December 31, 2017

How To Improve Your Performance (Part 3)

In How To Improve Your Performance, we determined how Exercise is crucial to boosting your mind, body and performance, and in How To Improve Your Performance (Part 2), we established that you need Sleep to repair and restore your mind and body for optimum health and well-being.

Optimizing what you Eat is another highly crucial factor to improve your performance. Nowadays, people have resorted to eating whatever is quick, convenient and satisfying to their taste buds. Most of this type of food provides minimal nutritional value and has unhealthy amounts of salt, sugar, and fats. If consumed regularly these foods can rapidly damage your health, and as a result can contribute to serious health issues, including obesity, diabetes, heart disease, cancers, and strokes.

If you are not paying attention to your health then you are most certainly eroding it. We may all think we know what to do to improve our health but it never is enough to push into consistent action. And taking additional nutritional supplements will not make much difference either because the body is unable to absorb most of their goodness. In actual fact most supplements leave the body in much the same condition they went into the body so money is literally poured down the toilet. The gut is an incredibly complicated and interconnected ecosystem that is affected by the delicate balance of flora and fauna in our intestines, levels of circulating trace elements and the chemical balance in our system.

Eating right helps you maintain a healthy weight and avoid numerous health problems. Not only does what you eat have a huge impact on your health and well-being, it is also the fuel, nutrition, and energy your mind and body needs to function at work, home, and play. Here is a list of foods that have been proven to be damaging to your health and well-being.

Processed Food

 

Processed food is food that has changed form, and is therefore different from how they occur in nature. Most people do not think of the food they eat to be harmful, but some of the ingredients commonly found in processed foods are considered toxic. "Toxic", meaning chemicals or highly processed ingredients that aren't good for you and can cause harm to your health and body. Some of these include refined grains, trans fats, high fructose corn syrup, and all the other artificial junk, and chemicals you cannot even pronounce on the ingredients lists. Any food that has been canned, dehydrated, reduced in fat, or had chemicals added to it is a processed food, and these foods make up over 60 per cent of the average U.S. diet.

When food is processed, not only are valuable nutrients lost and fibers removed, but the textures, natural variation and flavours are also lost. After processing, what is left behind is a bland and tasteless "pseudo-food" that people would not dare eat. Due to this, food manufacturers add nutrients, flavour, colour and texture to processed foods in order to make them more attractive, and this is why they become loaded with food additives. If you live in Europe, you may have more options than Americans, as you may be able to find some processed foods that do not contain synthetic additives.

US processed foods are worse than those in other countries. Many of the food additives that are legal to use in US foods are banned in other countries. More than 3,000 food additives such as preservatives, flavourings, colours and other ingredients are added to US foods. This is one of the key reasons why you should avoid them.

The more processed food you eat, the less nourished you become. Not only are you depriving yourself of nutrients your body needs to function and perform but you are also clogging up your arteries, intestines and colon with junk. If you do not recognize the ingredients on the food label (for example, Butylated Hydroxyanisole (BHA)), your body does not either. And it does not know how to digest and make use of them, trapping them inside your body. So, even if you go on a diet, your body is all clogged up, making it hard for you to lose weight. A build up of chemicals in your body can lead to blood clots, heart attacks, metabolic syndrome, inflammatory bowel disease, colon, thyroid, adrenal, kidney, bladder and brain cancers.

If you like your milk, low fat milk or skim milk undergoes additional processing to remove the fat content. The majority of the nutrition are removed, as well as Vitamin D and their omega 3 content. Omega 3 fatty acids have been linked to many health benefits, including improved heart and brain health and a lower risk of cancer. Many people avoid drinking whole milk because they assume the fat content and calories will cause them to gain weight and develop heart disease. Many studies have shown that consuming whole milk helps prevent weight gain and is associated with a lower risk of metabolic syndrome.

How healthy would you be right now if you had not eaten any of this junk?

The easiest way to be healthy is to eat food that does not have a food label, like avocado or steak. If you do choose to eat processed food, reading the label and being aware of the ingredients is invaluable.

Swapping your processed food diet for one that focuses on fresh whole foods is a necessity if you value your health and well-being. Remember, people have thrived on vegetables, meats, eggs, fruits and other whole foods for centuries, while processed foods were only recently invented.

If you want to be healthy, a good way is to prepare high-quality meals for yourself and your family. If you rely on processed inexpensive foods, you exchange convenience for long-term health problems and mounting medical bills.

Sugar

 

A carbohydrate that is sneaked into processed food in unusually high doses is sugar. For some reason in the food industry a fat-free diet construes to a sugar-full diet, which is the same as a fat-full diet. Sugar makes you fat so fat-free food isn’t really free of fat.

Sugar isn’t inherently evil. Your body burns sugar to provide you with the energy necessary for life, and for you to survive. Many healthy foods are broken down to sugar in the body in the form of glucose. In addition to the breakdown products of fat and protein, glucose is a great energy source for your body.

There are two ways that sugar can damage your body and cause fat storage. Excess glucose is the first problem. Anytime you fill your body with more fuel than it needs, your liver’s sugar storage capacity exceeds. When the liver is full, the excess sugar is converted by the liver into fatty acids and returned to the bloodstream where it is transported throughout the body and stored as fat in adipose fat cells mainly around your stomach, hips, buttocks, and breasts. Once these regions are full, the fatty acids begin to spill over into your organs, including the heart, liver, and kidneys. This reduces organ functionality, raises blood pressure, decreases metabolism, and weakens the immune system.

Excess insulin is the second problem. Insulin is a major hormone in the body, and is released in high levels anytime you ingest a “simple” carbohydrate. Two actions occur when the insulin levels rise. First, the body’s fat burning process is shut down so that the sugar that has just been ingested can be immediately used for energy. Then, insulin takes all that sugar and puts it into your muscles. When the muscles energy stores are full, the excess sugars are converted and stored as fat, just like in the first problem above.

After the blood sugar is reduced by going into the muscles or being converted to fat in the liver, the feedback mechanism that tells the body to stop producing insulin is slightly delayed, so blood sugar levels fall even lower, below normal measurements. This causes an immediate increase in appetite, and the production of a stress hormone cortisol. Cortisol triggers the release of stored sugar from the liver to bring blood sugar levels back up, which, combined with the meal you eat from your appetite increase, begins the entire “fat storage, metabolic decrease” process all over again. The excessive cortisol that accumulates in the body eventually distresses your hormonal system and results in other problems, including a further decrease in metabolism, obesity, depression, allergies, immune weakness, chronic fatigue syndrome and other serious side effects.

The average American consumes up to 28 teaspoons of added sugars per day, mostly from high fructose corn syrup and table sugar, according to the University of California, Berkeley. Australians also ingest an average of 28 teaspoons of sugar per day. This amounts to 440 extra calories daily. Many people consume significantly more than this, putting themselves at risk for type 2 diabetes and obesity related conditions such as heart disease and high blood pressure. The recommended amount of sugar intake for adults by The World Health Organization (WHO) is five per cent. For a normal weight adult, that's about 25 grams, or 6 teaspoons per day. To put this in perspective, a can of soda alone can have as many as 40 grams, or about 10 teaspoons of sugar.

Any organization that provides sweets, candy, lollies, doughnuts, chocolates, cakes, cookies, biscuits, processed foods, ice cream, fruit juices, sugar-packed beverages, especially for free, is doing their people a huge disservice. Another huge disservice is serving desserts at conferences, workshops, meets and the like.

Other than the desserts, chocolates and sweets mentioned above, to cut down on sugar you should also cut fruit juices, dried fruits, honey, sauces, salad dressing, dips, frozen yoghurt, maple syrup, corn syrup, and always check the food labels before purchasing any food for the sugar content. A lot of sugar is sneaked into bread and yoghurt as well, and for this reason, it is crucial to check.

Once you surpass the 'I need a sugar fix' or feeling like 'something sweet' stage, you will feel highly energized, sharper, extremely alert, more alive and most importantly, extra healthy.

John Yudkin was a British professor of nutrition who had sounded the alarm on sugar back in 1972, in a book called Pure, White, and Deadly. The book did well, but Yudkin paid a high price for it. Prominent nutritionists combined with the food industry destroyed his reputation, and his career never recovered. He died, in 1995, a disappointed, largely forgotten man.

Salt and Sodium

Salt is a natural mineral composed of two elements, 40 per cent sodium and 60 per cent chloride. It is also called sodium chloride (NaCl). Salt occurs naturally and is found in seawater and underground salt deposits. It forms as tiny crystals.

Sodium is the sixth most abundant mineral on earth and found naturally in the earth and environment. It is most commonly eaten as a component of table salt. We generally think of the salt shaker as the only source of sodium. Sodium also exists in most whole foods, from rockmelon to eggs. It also hides in a lot of unlikely places, like sandwich bread, milk, yoghurt and even medication.

In addition to salt, sources of sodium include monosodium glutamate (MSG), sodium citrate, sodium nitrate, baking soda, sodium bicarbonate, and sodium benzoate, disodium phosphate and any compound that has “sodium” or “Na” in its name.

Small amounts of sodium are essential for our health. A teaspoon of salt provides 2 g of sodium. The average American eats about 3.4 g of sodium per day, adults in the UK eat about 3.2 g of sodium per day and in Australia it is approximately 4 g per day. The American Heart Association recommends no more than 1.5 g per day for most adults. That is a little over 1/2 teaspoon of table salt per day.

Sodium is vital for muscle contraction, nervous system function and the absorption of nutrients like glucose and chloride, too much of the mineral can significantly increase your risk of high blood pressure, kidney disease, stroke, heart disease and congestive heart failure. If you consume too much sodium and too little potassium, you have a high risk of both heart disease and suffering from most major medical conditions. The best way to keep your sodium intake in check is to avoid processed, canned, pre-packaged, restaurant and frozen ready-made foods in favour of fresh produce, meat, whole grains and low sodium items like eggs and vegetables.

The amount of salt you eat has a direct effect on your blood pressure. Salt makes your body hold on to water. If you eat too much salt, the extra water stored in your body raises your blood pressure. So, the more salt you eat, the higher your blood pressure.

The higher your blood pressure, the greater the strain on your:

·     Kidneys - Your body removes unwanted fluid by filtering your blood through your kidneys. The extra fluid is sucked out and placed into your bladder to be removed as urine. To do this, your kidneys use osmosis to pull the extra water out of your blood. This process uses a balance of sodium and potassium to draw the water across a wall of cells from the bloodstream into a collecting channel that leads to the bladder. Eating salt increases the amount of sodium in your bloodstream and cripples this balance of sodium and potassium, reducing the ability of kidneys to remove the water. The result is higher blood pressure due to the extra fluid and the extra strain on the blood vessels leading to the kidneys. Over time, this extra strain can damage the kidneys, known as kidney disease. This reduces their ability to filter out unwanted and toxic waste products, which then start to build up in the body.

·     Arteries - The extra blood pressure caused by eating too much salt puts extra strain on the insides of your arteries. To cope with the extra strain, the tiny muscles in the artery walls become stronger and thicker. This makes the area inside the arteries smaller and raises your blood pressure even higher. This cycle of increasing blood pressure eventually leads to the arteries bursting or becoming so narrow that they clog up entirely. When this happens, the organs of the body that were receiving the blood from the arteries become starved of oxygen and nutrients they need. This results in the organs being fatally damaged.

·     Heart - The increase in blood pressure caused by eating too much salt may damage the arteries leading to the heart. At first, it may cause a slight reduction in the amount of blood reaching the heart. This could lead to angina (sharp pains in the chest when being active). With this condition the cells in the heart do not work as well as they should, as they are not receiving enough oxygen and nutrients. Lowering blood pressure may help lessen some of the problems and reduce the risk of greater damage. If you continue to eat too much salt, the damage caused by the extra blood pressure may become so severe that the arteries burst or become completely clogged. If this eventuates, the part of the heart that was receiving the blood no longer gets the oxygen and nutrients it needs and dies. The result is a heart attack. The best way to prevent a heart attack is to stop the arteries from being damaged. And one of the best ways of doing this is to keep your blood pressure down by eating less salt.

·     Brain - The raised blood pressure caused by eating too much salt may damage the arteries leading to the brain. At first, it may cause a slight reduction in the amount of blood reaching the brain. This may lead to dementia. With this condition the cells in the brain do not work as well as they should because they are not receiving enough oxygen and nutrients. Lowering blood pressure helps lessen some of the problems and reduces the risk of greater damage. If you continue to eat too much salt the damage caused by the extra blood pressure may become so severe that the arteries burst or become completely clogged. If this eventuates, then the part of the brain that was receiving the blood no longer gets the oxygen and nutrients it needs and dies. The result is a stroke, where you lose the ability to do the things that part of the brain used to control. The best way to prevent a stroke is to stop the arteries becoming damaged. One of the best ways of doing this is to keep your blood pressure down by eating less salt.

Organic Food vs Conventional Food

 

The main difference between organic and conventional food products is the chemicals involved during production and processing. Conventional food production practices involve the use of a number of chemicals that have devastating effects on the environment, and on human health.

Pesticides are the toxic substances used intentionally in our environment to kill living things. This includes substances that kill weeds (herbicides), insects (insecticides), fungus (fungicides), rodents (rodenticides), and others.

The use of toxic pesticides to manage pest problems has become common practice around the world. Pesticides are used almost everywhere, not only in agricultural fields, but also in homes, parks, schools, buildings, forests, and roads.

The health risks associated with exposure to pesticides are one of the main factors when looking at the differences between organic and conventional food. In 1962, Rachel Carson wrote Silent Spring to raise public awareness about the effects of pesticide use on our health and environment. However, after fifty years of drawing attention to the health and environmental impacts of DDT, use of equally hazardous pesticides have only increased. During all this time there have been more and more evidence surfacing that human exposure to pesticides are linked to health problems. In May 2010, scientists from the University of Montreal and Harvard University released a study that found that exposure to pesticide residues on vegetables and fruit double a child’s risk of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), a condition that can cause inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity in children.

Pesticides have been linked to a wide range of human health hazards, ranging from short-term impacts such as headaches and nausea to chronic impacts like asthma, cancer, reproductive harm, and endocrine disruption.

Chronic health effects may occur years after even minimal exposure to pesticides in the environment, or from the pesticide residues we ingest through food and water. A July 2007 study conducted by researchers at the Public Health Institute, the California Department of Health Services, and the UC Berkeley School of Public Health found a sixfold increase in the risk factor for autism spectrum disorders (ASD).

Pesticides can cause many types of cancer in humans. Some of the most common forms include leukemia, non-Hodgkins lymphoma, brain, bone, breast, ovarian, prostate, testicular and liver cancers. There is also rising evidence that exposure to pesticides disrupts the endocrine system, causing havoc with the complex regulation of hormones, the reproductive system, and embryonic development. Endocrine disruption can produce infertility and a variety of birth defects and developmental defects in the offspring.

Studies have shown that chemical pesticides linger in the atmosphere, the ground and in our waterways long after the job is over. When pesticides are applied onto a surface, they travel outside their intended area of use by air, soil or water. This is one common way in which chemical pesticides cause collateral damage, beyond their intended use. Pesticides used in your garden make their way into your home and into your body. They are easily tracked indoors by you, your children or your pets, and from there they can be absorbed into your body through your skin or lungs. It is a frightening thought when you think you could be breathing in or ingesting the very chemicals used to make grass grow or kill pests, in your own home.

Oils

 

Canola oil, a genetically modified product, is a Canadian invention. It is cheap to manufacture, many packaged or processed foods contain it, and many restaurants use it to prepare food (especially fries, hot chips and most other fried food). Canola oil was first created in the early 1970's as a natural oil, but in 1995, Monsanto created a genetically modified version of canola oil. As of 2005, 87 per cent of canola grown in the U.S. was genetically modified, and by 2009, 90 per cent of the Canadian crop was genetically engineered.

Canola is produced by heating the rapeseed and processing with a petroleum solvent to extract the oil. Next, heat and acid are used to remove nasty solids, like wax, that occur during the initial processing.

At this point, the newly created canola oil is treated with more chemicals to improve its colour and to separate the different parts of the oil. This chemical process creates a nasty smelling oil, so it must be chemically deodorized to be palatable.

Once they figured out how to genetically modify rapeseed oil, it began to be sold as an edible food product. On that account, it has been brought to market with the claim that it is a wonder oil, low in saturated fats and a source of omega 3 fatty acids. But in its current hybridized and modified state, it can cause a large number of health issues.

Rapeseed oil contains high amounts of the toxic erucic acid, which is poisonous to the body. Canola oil, also known as industrial oil, is an altered version called Low Erucic Acid Rapeseed (LEAR) and it is commonly genetically modified and treated with high levels of pesticides. Studies have shown that it has caused many kidney, liver and neurological health issues. This makes sense since there are reports that genetically modified (GMO) products, like corn and soy, also cause negative health effects.

Other vegetable oils, including sunflower, safflower, soybean, corn, cottonseed, grape seed, peanut, margarine, and their fats, should also be avoided completely. They are oils also extracted from seeds, and just like canola oil they are chemically removed, deodorized, and altered. These are some of the most chemically altered food, yet they get promoted as healthy.

Since vegetable oils are chemically produced, they contain harmful chemicals. Most vegetable oils and their products contain BHA (Butylated Hydroxyanisole) and BHT (Butylated Hydroxytoluene), which are artificial antioxidants that help prevent food from oxidizing or spoiling too quickly.

These chemicals have been shown to produce potential cancer causing compounds in the body, and have also been linked to liver and kidney damage, immune problems, infertility or sterility, high cholesterol, and behavioural problems in children.

With so many oils on the market, it is difficult to decide which is the healthiest oil to use. Canola oil stands out as the oil not to use, from genetic modification to an overload of unhealthy fats, that is damaging to your health and well-being.

So, what are the best oils to use?

 

Coconut oil - To date, there are over 1,500 studies proving coconut oil to be one of the healthiest foods on the planet. Unlike vegetable oils, coconut oil is not refined, processed or deodorized. The best kind of coconut oil is organic virgin and cold pressed. It has a high heat threshold and contains healthy fats called medium-chain fatty acids. According to medical research, they possess countless benefits to our bodies. Some of these known benefits are, improves memory and brain function, boosts energy and endurance, strengthens the immune system, reduces inflammation, prevents heart disease and high blood pressure, is the proven Alzheimer’s Disease natural treatment, improves digestion, assists weight loss, corrects Type II Diabetes, and so much more.

Olive Oil - The cornerstone of the Mediterranean diet. Look for organic extra virgin, first cold pressed olive oil that is available in a darkly coloured glass bottle. Many inferior, fake olive oils are mixed with cheaper, genetically modified (GMO) vegetable oils so make sure it is GMO free. The good olive oil is produced by cold pressing and does not use chemicals for refinement. It also avoids high heat manufacturing processes that can destroy the delicate fatty acids and nutrients in the oil. Olive oil is a brain food that improves focus and memory. Studies have shown that it reduces inflammation, fights mood disorders and depression, reduces the risk of type II diabetes, helps fight cancer, assists weight loss and obesity prevention, lowers the risk of heart disease, high blood pressure and stroke, and so much more.

Grass Fed vs Grain Fed Meats

 

In grain fed meats, after only just six months of a calf’s life, they are taken off grass and put in feedlots. A feedlot is like an urban city, populated by as many as 100,000 animals. They stand in their own manure all day, every day, and are forced to eat something they are not evolved to eat, grain, and mostly corn.

The average cow usually dies within six months from consuming a grain or corn based diet as their livers blow out. That is not a problem for the factory farmer as that is all the time they need to fatten up a cow for slaughter. During their approximate six months grain diet, the stressed and sick cows are barely surviving. Consequently, to prevent them from getting all types of sickness, industrial farms feed the cows a constant dose of antibiotics. Most of the antibiotics sold in America end up in animal feed.

As a result of the crowded living conditions where they stand in their own manure, E. coli contamination takes place in the slaughterhouse when manure from an animal comes in contact with meat. Unfortunately, it is impossible to remove all the faecal contamination. The animals are then injected with synthetic growth hormones such as the oestrogen compound zeranol, the androgen trenbolone acetate, and progestin melengestrol acetate. These chemicals end up in the meat you consume and also make their way into the waterways through the massive amounts of feedlot waste flowing into the environment.

Inhumane farming operations create unhealthy animals that are bad for those who eat them and are a massive source of industrial waste.

 

On the other end of the spectrum, we have traditional pasture farming or grass fed cows. These cows are raised on their natural diet of grass in a low stress environment. Most ranchers run one cow per 5 to 40 acres to ensure that one animal has sufficient grass to graze on. The result is healthy cows, living in balance with nature and no need for antibiotics or hormone supplements. In turn, their meat is healthier for you. Pasture raised grass fed beef is leaner than grain fed beef, and higher in omega 3 fatty acids, conjugated linoleic acids (CLA), Vitamin E and Beta Carotene.

A growing body of research suggests that many of the health problems associated with eating beef are really problems coming from corn or grain fed beef. Despite the evidence, the U.S.D.A.'s grading system continues to reward grain or corn fed beef. These meats are described as highly marbled meat. The highest USDA "grades" of beef are those with the highest amount of inter-muscular fat, the worst type of fat for you to consume. This notion promotes the corn feeding of cows because people are instructed to rely on the U.S.D.A.'s grading system when judging beef quality.

In Australia, and on my numerous trips to the States, I found that restaurants do not always know if they serve grain or grass fed beef. Firstly, they are always surprised when I ask, and secondly, the answer always comes back as 'possibly grain fed'. If they don't know, it is hugely possible they serve grain fed. If the butchers and restaurants you regularly visit only have or serve grain fed, ask them if they know where their meat is coming from, and if they could source grass or pasture fed beef. The more people are made aware and the more the demand, the healthier the food that is served.

I have so much more information I would love to share, but I think I will stop here otherwise this is going to become an eBook. Eating healthy should not be complicated. It is your overall dietary pattern that is most important. The cornerstone of a healthy diet pattern should be to replace processed food with real food. Eating food that is as close as possible to the way nature made it can make a huge difference to the way you think, look, and feel.

In The New Economics, Dr W. Edwards Deming emphasized "A system is a network of interdependent components that work together to try to accomplish the aim of the system." If your aim is to maximize your performance or maximize your health and well-being and your body is weak (minimal exercise), needs repair and maintenance (sleep deprived), and all clogged up and not getting the needed fuel and nutrients (eating processed and chemically-derived food), then you will not achieve your aim.

The performance puzzle is still missing one more piece, and it is the most challenging piece to hugely enhance your performance. Stay tuned for Part 4.