Eating to Live
Not Living to Eat

TO sustain life and provide energy for activity and thought, we need good nutrition. Proper nutrition is absolutely essential to good health. Food that is devitalized, or lacking in vital substances, cannot provide us with the vitamins and minerals that are essential to good health. How important it is then that we choose carefully the food that goes on our tables.

The first requirement in good nutrition is to have sufficient calories or energy from our food. We often hear the term "calories," but few people know what the term actually means. A calorie is actually a kilocalorie, or the amount of heat required to raise a kilogram of water one degree centigrade. A kilogram of water is 2.2 pounds, or approximately a half gallon of water. When your body is at rest, it burns about 80 calories an hour. Put another way, a resting body produces sufficient heat to raise the temperature of two quarts of ice-cold water almost to the boiling point.

With a sufficient number of calories, we can maintain life in a resting state. This is called basal metabolism. Additional activities require more calories; and when our intake of food provides sufficient calories to meet all of these needs, optimal health and normal weight is maintained. When, however, our intake of calories is greater than our output, it is reflected in an increase in weight, or obesity.

There are a number of compounds that are known to be essential to life. These include three basic types of food elements-carbohydrates, fats, and proteins. In addition to the food types, there are vitamins and minerals. These compounds, all of which are non-living substances, our bodies require and quickly changes into living protoplasm in just a few hours.

Carbohydrates include simple sugars and the more compound starches. They also include fiber. Fats are identified as being of two types-saturated and unsaturated. Saturated fats are usually of animal origin and are generally solid at room temperature. If this were not so, people and animals would just be bags of oil on warm days. Unsaturated fats are of vegetable origin and are mostly liquid at room temperature. Except for those vegetable fats that have been hydrogenated, these fats do not raise the blood cholesterol.

Proteins are the building blocks for the body. These building blocks are made up of 22 amino-acids, 8 of which are considered essential because they must be supplied in the diet; the other 14 can be produced by the body.

Fats-A Concentrated Energy Source

Fat is the most concentrated source of energy in the diet. It releases more than twice the amount of heat, or calories, to the gram as do carbohydrates and proteins. The fat content of food can very rapidly run up the number of calories.

In reasonable amounts, fats are necessary in the diet. They not only provide a source of concentrated energy, but they also greatly enhance the taste of food. Because they digest more slowly, they prevent the too-rapid emptying of the stomach. In addition to their caloric value, fats carry the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K. Some fats are rich in linoleic acid, an essential fatty acid that must be provided in the diet as the body is unable to manufacture it in sufficient amounts.

It is an interesting phenomena that in any society, as food supplies become abundantly available, fat consumption increases. In 1910, in the United States, fat represented 32% of the total caloric intake. By 1994, it was estimated to be 50%. Such a large proportion of fat in the diet not only greatly increases the risk of obesity, but perhaps of even greater concern, it displaces other foods essential for bulk, minerals, and vitamins.

Fats are commonly referred to as visible and invisible. Visible fat is separated from its original source, such as butter or oil. Hidden, or invisible fats, are fats naturally occurring in foods, such as meats, milk, eggs, nuts, oily fruits, and seeds. It is very common to find that people do not realize how much fat they are actually eating. Not only do fats occur naturally in many foods, but other foods, such as gravies or salad dressings, are often enriched by the addition of fat to improve the taste, flavor, or texture. The addition of butter or margarine to a baked potato, cooked vegetables, or bread, will generally double the calorie count. A simple apple contains only 70 calories, but a piece of apple pie, topped with 4 oz. of ice cream, will increase that calorie count to 500, of which 200 calories are fat.

Cancer and Diet

Two out of every five Americans will be diagnosed as having cancer sometime during his\her lifetime, and one in five will die of cancer. While medical science has not yet conquered this disease, they have found out some significant things about it that help us to understand who is most at risk and, therefore, what we can do to decrease our risk in this area."

'Compared to people who eat two or fewer fruits and vegetables a day, those who eat at least five a day have about a 40 percent decrease in risk for lung, colon, stomach, esophagus, and oral cancers,' says Tim Byers of the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta. 'That's a fairly big effect for a fairly achievable change in diet.' " Nutrition Action Health Letter, January/February 1995

According to Edward Giovannucci, an epidemiologist at Harvard Medical School, "We now have evidence that a high fruit and vegetable intake is beneficial for preventing most cancers." Even smokers, who have 20 times the risk of non-smokes of dying of lung cancer, can cut that risk to only ten times the risk by eating fruits and vegetables. (See Ibid., June, 1995.)

While there is not complete agreement as to the optimal proportion of fat in a diet, most experts agree that for a moderately active adult, 30%, with the emphasis on unsaturated fats and saturated fats kept to a minimum, is an achievable goal and one that would result in a significant improvement in health. On a 2,000 calorie a day diet, this would amount to a maximum of 65 grams. Remember, however, that this is a maximum amount and it would be better to aim for less.

Few people realize how quickly fat calories can add up. It is almost impossible to get a nutritionally sound meal at a fast food restaurant. A Burger King Whopper contains about 630 calories, with 39 grams of fat, of which 11 are saturated fat. A Taco Bell Taco Salad has 838 calories, with 55 grams of fat, of which 16 are saturated fat.

The incidence of colon cancer is three times greater in the United States as compared to Japan, where the traditional diet consists of only 10% to 15% of calories obtained from fat. A high-fiber, low-fat diet appears to be the best defense against colon cancer. It has been estimated that a high-fiber diet, including both insoluble and soluble fiber, reduces the risk of colon cancer by as much as 50%.

Diet and Colon Cancer

"While it is estimated that one-third of all cancers may be related to diet, the link for colon cancer is even stronger. In fact, international studies suggest that fully 95% of cases have a nutrition connection. . . . 'Part of the problem,' says Oliver Alabaster, M.D., director of George Washington University's Institute for Disease prevention, 'is that humans were designed to be primarily vegetarians. Our early ancestors' diet consisted principally of plant-based foods-fruits, vegetables, and grains. It was a low-fat, high-fiber diet, containing only about 10% animal protein. But the typical American diet is closer to a 50/50 split between calories from plant-based and animal-based foods."

'Over the years, our bodies have not adapted to these changes and this has translated into increases in heart disease and cancer. . . .'"

Overall, cancer experts agree that current recommendations to reduce fat to less than 30% of calories is too generous. To cut colon cancer risk, fat must be cut back to 20% or less of the calories." Environmental Nutrition, July 1995. The research sited also indicated that saturated fats were the primary risk factors and that monounsaturated fats, such as are found in olive oil, appeared to have the least effect.

Because a lot of fat is bad, does this mean that a diet with no fat is optimal? No; according to researchers, there are other factors to consider. A low-fat diet, with protein factored in, that consisting of 65% to 75% of the calories derived from carbohydrates, can cause the blood triglycerides to rise to unhealthy levels, another factor in heart attacks.

Some people try to escape the fat problem with a minimal change in diet. By replacing pressurized whipped cream topping with an imitation pressurized whipped topping that advertises itself as being non-dairy, they hope to avoid the unhealthful fat of dairy cream. It may come as a surprise to them to find out that the pressurized whipped cream has less fat and much less saturated fat than the imitation pressurized whipped topping. Perhaps a change in lifestyle rather than substitution is really the key to better health.

High Fat and Heart Attacks

New studies suggest that there is another risk factor related to a high-fat diet. It has been shown that high-fat meals put the blood into a hypercoagulation state within six or seven hours, raising the risk that dangerous artery-clogging blood clots may occur. Most heart attacks occur in the early morning hours. There may be several reasons for this, but one reason that has been suggested is that in Western societies, we eat our main meal of the day in the evening. By the early morning hours, the high-fat meal of the evening before would have increased the clotting factor in the blood, substantially increasing the heart attack risk.

While fat is only one of the three energy-yielding types of foodstuffs, it brings with it the largest number of calories per gram and is strongly implicated in many health problems, including diseases of the heart, the circulatory system, and cancer. If the overall consumption of fat were reduced to half its present level, many lives would be saved.

Because we cut out the harmful elements of a diet, it does not follow, however, that we can eat just as we please of the good foods. "It is possible to eat immoderately, even of wholesome food. It does not follow that because one has discarded the use of hurtful articles of diet, he can eat just as much as he pleases. Overeating, no matter what the quality of the food, clogs the living machine, and thus hinders it in its work." Counsels on Diet and Foods, 131

Self-control in matters of diet has an effect not only on our physical well-being, but also has spiritual implications as well. The apostle Paul, writing to the church at Corinth, compared the Christian experience to the great athletic events of his day with which the people were so familiar. He said, "And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown." 1 Corinthians 9:25

The Ideal Diet

New engines come with the manufacturer's suggested maintenance program, including information regarding the fuel that will give the best and most lasting performance. The human body is undoubtedly the most sophisticated and high-tech piece of equipment ever designed. Would it not be strange if the Maker left us without any indication as to what foods were the best fuel to be used?

The Bible is very clear as to what God's original diet for man included. "And God said, 'See, I have given you every herb that yields seed which is on the face of all the earth, and every tree whose fruit yields seed; to you it shall be for food.' 'And you shall eat the herb of the field.' " Genesis 1:29; 3:18. Included here are fruits, nuts, grains, and vegetables. More and more, scientific evidence is showing that in departing from this blueprint, we have reaped the results in increased illness and disease and a decrease in longevity. If we would rearrange our lives, bringing our diets into harmony with the original plan, we would find that our concerns for getting the proper nutrients in the proper balance would be unnecessary. When a balanced diet is planned, using natural foods that are tastefully prepared in a simple manner, not only are all of the necessary food elements present, but they are present in the proper proportions to promote optimal health.

Copyright 1995 by Jack Kendall

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