Cheat your way healthy

February 22, 2012

Diet, Exercise, Health

Perhaps you should try breaking the rules now and then in order to become healthier.

by Dr. Mark Force —

Think of the things you have been told that you should not do because they are not good for you. There are probably a lot of them. But is the advice true? Perhaps you should try breaking the rules now and then in order to become healthier. Let us examine a few game changers.

Aerobic exercise is the healthiest exercise. Not really. Aerobic exercise is actually pretty ineffective at increasing VO2 max (maximal oxygen consumption or uptake), anaerobic threshold, heart rate recovery times, or even increasing metabolic rate. So, am I telling you to skip the exercise? Hardly. Exercising regularly and effectively is the single most proven way to get and stay healthy and age well.

But treadmills, stair climbers, elliptical machines and exercise bikes are not very effective. (Rowing machines are the one exception.) What does work is interval training — working out hard and cycling the intensity of effort for short sessions of four to 20 minutes. This significantly improves VO2 max, anaerobic threshold, heart rate recovery times, heart rate variability (which measures the efficiency of your autonomic nervous system) and metabolic rate (more than 10 times more effective for fat loss than regular aerobic exercise). And the best equipment to use is the simplest — calisthenics, wind sprints, a jump rope or rapid, high-rep, free-weight training using barbells, dumbbells, kettlebells or sand bags.

Hold the coffee. Coffee is actually good for you. Like anything else in your diet, the keys here are quality and moderation. Enjoy a couple of cups in the morning and try not to drink it after “noonish,” which can throw off your sleep cycle.

Coffee is very high in antioxidant polyphenols, and the stimulation of cortisol in the morning is good for you, as long as your cortisol level is not chronically high. The problem that most people have with their cortisol levels is that of circadian rhythm — the cortisol level throughout the day is off — too low in the morning and too high in the evening. A little coffee in the morning can be helpful, along with some other strategies, to retrain the pattern.

Make sure the coffee you drink is worth drinking, however. Use freshly roasted, organic coffee beans (fair trade and shade grown) and grind small batches each time so the oils do not become rancid. I buy from a store that fresh roasts and I smell each batch to make sure the oils have not turned (an acrid bite to the smell is your tipoff). Espresso makers or French presses are the best means of preparation.

Be careful of the tea. Again, quality counts. Tea has antioxidant polyphenols and compounds that relax the nervous system and help you handle stress better. Keep in mind that tea has as much and sometimes more caffeine than coffee, so drink it earlier in the day. I love my Earl Grey tea in the A.M.

Eggs will clog your pipes. The greatly maligned egg is the highest quality food and best dietary source of protein in your diet. The greatest concentration of nutrients is in the yolk, so do not discard it. Eggs should be a regular part of your diet, as they are an incredibly effective source of minerals and vitamins, especially the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, F and K. Why is vitamin D deficiency an almost universal problem in this country? Because people have been misled into thinking that fat is bad for them. Buy organic and range-fed eggs. Properly fed chickens lay eggs that are high in omega-3 fatty acids.

Do not use butter. Butter is one of the most nutrient-rich foods you can eat. It is chock-full of vitamins and minerals, especially A, D, E, F and K. Organic butter from grass-fed cows is high in omega-3 fatty acids.

Keep in mind that cholesterol in your diet is good for you. You need cholesterol to keep your nervous and immune systems working properly and to produce hormones. It is the overindulgence of grains (especially corn) and sugars that makes people fat and causes heart disease and diabetes.

Fat will make you fat. Grains and sugars make you fat. Remove both from your diet, eat all the meat, dairy, beans, nuts, seeds and vegetables you want, and see what happens. The more times people get tricked into believing they need to eat a low-fat diet, the fatter and sicker they get.

Milk is only for calves. Milk is a wonderful food, but only if it is organic and comes from a quality source like grass-fed cows. Raw is better, if you can find it.

Meat is bad for you and the environment. Organic, fresh, grass-fed meat is incredibly high in omega-3 fatty acids and a host of other nutrients that are difficult to come by elsewhere. When animals are raised this way, they actually promote the health of the grasslands they are raised on and have a positive impact on the environment.

Humans are omnivores by physiology. We are designed to eat animal protein and do not thrive unless we do. Large amounts are not necessary; meat should be a complement to the rest of your diet.

Alcohol is bad for you. This is not the case. The fact is that teetotalers as a group (people who completely abstain from alcohol) do not live as long as people who drink moderately as a group. Interestingly, the alcohol itself is beneficial in decreasing inflammation and incidences of heart disease.

Wine has a high polyphenol content (resveratrol and related compounds) and trace minerals. Red wine is the most beneficial, especially the kind with the strongest and heaviest sediment (earthiest).

Beer is also good for you. Ales, rather than lagers, are the healthiest. The fermentation process frees up some of the essential trace minerals and B vitamins. Some beers contain live yeasts, especially the Belgian ales, which aid in the healthy balance of bacteria in the intestinal tract.

So break the rules and enjoy good health. And keep in mind that health is not about dogma and sacrifice; it is not a puritanical and life-denying pursuit. Health is about enjoying the bounties of life and the world around you — moderately and reasonably — in order to become healthier and more robust, and to savor the richness and beauty of the journey.

Mark Force, D.C., is a chiropractic physician at The Elements of Health in north Scottsdale, Ariz. He practices functional and natural health care and is the author of Choosing Health: Dr. Force’s Functional Selfcare Workbook. 480-563-4256 or


Reprinted from AZNetNews, Volume 30, Number 6, Dec/Jan 2012.

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