Whole foods and nutritious supplements can be used to boost overall health and even support fitness goals.
By Allison Emery
As the adage goes, “We are what we eat”—and there may be more truth to that than we think.
One of the most prevalent examples is the effect of ultraprocessed foods, as it has been a staple in many American diets since the 1970s, when increased use of additives such as artificial sweeteners (aspartame, saccharin), flavor enhancers (monosodium glutamate, or MSG) as well as preservatives (sodium benzoate, potassium benzoate) by food manufactures helped to lower the cost of production while extending shelf life. Regular consumption of processed food has been linked to expanding waistlines, leading many health experts to suspect that our diets play a larger role in obesity and other health epidemics, like diabetes and high cholesterol, than previously expected.
That suspicion is even more affirmed with a new study released in May 2019. Conducted by researchers at the National Institutes of Health, the study is the first controlled trial to show a correlation between a diet heavy in processed foods and weight gain, as compared with a diet made up of whole or minimally processed foods.
“Obviously, just like everything else in life, bad data provides bad results,” says Joyce Mattox, a registered dietitian nutritionist who has worked for Sea Island for more than 25 years. “Learn the foods [that] make you feel happier and energetic with more focus.”
And learning the “right” meals and snacks to enjoy are exactly what the results of the study emphasize. In addition to weight loss, specific approaches to nutrition can be used to achieve a range of health goals, and even treat certain conditions. Whole-food diets, for example, may help combat certain ailments such as high cholesterol, inflammation or just feeling sluggish. Dr. Lisa Young, author of “Finally Full, Finally Slim: 30 Days to Permanent Weight Loss One Portion at a Time,” adjunct professor of nutrition at New York University and registered dietician nutritionist, is an expert in whole-food diets. Examples of nutrient-packed whole foods, according to Young, include leafy and cruciferous vegetables such as spinach, cauliflower and broccoli; what she calls “healthy starches” such as sweet potato, brown rice and quinoa; and lean proteins such as fish, chicken and beans.
Martha Walker, assistant fitness manager for Sea Island, also agrees that healthy, whole proteins are key to overall health and wellness. When paired with an exercise routine, they can also assist in achieving particular fitness goals. “For those trying to build muscle, make sure you are getting protein,” she says. “Again, natural types of protein—meats, beans and eggs. [Artificial proteins such as] protein bars and shakes have hidden ingredients and chemicals.”
For those looking to lose weight, Walker emphasizes that there’s no magic bullet. “Add in as many fresh vegetables as you can to help fill you up and give you the vitamins you need,” she says. “Also, cutting out processed foods is the best advice I give everyone; they all have so many hidden [additives].”
While supplements or diet fads claiming to be a quick fix might be tempting, Walker, Young and Mattox all caution against hopping on the bandwagon.
Mattox says that there is a reason fads are short-lived: “They don’t work. Typically, people gain [weight] afterward because muscle was lost, which we don’t want to lose because muscle boosts your metabolism. For instance, cutting down on carbs is fine but avoiding them is totally unrealistic.”
Rather, Mattox advises to “learn how to include, yet balance, favorite foods and beverages”—you do not need to deprive yourself of what you love, but rather find harmony between restricting and overeating, especially when it comes to refined and processed foods that are high in salt, sugar and fat. These foods have little to offer in terms of return on investment in nutrition.
Of course, everyone needs to indulge occasionally, and for a guilt-free treat, Mattox loves the Health Nut smoothie at Sea Island’s Fit Fuel Café, made with skim milk, banana and peanut butter. She likes to add hempseed, a good source of protein, and spinach, which has anti-inflammatory properties that can aid in removing toxins from the body. On days she needs an extra boost, she likes to incorporate Naturopathica’s herbal tinctures, also known as herbal extracts, which can be added to any smoothie at the café.
“Herbs work magic and count as a leafy green,” Mattox says. “Leafy greens are the best way to gently detox. … Our Fitness Center’s Fit Fuel Café allows our members and guests to deliciously deliver their bodies … antioxidants and other whole nutrients, allowing them increased energy and more time to enjoy Sea Island.”
On days where she needs to detox, she’ll add in the Milk Thistle Cleansing Tincture, made with Oregon grape root and yellow dock root, which support digestion and liver function. Other tinctures featured at the café include the Burdock Healthy Skin Tincture with antioxidant-rich burdock root; Turmeric Muscle & Joint Tincture made with anti-inflammatory Indian saffron; and Oats Stress Relief Tincture made with oats and energy-boosting ginseng.
More fresh ingredients that Mattox enjoys at Sea Island dining venues are found in the 10 Vegetable Salad topped with blackened fish at the River Bar & Lounge, and the Capesante, a scallop dish at Tavola that combines protein-rich fava beans with yellow squash and kale.
“Nutrition is not a meal but a commitment to [a] lifestyle,” Mattox says. “Perfection is not required, but a balance is.