Now that we have your attention, there is no one optimal nutrition plan for everyone. Undoubtedly you may have tried some of the following “diets,” Paleo, vegetarian, pescatarian, keto, vegan, low carb, gluten-free, the Atkins diet, weight watchers, and the zone. And these are just a few. We are not here to evaluate the advisability or science behind these diets. Each of these diets has some value. But, in the end, the nutritional journey you take must last a lifetime.
At Optimal Hormone Health, we are firmly committed to optimizing your health and well-being. Can you do hormone replacement and benefit without a healthy nutritional plan? Yes, but you won’t be maximizing the benefit without a healthy diet and exercise. So, we are going to simplify your path, but realize that changing your diet takes time.
You will tweak and try new things for years- and that is ok as long as it is consistent with improving health. For example, you may try a vegan diet and decide that you cannot stick with it even though you feel better. But, rather than throw the idea out, you cut back on animal products and choose those that are organic and grass-fed. Let’s look at a framework for establishing a nutritional foundation.
Diet and Disease
The pharmaceutical industry does research, development, production, and distribution of medications. The market has grown during the past two decades. Pharmaceutical revenues totaled 1.25 trillion U.S. dollars in 2019. These medications treat disease and illness, many caused by diet.
Certainly, life-saving and life-extending medications have had a significant impact on recovery and well-being for millions of people. Yet, pharmaceutical companies develop more and more drugs each year to treat the growing numbers of people who have everything from diabetes to high blood pressure, heart disease, and cancer, to name a few.
Meanwhile, quietly more and more research is showing a strong association between diet and disease. Even the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) talks about the harmful effects of poor nutrition.
40% of adults have obesity. Obesity puts people at high risk for heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and some cancers. In addition, obesity costs the US health care system $147 billion a year. Moreover, obesity increases the risk of severe illness from COVID-19. Too many calories and too little exercise lead to obesity. Foods that tend to increase the risk of weight gain are processed foods, fried foods, sugar, processed meats, high carbohydrate foods, and some dairy products.
Heart Disease and Stroke
Heart disease is the number one killer for men, women in the United States. One person dies every 36 seconds in the United States from cardiovascular disease. The leading causes of heart disease and stroke are high blood pressure and high cholesterol. Too much sodium and high fat contribute to heart disease. 70% of Americans get their sodium from processed packaged store-bought foods and fast-food restaurants.
Type 2 Diabetes
People who are overweight or obese are at higher risk for type 2 diabetes. As the US population has aged and become more overweight, the incidence of diabetes has doubled over the last 20 years.
Cancer is the second leading cause of death in the US. An unhealthy diet can increase the risk of cancer. Being overweight or obese is associated with at least 13 types of cancer.
In case you are skeptical, evidence of how diet affects dementia comes from the National Institutes of Health that states: “ How could what we eat affect our brains? It’s possible that eating a certain diet affects biological mechanisms, such as oxidative stress and inflammation, that underlie Alzheimer’s. Or perhaps diet works indirectly by affecting other Alzheimer’s risk factors, such as diabetes, obesity, and heart disease. A new avenue of research focuses on the relationship between gut microbes — tiny organisms in the digestive system — and aging-related processes that lead to Alzheimer’s.”
Will a healthy diet prevent these diseases? Not necessarily, but your chances are greatly improved, and the upside is feeling better, having more energy and concentration.
How to Change Your Diet
How to get started? Perhaps you have made some headway and need additional motivation. Like everything else devoted to self-improvement, it will take work. You will learn tricks to save time by making more of a meal than you need and freezing. And moms- you need to get your kids and partner more involved in meal preparation so that you aren’t making several different meals at once! Take a look at Harvard’s nutrition page to get you started, and we have suggestions as well.
Plants and Fresh Fruit
We know french fries are a plant. But those potatoes are high in carbohydrates and fried in oil. Every meal should include fresh vegetables and fruit if possible. Starting with breakfast to get you in the mind frame of healthy eating, check out this website on healthy breakfast options. We love smoothies with organic protein powder and greens, bananas, carrots, and frozen organic berries.
Suppose you are tempted to skip breakfast, don’t. Skipping breakfast can raise your risk of type 2 diabetes. And when you are starving at lunchtime, you will be more likely to indulge in unhealthy fast foods. Vegan diets can be harmful if they rely too much on heavy gluten substitutes and sugar. But, you might be surprised at the delicious options found here.
Many cultures eat a hearty breakfast that might look more like our lunch or dinner. They might be onto something. Think outside the box by doing a breakfast burrito or veggie burger for breakfast.
We do love cheese, don’t we? But milk and dairy products are top sources of saturated fat in the American diet. Dairy also contributes to inflammation, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, breast, and ovarian cancer.
What is one to do? First, try and start by eliminating milk since there are perfectly acceptable substitutes if you give yourself time to adjust. Try almond, coconut, or oat milk. Next, try butter substitutes like organic Earth Balance and Miyoko’s vegan butter.
Now for the not-so-good news. Cheese substitutes are hitting the market all of the time, but many lack the texture and flavor of the real thing. If you must eat cheese, try to choose organic grass-fed products and eat in moderation.
Most Americans focus on beef, chicken, and pork for their protein. Try other protein sources like legumes, fish, nut butters, and nuts. When you eat animal protein, focus again on grass-fed and sustainable, and humanely handled animals. Organic, pasture-raised eggs are also a good choice.
The human body must have fat to survive. Good heart-healthy fats are olive, coconut, and avocado oils and the fat in nuts. Avoid palm oil, lard, fried foods, trans fats (in all kinds of products). In other words, eat unsaturated fat, which is liquid at room temperature. And you know that butter you love on your toast? Try organic olive oil with sliced avocado and a little salt. You won’t go back to butter.
Choosing the Best Diet
If we had to recommend one diet, it would be the Mediterranean diet and its sister diet, Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay (MIND). The Mediterranean diet is a good solid place to start. It emphasizes daily consumption of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, healthy fats, fish, poultry, beans, and eggs. The Mediterranean diet also limits the intake of red meat.
Choose your path to a better diet, throw in some exercise along with your hormone replacement, and you will have more energy and renewed zest for life.