New plans can be made anytime of the year, but what better time than now? Spring is a time of renewal and regeneration, so why not make a resolution to optimise your health through lifestyle and nutrition adjustments?
Every second adult has a chronic disease like high blood pressure or diabetes, and one-in-four have at least two. Developing a chronic disease means lifelong and persisting effects, and a need for long-term management by yourself and health professionals and probably medications. But, in most cases, this can be avoided.
Good health is determined by factors that either influence health, or actions that you take to improve your health – you can’t do much about your genes, but you can do a lot with your lifestyle and nutrition. While nutrition is necessary to sustain our lives, it’s also unfortunately the causation of a lot of our ill health. Some 64 per cent of Australians are overweight, which immediately puts them into a higher risk category for a chronic disease. Most people will tell you they are confused by the various and often opposing ideas about what constitutes good nutrition, but when we eat the wrong carbohydrates over several years, gradual weight gain, especially around our liver and pancreas, and an increasing waistline – and the health concerns that come with obesity – will typically result.
A ‘Corrective Carbohydrate Restriction’ program is recommended for people who are overweight and wish to shed a few kilos, as well as for those who are at risk for type 2 diabetes or indeed have the disease already. Essentially, avoid or severely restrict all sugars, soft drinks, juices and sports drinks, refined and processed foods, and importantly bread, pasta, rice, potatoes and other starch products.
Fat remains controversial despite loads of good research stating otherwise. Notions that ‘fat makes you fat’ and that fat and cholesterol caused heart disease are untrue – good fats like avocados, nuts and seeds, olives and olive oils seem to be accepted by most nutrition advocates. I also advocate fish, poultry, pork, lamb and beef. Low-fat products, on the other hand, contain polyunsaturated oils that are highly processed and give us the wrong omega3-omega6 ratios, which are pro-inflammatory.
“Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food” makes a lot of sense. The medical world is waking up to the importance of nutrition and it is inspiring and motivational to see that the UK college of GPs is now educating its doctors in low-carb nutrition.
What you can do…
A simple measurement may indicate that you are at risk of carbohydrate intolerance diseases such as type 2 diabetes. Measure your abdominal girth at your belly button when standing, and then your height – the ratio of girth divided by height should be less than 0.5. If not, aim to get it less than 0.5 this spring!
Dr Tim O’Dowd, nutritionist and OBGYN