The Four Basic Principles of a Healthful Diet

1. Eat a diet rich in whole, unrefined, nutrient-dense foods. Fresh, natural, minimally processed foods are the richest in nutrients, including the trace compounds that are critical for optimal health.

2. Eat a wide variety of foods. No one food has a perfect balance of nutrients, and eating a wide variety of foods provides you with a wide variety of nutrients. Most people get into dietary ruts, eating only a handful of foods. Broadening your food choices provides you with a greater abundance of the vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, essential fatty acids, and phytonutrients that support optimal health. In addition, eating a variety of foods decreases the possibility of creating food sensitivities that can arise when the same few foods are eaten day after day.

3. Avoid foods grown, treated, or processed with chemicals. Virtually every one of us carry residues of pesticides and other chemicals stored in our body tissues. These poisons enter our food supply in a variety of ways: pesticides and other agricultural chemicals are applied to crops, animals raised for the meat and dairy industries are fed hormones and antibiotics, and a huge array of chemicals are added to foods during processing to flavor, sweeten, color, preserve, and texturize them. Even food packaging contains toxins that leach into the contents, such as lead or aluminum in cans and polyvinyl chloride in plastic food wrap. All chemicals add to the load of poisons that the liver is forced to detoxify and create freeradical damage that leads to cancer, heart disease, other degenerative diseases, and premature aging. Make every effort to buy organically grown and processed foods.

4. Discover the diet that is best for you. Take the time to find a way of eating that makes you feel healthy and energetic. Pay attention to how you feel, don’t be afraid to experiment, and remember that no one diet is the perfect diet for everyone. For example, although the high-complex carbohydrate, low-fat, and low-protein diet has been popularized as the ultimate healthful way of eating, many women find that a diet consisting primarily of carbohydrates-even healthful complex carbohydrates-increases insulin levels and causes fatigue, weight gain, dry skin, and hormonal imbalances. This is particularly true for women over 40. Many women find that eating more protein and fat (healthful fats, of course) makes all the difference in the way they feel. A diet that consists of about 30 percent protein, 30 percent fat, and 40 percent carbohydrates helps to keep blood sugar on an even keel and prostaglandin levels balanced.