Dr. Jodi Nishida
Hawai‘i Herald Columnist
We need to stop approaching the human body in sections. It’s as if we’re disjointed pieces of a puzzle held together by thin pieces of string. We don’t give it the respect that it deserves. The human body is incredible. All that bone, muscle, organs, tissues, hormones, fluids and electricity that fill a space surrounded by skin. Everything is intricately linked, communicating intelligently to hold you together. Whole health is the lens through which we should be looking at ourselves. At minimum, we should focus on providing our bodies what they need to function properly. Yet most of us are filling it with poison. Poison comes in the form of sugar, chemicals, alcohol, drugs, pesticides, plastics, phthalates, etc. Like a car whose essential fluids haven’t been filled and replaced with no air in its tires let alone the occasional tune up, the human body can only go so far before breaking down. Illness is a sign that you’ve been nutrient deficient for far too long and your body can’t compensate any further.
There are eight categories of nutrients that the human body needs to survive, function properly and heal. Two are obvious: oxygen and water. In today’s article, we will focus on the other six and where they should come from. Some of these might surprise you. The goal is to provide your body with the basic building blocks it needs.
I’m going to start with protein and here’s why. Too often, I have patients walk into my office proudly saying that they eat no more than a palm’s worth of protein 1-2 times a day. That is nothing to be proud of. A palm’s worth of protein is barely 25 grams. The average person needs to eat 75-125 grams of protein per day to get the essential amino acids that the human body needs. Amino acids are required to make every component of our body. Animal protein is the best source. I personally aim for 12-16 ounces of protein a day, which is roughly the equivalent of 75-100 grams. Chicken, pork, seafood, different varieties of red meat and fish and eggs are my main sources, and I rotate through these on a regular basis for nutrient density. For vegans and vegetarians, the best source is seitan, which is made from gluten. If someone is gluten intolerant they have to do a combination of soy, nuts and beans. The World Health Organization puts out data every year showing how malnourished kids are becoming. Today’s youth eats high carb, high sugar, high processed foods and are protein deficient leading to conditions like obesity, difficulty concentrating, stunting, hormonal imbalances, anxiety and depression. Just 1 to 2 cups of increased protein per day (not a McDonald’s hamburger, please) would cure most of this.
Glucose is another important component, but not in the quantity that you think. The human brain is the only organ that needs a little bit of glucose (2-3 teaspoons a day), and it doesn’t need to come from food. Through a process in the body called glycogenolysis, glucose can be converted from stores in your liver and muscle tissues. Trust me, most Americans have enough stores to last the rest of their lives. Vegetables are another great source of “healthy carbohydrates,” which can be converted into glucose. Just 1 cup of brussels sprouts provides 11 grams of total carbohydrates, which equals almost 3 teaspoons of sugar. Try to get the minimal amount of glucose that your body needs from healthy sources like fresh vegetables or organic raw honey, not processed foods like rice, pasta, bread, desserts, baked goods, sugary drinks, etc.
Healthy fat is vital for health and is also very controversial thanks to policies and guidelines driven by special interest groups. You need fat (cholesterol) to function. It’s a vital component of cell walls. The human body is composed of trillions of cells. If you don’t have healthy cell walls, you’re in trouble. It’s also a vital component for hormone production. It’s disheartening to see how many men struggle with low testosterone and how many women struggle with female and fertility issues because we were taught to fear fat while being fed more and more sugar. All you need to do is add a couple tablespoons of healthy fat like extra virgin olive oil or avocado to your meals to meet your daily quota. Other great food sources are ghee (clarified butter), macadamia nuts and pumpkin seeds.
Vitamins are essential for every part of the body. Vitamin A, B1, B2, B6, B12, C, D, E, K are just some of the more commonly known ones. I am a firm believer in getting your vitamins and minerals from food, not over-the-counter supplements. More and more supplements are showing up tainted with cancer-causing contaminants. When you eat right, you don’t need supplements and can use that money on food! If you were to do hours of Google searches looking up the vitamin and mineral content of plants versus animal proteins and write it out in a chart, you would see animal protein reigns supreme. I like kale, but I would have to eat 8 ounces of it to get the same amount of vitamin D found in four ounces of red meat. Eight ounces of kale is a LOT of kale especially if you’re removing the stems. The same holds true for minerals such as calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, iron, zinc, selenium, folate, etc. Animal proteins contain the highest quantities of minerals, too. Probably the worst source of vitamins and minerals that is marketed heavily to consumers is wheat and cereals. When you factor in the amount of carbohydrates, calories and anti-nutrients that you consume from these, the benefits of the vitamins and minerals become greatly diminished. By eating a little more protein each day, you automatically increase your consumption of vitamins and minerals.
The last category is what I call “the other white crystal.” Salt has been demonized, but did you know that the average person requires 2,300 milligrams of sodium per day? That’s the equivalent of 1 teaspoon. If you are someone who exercises or sweats a lot at work, you need even more. The quality of the salt you use also matters. Himalayan salt has been trending for a decade or so, but how do we know where this stuff is actually sourced from? Much of it is marketing gimmicks. What about sea salt? These days, there is so much pollution in the ocean that we’re finding lots of microplastics in sea salt. My personal favorite is Redmond’s Real Salt, which is mined from deep underground in Utah. These salt mines were buried centuries ago before pollution infiltrated our planet. High quality salt is full of vitamins and minerals unlike most store brands (blue can, girl holding an umbrella), which have been bleached and stripped of their nutrients. I aim for 1.5 teaspoons of high-quality salt per day and a little more on exercise days. Sodium is an important electrolyte, which helps to maintain many transport processes and electrical currents in our body.
Food is a source of nutrition. Nothing more, nothing less. When we eat in excess and/or eat the wrong things, we enter a state of nutrient deficiency, which eventually leads to illness. Instead, aim for nutrient density and eat to live. Don’t live to eat.
Dr. Nishida is a Doctor of Pharmacy and accredited Metabolic Healthcare Practitioner who’s been in healthcare for over 25 years. After experiencing the ketogenic lifestyle’s effect on her own autoimmune condition, she decided to build a keto-based medical practice so others could benefit from it too. Over the last few years, she’s helped almost a thousand patients realize the benefits of clean, medically guided keto.
With certifications in ketogenic nutrition, cardiovascular disease management, pharmacogenomics, and medication management, she works closely with each and every patient to tailor keto to their medications, medical conditions, lifestyle and socioeconomic situation. Dr. Nishida is also in training for processed food addiction recovery. To learn more, or to contact Dr. Nishida, visit her website at theketoprescription.com.
The content of this column is not meant to be medical advice. Please consult your doctor before starting any diet or lifestyle change and understand that there is no blanket approach to keto. Keto should be tailored to each individual through the guidance of a trained professional.