Excerpt from Eating Well For Optimum Health by Andrew Weil, M.D., plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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Eating Well For Optimum Health

The Essential Guide to Diet, Health and Nutrition

by Andrew Weil, M.D.

Eating Well For Optimum Health
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  • First Published:
    Mar 2000, 320 pages
    Paperback:
    Mar 2001, 304 pages

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Introduction

Throughout this book I have made references to "the optimum diet."

Here I want to summarize its characteristics. The optimum diet should:

  • supply all of your needs for calories, macronutrients, and micronutrients
  • support general health throughout life and maximize longevity
  • provide the pleasure you expect from eating
  • promote social interaction and reinforce your personal and cultural identity

General Characteristics of the Optimum Diet

  • Variety. Covering all nutritional bases and minimizing the intake of any harmful elements in foods are important.
  • Freshness. The higher the percentage of fresh foods in the diet the better.
  • Unprocessed. The lower the percentage of processed foods in the diet the better.
  • Abundant in fruits and vegetables. The more fruits and vegetables you eat, the more protective phytochemicals you take in.


Calories
Depending on gender, body size, and activity level, most adults need to consume between 2,000 and 3,000 calories a day. Women, and smaller and less active people, need fewer calories; men, and bigger and more active people, need more. If you are eating the appropriate number of calories and not varying your activity, your weight should not fluctuate greatly.

Distribution of calories should be as follows: 50 to 60 percent from carbohydrates, 30 percent from fat, and 10 to 20 percent from protein.

Carbohydrates
Adult women should eat about 225 to 270 grams of carbohydrates a day, while men should eat about 288 to 345 grams. The majority of this should be in the form of less-refined, less-processed foods with a low (i.e., below 60) glycemic index, and you should try to eat some low-GI carbohydrate food with each meal (whole grains, beans, vegetables, and nontropical fruits). If you eat high-GI carbohydrates, try to include them in mixed meals that contain some low-GI foods.

Try to reduce consumption of foods made with wheat flour and sugar and increase consumption of legumes.

Fat
On a 2,000-calorie-a-day diet, 600 calories can come from fat--that is, about 67 grams. This should be in a ratio of 1:2:1 of saturated to monounsaturated to polyunsaturated fat, meaning that no more than 100 calories should come from saturated fat. Reduce saturated fat by eating less butter, cream, cheese, and other full-fat dairy products, un-skinned chicken, fatty meats, and products made with palm and coconut oil. The polyunsaturated fat in your diet should have a ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids in the range of 2-4 to 1. In practice, this means reducing consumption of polyunsaturated vegetable oils and increasing consumption of oily fish, fortified eggs, soybeans, walnuts, or hemp or flax seeds.

Avoid margarine, vegetable shortening, all products made with partially hydrogenated oils, and fried foods in restaurants, especially fast-food restaurants.

Protein
Daily intake should be between 50 and 100 grams on a 2,000-calorie-a-day diet. Eat less protein if you have liver or kidney problems, allergies, or autoimmunity problem. Eat more vegetable protein, especially from beans, in general, and soybeans, in particular, and less animal protein, except for fish and reduced-fat dairy products. Avoid protein supplements.

Vitamins and Minerals
Eating a diet high in fresh foods with plenty of fruits and vegetables will provide most of the micronutrients you need. In addition, I recommend supplementing the diet with the following:

  • vitamin C, 100 mg twice a day
  • vitamin E, 400 to 800 IU of a natural form (d-alpha-tocopherol together with other tocopherols)
  • selenium, 200 mcg of a yeast-bound form
  • mixed carotenoids, 25,000 IU
  • a B-complex vitamin providing at least 400 mcg of folic acid
  • calcium, 1,200 to 1,500 mg as calcium carbonate (for those under sixty-five) or calcium citrate (for those sixty-five and over).

Fiber

Copyright Andrew Weil M.D. 2000. Published with the permission of the publisher, Knopf. All rights reserved.

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