“Eating doesn’t have to be so complicated.” Michael Pollan
Eating healthy can be harder than you think, thanks to an enterprising food industry that wants us to consume more than we need. We are subjected to the marketing hype surrounding new foods that make things look healthy, appealing and nutritious. Unfortunately, most of the time this is all it is – marketing hype. When it comes to food, I am often reminded of Michael Pollan’s book Food Rules where he says, “Eating doesn’t have to be so complicated.” Let’s look back to our ancestors and look at what they ate on a regular basis…
10 foods to eat
Salmon – wild if you can afford or find
Fish is an important part of a healthy diet and provides essential protein and omega 3 oils, two important components for a healthy heart, circulatory system and brain.
For those that eat red meat it is really important that you choose grass fed meat. Grass fed beef has a far better omega 6:omega 3 ratio and far more vitamins & minerals than grain fed beef.
Dark Leafy Greens – include them in your smoothies
A great source of vitamins A, C and K. Vegans and those who are lactose intolerant will appreciate that the leafy green family is a good source of calcium and iron. Packed with fibre, the leafy green vegetable group is an essential, yet versatile part of a healthy diet.
It just so happens that avocados are high in omega 3 and omega 6. In fact, you can get the entire omega 3 you need from daily avocado consumption. There is no cholesterol in avocados. They are a rich source of non-toxic beneficial fats. The notion that avocados are fattening is false; in fact, you will be healthier and leaner by using avocados in your diet often.
Not only high in protein, quinoa is high in fibre and vitamins such as riboflavin, calcium, vitamin E, iron, potassium, phosphorus, magnesium, folic acid and beta-carotene. It is also abundant in linolenic acid; the essential fatty acid that has proven to benefit the immune response. Quinoa is familiar to vegetarians as a complete protein as well as to celiacs and those who are gluten-intolerant because it is completely gluten-free.
Blueberries are one of the richest sources of antioxidants and contain the health-promoting phytochemical anthocyanin. They are a good source of vitamin C, which is important for strengthening the immune system. Blueberries are also a great source of both soluble and insoluble fibre, and can help improve the health of your bowel while keeping cholesterol levels in check.
Nuts provide an abundance of important minerals like calcium, zinc, selenium, phosphorus, potassium, iron and magnesium. But as each type of nut has different levels of these minerals, eat a variety of them. Nuts also have a wonderful balance of fats, especially monounsaturated.
Butter is a natural food and although it can contain some additives, so make sure to buy it organically and it will be wonderful stuff. A light scraping of butter can add flavour and is filled with essential vitamins and antioxidants in their most natural and absorbable state. Butter is actually a better source of vitamin A than carrots, especially for people who have trouble converting the beta-carotene in carrots into vitamin A. You can also find vitamin E and selenium in butter.
Traditionally made yoghurt can be a wonderful health food. Unfortunately today, many commercially bought types of yoghurt have additives and preservatives as well as large amounts of sugar. When buying yoghurt, look for biodynamic or organic ones with milk and bacteria. Yoghurt is full of probiotics with all the goodness of dairy.
Green is extremely high in antioxidants, especially a group called catechins. In studies catechin has been shown to be more powerful than Vitamin C and E in stopping damage to cells. Drinking green tea has been shown to block bad cholesterol (LDL) and increase good cholesterol (HDL). It has also been shown to improve artery function.
10 foods to avoid
Sugar is a nasty word to the health-conscious anyway, but it is actually the cheap white, over processed stuff that deserves the bad wrap. It is not a natural food and should be replaced with rapadura sugar, honey or maple syrup.
Tuna bought in the can contains low but significant levels of mercury, which can affect the human brain. Recent reports are recommending both pregnant women and children should limit their intake of tuna to less than one tin per week.
White processed bread
The western diet is obsessed with wheat products. One only has to look a little closer to realise that gut issues are rising rapidly. White bread is highly processed and nothing that is highly processed is good for you. Try breads made with other types of flours including ones that are naturally gluten free.
Margarine is the result of a process called hydrogenation and was patented back in 1910 when the manufacture of margarine began as a by-product during production of candle wax and soap. It was later dyed yellow and sold as a cheap version of butter. Margarine has an indefinite shelf life and goes through so many processes to be reduced. It is totally an artificial food and should be avoided at all costs.
Skim/Low fat products
Thirty years ago, while everyone was focusing on a low fat, high carbohydrate diet, people forgot about protein. What has resulted in the Western world is a population that has gone from overweight to obese. Unfortunately, most low fat foods are also high in sugar and have been processed to devoid the product of fat. The side effect of this is that a food that was perfect in nature has been tampered with and the ratios of fat, carbohydrate and protein are no longer in balance. Enjoy full fat products in moderation.
Soft drinks/Energy Drinks
Soft drinks are the second biggest seller in Australian supermarkets, just behind cigarettes, but truckloads ahead of fruit, vegetables, and even bread and milk. The average Australian drinks more than 180 litres of soft drink each year, so before you grab that next can of soft drink, consider this: one can of soft drink has about 10 teaspoons of high fructose corn syrup or some other man concocted sugar, 150 calories or, 30 to 55 mg of caffeine, and is loaded with artificial food colours and sulphites.
Although quick and easy, one package of chicken flavoured ramen noodles may be easy on your wallet, but not on your body. It contains 1,760 milligrams of sodium, or about 73 percent of your recommended daily intake. It also contains monosodium glutamate or MSG, listed as 621 in the ingredients which is linked to migraines as well as other conditions.
Need I say anything more here? Fast foods are high in sugar, bad fats, cholesterol and salt. Just don’t eat them. The best fast and healthy food is the leftovers from last night’s dinner!
Many potato chips are high in trans-fats, sodium, calories, and simple sugars. Don’t fool yourself into thinking they qualify as a daily vegetable.