What Are YOU Hungry for – Carbs; Protein, Fat or Something ELSE?
The Science and Art of Nourishment
by Sharon Montes, MD
When we all close our eyes and imagine
Food, glorious food!
Hot sausage and mustard!
While we’re in the mood —
Cold jelly and custard!
Pease pudding and saveloys!
What next is the question?
Rich gentlemen have it, boys —
Why should we be fated to
Do nothing but brood
Lyrics from the movie Oliver. (1) Source: http://www.lyricsondemand.com/[i]
As we enter this season of late summer, it is time to harvest the earth’s abundance. (At least for those of us living in the Northern Hemisphere.) Today we are celebrating FOOD! Food – both physical and energetic, exploring ways that we can be nourished. In addition, we will explore some of the research around different diets. (A friend recently pointed out that DIE-T is not a healthy word.) Classical Chinese wisdom answers the question of the best nutrition plan with the simple clear advice follow the seasons and customize based on the individual needs. In contrast western diet theory gets polarized around meat vs plants. As a teenager so did my nutritional choices.
Growing up on a small farm I appreciated how good quality food started with good soil, and watched how cleaning the barn and tilling the compost into to the garden improved the quality of the soil. My artistic mother loaded our food with wheat germ while my scientific father made sure we had the opportunity to spend thousands of hours planting, weeding, watering, harvesting and storing food from our garden. When I was 15 he also offered me the opportunity to chop off a chicken’s head or stop eating meat. That was my first foray into being a vegetarian. It lasted a few years but fizzled due to student life when I adapted a more “junkatarian” nutrition plan.
Earlier this year, following my passion to promote HEALTH on Earth I became a facilitator for a Lifestyle Medicine program that has 25 years of proven efficacy preventing and reversing heart disease and diabetes. This specific program promotes a low-fat plant-based diet and is supported by a lot of science and research. (Think The China Study, Drs Ornish, Esselstyn, Barnard, and McDougal.)(2) I spent three months marketing the program, and two months teaching the program to a small group of elders at my mother’s church. Ranging in age from 62 to 83 year this dynamic wise group of people taught me a lot. The support they provided each other – trying new recipes and using their pedometers – was inspiring to watch. (3)
While I was teaching this class, I read a well-designed study that suggested “that low protein intake during middle age followed by moderate to high protein consumption in old adults may optimize healthspan and longevity.” (4) YIKES! Was I teaching something that was going to worsen their health? One of the challenges of recruiting people for my class is a pervasive passion in Northern Colorado for the “Paleolithic” diet as well as many people who hunt and say where is the research proving grass-fed “free range” game is harmful to health. OK now how to find the unity in these world views?
“The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.”
So I spent hours touring the wealth of information on Pub Med and reviewing the wisdom found in classical Chinese medicine. In reviewing the literature, one of the things that became clear was how reductionist our research of food is. Rather than describing food, we write about components: high carb (HC) low carb (LC), protein and fat, or even single nutrients like vitamin E or omega-3 oils. I found a plethora of published research, and would like to share a bit of what I learned.
One meta-analysis (a study of studies, judged to have significance in the research world) compared low-fat with high-fat diets. Their findings? “The results of our meta-analysis do not allow for an unequivocal recommendation of either low-fat or high-fat diets in the primary prevention of cardiovascular disease.” (5) Another VERY interesting article did a great job describing the importance of individualizing specific nutrient and lifestyle interventions.
Did you know that only a certain percentage of the population is sensitive to salt increasing their blood pressure? Or than in some people with a specific type of gene, fish oil will raise rather than lower their total cholesterol and LDL? (6) Another article showed that a diet high in a diversity of foods is more likely to prevent metabolic syndrome – a pre-diabetes condition.(7) AH HAH, now we are getting somewhere. The greater diversity of foods you ate the better your blood tests looked. A review article described programs that encouraged people to notice when they were hungry or full, make eating choices based on health and enjoyment, and eat intuitively. (8)
When I got this far I stopped and smiled. Science catching up with and reflecting back classical wisdom. For as our own Ellasara Kling advises, “ Always follow your own intuition about what foods are good for you as well as taking into account your own individual circumstances and situation.” (9) So what was my take-home from teaching and following the nutrition plan recommended by the Complete Health Improvement Plan? As a teacher I am THRILLED by any program that gets people to eat more fruits and vegetables and less junk food, even if as individuals they thrive eating more protein and fat. Personally, eating less meat strikes me as a kinder, gentler way to walk on the earth. Personally I found that following a very healthy diet for six weeks, made me more aware of my own body wisdom and intuition.
This season in addition celebrating to Food as Medicine, we are celebrating YOUR unique intuition and YOUR unique nourishment plan. (10)
WHAT ARE YOU HUNGRY FOR?
Sharing just a bit of the abundance of nourishment that has entered my life in the last 24 hours
Eyes – vision of the light and color of sunset behind the mountains
Nose – aroma of baking bread; alfalfa as I walk through field
Mouth – tasting the SWEET juice taste peaches and cherries; savoring clear refreshing clean WATER
Ears – hearing morning doves, music – belly dance, baroque; waves on shoreline
Skin – sensation of dog nestled against my leg as I sit in bed reading
As we leave summer and you are choosing abundance, how you will nourish yourself? How will you CELEBRATE being on earth? Please ask yourself:
What am I hungry for?
What am I receiving that nourishes me?
Yours with great joy and gratitude… for today a vegan that occasionally eats goat cheese, elk or salmon, celebrating food and a wise body that knows what it wants to be healthy.
The dancing doc
1 This song also reflects the truth that more people around the world are experiencing the non-communicable diseases of affluence while others are starving. I pause to acknowledge and give gratitude for the abundance that saturates my life.
2 Darren Morton, Paul Rankin, Lillian Kent and Wayne Dysinger. The Complete Health Improvement Program (CHIP): History, Evaluation, and Outcomes. AMERICAN JOURNAL OF LIFESTYLE MEDICINE published online 22 April 2014
3 One gentleman didn’t adopt a vegan diet, and refused to eat kale, but he did stop eating junk food and increased the amount of fruits and vegetables he ate. He lost 15 pounds and stopped or lowered the dose of a few of his medications.
4 Levine ME 1, Suarez JA 2, Brandhorst S 2, Balasubramanian P 2, Cheng CW 2, Madia F 3, et al.. Low protein intake is associated with a major reduction in IGF-1, cancer, and overall mortality in the 65 and younger but not older population. Cell Metab. 2014 Mar 4;19(3):407-17. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/?term=Cell+Metab.+2014+Mar+4%3B19(3)%3A407-17
5 Schwingshackl L, Hoffmann G. Comparison of effects of long-term low-fat vs high-fat diets on blood lipid levels in overweight or obese patients: a systematic review and meta-analysis. J Acad Nutr Diet. 2013 Dec;113(12):1640-61. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24139973
6 Minich DM1, Bland JS. Personalized lifestyle medicine: relevance for nutrition and lifestyle recommendations. ScientificWorldJournal. 2013 Jun 26;2013:129841. Free copy of article http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3710624/
7 Baik I1, Lee M, Jun NR, Lee JY, Shin C. A healthy dietary pattern consisting of a variety of food choices is inversely associated with the development of metabolic syndrome. Nutr Res Pract. 2013 Jun;7(3):233-41. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23766885
10 Nourishment = the food or other substances necessary for growth, health and good condition. https://www.google.com/webhp?sourceid=chrome-instant&rlz=1C1ASUT_enUS569US569&ion=1&espv=2&ie=UTF-8#q=definition%20of%20nourishment
Many people speak loudly and passionately about the BEST nutritional plan for optimal health. Unfortunately many of these recommendations contradict each other
Sharon Montes, M.D. – practiced and taught family medicine in medical schools for 17 years. Dr. Montes is committed to integrating science and world wisdom in her professional and personal life. Dr. Montes served for 5 years as the Medical Director for the University of Maryland Center for Integrative Medicine and has practiced meditation for 34 years. She is an active and enthusiastic member of the tribe committed to integrating ancient wisdom and modern technology with the goal of creating health care and educational systems that serve with greater joy and efficiency.