it to try something new. Keep it interesting and keep it fun. Don’t be too serious or worry too much about “eating wrong.” Do it the way you know best and I’m sure it will work out just fine.