Photo Credit: Robert Gourley
It seems that nearly all expats who come to Cuenca lose weight. Many attribute the reduction to walking and eating fresh fruits and vegetables that are abundantly available at a low cost. Susan Schenck, 59, who teaches people how to improve their eating habits through sound nutritional advice, says living at a higher altitude generally means that people burn 200 calories more each day, and she says that in a year it can amount to a 20-pound weight loss!
Initially, the higher altitude can leave people tired and short of breath. Some complain of high blood pressure, insomnia, and sleep apnea. Schenck says the key energy zappers are sugar, gluten, vegetable oils, sleeplessness, little sunlight, insufficient exercise and a lack of emotional balance. To improve any of these, Schenck recommends 2 main ways of eating: raw and ketogenic, with green smoothies as staples. What’s one of her favorite smoothies? “Kale, coconut water, a tablespoon of aloe, an inch of ginger, minced, 3 drops of stevia and juice from 1-2 limes,” she said.
Schenck, is author of “Beyond Broccoli,” about the need to go low glycemic and low carb, and “The Live Food Factor,” a book dedicated to her late father, a general surgeon. “My dad put me through college by taking people’s gall bladders out. Now my karma is to save people’s gall bladders!”
Schenck, with a solid background as an educator, has taught all grade levels from pre-school to college. She is also a licensed acupuncturist with a Masters degree in Traditional Oriental Medicine. How did she get into health and nutrition? “I’ve been a health nut since I was fifteen. But from about 1970-1980, I struggled with both anorexia and bulimia.” She ameliorated that unhealthy behavior by moving to Guadalajara, Mexico for two years and getting away from the “addictive foods of the U.S.”
Even though she grew up with a father who practiced traditional medicine, Schenck thinks that “modern medicine needs to get off its high horse believing it is the first line of defense. Alternative health should be used first, and ‘drug-cut-and-burn’ medicine should only be used as a last resort because it weakens your immune system.” She’s referring to pharmaceuticals, surgery and radiation/chemotherapy.
Over the years, Schenck has been a meat-eater, vegetarian, and is now back to having some meat again. When she was a vegetarian she was 50 pounds heavier. Now, she says, the keto diet works for her. “It’s a low-carb, high-fat, adequate-protein diet. You run on fat instead of sugar, so there’s no more hunger or mood and energy swings,” she said.
Is that like the Atkins diet, then? No, Schenck says. “Dr. Atkins thought you could eat unlimited amounts of protein. You can’t. The liver converts excess protein into glucose which effectively knocks you out of ketosis.”
Schenck says fructose, Omega-6 fats, vegetable oil, sugar, grains, and unfermented soy are some of the worst contributors to poor health. Soy, she notes, was promoted in the U.S. as a health food and it’s the opposite, in her opinion. “It causes everything from cancer to dementia and Alzheimers. It should be used sparingly as a condiment and only fermented,” she says.
What foods does she recommend to support optimum health? “Greens are very alkalizing and give you immediate energy. Green smoothies are the number one quick-energy food, and raw chocolate is the supreme longevity food,” said Schenck.
As a proponent of eating as much raw food as possible, Schenck explains the key differences between raw and cooked food. “When you cook the food above 300 degrees Fahrenheit, you create toxic by-products. You destroy a lot of nutrients, and, according to a study in Germany, half the protein is not absorbed. Just cooking at 118 degrees Fahrenheit destroys 100% of the enzymes in most foods. The pancreas has a limited capacity to crank out digestive enzymes. The bottom line, the more cooked food you eat, the sooner you’ll die.”
And so, if you want to stay on the planet, Schenck says there are also a number of little things you can do. She notes that about 80% of Americans are deficient in magnesium. The recommended daily requirement is 400 mg. “The highest food source for magnesium is halibut, also almonds, kale and raw chocolate,” said Schenck.
Have a potassium deficiency? She says that one tablespoon of parsley has as much potassium as a potato or a banana! Need to clean out your colon? Try chia or flax seeds. Improve your good cholesterol, also known as HDL, by eating nuts and saturated animal fat. Suffer from restless leg syndrome? Take magnesium. And remember to try fermented foods such as sauerkraut, kefir, kimchi and yogurt made with live bacteria.
For more information on Susan Schenck’s workshops, you can contact her at [email protected].