Grazing: How to Eat Yourself Healthy With Mini Meals

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If I could give only one health recommendation to my patients, it would be: Just graze on real foods! I guarantee it will change your life, just as it has changed mine.

Let me explain. Thirteen years ago, I almost died of colon cancer. When I got the disease at the age of 57, I was in the prime of my life, enjoying a great marriage, eight children, and a thriving medical practice—I'm a pediatrician and the author of 30 books on child care and other health topics. As with many newly diagnosed cancer patients, my first thought was: Boy! I don't want to get that again. So I began investigating how I could improve my diet to ensure it wouldn't happen.

My readers have always trusted me as a science-based doctor (although my colleagues often refer to me as a sciencemade-simple doctor—not a compliment, I suspect). So, as I always do, I combed through medical journals and books and consulted top experts in the field—nutritionists, GI specialists, cancer doctors, even a friend who has won a Nobel prize. One piece of advice kept coming up: Graze.

The Metabolic Magic of Grazing

I learned that, compared with people who gorge on a few big meals a day, grazers, who eat frequent mini meals, suffer less colon cancer, have steadier moods, are less likely to develop diabetes, have a healthier immune system, tend to be leaner, enjoy lower blood cholesterol and levels of stress hormones, have less itis illnesses (dermatitis, bronchitis, colitis, arthritis), and just plain live longer and healthier.

The magic of grazing is that the body has less metabolic mischief to get into. In a science-made-simple nutshell, grazing promotes stable insulin levels—three magic words of good health. To understand why grazing is so good for you, let's follow the meals of a gorger and a grazer from their plates to their bloodstreams.

As the gorger feasts on a high-fat, all-you-can eat steak house buffet (followed by dessert), two things happen: Her blood levels of "sticky stuff "—cardiology-speak for artery-damaging fats—act like sludge in her bloodstream, clinging to the lining of her arteries, contributing to plaques, and ultimately stiffening arteries. The body doesn't like to waste food, so it also pours out the food-storage hormone, insulin, to deposit excess food fats into her body's storage bank—belly fat. And we all know how bad that is for you.

As for the grazer, by eating smaller amounts of food more frequently, she has less indigestion, heartburn, and sticky stuff in her blood vessels, and her insulin levels remain stable (along with her weight).

In fact, I realized that Gut Health 101 could be summed up by what I now call my rule of twos:

1. Eat twice as often.
2. Eat half as much.
3. Chew twice as long.