“If everyone was a healthy weight we could close half the hospitals and get rid of half the doctors,” according to Philip Caravella, M.D., F.A.A.F.P. The family physician says obesity and being overweight are the leading causes of serious medical problems.
“The huge costs of medical care and medical insurance could be dramatically reduced if people understood the importance of fitness and normal weight,” he said.
So, is It the Diet or is It the Sedentary Lifestyle?
Caravella believes a nutritionally sound diet and exercise are both important for maintaining a healthy weight, but not enough credit is given to exercise.
“Experts focus on diet as the main cause of obesity when it isn’t,” Caravella said in an interview. He’s been studying the cause and effect of obesity for 20 years.
“Nutrition incorporates the building blocks,” he explained. “Exercise is the tool to build your body into the fine, precision machine it can be. They are entirely different from each other, yet critical to each other just as cement and steel are the requisites of a well-engineered building. Exercise gives you strength and power. A sound diet provides the building blocks. One without the other will result in a deficient, inadequate body that is full of compromises, weaknesses and potential problems as time goes on. Good exercise yields strength and minimizes the effects of a diet that sometimes is too rich in sugars, carbohydrates and fats and is nutritionally deficient in vitamins and minerals.”
high triglycerides, high LDL cholesterol, low HDL cholesterol
high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke
type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome
some types of cancer
When it comes to the nutrition part of the equation, Caravella’s advice is simple and will come as no surprise to regular Care2 readers. Our diets should consist of foods that exist in nature. “We’ve gotten way away from that in modern times because of processed foods, cakes, cookies, etc. We should focus on what lives and grows out in nature, not what our modern diet has morphed into.”
He believes that focus on natural foods should start with infants. “Breastfeeding lowers the incidence of obesity and leads to a healthier life all around. We need to change nutrition from the get go. We should give them foods that are natural. If you don’t introduce babies to processed foods, they’ll have no interest in them.”
Exercise is Good for Your State of Mind, Too
In addition to warding off serious health problems, exercise helps increase endurance, promotes good balance and keeps you flexible—all of which help get you through the day at your best.
“Exercise improves general well-being, one’s intellect, their sense of purpose, their emotional goodness and dispositions, their sleep patterns and especially their ability to interact with others,” according to Caravella. “Fit men and women will have an easier chance of attracting a significant other. People who exercise often will have less anxiety and depression. If they feel great about themselves, they will also feel excellent around others. With good form comes great personal achievement.”
What is a Healthy Weight and How Do You Get Started?
If you haven’t been exercising regularly, he recommends consulting with your doctor first. Your general health, medications and pre-existing medical problems such as diabetes and high blood pressure must be considered before you start a regular exercise program. If you’re going to do it, you want to do it right.
Do you happen to be one of those rare people who never exercises but still manages to maintain a good weight? Well, don’t be too quick to pat yourself on the back and call it a day. You still need to exercise to prevent health problems, keep your bones and muscles healthy and boost your emotional well-being.
“All who exercise—regardless of their weight—will enjoy a longer, healthier life; diminishing their chances of developing dementia and arthritic conditions later down the line,” said Caravella.
“Exercise fine-tunes our bodies. It prepares us for the unexpected while giving us the ability to participate in nearly any activity that most would find to be enjoyable. Life is worth living when your body is worth having.”
I couldn’t agree more. We’ve only got one body to get us through this life and it’s worth keeping it in good shape. And once you get used to regular exercise, it’s actually hard not to exercise.
If you need a little inspiration, Caravella put it quite succinctly: “We all make compromises. Exercise must never be one of them.”
In the film The Martian, Matt Damon’s character, Mark Watney, is stranded on the red planet with nothing to eat but spuds. Now, a 36-year-old Australian is following the same diet, voluntarily.
In an attempt to lose weight and improve his relationship with food, Andrew Taylor has decided to eat nothing but potatoes for a year. But is this approach likely to work, or will he run out of nutrients? And could he have chosen a better single food to live on?
Just over a month into the diet, Taylor posted a photo on Facebook of some unfinished mash potato on his plate. This is a nice illustration of “sensory-specific satiety” – the theory that the pleasure we take in consuming a single food goes down as we eat more of it, so we stop eating so much.
He is probably feeling the benefits of his weight loss (10kg in the first month), with increased energy levels, and already will have reduced his chances of developing diabetes and other chronic conditions. But what will happen in the long term?
Enough protein and fat?
Eating around 3kg of potatoes a day will provide just over 2000kcal, a reasonable amount for a man of his size aiming to lose weight. But while potatoes are an excellent source of carbohydrates and fibre, he may struggle to get enough protein. A 120kg man may need up to 90g of protein, but this diet will provide only 60g.
Proteins are made up of a range of amino acids, including some that must be supplied in our diet, and potatoes contain a surprisingly good balance of these. But, despite spuds providing a good balance of amino-acids, there simply won’t be enough of them in Taylor’s diet.
Potatoes are also low in fat (only 9g per 3kg), so Taylor’s diet doesn’t supply enough of the two essential fatty acids (linolenic and linoleic acid), nor does it provide enough fat to aid the absorption of fat soluble vitamins: A, D, E and K.
We should also eat foods containing ready-made long-chain omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids, of which the only reasonable dietary source is oily fish. These fats have specific structural and functional roles in cell membranes, can act as hormones, and help to control blood pressure.
Vitamins and minerals
Taylor will get enough thiamine, niacin, vitamin B6, folate, vitamin C, potassium, magnesium, phosphorus and copper, even allowing for losses of these nutrients during cooking. Also, he has boosted his chance of getting enough vitamins A and E, iron and calcium by agreeing to include sweet potatoes in his diet. But his diet lacks vitamins D and B12.
Exposure to sunshine in Australia means that he should be making enough vitamin D, but unless he takes a supplement his stores of vitamin B12 may well run out before the end of the year. Prolonged deficiency will result in pernicious anaemia and possibly even irreversible nerve damage. Since he is allowing himself some seasonings, yeast extract would be a good choice, to top up levels of some of the other B vitamins, including biotin and riboflavin (vitamin B2). A lack of these will affect the way that he can use the energy from his food.
Also, his diet will provide only around 6mg of zinc and he will need up to 9.5mg a day. Zinc deficiency would become obvious in tissues with rapid turnover, such as the linings of our mouth, intestine and skin, resulting in reduced immunity and wound repair, and perhaps a loss of taste buds.
Other minerals that might be lacking in this diet include chloride, selenium and iodine, since levels of these depend on the soil in which the potatoes were grown. Using an iodine-enriched salt would be helpful in terms of chloride and iodine, but his diet would probably supply only 30μg of selenium, low enough to cause deficiency in most people. This could reduce immunity and lower reproductive capacity, as well as affecting thyroid function and antioxidant status.
Something better than potatoes?
Eating only one food probably won’t do any harm in the short term. However, there is no known food that supplies all the needs of human adults on a long-term basis. Since Taylor is determined to follow a one-food diet, then potatoes are probably as good as anything, as they contain a wider range of amino acids, vitamins and minerals than other starchy foods, such as pasta or rice. If he had chosen a single animal-derived food, he would have had no fibre in his diet and a poor intake of various vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Fruits and non-starchy vegetables are very low in protein and fat, meaning he would have to plough through a huge amount to get enough sustenance.
Green is not always healthy
As a final caution, potatoes produce solanine, a glycoalkaloid poison. The amount in tubers of commercial varieties is generally low, but potato tubers that have been damaged in some way, or stored in the light, become green and produce more solanine. Eating even small quantities of green potatoes can cause nausea and vomiting, cramps, fever, dizziness, headaches, convulsions.
The toxic dose doesn’t seem to have been definitively determined, and it’s not clear how well solanine is absorbed and metabolised, nor whether it builds up when eaten in small amounts over a long time. It’s clearly safe to eat “normal” quantities of potatoes (up to around 300g) on a daily basis, but the safety of eating ten times this, for a whole year, has not been established. But Taylor should be comforted by the fact that potatoes are a staple food throughout the world, albeit part of a slightly more varied diet.
Eat to live, or live to eat?
One food is not enough, but we don’t need an enormous range of foods. My great great grandfather, living in rural Aberdeenshire, had, like most of his contemporaries, a very limited diet of mainly potatoes, with oatmeal, kale and small amounts of fish and boiled beef. He lived into his nineties and claimed never to be bored with his diet, saying: “It’s just maet” (where the Scots word “maet” refers to food in general, not just meat). Food was fuel, rather than a form of comfort and entertainment. Perhaps that is the sort of relationship with food that Andrew Taylor is trying to achieve.
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There are a few important nutrients that are impossible to get from commonly consumed plant foods. Photo credit: Shutterstock
Humans evolved eating both plant foods and animal foods. By completely eliminating either, we risk becoming deficient in key nutrients.
This article lists 7 nutrients that you can not get from commonly consumed plant foods.
Vegetarians and vegans may need to supplement with some of them in order to maintain optimal health.
1. Vitamin B12
Vitamin B12 is an essential nutrient found in virtually no plant foods. Also known as cobalamin, vitamin B12 is a water-soluble nutrient involved in the development of red blood cells, maintenance of nerves and normal brain function.
Without supplements or enriched foods, vegetarians are at a high risk of vitamin B12 deficiency. It is mainly found in animal foods, such as fish, meat, dairy products and eggs.Lacto-ovo vegetarians can get adequate amounts of vitamin B12 from dairy products and eggs, but this is much more challenging for vegans. For this reason, vegans are at a higher risk of vitamin B12 deficiency than some vegetarians.
The signs, symptoms and risks associated with deficiency include:
Impaired brain function.
A variety of neurological disorders.
Neurological disorders in babies of breast-feeding mothers.
Possible links with Alzheimer’s disease.
Possible links with heart disease.
Vegans must get vitamin B12 by taking supplements or eating enriched food or certain types of seaweed.
Many processed foods have been enriched with vitamin B12. These include enriched yeast extracts, soya products, breakfast cereals, bread and meat-substitutes.
In addition, a few plant foods naturally contain small amounts of bioactive vitamin B12. These include:
Nori seaweed, a type of marine algae (17, 18, 19, 20).
Tempeh, a fermented soy product (21, 22).
Nori seaweed is considered the most suitable source of biologically available vitamin B12 for vegan. Keep in mind that raw or freeze-dried nori may be better than conventionally dried. It seems that some of the vitamin B12 is destroyed in the drying process.
Another plant food often claimed to contain vitamin B12 is spirulina. However, spirulina contains so-called pseudovitamin B12, which is not biologically available. For this reason, it is not suitable as a source of vitamin B12.
Bottom Line: Vitamin B12 is only found in animal foods and certain types of seaweed. Vegans can get vitamin B12 by taking supplements, eating enriched foods or eating nori seaweed.
Creatine is a molecule found in animal foods. Most of it is stored in muscles, but significant amounts are also concentrated in the brain. It functions as an easily accessible energy reserve for muscle cells, giving them greater strength and endurance. For this reason, it is one of the world’s most popular supplements for muscle building. Studies have shown that creatine supplementation can increase both muscle mass and strength.
Creatine is not essential in the diet, since it can be produced by the liver. However, vegetarians have lower amounts of creatine in their muscles. Placing people on a lacto-ovo vegetarian diet for 26 days causes a significant decrease in muscle creatine. Because creatine is not found in any plant foods, vegetarians and vegans can only get it from supplements.
In vegetarians, creatine supplementation may have significant benefits. These include:
Improvements in physical performance.
Improvements in brain function.
Many of these effects are stronger in vegetarians than meat eaters. For example, vegetarians taking creatine supplements may experience significant improvements in brain function while meat eaters see no difference.
Bottom Line: Creatine is a bioactive compound that is lacking in vegetarian diets. It plays an important role in brain and muscle function.
Carnosine is an antioxidant that is concentrated in the muscles and brain. It is very important for muscle function and high levels of carnosine in muscles are linked with reduced muscle fatigue and improved performance. Carnosine is only found in animal foods. However, it is non-essential since it can be formed in the body from the amino acids histidine and beta-alanine.
Dietary sources of beta-alanine, such as meat or fish, may also contribute significantly to muscle levels of carnosine.
Vegetarians have less carnosine in their muscles than meat eaters. Supplementation with beta-alanine increases the levels of carnosine in muscles, improving endurance and increasing muscle mass. Vegan beta-alanine supplements are available online.
Bottom Line: Carnosine is a nutrient only found in animal foods. It is important for muscle function. Beta-alanine supplements are effective at increasing the levels of carnosine in muscles.
4. Cholecalciferol (Vitamin D3)
Vitamin D is an essential nutrient that has many important functions. Deficiency in vitamin D is linked to increased risk of various adverse conditions. These include:
Osteoporosis, with increased risk of fractures in the elderly.
Impaired brain function).
Muscle wasting and reduced strength, especially in elderly people.
Osteoporosis (weak bones) and rickets (bone malformation) are the best known effects of vitamin D deficiency. Whether vitamin D deficiency contributes to the other conditions, or is just associated with them, is less clear.
Also called the sunshine vitamin, vitamin D doesn’t have to come from the diet. It can be produced by our own skin when it is exposed to sunlight. However, when sunlight exposure is limited, we have to get it from food (or supplements).
There are two types of vitamin D in the diet, ergocalciferol (D2) found in plants and cholecalciferol (D3) found in animal foods. Of the two types of vitamin D, cholecalciferol (from animals) is much more potent than ergocalciferol. In other words, it increases blood levels of bioactive vitamin D much more efficiently.
The best sources of cholecalciferol are fatty fish and egg yolks. Other sources include supplements, cod liver oil, or enriched foods such as milk or cereals .
Bottom Line: Cholecalciferol (D3) is a type of vitamin D found in animal foods, especially fatty fish. It is much more effective than the plant form of vitamin D, ergocalciferol (D2).
5. Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA)
Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) is an essential omega-3 fatty acid.
It is important for normal brain development and function. Deficiency in DHA can have adverse effects on mental health and brain function, especially in children. In addition, inadequate DHA intake in pregnant women may adversely affect brain development in the child (64).
It is mainly found in fatty fish and fish oil, but also in some types of microalgae.
In the body, DHA can also be made from the omega-3 fatty acid ALA, which is found in high amounts in flaxseeds, chia seeds and walnuts. However, the conversion of ALA to DHA is inefficient (68, 69). For this reason, vegetarians and vegans are often lower in DHA than meat eaters.
Vegans can get this important fatty acid by taking supplements (algal oil) made from certain micro-algae.
Bottom Line: Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) is an essential omega-3 fatty acid found in fatty fish and fish oil. It is also found in microalgae, which are a suitable dietary source for vegetarians.
Heme-iron is a type of iron only found in meat, especially red meat. It is much better absorbed than non-heme iron found in plant foods. Not only is heme-iron well absorbed, it also improves the absorption of non-heme iron from plant foods. This phenomenon is not entirely understood and is called the “meat factor.”
Unlike non-heme iron, heme-iron is not affected by anti-nutrients, such as phytic acid, often found in plant foods. For this reason, vegetarians and vegans are more prone to anemia than meat eaters, especially women and people on macrobiotic diets.
Bottom Line: Meat, especially red meat, contains a type of iron called heme-iron, which is much better absorbed than non-heme iron from plant foods.
Taurine is a sulfur compound found in various body tissues, including the brain, heart and kidneys. The function of taurine in the body is not entirely clear.
However, it appears that it may play a role in muscle function, bile salt formation and the body’s antioxidant defenses.
Supplementation with taurine may have various benefits for heart health such as lowering cholesterol and blood pressure. Taurine is only found in animal foods such as fish, seafood, meat, poultry and dairy products.
It is not essential in the diet since small amounts are produced by the body. However, dietary taurine may play a major role in the maintenance of taurine levels in the body. Levels of taurine are significantly lower in vegans than in meat eaters.
Bottom Line: Taurine is a sulfur compound that has many important functions in the body. It is only found in animal foods.
Take Home Message
Vegetarian and vegan diets may be very healthy for some people. However, there are a few important nutrients that are impossible to get from commonly consumed plant foods. If you plan to completely eliminate animal foods, then be extra prudent about your diet and make sure you are getting everything your body needs.
In this video from Active Beat, narrator Tyler explains the nutritional benefits of greek yogurt, or “strained yogurt,” as it’s also known. Tyler also explains how not all Greek yogurt is created equal with some brands just trying to cash in on the trend.
If you are overweight, there’s a very good chance that you are a food addict.
Let me stop right there and tell you that I’m not blaming you. You are not gluttonous, nor weak-willed, nor any other self-recriminating belief you may have about yourself and your relationship to food. Your hormones, taste buds and brain chemistry have been hijacked by the food industry. Not metaphorically, but biologically.
The one trillion dollar industrial food system is the biggest drug dealer around, responsible for contributing to tens of millions of deaths every year and siphoning trillions of dollars from our global economy through the loss of human and natural capital.
I realize this sounds extreme and overstated, but hear me out. Once you understand the forces at play in food addiction, you will never think the same way again about Snapple, Diet Coke and processed snacks, cookies and cake. We need to acknowledge our addiction, face it, and address it head-on, both as individuals and as a society.
But first, you need to take back your own health. And I’m here to help you do exactly that. In order to break free from these addictive substances and reprogram your biology, you need to detox from the drug-like foods and beverages you’ve been hooked on.
Science now proves sugar is more powerfully addictive than alcohol, cocaine or even heroin (and if you’re thinking about going for diet soda instead, take note: Artificial sweeteners may be more addictive than regular sugar).
When we treat alcoholics or cocaine addicts, we don’t say “Practice moderation” and advise them to cut down to just one drink or one line of cocaine a day. We know they must clear the brain and body of these powerful drugs completely, ideally through a well-designed program that supports the detox process.
That’s precisely why I designed my Blood Sugar Solution 10-Day Detox Diet. In just 10 days, you’ll have a whole new level of clarity, both physically and mentally. You’ll know with certainty that you can regain control, feel good, and change your life forever. You’ll finally break free of sugar’s shackles.
What if you’re trying this diet just to lose some weight and make good on your New Year’s resolution? That’s fine. We all want to look good! The magic in the Blood Sugar Solution 10-Day Detox Diet is that you’ll end up not just looking fantastic, but feeling fantastic, too—quite possibly better than you ever imagined.
Just to be clear, though, the Blood Sugar Solution 10-Day Detox Diet is not a magic cure or a gimmicky weight loss scheme. It is a comprehensive, science-based approach to ending food addiction and creating rapid, safe weight loss and long-term optimal health.
This plan is for anyone who wants to experience what true wellness feels like, and for most people, that realization is just 10 days away. Again, I realize that you may not believe all this is possible. And you don’t have to.
All you have to do is give it a try and see for yourself how quickly the body heals and sheds pounds when it is getting what it really needs. Most of my patients say, “Dr. Hyman, I didn’t know I was feeling so bad until I started feeling so good.”
Rethinking Weight Loss and Optimal Health
Perhaps the most important piece of news when it comes to genes and weight is this: You can put your genes on a diet and program them for weight loss and health.
Yes, you read that right. You can’t swap out the genes you have inherited, but you can literally reprogram your genes to help you get slim and healthy. How? That’s easy: Through food.
You see, food contains not just calories or energy to fuel our cells; food contains information. It is the control mechanism that regulates almost every chemical reaction in our bodies by communicating instructions to our genes, telling them whether to gain or lose weight, and to turn on the disease-creating or health-promoting genes.
This is the groundbreaking science of nutrigenomics. With every bite of food you take, you are sending direct messages to your genes, which control the production of all proteins in your body. And the proteins (hormones, neurotransmitters, and all sorts of chemical messengers) are the very things that control your metabolism, appetite, and health. When you think about it that way, suddenly choosing the right foods seems like a no-brainer!
It all comes down to quality. Whole, real, and fresh: Those are the three key words you need to know when it comes to choosing foods to program your genes for weight loss and health. Everything else should be considered “not food.”
That’s the foundation of The Blood Sugar Solution 10-Day Detox Diet. Rather than becoming another diet you’ll struggle to adhere to, this plan shifts perspective so that you become a qualitarian, not going on a diet.
The Blood Sugar Solution 10-Day Detox Diet focuses on real, high-quality, whole, fresh foods to put your genes on a diet and make the pounds disappear. The plan contains three phases, all of which are key to your success. Here’s a sneak preview about what you can expect in each phase as the pounds melt away and you take your health to a whole new level.
Phase 1: Prep Phase
Here you’ll find everything you need to get started and set yourself up for optimal success, beginning with your pantry and ending with your mind-set. Ideally, set aside two days for this phase before you begin the program, to physically and psychologically set the detox process in motion. During those two days, you’ll gather all the food and supplies you need.
The key to weight loss and health is planning and preparation. The reality is that many people spend more time planning parties and vacations than planning their health. You have to design your life for success and create an environment that directs you toward the right choices automatically. For instance, if you have nuts in your pantry instead of a sheet cake, you are more likely to make a good choice.
Setting up your mind, kitchen, and work or school environment right is essential for long-term health and weight loss. Before you get started on the Blood Sugar Solution 10-Day Detox Diet, set aside two days to do the necessary preparation.
To optimize your results and avoid detours and delays, you’ll want to have everything you need ready to go. There are six simple things you’ll do during the Prep Phase, and in my book I’ve provided step-by-step instructions about how to do each:
During the Prep Phase, your Detox Journal is your lifeline to rooting out the mental obstacles, beliefs, and attitudes that can sabotage your success. The goal here is to bring awareness to what stands in your way and consciously shift your focus to what you want and know you can accomplish.
Phase 2: the 10-Day Detox Diet Plan
Here you will receive a specific directions on what to eat and when during each day of your detox. I’ll also give you everything you need to know to do the essential daily practices, including exercise, the UltraDetox Bath, journaling, and daily relaxation exercises (all of which are critical for healing!).
Each of the 10 days has a specific focus to help you remove the most common obstacles to weight loss success and provide the tool kit to get and stay healthy.
Your template for the 10 days is simple. While the daily to-dos are the same, the recipes and daily theme are customized so you’ll know exactly what to cook, eat, and focus on each day. All you have to do is follow each step carefully and the results happen automatically.
The elements included in the 10-Day Detox Diet are designed to work together to create powerful results. You don’t have to believe or understand them— just do them anyway. They work automatically. Once you do them, you will discover their hidden synergistic powers of healing.
Again, I’ll provide a comprehensive, day-by-day strategy for everything you need to know about how to do each of the practices.
Phase 2 will transform your eating, but it also gives you the chance to connect with yourself— to examine your thoughts and beliefs, and the ways in which you live that don’t support the greatest expression of who you are. Ten days may not seem like a lot, but you will get a taste of what is possible.
Phase 3: the Transition Phase
This phase gives you a road map for what to do after your 10-Day Detox Diet, and how to transition to a long-term health and weight loss strategy based on my book The Blood Sugar Solution. I know you’ll want to continue feeling as great as you do immediately after the 10 days!
The first two phases give you a small taste of what is possible, and now it’s up to you to decide the path you want to follow to take your health and weight loss to even greater levels.
In Phase 3, I provide three different transitional paths you can choose from: the Super Advanced Plan, the Advanced Plan, and the Basic Plan. Each of these is designed for specific goals, but all are guaranteed to keep the success going. After that, I’ll give you the Blood Sugar Solution for Life, your template for staying slim and healthy forever.
You’ll also do a little mental debriefing and take some final tests and measurements. This will help you to preserve what’s fresh in your mind about your experience, as well as to see the full scope of your results. Simply put, Phase 3 provides the blueprint for a healthy, happy, lean life.
How important do you think preparation and long-term planning are for weight loss? Share your experiences below or on my Facebook page.
We have helped thousands of people Detox and get a health reboot. Would you like to join our10-Day Detox DietChallenge in April and get ready for bathing suit season? Click here to learn how you can become a 10-Day Detox Dietsuccess story.