If you are looking for some basic guidelines to get you started on a healthy diet, these tips will help you choose the type of food that can help your body, mind and spirit to function at optimum levels.
GUIDELINE 1: USE FRESH PRODUCE AT EVERY MEAL:space
1.Limit Your Intake of Processed Food
Remember that we all need to work with our immune systems in order to help it protect us. It is important that we do not over-tax it by over-eating food and drinking too many beverages laden with toxins. Fresh food (particularly organic food) and freshly prepared juices (or spring water) contains far less toxins than the processed variety. Just think of the chemicals used in tinned food, bottled and canned drinks, microwave packaged food, bottled condiments, etc; you’ll find preservatives, colouring agents, flavouring agents and texturing agents, just to name a few. If you’re eating and drinking these different things on a daily basis, you could be seriously endangering your health.
Medical News Today reports that processed food and drinks also contain high quantities of sugar, which when consumed regularly and at every meal can cause serious damage to the body (high sugar consumption is connected to obesity, heart disease, diabetes and cancer). It can also result in insulin resistance, abnormal triglyceride levels, high cholesterol, as well as dangerous levels of fat accumulation in the liver and abdominal area. Read more with this very informative book (article continues after this book description):
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NBC News reported that “… a new study shows that people who eat more highly processed foods such as chicken nuggets and instant noodles have a higher risk of cancer…“. The French and Brazilian team of researchers that the report referred to discovered that a 10 percent increase in consumption of ultra-processed foods was associated with an increase in risk of cancer. NBC News said, “By ultra-processed they mean very, very processed. The foods associated with extra cancer risk include:
- mass produced packaged breads and baked goods
- sodas and sweetened drinks
- instant noodles and soups
- sweet or savory packaged snacks
- industrialized confectionery and desserts
- meat balls, chicken and fish nuggets
- other reconstituted meat products transformed with addition of preservatives other than salt (for example, nitrites)
- frozen or shelf-stable ready meals
- Other food products made mostly or entirely from sugar, oils and fats”
GUIDELINE 2: BUY ORGANIC (IF YOU CAN) AND EAT GRASS-FED ANIMALS:
When you choose organic vegetables and fruit, you are also avoiding synthetic pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers, all of which are sprayed on the non-organic, genetically-modified (GMO) veggies and fruit that we usually buy in our supermarkets. Dr. Mercola reports that ‘Organic food crops have fewer, if any pesticide residues, and about half the amount of cadmium, a toxic metal and carcinogen. They also contain 18 to 69 percent more antioxidants than conventionally grown varieties’.
For similar reasons, and if you are not on a vegetarian/vegan regime, it also makes sense to eat grass-fed animals, dairy and eggs. Mercola reports that organic grass-fed milk and meat contains healthier fats and higher levels of omega-3, CLA and essential minerals and antioxidants. Non-organically bred animals tend to be fed GMO plants that have been treated with pesticides. They are also fed growth hormones to speed up their development, special hormones to increase milk production and antibiotics that keep them from getting sick.
NOTE: There is a lot of public debate concerning genetically-modified fruits and vegetables containing less nutrients than organically-grown fruits and vegetables, and many discussions as to whether they cause abnormal reactions (allergies) in the immune system. Many people are also convinced that organic food tastes better than the non-organic variety. My advice to you is to do your own research. There is a lot of information out there, so be thorough, keep a balanced view and always check your sources (and don’t be afraid to question possible hidden agendas). The most important thing is to trust your gut instincts about what it is you need to eat. Don’t blindly follow the dietary dogmas of other people. Do what’s right for you. Until you make your own decisions, however, I suggest that you stick to organic foods because they are generally high in antioxidants and phytonutrients and you certainly can benefit from eating them.
GUIDELINE 3: INCLUDE PULSES IN YOUR DIETARY REGIME:
Pulses are edible seeds that belong to the legume group of plants. They grow in pods, examples being dry beans (kidney, haricot, fava, butter, cannellini, pinto), dry peas (chickpeas, black-eyed, garbanzo), and lentils (red, green brown, yellow).
You will benefit from adding them to your diet because they are a naturally low-fat source of protein, and they contain vitamins, minerals and fibre. They are also associated with a reduced risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes. A healthy alternative to meat (which contains saturated fats), pulses will allow you to limit your consumption of animal proteins.
TIP: Try to buy dried pulses rather than the tinned variety (to avoid the chemicals used in tinned products).
GUIDELINE 4: USE ONLY HEALTHY OILS WHEN COOKING:
1.Avoid Heavily Processed Oils
Aldehydes and Lipid Peroxides
Oils that you have probably been using for cooking and eating may include canola, sunflower, safflower, corn, grapeseed, margarine and butter substitutes. The nuts, seeds and beans gathered for the oil production process are healthy and full of the nutrients that we need to contribute to our health, but by the time a lot of these oils reach the supermarket shelves, they have been stripped of their original health-giving properties. At this point, when heated to the usual high cooking temperatures (when frying, baking, grilling, for example), the molecules of the oils oxidize; that is, they react with oxygen to create aldehydes and lipid peroxides. These chemicals can contribute to cardiovascular disease, cancer, Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. You can read about the frightening process here (if you dare!)
2.Eat and Cook with Healthy Fats
Oils to Use at High Temperatures
The best oils to consume are those that don’t produce a high level of aldehydes and lipid peroxides when heated. These include olive oil, coconut oil, ghee, avocado oil, butter, tallow and lard.
When cooking at high temperatures, coconut oil or ghee are probably best to use, though you can also cook with beef tallow and lard.
Coconut oil is now recognized as a super-food and has been proven to be beneficial for use in Alzheimer patients; it can help prevent heart disease; it is useful to treat inflammation, UTIs and kidney infections; it can treat the liver… the list goes on and you ought to go and read more about this wonderful oil here.
The Bad Press Was Wrong!
You might be familiar with the bad press that both butter and ghee have had because of their high saturated fat content, but more recently, research has shown that the war against these fats has been unjustified. Ghee made from grass-fed butter contains vitamins A, D, E and K, and fatty acids CLA and butyric acid. Grass-fed butter contains vitamin K2, amongst a lot of other fat-soluble vitamins and can be of great benefit to your health at low temperatures (as you probably know, it tends to burn when cooking at high temperatures).
Oils for Salad Dressings
For cold salads, you can use flax-seed oil (aka linseed oil), olive oil and avocado oil. Flax-seed oil tends to go rancid when poured over warm food, so use it only in cold salads and dips. It is packed with all kinds of wonderful goodness and is especially great for heart health.
Avoid Deep Frying
Oil should be used lightly in our cooking, and deep-frying our food simply drenches it and renders what should have been a perfectly healthy dish (before it was dunked for a while in oil) unhealthy for the heart and other organs.
Grill your meats where you can, or lightly sautee them in olive oil. Steam all your vegetables, and spray your salads lightly with oil and lemon (you can mix them in glass bottles with spray nozzles).
GUIDELINE 5: ADD NUTS AND SEEDS TO YOUR DIET:
Nuts and seeds are important in maintaining a healthy diet; they contribute to your protein intake and they contain a wealth of essential nutrients, vitamins, minerals and healthy fats. WebMD cite various research studies that show a reduction in the risk of stroke and heart disease when almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts, macadamias and some types of Brazil nut are added to the diet. Many other clinical trials find that adding nuts to the diet reduces the risk of a number of chronic diseases, type 2 diabetes, and some forms of cancer. There could also be lower risks of hypertension, high cholesterol and insulin resistance, as well as abdominal obesity and inflammation.
TIP: Buy various nuts and seeds (try the highly nutritious flaxseeds, pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds) in their raw state, rather than buying salted and sugared varieties. You can add them to salads or use them as between-meal snacks. If you like, nuts can be roasted a little for a stronger flavour. The general rule is that you should not eat more than a handful every day, and they should form part of your overall balanced diet, taking care not to eat more than your body needs (meaning, be careful not to overeat. It’s easy to do with nuts and seeds!)
GUIDELINE 6: LIMIT YOUR INTAKE OF SUGAR AND ARTIFICIAL SWEETENERS:
As you are most probably aware there are two main schools of thought when it comes to sugar. One says it is really bad for you and the other says that the ‘anti-sugar-brigade’ are a little too hysterical. After reading both sides of the story, my opinion remains the same as it did before; you can eat it, but sugar is best consumed in a balanced way.
The trouble, with getting the balance right, however, is knowing where the stuff hides. It’s everywhere – it’s in our cereals, in cans of food and drink, in bread, cakes and pastries, in candied sweets, in ketchup and other bottled sauces, and in a ton of other things. Which is why it is best to avoid processed food. When we consume processed food on a regular basis, we can find ourselves consuming too much sugar. Over-consumption of sugar has been associated with obesity, diabetes, cancer and many other diseases. Do a Google search of sugar and you’ll come across so much information about the stuff, it will be a good education for you. Study, and then plan your intake with care for your health.
Remember that sugar is a component of fruit, too. Many say that fruits are ‘healthy sugars’ because they occur naturally, while others state that ‘sugar is sugar’. If you have a balanced diet of fruit, you’ll probably get the right balance of sugar. Any other sugar on top of that should be carefully considered. Calculate carefully when sweetening your tea and coffee, or when you want to eat sweet things made up of carbohydrates and sugar. Remember also that the carbohydrates that you eat (in breads and pastas, for instance) will also turn to sugar. So figuring out the right balance for you is very important. Do your sugar homework, and if you have a sugar-sensitive disease (e.g. diabetes) consult your doctor before making any decisions.
Sweeteners such as aspartame (NutraSweet, Equal), sucralose (Splenda) or saccharin (Sweet n Low) are popular and can help us cut down on sugar whilst enjoying a sweet dessert or hot drink. However, these substitutes should be approached with caution for our health.
Yet again, there are so many studies out there that say that artificial sweeteners are bad for you, and can cause all manner of deadly diseases, and lots of others that say that consuming a small amount cannot harm you. Getting the balance is about vigilance. It’s about doing your homework by Googling all the different (educated) arguments for and against artificial sweeteners and coming to your own conclusions (whilst also bringing to the table a lot of your own common sense). Will you put a couple of artificial sweeteners in your tea every day? Or are you going to possibly compromise your health by drinking diet sodas all day long and eating diet desserts (all made with artificial sweeteners), whilst also putting a ton of sweeteners in your tea and homemade muffins?
Avoiding excessive consumption of processed food is going to help you in choosing a more natural, healthy diet. Natural foods, consumed in a balanced way will give you everything you need. You won’t need to worry about what a can or bottle contains, and a teaspoon of sugar (natural or artificial) in your tea (if you really want it) isn’t going to do too much harm (just don’t drink tea all day long if you take sugar!)