4 min|Dr. Maya Kuczma
Integrative Guide to Wellness: Nourish YourselfNutrition
With the amount of nutritional advice out there nowadays, it can seem impossible to figure out how you should eat. Low fat? High fat? Gluten free? Vegan? Pegan? With a new fad diet emerging every week (accompanied by a blog and best selling book, of course) it’s understandable that you may be confused. Combine that with flashy marketing claims on everything from cereal to yogurt and navigating the grocery store can feel like a foreign experience.
However, if we sift through the hyperboles and misleading claims, we can land on nutritional advice that stands the test of time; food that gives your wallet a break, can be found at any local store, and most importantly, nourishes without depriving you. As an added bonus, making these simple changes can lead to weight loss, improved body composition, sustained energy, and overall improvements in wellness. Before diving in to a fad diet that may be impossible to maintain, incorporate these five tips that will never go out of style.
"The food you eat can be either the safest and most powerful form of medicine or the slowest form of poison"
1. Just Eat Real Food
While it’s helpful to decipher the nutritional information on the back of food packages you are purchasing, even better is if the food doesn’t require a package. Fresh fruit, vegetables, bulk raw unseasoned nuts, meat from your local butcher, and wild fish create the foundation of a healthy diet. It’s a simple way of eating that naturally steers you clear of high-fructose corn syrup, chemical additives and preservatives and other ‘non-food ingredients’. Shop the perimeter of the grocery store and you will fill up your cart with real food rather than processed and packaged.
2. Eat the Rainbow
Phytonutrients give foods their rich and varied colours. They are also naturally protective against disease and promote better health. By picking a variety of colors, you are ensuring a diet rich in phytonutrients. As well, you will naturally eat more plants, a dietary principle that everyone can agree is beneficial. Every day aim to choose at least one serving of each of dark green, red, orange, blue/purple, yellow.
3. Choose High Quality
If we view food as medicine, it’s understandable that we need to choose high quality options whenever possible. The quality of our food has been greatly compromised by farming practices that introduce foreign substances into natural produce and livestock. Pesticides, antibiotics, and hormones have crept into our food and the connections between these substances and disease are multiplying; feeding animals grains when they naturally thrive on grass has led to sicker animals (that require antibiotics) and an imbalance in their fat composition.
Luckily, most grocery stores and butchers are catching on and organic produce, antibiotic-free meats, and grass-fed meat are becoming more readily available. When your budget allows, make these healthy choices. If you have to pick and choose between organic and non-organic, check out the Dirty Dozen and learn which produce tend to be higher in pesticides.
4. Incorporate Fermented Foods
Fermentation is the act of transforming and preserving foods, using bacteria, fungi, and enzymes. This practice dates back thousands of years and is a natural way to incorporate probiotics (good bacteria) into our diet. Fermented foods have been shown to reduce inflammation, contribute to weight loss via regulating our appetite and reducing blood sugar, improve digestion, and regulate our immune system. Tasty examples of fermented foods include kimchi, sauerkraut, traditional pickles, kefir, brie, natural yogurt, and miso – mmmm!
5. Focus on Your Food
As we discussed in “How to Heal a Leaky Gut” there’s more to eating than shoveling food in to our mouths. Digestion is an intricate process that requires connection between our brain and gut. When we take part in ‘distracted eating’, we disable this connection; our body struggles to switch on our parasympathetic nervous system, the ‘rest and digest’ branch of our nervous system, and as a result, our digestion suffers.
Turn off the tv, put away the cell phone and tablet, and connect to the experience of eating – what does each bite taste like? Do the flavors remind you of another time and place? Can you pick out the different spices and aromas? Each time you dine seize the opportunity to nourish your body and soul.
Read our Integrative Guide to Wellness series for guidance on how to live - and age - well so that your visits can become simple tune-ups rather than a complete overhaul.