by Samuel Lam, M.D.
Part One: The Importance of Proper Diet
Diet is everything. I would say 70 to 80% of looking and feeling better comes down to eating a good diet. It is vital to eat slowly, chew your food, include more organic fresh vegetables and fruits, and eat a little less meat. I am a big fan of the Paleo diet (read Paleo Answer and Paleo Solution) as well as the concept espoused by the book, Why We Get Fat, i.e. eating carbs leads to higher insulin levels that in turn leads to fat storage so cut down on your starchy carbs.
Shop at the edges of the grocery store and buy as many colored food items as possible. Buy the rainbow of food colors. Do not eat any processed food, period. I have stayed away from fast food for a few years now. The cheap meats and the chemicals that are in them are nothing short of deadly. If you do this one thing alone, you will be much healthier.
Give up caffeine if you can. I stopped over a year ago and now feel much better. I do not have the up and down energy swings anymore. When your body is totally fit you will not need to rely on caffeine. Do I miss the taste? Not really. Not after awhile.
We all consume way too much sugar. Start to cut down on your sugar intake but don’t replace it with aspartame or saccharine. Those chemicals are truly bad for you and can actually spur your body on toward obesity. Replace sugar if you have a sweet tooth with natural Agave honey or Stevia and do so in moderation.
Get rid of all things white: white sugar, white bread, and white rice. Consume unpolished, brown rice only but in moderation. A book that has had a profound influence on me is Wheat Belly. The idea is that most of the wheat today is genetically modified. Since I have cut out wheat of all kinds (so there is no such thing as ‘healthy whole grains’) I have lost significant fat, my belly, and about 12 pounds.
Give up dairy. Stop drinking milk of any kind, especially the conventional steroid-laden kind. In No Happy Cows, John Robbins argues that the FDA has outlawed the label that milk may or may not have recombinant bovine growth hormone simply because the Monsanto lead counsel was the head commissioner of the FDA when this law passed. Curious, huh?
Cheese, ice cream, etc. are all bad. When we talk about needing milk for growth and to prevent osteoporosis, that is pure bunk. The best thing to limit osteoporosis is exercise to strengthen one’s bones. It is debatable as to whether calcium is even needed.
Eat when you are hungry. If I feel hungry, my body is telling me I need something so I eat something small. I try to have 2 small snacks between my meals but with my busy schedule I don’t always do that. Smaller meals eaten more frequently program your body toward a greater metabolism that leads to faster fat burning.
I also try to avoid eating any meal for at least 3 hours before going to sleep. I like the rule, “eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, and dinner like a pauper.”
A study from the University of Irvine showed that organic vegetables have a much higher polyphenol content, a secondary metabolite that helps with a vegetable’s defense against bugs.
When there are pesticides, the polyphenol count goes down because the plant does not need to mount a defense against the bug.
We get a huge degree of our protection against illness and disease from polyphenols. I have not been sick one day for over two years now, and I do not get a flu shot.
Take fish oil and vitamin D. Omega-3s from fish oil regulate blood pressure, resting heart rate and limit sudden death, arrhythmias, etc.; we simply do not get enough because we do not eat enough fish. Salmon is the best source of omega-3s where tilapia followed by orange roughy are the worst on the list, i.e., those latter fish give very little omega 3s.
Do not eat farm raised fish but only wild. (Avoid big fish like tuna that carry more mercury. Watch the extras section of the DVD The Cove and you probably will not eat tuna again.) We need to ingest (if we do not get it from fish) about 1000-2000 mg combined total of EPA and DHA per day, so check the backside of your Omega-3 supplements to make sure that you are getting that quantity.
With proper Vitamin D we can prevent arthritis, cardiovascular disease, depression, pain, cancer, osteoporosis, hypertension, diabetes, etc.
We should shoot for 40-60 ng/ml as a blood level with 30 ng/ml being insufficient and below 20 ng/ml being truly deficient. A recommended dose of supplementation is 2000 IUs per day as a start. In contrast most multivitamins only contain 400 IUs.
Read anything written by Michael Pollan. His magnum opus is The Omnivore’s Dilemma. His shorter book that is equally great is In Defense of Food. That book is actually what started my change toward better health so I owe a lot to him.
His newer short book of simply a list of rules (as I am doing here) is called Food Rules and even though I did not buy it because I have read all his other books I think it is brilliant. However, for the non-reader, read Food Rules, as it summarizes all his thinking in pithy one-liners. Even better and shorter, watch the movie, Food, Inc. – it will change your life.
Even if you plan on not exercising (which I hope you will exercise, as the next installment will discuss), diet is the true key to a healthy lifestyle. If we could just eat right 90% of the time and give up processed foods, we could virtually eliminate heart disease, cancer, and the other maladies that afflict Western society caused by our Standard American Diet (SAD).
(published August 7, 2012)
Samuel M. Lam, M.D. is a double board-certified facial plastic surgeon and a board-certified hair restoration surgeon. The author of five major medical textbooks, Dr. Lam lectures monthly both nationally and internationally. He is the owner of the 27,000 square foot Willow Bend Wellness Center in Dallas, Texas, which supports meditation, revitalization, rejuvenation, relaxation and wellness. Dr. Lam has succeeded in recent years with his own physical transformation through a combination of proper diet and exercise, and would like to help others do the same.