Veterans have nutritional needs that are different from those of the general population. In the line of duty, many of them have been exposed to extremes in the form of physical, mental, and emotional stresses that most of us will never be exposed to. In addition, many have been exposed to external substances, known and unknown, depending on where and when they have been stationed during their time of service.
Physical stress requires nutrition that is high in protein for the repair of muscle and for long-term energy stores. The highest protein sources are found in red meats, but can also be obtained form a combination of foods that include, beans, rice, and nuts.
Calcium, found in dairy products, is required to maintain strong bones necessary for physical activity and for proper maintenance of health and mobility later in life. Vitamin D is also required for maintaining strong healthy bone structure. Many recent studies have found that American diets are extremely deficient in this nutrient and that the recommended daily allowance, (RDA), may in fact, be extremely deficient. Vitamin D is made by the body when skin is exposed to sunlight. But because of the risk of skin cancer from excessive exposure, many healthcare professionals recommend supplements to obtain the levels needed for good health.
Fats are an important nutrient that many people seeking healthier lifestyles tend to avoid, but they are very important. Fats are the transportation vehicle for hormones that are circulating throughout our bodies at all times. These include the hormones that, when not properly executed through the body, can reek havoc in the form of thyroid problems and diabetes. Fats from animal sources though, are a two-edged-sword, in that they also increase the inflammatory responses in the body, causing all sorts of health problems
Fats that are found in non-animal sources such as flax seed and olive oils are actually anti-inflammatory that can counteract the inflammation processes and provide a healthy mechanism for the transport of the body’s hormones.
Also try Omega-3 as a supplement to add the good kind of fat into your system.
Fresh fruits and vegetables, especially blueberries and artichokes, are packed with nutrients including anti-oxidants that combat against cancers and other maladies. The more variety in color of fruits and vegetables consumed, the wider the variety of nutrients. Some recent studies have shown that amounts as high as 9 or more cups of fresh fruits and veggies a day may be what is necessary to provide optimal nutrition to our bodies.
Unfortunately some veterans suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, otherwise known as PTSD. Diet and nutrition have been shown to have beneficial effects on those who suffer from PTSD. In everyone, when nutrition is complete and sufficient, all the body processes function properly promote optimal feelings of well being Then our bodies are truly healthy. When external forces, whether physical or emotional, are exerted upon us, the body needs extra resources to maintain health and feelings of well being.
When nutrition is insufficient for these extra stressors especially from stressors that are long term, bodily processes are not able to execute properly. Our bodies maintain a hierarchy that places staying alive above all else. In other words, the body will put all necessary resources towards healing and maintaining our physical bodies first. Then, what is left over will be used for healing our brains emotional physiology If we only have the amount of optimal nutrition that is necessary for a healthy body, which very few of us have in our “American” diets, it will not be adequate when emotional and/or neurological healing is necessary. We need a-whole-lot-of extra optimal nutrition for healing.
Calcium, magnesium, and zinc are important nutrients for emotional stability. These nutrients help to decrease the intensity of emotional feelings as they appear. Foods rich in calcium are, of course, milk, cheeses, yogurt, and also some veggies such as broccoli and collard greens. Foods high in magnesium include sunflower, flax, and pumpkin seeds; almonds, cashew, and brazil nuts; along with coco powder. Rice and oat brans are also high in magnesium. This mineral also protects the body against many heart and blood pressure problems, and has a calming affect on the neurological system.
The most important factor weather we are trying to maintain, improve, or heal our bodies, is to eat a variety of foods. This ensures that we will have a variety of nutrition available.
In salute to all veterans, Happy Veterans Day!