If you’re like most of my clients, you may be wondering how it’s possible to be routinely snacking and overeating at meals, and yet be malnourished. After all, you’re getting plenty of calories, right?
The problem is that the standard American diet is calorie, or energy dense, but nutrient poor—not enough phytonutrients (from plants), vitamins, minerals, and trace elements. Eating an abundance of calories does not necessarily mean that you’re getting all the nutrients your body needs. Too many empty calories result in nutritional deficiencies and hormonal imbalances, ultimately leading to wayward cravings and weight gain.
The research shows that the most overweight children and adults in this country are the most nutritionally deficient. Our diets often fall short in nutrients such as vitamin C, D and E. Many of us are low in calcium, magnesium and potassium. And a significant number of people are deficient in omega-3 fats (think walnuts, flax and chia seeds), which help control blood sugar levels and decrease inflammation.
Processed foods, loaded with things like high fructose corn syrup, refined flours and trans fats are convenient, but nutrient deficient. Store bought meats and fish are filled with chemicals, such as coloring agents, preservatives, and nitrates, something our hunter-gatherer ancestors never encountered. And because our soil is depleted from industrial farming, today’s vegetables have fewer nutrients than those of generations past.
We’re consuming less plant food than ever before in our history. Our dietary excesses and convenience-focused lifestyles have let to food addiction and the diseases of excess. These include heart disease, stroke, diabetes, hypertension, diverticulitis, gall and kidney stones, osteoporosis, arthritis, gout, cancer, tooth decay, and obesity.
When your body doesn’t get the right nutrition, it signals you with cravings. It just keeps asking for more food. So even though you may be full, you don’t feel satisfied. And this leads to that vicious cycle of cravings, overeating and weight gain.
Here are some steps you can take right now to get more nutrient-rich calories, decrease cravings, and improve your health:
• Add more unprocessed whole plant foods, especially fresh, raw vegetables, to your diet. Fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, beans and whole grains are high in vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, essential fatty acids and fiber. Fiber helps move toxins out of the body and fills you up, making it easier to gently release the empty calorie foods you are consuming.
• Reduce or eliminate your intake of processed foods loaded with sugar, flour and oil.
• Meet most of your daily essential fatty acid requirements with unprocessed, uncooked whole foods such as flaxseeds, chia seeds, walnuts and soybeans.
• Prioritize healthy plant-based fats such as olives, avocados, nuts and seeds.
• If you are eating foods of animal origin, make sure they are hormone and pesticide free, organic and free of metals and other contaminants.
The best way to reduce your intake of nutrient deficient foods is to eat a large volume of plant foods every day. These foods, naturally packaged with a vast array of nutrients, work synergistically. They balance hormones, reduce inflammation, alkalinize your chemistry, boost detoxification and provide powerful antioxidant protection. Wholesome food is definitely your best medicine!
Posted by Julie M Simon, MA, MBA, MFT, psychotherapist and life coach, certified personal trainer, founder and director of The 12 Week Emotional Eating Recovery Program and author of The Emotional Eater’s Repair Manual and When Food Is Comfort . If you have a question or topic you’d like to see addressed in this blog, go to https://overeatingrecovery.com.
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