Before completing my first marathon last year I vowed to run two marathons this year; however, training has hit an entirely new wall for me living in the Pacific Northwest. As the local weather finally skipped over from winter to summer, my motivation to run outside has finally returned. Thankfully, to compliment my revivified desire to run, the instructor of my health class (Dr. Carey Gunn, M.D.) has given me, as well as my classmates, a new insight on the definition of “health”.
After the first couple days of class, I became aware of a need to change a few things in my life. During life in the Marine Corps, the chow hall provided a bevy of different foods that I don’t have time to prepare for myself, today. From the food choices available and mandatory need to remain “hydrated”, many of the vitamins and minerals were available to me. Instead, life outside of the Corps has limited me to the bachelor’s list of food-stuff in the house. Items like cereal and sandwiches that only take minutes to prepare. It was shortly after realizing this, did I come to the conclusion that perhaps I wasn’t receiving all of the necessary vitamins and minerals that I used to get from the variety of foods I had consumed previously. Dr. Gunn also mentioned that although over-consumption of food is a common reason for weight gain, it’s also due to a lack of vitamins and nutrients into the body. The same way your body hoards off energy in the form of fat cells when there are too much, or it’s unsure of the next meal; the body also stores vitamins and minerals inside fat cells to ensure it has them when it needs them.
[The Real Food Pyramid: The only essential items missing from this pyramid are two larger rows at the bottom that consist of Exercise and Water.]
A few days after my summer classes started, I needed to go grocery shopping, so I decided to head to Whole Foods to restock my refrigerator with some organic foods. If you’re wondering why I switched to organic, it primarily had to do with “The Dirty Dozen“. The dirty dozen consists of the top 12 foods sold at grocery stores with remnants of pesticide residue. Apples top the list for 2011, as researchers found 60 different pesticides on a single apple. Although most people believe that they can wash the pesticides off with water, most pesticides are not water soluble and in-fact can become activated through the introduction of it. Along with the dirty dozen, a list of the “Clean 15” are also present, consisting of fruits and vegetables that have the lowest number of pesticides, often due to their acidity or growth underground, that are approved for non-organic purchases.
At Whole Foods, I ended up spending almost double the amount of my grocery food budget, for a smaller quantity. Regardless of the matter, I believe that the only way for organic foods to become more affordable is through consumer purchases. Although my purchases were primarily fruits and vegetables, I also purchased some eggs that came from chickens that were vegetable fed, as well as a packet of boneless steak, and non fish hatchery salmon. Surprisingly, fish born in fish farms are significantly different (on a molecular level) from fish that live in rivers and migrate to the ocean. You can also take into consideration the meat from salmon that come from fish farms are often grey; however, companies add beta-carotene (from carrots) to give the fish the illusion of being orange instead of the gloomy grey color.
Did you know that the average person should be consuming approximately 9 servings of vegetables a day? I’m shooting towards this goal as I begin to adjust my lifestyle to reflect something I can sustain for the rest of my life. It’s unfortunate that most people are unaware of necessary changes we need to make in our consumption of food. Most of our meals are built around some sort of meat, when that shouldn’t be the case.
For the last 2 weeks I’ve been eating a lot of greens. I have yet to fry a single thing, so far. If you’re asking why, it’s due to an eye-opening revelation regarding saturated fats, unsaturated fats and trans fats. Although we can all say, unsaturated fats are the ‘good’ fats and trans fats are the ‘bad’ fats; it’s interesting how much these two items have in common (on a molecular level). Saturated fats are stable forms of fats, and can never morph into anything else unless they’re genetically modified. Trans fats, however, are monounsaturated or polyunsaturated fats, but never saturated fats. According to studies, when cultured under the right conditions unsaturated fats via exposure to light, or through a variable amount of time, can turn into trans fats. Also cooking unsaturated fat on a stove, higher than at Low setting, can also “trans”form the fat. Dr. Gunn explained it all in class, but if you’re curious – I’m sure you can find the exact details online. When cooking, it’s recommended that you use butter (saturated fats) or coconut oil. If the discussion of fats are unimportant to you, then I’d recommend that you do some research on what our cells use as their membrane, and what the effects are when it’s built from fats that limit the import/export of oxygen, vitamins and minerals.
Getting back on track, most of the vegetables that I’ve been consuming have been raw, in salads, but occasionally I steaming them in a wok pan on the stove. Green beans are officially my favorite steamed vegetable now. Surprisingly, everything tastes pretty amazing. As far as fish and meats go, I’ve been baking those in the oven/marinating them. The fish and steak I’ve had this last week were so exceptional, I even managed to surprise myself.
I also re-introduced milk back into the mix. It’s skim milk from cows that are rBGH (Recombinate Bovine Growth Horomone) free. Interestingly I noticed that while I was drinking soy milk I felt fine, but after re-introducing milk I’ve come to notice that my stomach often feels upset after a bowl of cereal. Nothing has changed, not even the cereal, so I think I may need to cut dairy out completely.
Aside from these changes, and a vast array of knowledge I’ve been given I’m always excited for this class. I always know I’ll be going into class, and there’s no doubt in my mind that I’ll learn something new. I hope this helps someone make better choices for their future. It’s an amazing thing how much we have yet to learn about our own bodies.