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home : health : health May 29, 2016

11/1/2011 2:00:00 PM
Change your diet, change your body, change your life

More and more people in Sisters are adjusting their diets to combat specific health conditions - from allergies to autoimmune disorders - or simply in search of greater well-being.

"People are really taking charge of their own health - and it's been fun," says Angeline Rhett, proprietor of Angeline's Bakery & Café.

Food allergies seem to be a big issue for a lot of people.

"I think there's a rise in allergies and (issues involving) what people can and cannot digest and assimilate," Rhett says. "There's a lot of wheat allergies."

That's led Rhett over the past several years to offer more and more gluten-free alternatives, recreating peoples' favorite treats without the gluten.

Chiropractor and nutritional counselor Inice Gough notes that highly processed wheat products are common in the American diet and the digestive system isn't really equipped to handle that.

"Processing food typically does not sit well with a lot of guts," she says. "If you buy bread, buy whole grain bread. Way healthier."

Dietary changes go way beyond going gluten-free.

As Rhett notes, if you replace your traditional pastry with a gluten-free one, you are still getting a lot of sweet carbohydrates. Many people are moving in a different direction entirely.

"We have a huge number of people who have a bowl of soup for breakfast instead of sweet carbs," she says.

A goodly number of folks in the Sisters Country have adopted - entirely or in part - what is known as a raw food diet. A raw food diet is based on eating uncooked vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds. Some consume raw animal products like raw milk or cheese made from raw milk and some raw meats or seafood. However, the raw food diet is generally associated with vegan practices.

"I'm vegan," Rhett says. "I don't eat meat; I'm not feeling like I'm missing it."

Rhett finds her own experience a testimonial for the benefits of raw food.

"The more fruits and vegetables and live foods you put into your body, the more you see it in your body, your face, your energy," she says. Another benefit, she says, is "pretty much effortless weight-management."

Proponents of the raw food diet argue that cooking destroys enzymes that aid in digestion and assimilation of nutrients and can reduce the nutrient value of food.

"You want to keep the natural enzymes for digestion," Gough says. "If you cook it to death, you kill the enzymes."

Critics of the raw food movement note that it's not as simple as that. Some foods' nutritional value increases with cooking. For example, cooked tomatoes contain up to four times more lycopene, a nutrient thought to be beneficial in preventing cancers, than raw tomatoes.

They also note that if one is not careful, moving to a dietary extreme can lead to significant nutritional imbalances.

The key, say Rhett and Gough, is common sense and practicality. Gough notes that lightly cooking food makes it both more healthful and tastier than heavy cooking.

In all of this, you don't have to be extreme and you don't have to be perfect.

"I don't do it 100 percent," Rhett says. "I just do what makes me feel good."

And what works for her may not work for you.

"I think everyone's built differently," Rhett says. "I've seen people go vegan with varying degrees of success. If it's difficult or painful, it's probably not the right path."

Rhett encourages people to simply experiment with healthier alternatives - which can be very creative and fun - and "once you start seeing positive results, you're on your way."

A lot of folks start by adding green smoothies to their diet.

"They're kind of the gateway," Rhett says.

Carnivores can be healthy, too. While Gough says "there's too much animal protein in the American diet," that doesn't mean meat-lovers have to cut it out entirely.

While it might be best to cut back if you're eating meat at every meal, you can find healthy sources for meat that help you avoid hormones and reduce fat intake.

"It should be a local source," Gough says. "If you're going to eat red meat, there's plenty of opportunities in Sisters to get fresh, grass-fed meat."

And it doesn't have to be beef or free-range chicken. Game meat such as elk or venison also offers an alternative.

Diet affects everything we are and do. It affects your appearance, your mood, your fitness and health, your energy level.

While there's always plenty of debate over what kind of diet is best, there's no question that plenty of fruits and vegetables (not overcooked), lots of greens and naturally raised, lower-fat alternatives for meat will go a long way toward keeping you happy and healthy.

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