As part of my nutritional consultation process with my patients, I ask them to share the 3 most “unhealthy” foods they eat. Their responses give me insights at many levels. One is an understanding of how they define “healthy” and how hard they are going to be on themselves as they work to improve their health and fitness.
One of my patients, a reasonably healthy young woman, noted dark chocolate as one of the “unhealthy” foods she eats. This brings up a good question. Is dark chocolate healthy – or unhealthy? Turn to the internet and you’ll find a mind-boggling amount of information on nutrition and health when it comes to chocolate – and pretty much everything else. But without a background in physiology and biology, it’s difficult to understand the validity of certain claims – such as when it comes to dark chocolate.
Let’s take an example of a time-tested very healthy food. One that has been touted to provide super-human strength and causes forearm hypertrophy … in cartoon characters, that is. Yes, that’s right, spinach! Let’s supercharge this spinach even more and make it organic. Wow, so very healthy for me, right? Wait! When you look at spinach, besides all the good micronutrients, fiber, and mineral, it also contains oxalic acid. When eaten in excess, for example, two times a day in a spinach smoothie, that acid can become deposited in your joints, causing joint irritation and promoting joint degeneration or arthritis in that area.
Now let’s look at dark chocolate. Yes, dark chocolate contains sugar and fat. But it also contains a high amount of antioxidants and fibers that decrease inflammation, lower blood sugar, and decrease insulin sensitivity.
Most foods are rarely all good or all bad food for us. Even when it comes to the newest villain on the scene – sugar. I feel that many so-called “experts” in the health field are selling fear, not selling health. They are feeding into our primal fear of death and illness to try to sell their latest book or newest supplement. And this causes confusion, fear, and restrictive behaviors that are really doing no good at all.
For instance, some of my most unhealthy patients are what I call my macrobiotic marathon runners. These are people whose whole life revolves around “health.” They judge themselves and others harshly if they don’t follow strict regimes of diet, supplementation, and exercise. The guilt causes stress with hormonal and chemical consequences that are far worse than enjoying a piece of dark chocolate cake or missing a workout. Case in point, numerous studies of centenarians, people who live to over 100 years of age, have shown that they lived very simple lifestyles. Lifestyles of moderation. Yes, they drank alcohol, ate sugar, had caffeine. But they didn’t exercise like maniacs. Their common activities were walking or gardening. And yet they lived to be 100.
Improving your life by improving your health and fitness is a great goal. Adding healthy foods and eliminating unhealthy foods and habits will go a long way toward achieving that goal. Be cautious, however, of following the latest news flashes or trends. Always consult with a health professional with a solid background in nutrition, fitness, and physiology to help you make the right decisions for your diet and exercise programs. And above all, enjoy life. Have that piece of chocolate, take a day off from the gym to spend the day at the beach, and know that you’re doing the right thing for your health, no matter what the latest headlines proclaim.
How can Performance Health & Wellness help you?
- Active Release Technique (ART) to the soft tissue structures to restore normal function, decrease stress to the injured area, reduce scar tissue, and promote healing;
- Stretching and Exercises to prevent condition from returning;
- Chiropractic adjustments to restore proper motion;
- Cold laser to help reduce inflammation;
- Kinesio taping to allow an athlete to continue to particpate in his sport plus augments the treatment.
- Functional medicine with extensive nutritional based consultation, individualized nutrition programs.