Every day someone asks me which diet is the “best”.
This is a much more complicated question than you may think.
Although there are things that may work well for many people, we all have unique DNA and unique life experiences – that is what shapes us, regardless of the nature / nurture debate. And remember we are always changing and so is our environment. What you eat today may change as you age, or have a child, or your job changes. Annual checkups aren’t just for blood pressure and cholesterol – check your nutritional requirements too.
Sometimes nutritional changes need to be made quickly, if an allergy or sensitivity develops. Some people do better if they change their diets with the seasons. You know your body best, if you don’t take care of it where are you going to live?
There isn’t a simple “one size fits all” or even “fits most”.
What you eat isn’t the only determinant of your overall health status.
However, if you consistently eat foods that nourish your body, on a cellular level, providing necessary vitamins, nutrients, phytochemicals and many compounds we have yet to identify your diet can take a back seat to other items like getting enough restful sleep, appropriate physically active, being in a healthy environment, and spending time with people and fulfilling projects.
If you’re not eating the right foods for your health – foods that are injuring your cells and creating inflammation in your body with or without your awareness – then your diet deserves the bulk of your attention and resources. No matter how much you work out, or relax, change jobs or relationships, taking care of other areas of your life while continuously crippling yourself with food choices is a well known recipe for chronic illness.
Figuring out what to eat to support your best health is a project that takes commitment and follow through. When you begin a workout routine you are involved in the activity about once per day, for several days of the week. However, beginning a new eating program can seem overwhelming when you realize you may have to address 3-5 meals per day with snacks, every day of the week. Starting small will be a key to your success. Just as you would not head out on a five mile run on your first day at the gym. Promising yourself you will change everything about your diet in one day can be a recipe for reduced success. Working with a nutritionist, or eating coach can be similar to enrolling a personal trainer to design a program, make sure it is specific to your needs, and ensuring you won’t hurt yourself in the process. Accountability and support will be cornerstones to your success. Chances are you already know what you need to do – and if you could have done it on your own, you would have by now- right! So enlist someone who can be your advocate and ally on this new journey.
Don’t forget that food also includes beverages – so reassess both your food and drink intake when designing a new plan.
The follow are general principles of healthy eating that I personally strive to follow and that I recommend to my clients.
1. Eat Nutrient-Rich Foods.
Unfortunately, many of the foods of our convenient society are calorie dense, but nutrient poor. This is often one of the causes of obesity. The body, although satisfied in energy requirements, is starved for critical vitamins, minerals and other nutrients that act as enzymes and co-factors for physiological and biochemical processes. So, the body sends a message to the brain that it is “starving” and to consume more food. If we continue to eat nutrient poor foods, we continue to feel unsatiated, yet our waist lines continue to increase due to the unused fuel sources that have to be stored.
Nutrient-rich foods are abundant found in fresh, living health-promoting sources such as:
Healthy protein – wild caught fish, grass fed beef, elk, deer, buffalo, lamb, pasture fed chickens
Healthy fat (including cholesterol) – olive oil, coconut oil, avocados
Healthy carbohydrates (including fiber) – fruits and vegetables
Vitamins, minerals, enzymes and phytonutrients (health-promoting nutrients found in plant foods) are found in live, whole, fresh foods.
Vitamin C in a tablet is not the same as Vitamin C found in an orange. Your ability to absorb and utilize the nutrients directly relate to the other substances available in the food, as nature intended.
You often hear me say “eat a rainbow” or “if it stains your fingers like blueberries – then it’s great to eat!”
Dark or brightly colored fruits and vegetables are generally considered to be nature’s most nutrient-rich plant foods. They also contain the enzymes, cofactors and precursors to help utilize and benefit from the nutrient and nutrition in the food.
If you choose to eat animal protein, choose wild-caught fish, grass fed beef or bison, lamb or wild deer and elk. Eggs and dairy products (if you don’t have an allergy) from healthfully raised birds and dairy cows. These are nutrient rich and less inflammatory to your body.
2. Minimize Or Avoid Highly Processed Foods.
Foods that are predominately made of sugar, flour, and highly processed or genetically modified grains are generally low in nutrient value. Same goes for the vast majority of fast, junk foods, many of which are deep-fried like donuts, french fries and potato chips.
Items like crackers and cookies – because they aren’t obviously oozing with fats, can be deceiving. Many items that are shelf stable (can stay on the shelf in a package for a few months or years) tend to have hydrogenated oils in them. These oils have been modified to become solid at room temperature and to prevent them from going rancid. However, our cells act similarly when these fats are ingested. Our nicely permeable cell membranes become less flexible, decreasing the amount of nutrients that can go in and wastes that can go out of the cell, possibly leading to increased stagnation and toxicity, basically decreasing our vitality and ability to regenerate – increasing the rate of aging.
You may be able to indulge in highly processed foods without experiencing significant symptoms to your health in the short term, especially if you are young and if your health is relatively good. However, the more you limit this group of foods, the healthier you will feel and be both in the short, and long run.
3. Minimize or Avoid Consumption of Foods that Cause Cellular Injury or Inflammation.
Based on much research the worst offenders are known to be:
Pasteurized and homogenized dairy products.
Foods that contain shortening or partially hydrogenated oils.
Most varieties of highly processed luncheon meats, hot dogs, bacon, and sausages due to the additives, preservatives and sources of animal bi-products.
High fructose corn syrup – regardless of what the commercials say – corn syrup is NOT a vegetable!
Chewing your foods until liquid takes burden off your digestive organs, and allows your body to maximally extract and absorb nutrients in the foods that you eat.
There are some who believe – You aren’t what you eat, but rather what you absorb!
Chewing your food properly allows your body to maximally utilize the nutrients available in the foods you eat. Thoroughly chewing your foods is an often overlooked essential requirement for optimal digestion and health.
For more information on a healthy eating plan that would be personalized for your body please contact me any time.