In Ireland we need to address our serious societal issues as we have an ageing population with greater numbers who have chronic diseases and disabilities related to poor diet, smoking, alcohol misuse and physical inactivity; large groups within our population with less access to healthcare, childcare, adequate housing and employment.
If you ask medical professionals how we got here, most agree that it is due to the accessibility of refined carbohydrates such as white bread and rice, high fructose corn syrup, and refined sugar. The processed, packaged and fast foods we love so much (commonly known as the ‘Western Diet’) are killing us, and many populations throughout the world as well.
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Many studies have shown that type 2 diabetes can be managed and often reversed with diet.
But there are fundamental changes that need to take place.
We need to go back to the foods that our bodies were originally designed to process that is our native diet.
All we have to do is take a fundamental step backwards and realize that before the advent of the modern Western Diet,Type 2 diabetes was not a common disease.
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Deeply nourishing, traditional foods as our ancestors knew them were unprocessed, naturally raised, largely raw and decidedly unrefined.
These foods represent the natural diet of humankind and, as such, nourished the natural growth and evolution of the human species for thousands of years prior to the industrialization of food.
Cultures eating entirely or largely on native, unrefined foods prepared according to time-honored traditions enjoy better health than peoples consuming a largely refined diet of modern foods.
Infertility, heart disease, diabetes, autoimmune disease, mental illness, obesity, dental cavities and other diseases were largely absent in cultures existing on a native diet of unrefined foods.
Whole foods lead to whole health!
Everybody has their own favourite traditional Irish food.
These include traditional soda bread, spuds,stew, tripe , porridge and spiced beef.
Farmers’ markets, farm gate selling and farm shops need to flourish again around the country, inspiring a new generation of home cooks to return to the kitchen.
It is perhaps knowledge which is available in the minds of an older generation of people who can talk about their first hand experience of traditional food production, ingredients, skills, methods and tastes from the recent past.
These revived products could then be made available for sale through a farm gate, farmers’ market and farm shop system, onwards to restaurants, independent stores and into full local and broader distribution.
Staples made freshly as required – for example daily bread or weekly butter – or freshly killed, traditional meats are described as having unquestionably better flavour than their modern mass-produced equivalents.
For this generation, the irony is that a simple food like homemade bread is now a luxury item.
There is a growing consumer base of people in Ireland who want and appreciate foods hand-prepared and using traditional recipes and techniques.
Home-baked produce or freshly caught fish, rare breed and organic meats and vegetables are all highly desirable foodstuffs.
They are richer in antioxidants; including vitamins E, beta-carotene, and vitamin C.Furthermore, they do not contain traces of added hormones, antibiotics or other drugs.
Eggs from hens raised outdoors on pasture have from three to six times more vitamin D than eggs from hens raised in confinement. Pastured hens are exposed to direct sunlight, which their bodies convert to vitamin D and then pass on to the eggs.
Vitamin D is best known for its role in building strong bones. It can also enhance the immune system, improve mood, reduce blood pressure, combat cancer, and reduce the risk of some autoimmune disorders.
Eating just two eggs from hens raised outdoors on pasture will give you from 63-126% of the recommended daily intake of vitamin D.
Most of the eggs sold in the supermarket do not meet this criterion. Even though the label says that the eggs are “certified organic” or come from “uncaged” or “free-range” hens or from hens fed an “all-vegetarian” diet, this is no guarantee that the hens had access to the outdoors or pasture.
Look for eggs from “pastured” hens. You are most likely to find these superior eggs at farmer’s markets or natural food stores.
Cows that get all their nutrients from grass have the softest butterfat of all. Butter from grass-fed cows also has more cancer-fighting CLA, vitamin E, beta-carotene, and omega-3 fatty acids than butter from cows raised in factory farms or that have limited access to pasture.
Because living grass is richer in vitamins E, A, and beta-carotene than stored hay or standard dairy diets, butter from dairy cows grazing on fresh pasture is also richer in these important nutrients. The naturally golden color of grassfed butter is a clear indication of its superior nutritional value.
The goal of the commercial dairy industry is to coax the maximum amount of milk out of each cow through a high-tech combination of selective breeding, confinement housing, synthetic hormones, and a high-energy grain diet. It has succeeded admirably.
Today’s super cows produce as much as 17,000 pounds of milk per cycle—20 times more milk than a cow needs to sustain a healthy calf.
Unfortunately for consumers, the cow transfers a set amount of vitamins to her milk, and the greater her milk volume, the more dilute the vitamin content of the milk, especially vitamins E and beta-carotene.
Dairy cows raised on pasture and free of hormone implants produce less milk than commercial cows, but the milk is therefore richer in vitamin content. This is one of those times when less is more!
Milk from grassfed Irish cows is 2–3 times higher in conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) than milk from grainfed American cows.
Compared with animals fed supplemental grain, meat from irish cattle raised on pasture alone is lower in saturated fat, but higher in the “good fats,” including monounsaturated fats, omega-3 fats, and CLA.
This indicates that many Irish beef producers, due to their grass-based production systems, have a natural advantage in producing beef that is more beneficial to human health than beef produced from concentrate-based systems in other countries.
In Ireland we need to focus on traditional foods and avoid modern, refined foods, prepare and eat foods in the same manner that nourished our ancestors and kept them well.
Choose grass-finished beef, lamb, venison and goat meat.
Choose wild-caught, but sustainable fish like salmon.
Choose pasture-raised poultry and eggs . Bone broth and nourishing stocks.
Choose unrefined coconut oil. Palm kernel oil. Unrefined, cold-pressed, extra virgin olive oil.
All organic or certified naturally grown fruits and vegetables preferably from small farms that practice good soil management techniques.
Soaked and dried organic nuts and seeds.
Whole grain sourdough breads and sourdough noodles, sprouted grain and sprouted grain flours, slow-rise breads and recipes calling for soaking.
Raw whole milk, raw cream and raw butter from grass-fed animals. Raw whole milk yogurt, kefir, sour cream and cheese.
Avoid conventional, factory farmed meats and animal foods.
Avoid refined oils and solvent-extracted oils. Soybean oil. Canola oil. Corn oil. Vegetable oil.
Margarine. Shortening. Manufactured trans-fats.
Avoid Quick breads. Refined flour and grains.
White rice. White flour. Muffins, cookies, pastries, breads, noodles and other grain products made with non-sprouted grains.
Non-soaked or non-roasted nuts and seeds.
Soy-based meat- and dairy-alternatives.
Avoid Skimmed milk. Dairy substitutes. Milk from conventional, industrial dairies including industrial Organic dairies. Ultra-high temperature pasteurized milks and creams.
High fructose corn syrup. Corn syrup. Beet sugar. Aspartame, sucralose and other non-caloric artificial sweeteners.
During the last decade, alcohol consumption has risen rapidly in Ireland with Irish adults currently among the highest consumers of alcohol in Europe, at 14.2 litres per adult .
Increasing alcohol consumption among women and youth are associated with this development as well as an increase in the adult binge drinking.
Those individuals who consume an excessive amount of alcohol can cause a great deal of damage to their mental and physical health.
This chemical can act as a toxin in the body and can start to destroy every organ.
The other problem with alcohol abuse is that it often leads to obesity and this creates further health problems for the individual.
It is therefore vital that people learn to moderate their alcoholic intake or quit altogether.
The tendency to drink a lot of alcohol on one occasion, referred to as binge drinking, is strikingly common in Ireland.
Binge drinking directly causes insulin resistance, which in turn leads to type 2 diabetes.
Insulin resistance is where insulin does not bind properly to the receptor, thus hampering its ability to send the right signals to cells so they can use glucose for energy. This can happen even when the pancreas is producing enough insulin to keep glucose levels under control.
A symptom of insulin resistance is high levels of insulin in the bloodstream. This is a major component of metabolic syndrome, a group of risk factors that together increase the risk for type 2 diabetes, coronary artery disease, and stroke.
Someone who regularly binge drinks even once a week, over many years, may remain in an insulin resistant state for an extended period of time, potentially years.
A European comparison of drinking habits and drinking problems among students aged 15-16 years, reported Irish youth among the highest risky drinkers.
Alcohol is the biggest killer of young people in Ireland and the equivalent to one tenth of the health budget is spent dealing with alcohol-related harm in our health services.
Alcoholic drinks contain an excessive amount of empty calories with no real nutritional value. One 12 ounce standard beer contains about 160 calories while a glass of white wine can have as much as 300 calories. One gin and tonic can also have as much as 300 calories.
It is important to realize that just because an alcoholic drink is labeled as ‘lite’ or ‘low calorie’ does not mean that it is safe to drink in high quantities.
If people consume a few alcoholic drinks per week on top of their regular diet it can quickly put them on the path to obesity.
One problem is that the calories in these alcoholic drinks do not satisfy hunger.
In fact they can stimulate hunger so that the individual ends up eating more than normal on top of the calories consumed in these drinks.
Those people who regularly go to the bar might also be missing out on healthier activities where they would be burning calories.
We love to talk about Ireland’s alcohol culture without ever actually doing anything about it.
If you want to reduce alcohol-related harm, then you have to reduce consumption.If you want to reduce consumption then you have to tackle price and availability.
It’s estimated that it costs us €3.7billion a year mopping up alcohol-related harm; including €1.2 billion in crime and €1.2billion in health. That works out at every income tax payer picking up a €3,318 annual tab in avoidable alcohol-related costs!
The government can make a choice. Implement the necessary policies to reduce harm, save lives and millions but potentially risk a lucrative revenue stream of excise, VAT and taxes from alcohol-related jobs.
The Irish government has to act to make a difference to lives, families and communities and to change the drinking culture in Ireland.
Regular physical activity is the key to getting healthy and staying healthy yet studies show that few Irish people take part in regular physical activity .
People use car transport more than ever and technological advances mean that our working lives are more likely to be inactive, such as sitting at a computer.
Only 41% of Irish adults take part in moderate or strenuous physical activity for at least 20 minutes three or more times a week.
The Health Behaviours in Irish School Children survey revealed that over half of primary school age children do not achieve the recommended level of physical activity.
By 15 years of age, almost nine out of 10 girls and seven out of 10 boys don’t achieve the recommended level.
Adults start to get health benefits from at least 150 minutes a week of moderate physical activity, such as brisk walking.
This means an average of 30 minutes of activity on five days a week.
Children and young people need at least 60 minutes of moderate physical activity.
It is clear from the studies that most Irish adults and children are not active enough to be healthy.
Regular physical activity reduces your risk of chronic diseases, such as coronary heart disease (CHD), type 2 diabetes, stroke, cancer, osteoporosis and depression.
For older people regular physical activity reduces the risk of falls and resulting injuries.
As you get more active, more often and for longer you reduce your risk of chronic disease.
To be a healthy weight, you need to take regular physical activity and eat a healthy diet. This ensures a balance between the energy you get from food and the energy you use.
Even when you do not lose weight, you may still benefit from being more active. Studies show that active adults who are overweight or obese gain similar health benefits to people with a healthy body weight.
The Irish healthcare system would benefit from reduced costs if people became more active.
It is estimated that if Irish people became more active for just 30 minutes per day, it could save $1.5 billion (€815 million) a year in costs linked to CHD, stroke, type 2 diabetes, breast cancer, colon cancer, depression and falls.
Moderate to vigorous activity includes everything from sport, physical education (PE) and formal exercise to active play and other physically demanding activities such as dancing, swimming or skateboarding. It also includes everyday activities such as walking and cycling.
Activities for children and young people should match their age, skill level and maturity. Choose a variety of fun activities-Active recreation, such as hiking, skateboarding, rollerblading, Bicycle riding, Brisk walking, PE class.
Give children and young people opportunities to be active every day during their normal family, school and community activities.
This can include play, games, sports, work, recreation, PE, planned exercise or active travel such as cycling.
For children and young people with disabilities, you will need to plan the facilities and programmes to make sure they cater for all ability levels.
Increase physical activity by replacing sedentary time – watching TV, playing computer games, talking on the phone – with active time.
Most activity should be moderate to vigorous aerobic. At least three times a week, include activities that promote muscle strengthening, flexibility and bone strengthening.
To avoid gaining weight, you need to use at least 350 calories per day in physical activity, as well as the energy you use in everyday tasks. This means about 60 minutes of brisk walking or 30 minutes of jogging per day.
To lose weight, you need to do more physical activity than the recommendations for adults at a healthy weight.
How much activity you need to do can vary depending on a number of factors, including how much weight you need to lose.
In general, you need to do about one third more activity than the amount recommended by the adult guidelines.
This amounts to brisk walking for at least 60 – 75 minutes per day.
If you have a very high Body Mass Index (BMI) – 30.0 or above, or you are extremely inactive, start with bouts of 10 minutes or less.
Gradually increase the duration, and then the intensity of your activity until you reach the adult guidelines.
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