Audience members at the Fox Tucson Theatre rolled raisins between their thumb and first finger. They examined the way the light fell into the raisin’s grooves.
In unison, the audience members lifted the raisin to their noses and smelled it.
This was an exercise in mindful eating led by Dr. Victoria Maizes at Wednesday’s fifth and final talk in the Downtown Lecture Series on Food, which was sponsored by the University of Arizona’s College of Social and Behavioral Sciences.
Maizes, an integrative medicine physician at the UA, discussed what we should eat in her talk on “Food for Pleasure, Vitality, and Health.”
“I want to talk about what we should eat,” Maizes said. “To bring clarity where there is confusion.”
To start, extra inches around the waist are not as simple as too many calories and not enough exercise.
Many factors affect how our body digests and reacts to foods. Processed carbohydrates such as potato chips and the concentrated sugars in fruit juices, for example, cause a chain reaction that stores those calories as fat.
In foods that contain the same number of calories but with healthy fats and fibers to slow digestion, the energy fuels you through the day instead of being stored as fat.
There is “no one-size-fits-all diet,” Maizes said, but there is strong evidence for the Mediterranean-style diet. Its staples include a variety of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, seeds and nuts. The Mediterranean-style diet is plentiful in fish and low in meat. Up to 40 percent of the diet consists of healthy fats, making it flavorful and satisfying, Maizes said.
If a Mediterranean-style diet overhaul is too much to attempt, Maizes said that adding just one serving of leafy greens a day could reduce heart disease risk by 23 percent.
Also think about reducing your intake of meat.
“We’re exposed to environmental toxins in our food, which may be one of the less well-known causes linked with obesity,” Maizes said. “Even if it’s an organically raised cow, our soils are contaminated. It may have bio-accumulated significant toxins, so limiting one’s meat consumption is an important factor.”
These environmental toxins could be heavy metals in the earth, pesticides in water or animal feed, or antibiotics that make the animal grow fatter faster.
This point about toxins at the top of the food chain surprised Julie Kennedy Oehlert, vice president of patient experience at the University of Arizona Health Network.
“I was startled,” Oehlert said. “We eat organic, but I didn’t think of the environmental chemicals in meat.”
Maizes recommended the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine’s website as a source for nutritional information.