If you are confused about what to eat, you are not alone! Every day we are bombarded with ads about the latest fad diet and conflicting information about what is healthy and what is not. In today’s fast-paced society, it’s easy to get sucked in to the fast-food lifestyle because we simply do not have the time or energy to prepare our meals.
On the flip side, by living this lifestyle we are robbing our bodies of precious nutrients, which will give us the vibrant health and energy we desire. Eating well is not difficult and the benefits of taking the time to properly fuel your body is worth the investment. By following these simple rules, you can experience a wide range of benefits including more energy, better sleep, and less stress.
Rules for Healthy Eating
Keep a food journal. Write down everything that crosses your lips and how it makes you feel. Everyone has unique biochemical needs, so when possible work with a nutritionist who can help you determine your nutritional needs.
Clear out cabinets, refrigerator and freezer. Get rid of foods that contain hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated vegetable oil or shortening. Hydrogenated fats have been associated with atherosclerosis, some types of cancer and all inflammatory disease. Hydrogenated oils are often found in crackers, cookies and packaged foods.
Eliminate foods that are high in sugar. The average American consumes 135 pounds of sugar. Sugar is considered an empty calorie because it depletes us of nutrients like chromium and B-complex vitamins, which are necessary for its metabolism, but missing from sugar itself.
Eliminate processed foods that contain white flour, food additives, artificial colors and flavors, and preservatives. The average American consumes 14 pounds of food additives each year. White flour has only about 30 percent of the nutrients of whole wheat flour and individuals with autoimmune disease should avoid gluten products altogether.
What Foods Can I Eat?
The life in foods gives us life. Whenever possible eat local fresh fruits and vegetables that are in season. Fresh food contains a higher nutrient content and has greater enzyme activity. Enzymes are our very own spark plugs and without them, our bodies won’t function at full efficiency. Processed foods have been stripped of these “sparks” but fresh, healthy foods provide us with the energy we need.
Eat fresh fruits and vegetables. To achieve optimal health, you should strive to eat 9 to 12 servings each day. At the very least, you should consume a daily minimum of 5 servings. Fresh fruits and vegetables contain enzymes, vitamins, minerals, fiber, and important phytonutrients such as bioflavonoids and carotenoids, that protect us from diseases such as cancer, heart disease and chronic degenerative disease.
Choose organically grown foods whenever possible. Commercially grown fruits and vegetables are filled with herbicides, pesticides and fungicides. It is estimated that the average American consumes one pound of these toxic chemicals each year. Research has linked these toxins with breast and prostrate cancer, as well as autoimmunity and numerous other diseases. Studies have shown the mineral content of organic fruits & vegetables to be twice as high as those in commercially grown.
Eat more fiber. Recommendations from the National Cancer Institute are to consume 20-30 grams of fiber each day. On average, Americans only consume 12 grams. Fiber helps to flush our colon of toxic waste and reduces our risk of colon and breast cancer. The richest sources of fiber include whole grains (brown rice, millet, quinoa), legumes, vegetables and fruits.
Eat the right type of protein. Protein is the main building block of our body and governs our bones, muscles, immune system and many of our hormones. Protein can be found in fish, poultry, lean meats, legumes, low-fat dairy products, and eggs. Fruits, vegetables and grains also contain protein, but in a smaller amount. Protein can be found in nuts and seeds; however these should be limited as they are high in calories and fat. A good rule of thumb is to consume a small handful of almonds (10-12 nuts) each day. The Recommended Daily Allowance for protein is age and gender dependent; however the average adult requires approximately 50 grams of protein per day.
Eat the right fats. Fats found in fish, nuts, seeds, and grains provide nutrients called essential fatty acids (EFA’s), which are necessary fats that humans cannot create on their own and must be obtained through diet. EFA’s support the cardiovascular, reproductive, immune and nervous systems. The human body needs EFA’s to manufacture and repair cell membranes. A primary function of EFA’s is the production of prostaglandins, which regulate the body functions such as heart rate, blood pressure, blood clotting and play a role in immune function by regulating inflammation and encouraging the body to fight infection.
Drink pure water. The most economic way is to install a filtering system of some type to remove chlorine and toxic substances. If consuming bottled water, read the label to determine the source of the water. Spring water is the preferred choice of bottled drinking water.
If you’ve been eating an unhealthy diet, changing your habits will require some practice and patience. Be gentle with yourself and focus on making one change at a time. Start by eliminating your biggest culprit.
For instance, if you eat red meat every evening, begin by eliminating it just once the first week, then twice the second week and so on. If you struggle with not eating enough fruits and vegetables, make a commitment to replace a donut with some fresh pineapple slices or a delicious fruit cup. Instead of eating those fries today, choose a side salad. Take it one day at a time.
You can change the way you feel simply by eating better quality, healthy foods. Take the time to review your eating habits and create a plan for improving them day-by-day. You’ll be glad you did!