Maximize Your Health Savings Account by Eating the Right Foods

The people who will have the most money in their Health Savings Account are those who fully fund it, put the money in well-performing mutual funds, and stay healthy so they can avoid making premature withdrawals. Diet is the foundation of good health, and the healthiest diet you can eat is the one we evolved to eat, commonly known as The Paleo Diet.

Choose Not To Get Sick

One thing that most Health Savings Account owners have in common is a belief in personal responsibility. They know that if they depend on the government to pay their medical bills in their old age, they'll be at the mercy of a government bureaucrat, and their choices will be limited. So instead they choose to put money aside each year to cover future expenses. As a thank you, the government provides a nice tax write-off, tax-deferred growth, and tax-free medical spending.

The other area where most people can take more personal responsibility is with their health. People tend to have the attitude that "stuff happens", and there's not much you can do to prevent the degenerative diseases that come with aging. This is hogwash.

Longevity has advanced dramatically in the past century. Some of this is due to new drugs and advances in surgical techniques. But most of it is simply lifestyle - people are bathing more frequently, they are working under less dangerous conditions, they are smoking less, and some are eating better food. (Fresh fruits and vegetables were rare and expensive during winter months when my grandfather was a child).

Other than not smoking cigarettes, the most powerful thing you can do to ensure good health is to eat the right foods. Most people get it wrong, but if you follow this advice you will lower your risk of almost all the diseases and disorders that disrupt the lifestyle and drain the bank accounts of so many people when they reach their 50's, 60's, and 70's.

Why Is Nutrition So Confusing?

In 1988, Surgeon General, C. Everett Koop announced that high-fat foods in the American diet had a health risk that was comparable to cigarette smoking. So people began eating no-fat and low-fat foods like bagels and Snackwell cookies. Despite this change, the rate of heart disease, diabetes, and obesity continued to grow.

Then the pendulum swung the other direction, with people adopting the Atkins diet and eating nothing but meat, cheese, and eggs. And then Atkins himself had a heart attack.

Part of the problem is that food is big money. So the Food Pyramid put out by the USDA is the product of very heavy lobbying efforts. Another part of the problem is that until now there has been no overriding paradigm about what good nutrition really is.

And so the low-fat vegetarian proponents eat their whole grains and soy burgers, thinking they are eating the right way, while others avoid carbs like the plaque. Who is right? Is the answer "moderation?" And what is that?

Eating the Foods We Evolved To Eat

Imagine that you were a zoo keeper, and it was your job to keep the animals healthy. In one cage you've got a giraffe, in another you've got a lion, and in the third you have an anteater. What do you feed them?

Most people would answer that you try to feed them what they would eat in the wild. If you do so, you're most likely to have healthy animals. If you get things mixed up and feed the lion leaves, the giraffe ants, and the anteater meat, you'll have some sick animals very quickly.

So using the same thinking, what do you feed a human in order to keep him or her optimally healthy? The foods that they evolved to eat, of course.

For 2.5 million years humans lived as hunter gatherers. We ate whatever we could pick, find, or catch. So our diet consisted of fruits, vegetables, tubers, meat, and seafood. (And the occasional bug).

It was only 10,000 years ago (500 generations) that humans began eating grains (wheat, rice, corn, etc.) as a regular part of their diet. Dairy consumption (other than mother's milk) first began approximately 6000 years ago. The regular use of vegetable oils, refined sugar, and salt is even more recent. As I mentioned last month, two-thirds of the foods we now eat are foods that are new to our system, for which we are not genetically adapted.

Evolution moves quite slowly, and the simple fact is that we are not adapted to eating these foods, and they are making us sick.

The Problems With Grains

Grains are the seeds of grasses. The grass seed itself doesn't want to be eaten, because its purpose is to grow a new blade of grass. So it has various "anti-nutrients" to protect it from pests and predators.

Protease inhibitors in wheat bind trypsin, preventing this digestive enzyme from digesting protein. A protein called wheat germ agglutin (WGA) happens to bind to a hormone receptor in the gut, entering circulation and causing an immediate immune reaction every time you eat a piece of bread.

WGA also increases gut permeability, increasing the likelihood that other undigested dietary components may enter circulation.

Another component found in cereals such as rye, oats, barley, and corn are "alkylresorcinols." These are thought to provide the seed resistance from pathogenic organisms, but they are also toxic to humans, and have been shown to cause red blood cell destruction and DNA damage.

Grains also raise blood sugar very rapidly, causing a high secretion of insulin from the pancreas. High circulating insulin is characteristic of "metabolic syndrome", which a vast number of Americans currently suffer from.

What About Milk?

Cow milk contains a hormone called betacellulin, which binds to a receptor in the gut called the EGF receptor. Just one glass of milk has the capacity to stimulate the receptor 10 times as much would normally occur in 24 hours from EGF in the saliva.

When the EGF receptor is stimulated it causes the body to "upregulate" EGF receptors, basically causing more of them to appear. This in turn let's even more betacellulin enter the body the next time you have some dairy. Upregulation of the EGF receptor is characteristic of many cancers, including breast, prostate, lung, ovarian, and bladder.

No animals other than humans consume milk past the age of weaning.

Prevent Autoimmune Disease

The incidence of autoimmune diseases increases as people age. It occurs when the body loses the ability to distinguish its own proteins from foreign proteins, and starts attacking itself.

Grains and beans contain substances called "lectins", which are known to increase gut permeability, possibly allowing in gut bacteria substances that can trigger an autoimmune reaction.

Cereal grains and beans also contain proteins with amino acid sequences that are very similar to those found in human collagen and other tissues of the body. If the immune system gets confused, it can start attacking itself (such as with rheumatoid arthritis when joints become swollen and painful).

Get Rid Of Acne

Yes, even something as seemingly minor as acne can be prevented by eating a Paleo diet. Saving just $2000 in doctor visits over the next couple years could result in an extra $25,000 in your HSA by the time you finally decide to take the money out.

If these ideas intrigue you, check out:

By Wiley Long - President, HSA for America ( - The nation's leading independent health insurance firm specializing in individual and family coverage that work with Health Savings Accounts.



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