You Are
What You Eat 

Why it’s important to cultivate high food standards.

Most of us want to look good and feel good. We want both the appearance -- and the reality -- of good health. But we’re often misguided about how to achieve this.

After ignoring our health for weeks, months or years, we suddenly become inspired and grasp at quick fixes, weight-loss diets and fountain-of-youth potions, most of which do not work permanently -- or even at all -- and many of which actually damage health.

Nutrient-Dense Food

Eating nutrient-dense foods is the key to not only enjoying excellent health but also maintaining a healthy weight—learning to get the most nutrients out of our calories is the secret to looking and feeling great.

Instead of “going on a diet” that leaves us unsatisfied and triggers cravings, it’s much better to transform our diets into one that satisfies and nourishes our bodies for the rest of our lives, and gives us the energy to get plenty of exercise.

Satiety can be most easily reached by eating a well-balanced diet that consists Amira Elganmainly of foods with high nutrient density.

Not surprisingly, the foods with the highest nutrient density -- that is, foods that give you the most nutrients per calorie -- are fruits and vegetables. Blueberries, cantaloupe, kiwi fruit, grapefruit, oranges, strawberries, cherries, red grapes, mangoes and bananas are some of the most nutritious fruits. And among vegetables broccoli, carrots, mustard greens, spinach, sweet potatoes and tomatoes are some of the most nutrient-dense. They’re also the best source of fiber.

Plant foods are good for us because our bodies have evolved over millions of years to require them.

It’s true to say that fruits and vegetables contain important compounds that help us fight chronic illness. But expressing it that way implies that chronic illness is “normal,” and that healthy food is like a drug that helps us fight normality. It’s much more accurate to say that the unnatural absence of fruits and vegetables causes chronic illness. Eating fruits and vegetables is, in fact, “normal” for humans, and chronic illness is not.

Plants are rich in disease-fighting phytochemicals, which have powerful antioxidants that maintain a naturally high immune system that fights free radicals. Without sufficient quantities of these phytochemicals, our bodies are left unprotected against cardiovascular disease, cancer and premature aging.

Having High Food Standards

The first step in making the best food choices every day is knowing the nutritional value of food. Read labels. Ask questions. Educate yourself.

The second step is to be judgmental -- and skeptical -- about food. It’s amazing to me that people can be so picky about the cars they drive, the clothes they wear and the decoration of their homes -- all external things -- but then eat whatever low-quality junk is most easily available.

Remember that the food you eat and the beverages you drink literally become part of you. Eating fatty, low-quality, low nutrient food will, over time, give you a fatty, low-quality, under-nourished body.

You’re in charge of what you eat. And you’re too good for junk food.

The third and final step in making good food choices is to be picky about food preparation -- whether store-bought, restaurant or home made.

The vitamins in fruits and vegetables are easily broken down by cooking, so for maximum nutrition keep cooking times to a minimum - boil briefly until al dente or try steaming, stir-frying or eating them raw as a snack or in salads.

Remember that you are what you eat. If you want a high-quality, healthy body and mind, then eat a high-quality, healthy diet.

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A Personal Note

I’ve received e-mail from readers asking me about the newsletter issues for the last couple of weeks—they thought they may have missed them.

In the last nine months, I lost two relatives to cancer and just recently, one to an automobile accident caused by drunk driving. Though these losses have been very sad and upsetting experiences for me on many levels, they have forced me to think and reflect about life and death.

Ironically, as tragic as death is, it can be a source of renewed inspiration to live more healthfully, love life more deeply and care more about all the living things in this beautiful planet.

The loss of life is a difficult reality to face and challenging to accept but the fact is that the certainty of death is what makes life so precious.

I heard or read somewhere that death is not the opposite of life because life has no opposites—birth is the opposite of death—and life is a gift.

I’m certainly feeling grateful for my life—I have infinite reasons to be thankful. And being in good health allows me to enjoy life that much more. I especially feel great gratification in being able to care for my wonderful children and love and nurture my beloved husband.

The best way to live is to love and enjoy every breath we take as well as all the people around us every single day of our lives. But to fully enjoy living we must begin by nourishing our own bodies with wholesome food, plenty of exercise and healthy doses of daily laughter.

Reader Comment

I have been gaining a little weight and have just recently begun to get my life back on track. I’m looking to start training for triathlons and recently purchased a book “Nutrition for the Endurance Athlete.” Though most of the information does not apply directly to most people, it does talk about quality of food choices compared to quantity. It’s very fascinating to sit and look at what I have been putting into my body compared to what my body really needs. I see all these fad diets and such and what people need to realize is that all these diets are doing is just restricting our bodies natural needs. We need to stop being a passive society and get off our bottoms and get our bodies going. Thanks for your writings, hopefully more people will read them and actively make some not only food but life changes. Thanks.
D. D., New Orleans, LA

Our Tax Dollars At Work

The obesity epidemic is growing ever more costly, both in the lives of increasing numbers of Americans and in the billions we must all spend on the additional healthcare needed by sufferers. Obesity will soon pass cigarettes as the leading preventable cause of death.

As a result of this catastrophic epidemic, Congress has jumped into action, and is preparing new legislation. And what will the new law do? Will it ban junk food in schools and compensate school districts for the loss of revenue? Will it limit junk food advertising designed to hook children on disease-causing foods before they reach puberty? Will it slap a "sin tax" on soda and other toxic foods that are causing the health crisis?

Not even close.

The House of Representatives passed on Wednesday what is being called the "Cheeseburger Bill" to protect fast food companies from lawsuits brought by people made sick from their products. It goes to the Senate next.

Don't get me wrong. I do believe people should take personal responsibility for their own health and for the health of their children. It's counterproductive to blame McDonald's and Dunkin Donuts for toxic food that we have eaten voluntarily. But in addition to protecting the junk-food companies from the public, congress should also protect the public -- especially children who are forming lifelong habits and don't know any better -- from the junk food companies.

Research Department

A recent study at University College London shows that the main influence on what children eat is what their parents eat. "Parental consumption was the strongest predictor of children's consumption," according to psychologist Lucy Cooke. They study also showed that breast-fed babies later eat more fruits and vegetables than bottle-fed babies.

Put another way, the best way to get your kids to eat healthy food is to eat healthy food yourself.

Words of Wisdom

“To put the world right in order, we must first put the nation in order; to put the nation in order, we must first put the family in order; to put the family in order, we must first cultivate our personal life; we must first set our hearts right.”


Food for Thought

Quinoa (KEEN-wa) is an ancient Incan food from the Andes Mountains of South America. It’s a complete protein grain, has no gluten and it’s an excellent substitute for rice and most other grains. Quinoa is one the most nutritious grains available and provides more calcium, magnesium and potassium than most other grains. It’s also rich in iron and vitamins B. Quinoa is a great addition to a healthy diet (and is fine for diabetics).

A ¼ cup of Quinoa has 160 calories, 2.5 grams of fat (20 calories from fat and 0 grams of saturated fat), 5 mg of sodium, 29g carbohydrates, 3g fiber, 0g sugars, 6g protein. Most health food stores carry Quinoa in individual packages or in bulk.

You can eat Quinoa as cereal, in salads, in soups or on its own. To cook, rinse 1 cup of Quinoa and add to 1¾ cups of water or vegetable stock. Cook over medium heat until boiling, cover with lid, turn heat to low and simmer for about 12 minutes or until most of the water has been absorbed.

Vegetarian Organic Recipe of the Week

Click on the picture for a closer look!

Hearty Lentil and Veggie Soup (vegan)
Serves 6

A wonderfully flavored and highly nutritious soup, my Hearty Lentil and Veggie Soup is also a great one-dish meal. It has broccoli, which although many people don’t like, tastes really good in this soup and Quinoa, which is the mother of all grains, nutritiously speaking.

About the ingredients:
Quinoa (please see above reference on Food for Thought)

Preparation time: 5 minutes Cooking time: 45 minutes Equipment: Food processor or blender

Get ingredients ready (use organic ingredients if possible)
1 tablespoon safflower or canola oil
4 fresh garlic cloves
1 leek, trimmed
1 small yellow onion peeled and cut in 4 pieces
10 ripe plum tomatoes, skinless (or 28-oz canned whole peeled tomatoes)
4 cups fat free vegetable broth (32 oz)
4 cups water
1 cup brown lentils
1 bay leaf, whole
¼ cup fresh cilantro leaves
1 tablespoon thyme
1 teaspoon cumin
½ teaspoon marjoram
½ teaspoon dried oregano
½ cup quinoa (whole grain)
2 cups cauliflower florets
3 cups broccoli florets
Freshly ground black pepper and sea salt
Fresh cilantro, chopped for garnish

1. In a large pot, heat oil over low heat. Meanwhile, process garlic, leek and onions in the food processor or blender until finely chopped. Add one third of the garlic and onion mixture to oil, stirring and sautéing over medium heat for 5 minutes. Add broth, water, bay leaf and lentils, stirring well. Lightly cover with lid and simmer over low to medium heat for 17 minutes (set timer).

2. In the meantime, add tomatoes along with cilantro, thyme, cumin, marjoram and oregano to the food processor with the remaining onions and garlic mixture pureeing completely. Set aside.

3. After simmering the lentils, add Quinoa cooking for 5 minutes. Add tomato puree mixing well and simmer for another 10 minutes. Add cauliflower and broccoli, cooking for 10 more minutes or until everything is tender. Add freshly ground pepper and salt to taste and serve. Add freshly chopped cilantro as garnish and for added flavor if desired.

Nutrition Facts:

Amount Per Serving




Calories From Fat (24%)



% Daily Value

Total Fat 2.98g


Saturated Fat 0.36g


Monounsaturated Fat  0.35g


Polyunsaturated Fat  1.58g


Trans Fatty Acids 0.00g


Cholesterol 0.00mg


Sodium 270.16mg


Potassium 605.71mg


Carbohydrates 22.59g


Dietary Fiber 3.75g


Sugar 6.00g


Sugar Alcohols 0.00g


Net Carbohydrates 18.84g


Protein 6.58g



% Daily Value

Vitamin A 2272.83IU


Vitamin C 60.31mg


Calcium 48.70mg


Iron 1.36mg


Thiamin 0.13mg


Riboflavin 0.10mg


Niacin 1.39mg


Vitamin B6 0.31mg


Folate 75.91µg


Pantothenic Acid 0.54mg


Phosphorus 92.44mg


Magnesium 35.90mg


Zinc 0.64mg


Copper 0.17mg


Manganese 0.42mg


Selenium 1.41µg


Percent daily value based on a 2000 calorie diet.


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This newsletter is not intended to provide and replace medical advice. The author and editor expressly disclaim all responsibility for any adverse effects resulting from any information, diet or exercise suggestions. It is imperative that the advice of a physician is sought before any diet or exercise programs are adopted.

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Copyright© 2003 - 2009 Amira Elgan. All Rights Reserved.