The Basic Postpartum Diet
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Avoid artificial sweeteners, refined flour
Incidentally, it is not a good idea to try to avoid sugar by using artificial sweeteners like aspartame (also sold under the brand names Equal and NutraSweet), saccharin (Sweet 'N Low), and the newer acesulfame-K (Sunette, Sweet 'n Safe, Sweet One). Fake sweeteners do not help you to lose weight or kick your sugar habit, and some of them are known to have adverse effects on brain cells. They whet your taste for sugar without satisfying your body's need for nourishment. Aspartame is an excitotoxin, which means that it overexcites brain cells to the point where they literally can die. Chronic headaches, seizures, and brain tumors have been linked with aspartame use. Do not expose yourself or your baby to this chemical.
Americans consume a tremendous quantity of artificial sweetener in the form of diet sodas. In addition to containing artificial sweeteners, diet sodas also contain the same load of inorganic phosphorus that regular sodas do, which means that they can throw off your calcium and magnesium balance. We predict that a whole generation of soda-guzzling teens and young adults may well be headed for osteoporosis in their twilight years because of the bone-eroding effects of excess phosphoric acid. The average cola drink is 100,000 times more acidic than the human bloodstream should be, having a a pH of 2 rather than 7. It therefore takes about ten gallons of water to neutralize one can of soda. To bring the blood pH back into balance, the body will rob alkaline minerals from anywhere it can get them, including bone.
Refined flour the kind used to make fluffy breads, many breakfast cereals, pretzels, bagels, muffins, cookies, and pasta is only slightly better for you than sugar. It contains carbohydrates that take a little bit longer to break down than those in pure sugar. Still, it is essentially predigested and causes a big jump in blood sugar. That is why a bagel with jam in the morning only tides you over for an hour or two your blood sugar soars, then crashes, and you probably find yourself craving more carbohydrates before lunchtime.
If you are trying to lose weight, refined flour products can get you into big trouble because they are highly calorically dense but not very filling. How many times have you polished off several slices of bread in a restaurant before your dinner arrived? By the time you dig in to the main course, you have already had 500 calories' worth of flour and if you have been slathering butter all over each piece, you are looking at closer to 1,000 calories. The calories your body does not need go right into fat storage, and your blood sugars rise and crash much as they would if you had eaten sugar. Those calories are about as empty as they come.
In addition, many people have allergies to gluten, a protein found in barley, oats, rye, and wheat, and in the wheat alternatives amaranth and spelt. If you find it difficult to have a single meal without something made from wheat, and you have chronic allergies, asthma, or itchy skin rashes, try replacing these foods with products made from brown rice or buckwheat. There are many gluten-free alternatives available in the average health food market. See if you can stay away from gluten-containing foods for at least two weeks. If you do and then see a notable improvement in your allergic symptoms, you may be sensitive to these foods. You should be able to add some gluten-containing foods back to your diet after a while without provoking a reaction, as long as you don't have them every day. Most conventional physicians still rarely acknowledge any but the most extreme cases of food allergy, but we have seen remarkable improvements in people who ferret out and eliminate allergenic foods from their diets.
Another problem with a diet rich in refined flour is that it can be incredibly constipating. When you made glue for papier-mâché in grade school, what did you use? Flour and water! The same kind of reaction happens in your gastrointestinal tract when you eat lots of wheat that has been stripped of its oils, its nutritious germ, and its fiber.
Women with gestational diabetes are usually placed on a low- to no-carbohydrate diet, which controls insulin and glucose levels well in most cases. Unless you have been diagnosed with diabetes, you can take a more moderate tack eating high-fiber foods such as beans, legumes, whole grains, fresh fruits, and vegetables. Protein from lean meats, fresh fish, and poultry can help to quell cravings for sweets and refined flour products. (In many instances, cravings for sugar are a sign that your body needs protein.) Intense cravings for sugar can be a sign that the brain's serotonin levels are too low. Finally, sugars and refined flour affect the action of enzymes that orchestrate prostaglandin production. If you eat too much of these foods, your body produces more of the "bad" prostaglandins.
Kicking the Refined Sugar and Flour Habit
Are you daunted by the notion of kicking your sugar and refined flour habit, although you know that you need to? Not sure how to begin? The best way is to do it cold turkey. On your next shopping expedition, pass by the sweet goodies and the white-flour bread and bagels. Instead, select some whole-grain products, or some whole grains from the bulk section of the market. Fill your cart with fresh vegetables and fruit. For at least three days, commit yourself to eating only whole foods. Steam vegetables, bake yams, eat raw salads, and cook beans and brown rice or rolled oats. Use organic butter, olive oil, tamari (soy sauce), and other savory seasonings, and remember to add some protein to each meal in the form of plain organic yogurt, organic cheeses, nuts, seeds, tofu, fish, or free-range poultry or beef. Don't add concentrated sweeteners to anything. If you want something sweet, eat a piece of fresh fruit. You will find that your taste for the really sweet stuff dissipates quickly. Once you get to this point, you can go back to having an occasional sweet or piece of white bread without going overboard.
In general, you can add sweetness to foods with natural sweeteners like maple syrup and honey but use them judiciously, too. For women who cannot seem to kick their refined carbohydrate cravings, or who choose to be vegetarian or vegan, we prescribe a food supplement powder containing amino acids, vitamins, fiber, and the minerals chromium and vanadium.
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From A Natural Guide to Pregnancy and Postpartum Health by Dean Raffelock, Robert Rountree, and Virginia Hopkins with Melissa Block. Copyright © 2002 by Dr. Dean Raffelock. Used by arrangement with Avery, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
To order this book visit www.penguin.com. Get a 15% discount with the coupon code FENPARENT.