18 Oct Pillar 1- Optimal Nutrition
We all know that good nutrition is important for health, but so many people eat foods that do not support their wellbeing at all.
There is plenty of science to show that the food we eat can support the function of every cell of our bodies from vitamins and minerals that support metabolic functions, to antioxidants that help fight potential damage from free radicals (the by products of metabolic functions, but also from external toxins), to fibre rich food to aid elimination of waste, to support our gut bacteria and help balance blood sugar levels.
The foods we eat can reduce the risk of contracting conditions like heart disease, type II diabetes, cancer, and help bring us back to health. It can provide us with energy, a clear mind, and healthy weight. So what is stopping us?
The main barrier to eating a healthy diet is confusion. We hear conflicting reports week in week out in the media, which is enough to make you throw your hands in the air and give up. But don’t despair; there are a few simple guidelines to follow.
Make the focus of your eating plant based. By this I refer to vegetables and some fruits. Choose a wide range of colourful vegetables and fruits – eat some raw, some lightly steamed, steam-stir-fried, but avoid over cooking. You will have heard of eating the ‘rainbow’. This will ensure you receive the widest range of nutrients and antioxidants nature has to offer.
If you eat meat try to find wild meat, grass fed, free range or organic. Like us animals store toxins in their fat; so I would suggest you cut fat off intensively farmed meat. People in the Blue Zones (areas of the world where living to 100 years plus is common) eat red meat on average 5 times a month. Then look for wild caught oily fish and fish, plus free-range, organic eggs.
Don’t be afraid of healthy fats; these are natural fats from good sources like olive oil, avocado, coconut oil, oily fish, nuts and seeds, butter (again grass fed), ghee, but do avoid fats like trans fats and hydrogenated fats found in deep fried foods, processed foods, & baked goods. It is also important to understand that good fats do not make you fat, but every cell of the body is made up of a fat membrane, we need them for the brain, nervous system and hormone production too.
What about dairy? The debate goes on should we eat milk products from other animals? Well for some people they clearly have a problem with lactose the sugar in cow’s milk, others are intolerant of the protein casein A1. So sheep or goats milk products that contain casein A2 may be better tolerated. If you choose dairy as part of your diet, ensure you choose organically produced, preferably grass fed.
Carbohydrates have also had a lot of press in the last few years. We have mentioned vegetables and fruits already, which fall into this category of macronutrients. Now let’s look at grains.
Due to recommendations stretching back 40 to 50 years we have consumed grains as the basis of our food pyramid, but we now recognise that this is not ideal. In fact it has led to greater obesity levels then ever before, because the sugar content of processed grains particularly is high. Avoid processed grains like breakfast cereals, and eating wheat products at every meal. Cut these back. Select whole grains over processed white grains, as they offer some nutrient value, but put vegetables on the plate first and fill half to ¾ of your plate with veg.
I believe that we should be flexible with our eating, as we have different requirements at different times of our lives. For instance a vegan or vegetarian diet can be wonderful at helping the body to detox and rid itself of years of rubbish, but if tissue has been damaged then meat proteins can provide great building blocks in the form of amino acids to repair and rebuild the body. Fermented foods like yogurt and sauerkraut can provide great probiotic support to the gut, but if someone is trying to resolve small intestinal bacterial overgrowth, they may be better reducing or avoiding these foods until balance has been restored. As you can see, as our physical situation changes, a change in our eating habits may be beneficial.
The above is a brief guideline on how to eat, but there is a lot more to appreciate.
Quite simply keep it real; Real food as nature intended, make your own (watch out for future hints and tips on how to make your own quick and easy, whilst keeping cost in check and optimising nutrition), avoid processed foods, and remember what Hippocrates has been attributed to have said “Let food by thy medicine and medicine be thy food”.