“So many people seek to improve their nutrition with the goal of maintaining their metabolism, hormone balance, gut health, brain health and blood sugar regulation, but they have to be ready to do the work. They have to be ready to change their habits,” says Dr. Vince Sferra, founder of Natural Medicine & Rehabilitation in Somerset. “Eating is social. It revolves around customs and peer pressure, and you wind up making habits that are not healthy, like eating fast food, fried food and junk food rather than pursuing clean foods straight from nature, which are good for our bodies.”
Sferra, who lectures on how to improve overall health through the fundamentals of functional medicine—a practice that restores health by addressing the mechanisms that cause the disease or disorder—says the first step is removing toxicity by cutting unhealthy elements like drugs, alcohol, junk food or sugar out of your diet. “It’s normal to not feel good during this time of transition,” he says. “But you’ll feel better as you allow your body to detoxify.”
It’s a good practice to understand the food you eat. “We are at the top of the food chain, so whatever we consume includes what our food consumed or was harvested or produced with, like hormones, antibiotics, fertilizers, dyes and artificial sweeteners. Your body has a hard time processing those manmade, toxic additions,” he says. “And are you really OK with having those artificial, manmade elements in your body—or in your kid’s body? It’s important that parents be role models for their children. You don’t want your kids to figure out what good nutrition means when they are 30 years old and have established bad habits.”
In his lectures, Sferra discusses how good nutrition aids our microbiome, the trillions of competing and cooperating bacteria teeming in and on our bodies that help keep us healthy. “It is vital to have diverse and abundant microbes in our gastrointestinal tract,” he says. “We do this by eating a balanced variety of natural foods.”
The foundation starts with seeking the best protein, carbohydrates and fats. Clean animal meat is the best way to get complete proteins. “Stay away from products that introduce hormones, antibiotics or feeds designed to make animals fatter,” he says. “Likewise, avoid meat from hens that are cooped up close together and are not free range as they will eat each other’s feces and grain that was that was adulterated with fertilizers.”
Watch your intake of processed, refined carbohydrates. “We’ve been led to believe that if whole wheat bread is brown, it’s good. That’s hogwash. It’s not steeped in any science. Select bread made with sprouted grain,” he says. “Carbs should mainly come from nature and be fiber-rich, low-calorie and nutrient-dense—items like fruit, vegetables, potato, sweet potato and wild rice, which is not as processed as bleached rice. But stay away from vegetables that have been genetically modified.”
Likewise, steer away from processed or overcooked fats and use healthy fats like those found in fatty fish oils, olive oil, coconut oil, flaxseed oil and avocado oil. In moderation, fats from dairy is fine, Sferra notes. “My generation was taught to not eat fat at all costs—which is one of the worst recommendations,” he says. “We need healthy fats to help the membranes in our cells maintain their integrity.”
Regulating your blood sugar through better selection of food and combinations of food is key. “Our bodies have a way of regulating blood sugar, but many people just downright destroy it by asking their bodies to do way too much and then they are on a roller coaster all day,” he says.
Unregulated blood sugar can damage metabolism and disrupt hormones. “If you wake up in the morning and are not hungry until one o’clock, it’s a telltale sign that your metabolism is damaged,” he says. “Unless you are doing intentional time-restrictive eating with an eight- to 10-hour window, an hour or two after you get out of bed and moving your body it should be requiring nutrition,” he says.
To help regulate blood sugar, think of a circle, which is representative of a dinner plate, to create a good ratio of carbs to proteins to vegetables. Shoot for half of the plate being filled with quality fiber and vegetables, one-quarter with complete, clean protein and one-quarter with a wholesome starch. This balance can be modified if someone wants, for example, more protein and less starch.
Setting a good nutritional course will help you boost energy, reduce brain fog, combat gastrointestinal issues and feel your optimal best. “However, once you start feeling good, you can’t just dust off your hands and go back to your old ways,” Sferra says. “The new habits that have helped restore your health will be the ones that will keep you there.”
Learn more about healthy lifestyles at nmrnj.com.
“Once you start feeling good, you can’t just dust off your hands and go back to your old ways.”