Vigor Improvement Practices—Nutrition (Part 1)

Dr. Shawn Talbott (Ph.D., CNS, LDN, FACSM, FACN, FAIS) has gone from triathlon struggler to gut-brain guru! With a Ph.D. in Nutritional Biochemistry, he's on a mission to boost everyday human performance through the power of natural solutions and the gut-brain axis.

Want to feel better than you’ve ever felt?

Here’s another excerpt from my 10th book, The Secret of Vigor – How to Overcome Burnout, Restore Biochemical Balance and Reclaim Your Natural Energy

Some of the most popular New Year’s resolutions every year are:
*Lose Weight
*Get in Shape
*Reduce Stress
*Get Healthier
*Win the Lottery

The Secret of Vigor can help you with 4 out of 5 of the most popular resolution goals, so I’ll be posting excerpts from the book for the next several weeks – so please stay tuned for each installment.

If you simply can’t wait, then you can certainly get a copy at or at your favorite library or bookstore.

Vigor Improvement Practices—Nutrition (Part 1)
When it comes to restoring biochemical balance and improving vigor, nutrition plays a key role. A proper diet offers numerous benefits, such as modulating inflammation and promoting tissue repair. It only takes a few minutes of watching television, reading magazines, or surfing the Internet, however, to see that in the United States, people have a very wide range of opinions, programs, and “experts” telling them what a “proper” diet is.

Unfortunately, this barrage of information (and misinformation) causes many people to become stressed out about their diets—and when they do, it causes problems. For example, Canadian nutrition researchers have shown that “dieting” itself is a potent trigger for increasing cortisol and reducing bone mass. (In their studies, of course, “dieting” is labeled “cognitive dietary restraint” [CDR] and defined as “a perceived ongoing effort to limit dietary intake to manage body weight.”) Further, researchers at Texas Tech University have reported that disrupted biochemical balance has a direct and rapid detrimental effect on health, increasing rates of breakdown in virtually every tissue in the body.

Rather than becoming stressed out about your diet, it may be more helpful to realize that making wise nutritional choices can significantly improve the way you feel, function, and perform on many levels. Those benefits can be enjoyed when you simply select a blend of nutrients from among a few certain foods, including brightly colored fruits and vegetables, teamed with whole grains and lean cuts of meat, poultry, and fish.

Or instead of thinking about “dieting,” look at it this way: Your diet truly “fuels” your vigor by maintaining your biochemical balance. For example, a balanced breakfast of a scrambled egg, a piece of whole-grain toast, and a glass of orange juice provides a powerful dose of antistress and biochemistry-balancing nutrients. It contains protein (in the egg), carbohydrates (in the toast and juice), B-complex vitamins (in the toast), antioxidants (in the juice), and phytonutrients (carotenoids in the egg, flavonoids in the juice, and lignans in the toast).

In reality, many people are not practicing what has been preached about good health. No matter how many times you’ve heard commercials reminding you to eat several servings of fruits and vegetables each day, it turns out that about 90 percent of North Americans do not eat enough fruits and veggies. As a result, more than ninety million people suffer chronic diseases.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the most popular “vegetable” in the United States is the french fry, and of the limited produce that people do eat, nearly 80 percent comes in the form of lettuce, potatoes, corn, and peas.

The Institute of Medicine (IOM), Department of Agriculture (USDA), and Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) all want Americans to eat more fruits and veggies, because scientific research shows that “more is better” in terms of overall biochemical balance and the risk for obesity, diabetes, osteoporosis, stroke, heart disease, and many cancers. To give you an example of how much “more” produce you should eat than the typical American gets, a forty-year-old man or woman should eat two and a half cups of vegetables and one and a half cups of fruit daily.

If you’d like to get more of those fruits and vegetables into your diet, you may be wondering where to start. Actually, “any” of these foods are better than “none,” but those that are darker colored (dark green, dark blue/purple, bright orange, bright red, bright yellow, etc.) tend to be better sources of vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients.

Phytonutrients are specialized vitamin-like compounds found in plants (“phyto” means “plant”) that provide numerous health benefits. In general, the brighter in color the fruit or vegetable, the higher the content of particular phytonutrients. For example, lycopene, a red carotenoid, is found at high levels in tomatoes, while another carotenoid, beta-carotene, is responsible for the orange color of carrots and sweet potatoes.

To maximize your intake of phytonutrients and other micronutrients, try this simple (and fun) approach: “Color” your diet by trying to eat as many different colored fruits and vegetables as possible. Each day, see if you can get five different colors into your diet: one serving each that is red (tomato), blue or purple (berries), yellow (melon), orange (carrot), and green (broccoli)—or whatever colors you can find. (Note: French fries do not count as a yellow vegetable.)

About the Author

Exercise physiologist (MS, UMass Amherst) and Nutritional Biochemist (PhD, Rutgers) who studies how lifestyle influences our biochemistry, psychology and behavior - which kind of makes me a "Psycho-Nutritionist"?!?!

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