Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Organic Fitness

Just last Thursday I attended the annual NAND (Nebraska Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics) conference at the Lied Lodge in Nebraska City, Nebraska.  It was a great event - multiple knowledgeable speakers, delicious food and networking with fellow dietitians.  I wanted to share some of what I learned with you and hopefully inspire you, as I was, to make more healthy lifestyle choices. 
The speaker I enjoyed the most, was Dr. James H O'Keefe, MD a Board Certified Cardiologist at Cardiovascular Consultants and Mid America Heart Institute.  He spoke to our group about getting back to the roots of good nutrition vs. opting for fad diets or quick fixes.  

Sounds like something we have all heard over and over again right?  Well Dr. O'Keefe spoke about why he thinks we have become an obese society  in the first place and gave us his top tips for living a long, healthy life.

Over the past 50 years, our nation has turned into a country high in overweight and obese individuals.  There has been multiple theories as to why this occurred.  Is it due to our soda intake, high fructose corn syrup, or fast food?  Though it may be easier to point blame at one reason, this just isn't the case.  It really does come down to our ancestry. 

Hundreds of years ago our ancestors survived only on what they hunted and gathered.  They were often on their feet because if they didn't move they didn't eat.  Foods higher in fat and calories helped to keep them alive and therefore we evolved to seek high fat and calorie foods.  High sugar foods gave immediate energy leading to its enticing qualities as well.  However, none of them were overweight.

Jump ahead to present day and we still crave high fat, high sugar foods.  This is because our DNA has not changed much from the days of the hunters and gatherers.  In fact, Dr. O'Keefe pointed out that it takes thousands and thousands of years for our DNA to change even a little bit.  So, therefore, we are left with the DNA of a hunter but the lifestyle of someone much different.  We don't need to hunt our food.  We can drive through a fast food restaurant and take in 1,000 calories easily in five minutes.  So you can see how all of our convenience and low-activity lifestyle all contributes to the current weight battle many of us fight.

Dr. O'Keefe presented us all with his tips for a healthy life.  Many you have heard of and may even already follow yourself.  However, there were a couple of tips that were even intriguing to me.

*Incorporate vegetarian protein into your diet.  Examples include tofu, seitan, tempeh, beans & nuts.  I am a big fan of at least trying to do one vegetarian meal a week such as a meatless Monday.

*Increase your fruit and vegetable intake to 9 servings per day.  One serving of fruit is a small piece of fruit, half a cup of low-sugar canned fruit, or 1 cup chopped fruit or berries.  One serving of vegetables is 1 cup cooked greens, 2 cups raw greens or 1 cup raw vegetables.

* Drink 3 cups of green tea per day.

* Fast for 12 hours at least 4 days per week.  Dr. O'Keefe recommends to stop eating after dinner and just have tea, water or sparkling water until breakfast the next morning.

*Aim to eat as close to the earth as possible.  In other words, try to avoid long ingredients lists and keep packaged food intake to a minimum.

*Increase your fiber intake.  If you are eating 9 servings of fruits and vegetables per day, however, you shouldn't have much trouble.

*Exercise, but not too much.  Dr. O'Keefe advocates getting out and moving for an hour a day most days of the week.  But he is not a big proponent of constant marathons or ultra-marathons.  Even with exercise there such a thing as too much of a good thing.

*Dr. O'Keefe believes in avoiding gluten.  He suggested checking out the book "Wheat Belly" which overviews the toxic effect of wheat.  He tends to only eat barley, quinoa, steel cut oats and wild rice for grains.

Don't overdo supplements.  Get 1,000 mg EPA and DHA in a fish oil capsule and 2,000 IU Vitamin D3 especially during the winter months.

I really wish I had a recording of Dr. O'Keefe's talk because he told a lot of interesting stories about his family's health history.  Hopefully, though, this overview will give you some good insight into how you can improve your own nutrition and wellness for a long, happy & healthy life.

[Editor's note: For more information please see Dr. O'Keefe's original article here]

--Lindsay Lannan

Lindsay was awarded her bachelor’s degree in nutrition and food science with a dietetic specialization from South Dakota State University. She completed an internship program at the University of Nebraska Medical Center and experienced many areas of dietetics including intensive care, solid organ transplant, weight loss and management, and long-term care. She is an active member of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (formerly the American Dietetic Association). She can be followed at: http://hyveehealthstateofmind.wordpress.com.