You Are What You Eat

Before I learned I had heart disease, I didn't pay a great deal of attention to nutrition. I had heard it was better to use margarine than butter, better to use olive oil or canola oil than lard, and better to eat chicken than beef. I ate what was supposed to be better and I still got heart disease.

I found out that doctors typically aren't given much training in nutrition and that some so-called nutrition experts are not well qualified in that field. A large sample of physicians were asked how much training they got in nutrition in medical school. The average was less than three hours, with many having only one hour or less. That's out of nearly 3,500 hours of medical training. The truth is that doctors may get their nutrition information from the same newspapers and TV programs we do and unless they have taken extra training in nutrition, they may not know much more about nutrition than the rest of us.

Some physicians have studied how foods and supplements affect our health. They found that what we eat is an essential factor in our ability to resist and reverse many diseases and other health problems. Interestingly, these doctors are not the first to tell us this. Throughout the past 5,000 years, important writers have said much the same thing, and have been largely ridiculed or ignored, just as happens to many of those saying it today.

This may have something to do with our reluctance to take the responsibility for our own health, rather than letting it fall on someone else. Physicians care about our health, but we are only one of a number of patients. Most doctors cannot possibly be as involved in each patient's personal situation as each of us can and should be about our own health. We have the power to control a major part of our own destiny. What we put into our body and how we use or abuse our body may be the single most important factor deciding how long we live and how well we will be while we are alive.

There are many mistaken beliefs about nutrition. Some may sound threatening to persons who have been advised to eliminate animal products and fat from their diet. Often heard are remarks about how vegetarians don't get enough calcium, proteins, essential amino acids, vitamins and minerals. These beliefs are not based on scientific studies or established nutritional information. Some are based on advertising campaigns, such as Milk does a body good , and Where's the beef? . Others may simply be from a lack of knowledge. The American Dietetic Association, a national organization of nutrition and diet information specialists, has issued a policy statement on vegetarian diets. The ADA is not a vegetarian group, and the majority of its members are not vegetarians, so it cannot be considered a biased view. The complete document is in Appendix G of this book. This authoritative resource should set straight many mistaken beliefs and provide answers to many questions about this recommended healthy lifestyle.

An inspirational example: Dr. Ruth Heidrich
Twenty years ago, at age 47 and with a successful career, Ruth was diagnosed with breast cancer. After losing both breasts and facing painful chemotherapy and radiation treatments, she was advised by Dr. John McDougall to change her diet and lifestyle instead. Since then she has followed a nutritional plan which is essentially the same as the recommendations given in this book, 10% calories from fat, about 10% from protein and the rest from complex carbohydrates. For 12 years she has eaten no meat, fish, poultry, dairy, egg products or white sugar. Now past 60, she has won, in her class, over 44 marathons world-wide and 6 first place trophies from the Ironman Triathlon, considered by some to be the most grueling race in the world. She still competes in about 50 races a year, takes first place in her class in most of them, and yet she takes no vitamins or supplements. Her regular checkups show no deficiencies, and her cancer has not spread to any other part of her body. When people say that they can't get enough energy or can't receive all their nutritional requirements from a low fat vegetarian diet, Dr. Heidrich's example is living proof that we can. Her Race for Life is an inspirational story of her victory over cancer.

Understanding the reasons for avoiding certain foods should make it easier to give them up or at least reduce the quantity taken. There are many dietary considerations for maintaining good health and reducing the risk of disease or early death. Knowledge about fats, carbohydrates, protein and cholesterol s essential for a healthy heart. Knowing what to eat and what to avoid will help you make the proper choices for a longer, healthier life. Before examining the most important nutritional factors for a healthy heart, I'll present some information about things we put in our body.

Next: Sodium, Caffeine, & Alcohol

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©1994, 1996, 2002
Dr. Neal Pinckney
Healing Heart Foundation