Eating For Optimal Health
By Anthea Hudson
In the uncertain times to come, keeping ourselves as healthy as possible will give us a great advantage in dealing with changes and challenges in our lives. It will also put less stress on already strained health systems.
Taking control of your diet is one of the most important ways you can improve and maintain good health. There is so much conflicting information about what is good and what is bad, what we get too little of and what we have too much of, that it can be hard to know what is best. Below are at least some ways, that from my research, I feel can be of great benefit in the quest for optimal health and well-being. But please, do your own further research too, so that you can make the best choices for you, going ahead armed with some knowledge and confidence in your choices. Make sure you check with your doctor if you have any concerns about any aspect of your health and diet, especially if you have any serious medical conditions, or take medications. Bad interactions with certain foods are possible.
It's not about "being on a diet", it's a lifestyle change.
Here is a very informative video of Rip Esselstyn, former firefighter and son of heart specialist Dr Caldwell Esselstyn (author of Prevent & Reverse Heart Disease), talking about the change his fellow firefighters made to a healthy diet & lifestyle and how he approached helping them make the change. Definitely some interesting points... food for thought.
Eating right can be very helpful in losing weight (and also for lowering cholesterol, blood pressure, blood sugar, and lessening your risks of various diseases, and also mental health), but also to maintain a healthy weight and build fitness and strength and provide your body with ample of the essential nutrients it needs for good health.
Adding healthy things into your diet, rather than immediately taking away all the not so good, is often a great way to start. Then you won't feel so deprived. As you continue, you will have less room to fit the unhealthy foods, as you are eating your fill of the health giving foods. Your taste will also change, and you will begin to crave more of the fresh wholesome foods, and lose your addictions to the salt, fat and sugar laden junk foods.
Be warned though, that after eating healthy for a while, a sudden lapse and return to a junky meal, will often leave you feeling very ill, as your body has released it's addiction to these foods and eliminated the toxins, and will not react well to a sudden influx of them again.
Also, if you change your diet from unhealthy to healthy very rapidly (especially if you go majority raw) you are likely to experience some unpleasant detox symptoms as your body rids itself of these toxins at a rapid rate. It is often easier to do it more gradually, to lessen these effects.
Some of the following ideas are easy to incorporate, others take a little more willpower... or won't power... or are simply a matter of becoming used to something different, so it's important just to transition and take things at your own pace and not just give up if you slip backwards or find things difficult. Even if it takes some time to fully change to a more healthful way of eating, remember that each step brings about healthy results, and they all add up over time.
The following is a video with some fascinating information from various doctors on the effect of diet on health.
Healthy Eating Tips
- Probably the most important principle of all- Your diet should consist of mostly (and preferably all) whole, natural, unprocessed foods. Your best way of judging this is look at the ingredient list... and there possibly won't even be one... and there should be one ingredient, or a very few if it is, for instance, a nut mix. Once you start getting ingredient lists, especially with numbers, or chemical sounding names, you can be pretty sure it's not unprocessed and very likely not whole or very natural.
- Sometimes foods may be slightly processed... such as dried fruits... and while not usually as good as their fresh counterparts, they still retain a reasonable amount of nutrients (especially if not dried at high temperatures) and can be good transition foods, and even remain a part of a healthy diet in small amounts. These foods sometimes also contain another ingredient, such as maybe oil (and oils can go rancid quickly, so needs to be used as close to manufacture date as possible) to retain softness, but be cautious of chemical additives and preservatives.
- Food should be as fresh as possible. Best of all is picked from your garden and eaten right away. For food you need to purchase, straight from market gardeners, pick yourself places, or produce markets and a lot of actual greengrocer shops are good options. A lot of supermarket produce is not as fresh as it should be, and some is stored in refrigeration or treated to extend its life.
- Frozen fruits and veggies are sometimes a good choice, as they are often frozen very soon after harvest and can sometimes retain more nutrients than "fresh" produce that isn't so fresh. Of course, genuine fresh food is always best.
- Canned produce is generally not a very good choice as it is heat treated, which destroys much of the goodness in the food. Other nutrients also leach out into the water it is packed in. It also often had added salt, sugar or other chemicals.
- Organic fruits and veggies are best. Either grow your own chemical free produce, or buy from organic markets or shops. Some areas may have organic fruit & veg swap markets or community gardens or other sources of free, or cheap organic produce.
Growing organic food with Costa
- As is probably fairly obvious from above, fruits and vegetables should be the basis of your healthy diet... and lots of them!! Leafy greens such as spinach (including baby salad spinach leaves), a variety of lettuces (iceberg is not that good though), kale, silverbeet etc. are particularly good and you should try to incorporate as many of them as possible each day.
- Eat a wide range of different coloured fruits and veggies... "eat a rainbow"... because the various colours tend to represent various important nutrients.
- Some fruits and vegetables are thought to be particularly good, and there are various listings of "Superfoods".
- A small amount of a variety of nuts and seeds are also quite beneficial, as they have a wide range of nutrients, but don't overdo the consumption of these, as they are high in fats and calories.
- Limit or eliminate Animal Products (meat, seafood, dairy, eggs) from your diet. There is a lot of controversy on eliminating animal products, however I think most health professionals would caution against eating large amounts of them. There is also a lot of research which shows detrimental effects of animal products on the body... along with contradictory research... so I would suggest looking at both sides of the argument, and making your own decision. There is also the animal rights issues, along with environmental aspects, to be taken into consideration, which may effect some people's decisions.
- A large percentage of your food should be eaten raw. Raw fruits and vegetables... as nature created them... have huge benefits to your body. Smoothies or freshly juiced fruits and vegetables are a great way of adding them to your diet. There is some controversy though as to whether ALL raw is good or not. Some say cooking destroys too many of the nutrients, and creates chemical compounds that may be undesirable... others say cooking makes some nutrients in certain foods more easily absorbed and utilised by the body. So once again it is a matter of researching both sides, and making your own informed decision. If you are planning to continue eating meat, eggs etc. you should be aware of the possible dangers of consuming these foods raw.
- While a very few nutrients may be needed to be supplemented in some form... e.g. B12 in a vegan diet, or D in those not getting sufficient sunlight... most nutrients are far better consumed in its food sources, not in isolated tablet form. Often the body can't utilise these supplements anywhere near as well as the food source, and also, many vitamins actually utilise other nutrients to work, which are not contained in these supplements.
B12 On A Vegan Diet | Dr Michael Greger
- As soon as you feel able, remove all junk foods, and foods with added salt, sugar, fat and chemicals from your diet. Then you will be a long way towards the ultimate goal of no processed foods in your diet.
- Water... preferable a clean, filtered source without additives (you may like to research and make your own decision about fluoride)... is the best liquid to hydrate the body and cleanse it. Green tea is often also said to be good, but once again, not everyone agrees. Juice that you make yourself or freshly made in juice bars, and drunk immediately is also a good drink, but can be high in calories if consumed in large quantities. Most supermarket type juices are of considerably less value to the body, and the plan should be to replace these with fresh, in time. Soft drinks, high caffeine drinks and alcohol should ideally be eliminated. There are various "milks", such as soy, rice, oat and nut milks which can replace dairy milk, however, once again, there is some controversy surrounding them... so make your own informed choice.
- Learn to listen to your own body for what it needs, and how much.
- Obtain the advice (and testing if needed) of a health professional who understands what you are trying to achieve, and how you are going about it. They can keep a check on your levels of certain elements in your blood, blood pressure, cholesterol etc, and suggest any changes that may be helpful.
- Although not dietary, keep in mind that adequate exercise also plays a huge part in maintaining well-being, both mental and physical, and should be a priority in any health conscious person's life.
ABC TV Catalyst - Exercise Is Medicine
- Sufficient good quality sleep, relaxation and de-stressing, good social connections and lots of laughter are also important aspects.
This is just a selection of useful ideas for improving your health. Use whatever you feel is right for you. You may not be able to incorporate all of them right away, or even ever, but each small step you take for your health will bring about an improvement in your life in all kinds of ways you may never have thought of.