Food Habit Assessment

When “taking stock” or “assessing” your degree of whole health, you should not neglect a thorough review of your food habits and nutritional patterns. You may compare your nutritional habits with the nutritional information in previous articles.
Healthful Food Habits
You cannot feel well unless you provide your body with the nutrients it needs to do its part of the work. The U.S. Government authorized guide to healthy eating omits this important information: choosing “organically grown” foods to eat helps provide trace minerals necessary to mental and physical health and reduces the risk of residual pesticides and herbicides on and in the foods.
A “pattern,” or habit, of three to four small, healthful meals a day distributes the calories and nutrients in a way that helps prevent fatigue, headache, confusion, nervousness, irritability and fat deposits.
For persons with the above complaints, one of the most important self-assessments to make is your eating habits. By that I mean, on a typical day, what and when do you eat? Do you skip breakfast or lunch? Do you substitute coffee and cigarettes for a meal? Snack on candy or donuts? Eat all day or all evening? “Fast” to punish yourself for binging? Then binge when you can’t hold out any longer? Do you avoid all fats? Do you avoid any kinds of food? Do you use laxatives or exercise to “get rid of the calories”? The habits and practices listed in this paragraph fail to meet your body’s needs for the day’s activities.
Skipping breakfast tends to make you very hungry at lunch time, if you were able to wait that long. People who do not eat breakfast and “diet” most of the time by eating green salads, do not provide the body with the energy it needs at the time it needs it. They often suffer from fatigue.
Snack Habits, Functional Hypoglycemia and Fatigue
One kind of fatigue that comes from faulty eating patterns is related to “low blood sugar.” This low blood sugar usually is called “functional hypoglycemia” and is not considered to be a disease since it can be corrected by correcting the eating pattern.
When you find that you are getting tired before the time for your next meal, you can “snack” by eating something healthful, preferably a protein such as a cheese stick or complex carbohydrate such as whole grain baked crackers, and wait a few minutes. Your energy will be restored.
Drinking coffee provides a stimulant and temporarily raises your blood sugar, but it also increases stomach acidity and nervous irritability. Its “lift” does not last as long as that of protein and complex carbohydrate snacks.
If you snack on high sugar foods or even on fruits, the energy is soon used up, and your blood sugar level may drop too low for you to feel well.
If you eat a candy bar loaded with sugar and fats, your blood sugar may not drop so dramatically, but you don’t need all the calories of energy at that time and the excess calories will be stored as fat.
If you eat a high fat, high sugar, refined flour snack, a doughnut for example, you miss the vitamins and minerals you need and get more calories than you need which also will store as fat.
If you eat too much at one time, whether for a meal or for a snack, the excess calories will be stored as fat. Stored fat does not break down easily in order to provide energy and prevent feelings of fatigue. Neither can it substitute for the essential fatty acids that must come from the daily food intake.
Too many people are extremely successful in eliminating fat from their eating pattern. Fat in small amounts helps keep you from getting overly hungry. It helps you feel satisfied with your meal. Fats have been so maligned that I must repeat: “Your body MUST HAVE ONE TABLESPOON OF OIL OR FAT A DAY TO FUNCTION PROPERLY.” Fat is essential for mental and physical health.
If you are one of those who have eliminated fats from your diet, you will begin feeling better in just two weeks after you provide your body with the essential fats daily. One should avoid the “hard” fats and prefer those in the form of polyunsaturated light oils (canola and safflower have been highly recommended), or olive oil which is mono-unsaturated.
Food Habits and Nutritional Supplements
After reading the earlier article “Food as a Therapeutic Aid” you have a good idea of whether the variety of food you eat is adequate or not. If your diet has been out of balance and if you have depended on refined foods for a long time, a hair analysis may be advisable to determine whether or not you need to add specific foods or mineral supplements to your food intake.
If organically grown foods are not available and a hair analysis is not available, a trial period of vitamin-mineral supplements may be indicated. Whatever you do, notify your doctor in writing so that your record will be complete and taken into consideration when you are examined again.
If you chose to take nutritional supplements without health care supervision, please review carefully the information on vitamins and minerals in the previous articles. Vitamins and minerals are effective in the amounts found in a wide variety of foods. Years of limited variety and refined food choices deplete some of the body’s vitamin and mineral reserves. Ordinary stress and illnesses increase the demand for some vitamins and minerals. In these instances, a “therapeutic” dose of vitamins and minerals may be indicated above the daily “insurance” or maintenance dose. Here, I will highlight some of the more important precautions in therapeutic uses of vitamin and mineral supplementation.
Avoid prolonged use of large supplements of the fat soluble Vitamins A, D, E, and K (especially A and D) unless you are being followed by your physician. Among the symptoms of excess Vitamin A and/or D is deep bone pain that may be mistaken for arthritis.
The water soluble vitamins may be taken in larger amounts than the Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA). The RDA is thought by some researchers to be deficient in Vitamin C and perhaps the B Vitamins; however, it is also possible to “overdose” with these vitamins. The following are a few examples of “therapeutic uses” of vitamins and minerals. See the previous chapter for a more extensive review.
Vitamin C is often used to assist in fighting infections, especially respiratory infections.
Niacin (B3) is being used in very large doses by some physicians to treat excess cholesterol in the blood. Excess cholesterol has been associated with high blood pressure and decreased nourishment of some body tissues, including the heart and brain.
Vitamin B6 is often recommended by physicians to treat Pre-Menstrual Syndrome. It acts as a diuretic and decreases the swelling of fingers and the headaches from water retention. The dose is much larger than the RDA, but is in the range of 25 to 50 mg. a day. Lengthy periods of extremely large doses of the B vitamins have been associated with nerve damage. Some health food vitamin and mineral preparations provide doses that are thousands of times greater than the RDA, therefore, caution is advised in developing a program of supplementation by yourself.
A good book on therapeutic nutrition will describe the symptoms of vitamin and mineral “toxicity” (too much) and “deficiency” (too little). For example, one of the symptoms of too little magnesium is the “startle” reaction, that is, “jumping” when you hear sudden, loud sounds. Too little zinc is related to a decreased sense of taste and smell. There are other signs and symptoms for magnesium and zinc deficiency also.
How Much Supplement?
Let me remind you again, with vitamins and minerals, as with many medications, there seems to be an optimum amount to take. This is sometimes called the “therapeutic window” and means that at some point, more is not better and at another point, less is not better. Yet, stresses, genetic and physical requirements all differ with the individual and result in differing amounts of nutrients needed by each individual. These required amounts usually are within a certain range. To assist you in learning what your needs are, when you are convinced that you need supplementation, you will need to “monitor” yourself by keeping written records and consult with your health care provider.


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