Food has the power to heal or to cause damage depending on how we use it. Processed food can lead to cravings, inflammation and hormonal imbalance. Sugar causes addiction, is inflammatory and causes obesity and inflammation.
How much and how often to eat
We are overfed, under nourished and facing a global diabetes problem where at least 10% of the world’s population is obese – not just overweight but obese. Obesity carries with it every possible risk of disease. There are also rising significant problems with blood sugar imbalance and what happens when we are getting inadequate amounts of energy and nutrition, particularly when we are food restricting which can lead to elevated cortisol.
Cortisol can prevent us from losing weight because it makes our brain perceive that there is an emergency and duly store calories, particularly belly fat. Obesity is pro-inflammatory and causes all kinds of problems with mind, mood, auto immune disease and more.
So finding that right balance by eating 3 healthy meals throughout the day is key and if you are someone who tends to have low blood sugar, having a high quality snack with a good quality protein and fat such as nuts or a hard-boiled egg or hummus and vegetables.
However, it is not just what we eat but how we eat. Most Americans are having at least one or more desk or on the go meals per week. Taking 10 deep breaths before we actually start to eat activates our parasympathetic nervous system which is important for proper digestion. Bringing the senses into play and allowing adequate time for chewing and tasting our food allows us to tune in to what we are eating and gives us a better understanding of when we are hungry, when we are full and reminds us to actually focus on and enjoy our meals.
How to eat for health
The optimum diet for health is the Mediterranean diet. No other diet has been proven in study after study to not only prevent heart disease, high blood sugar, high blood pressure, diabetes and dementia as well as to improve fertility. The Mediterranean diet has also been shown to reverse these conditions.
The Mediterranean diet is also optimal for women’s hormones, prevention of breast cancer and promotion of optimal fertility.
What is the Mediterranean way of eating? Vegetables, legumes and grains, small amounts of dairy, and small amounts of meat or fish or poultry. Large amounts of olive oil and nuts. Eating almonds, walnuts and pecans on a regular basis because they are so antioxidant rich as well as consuming good quality fats.
The core groups of the Mediterranean diet
Protein is our energy food. It is important for blood sugar balance, physical repair, muscle and tissue repair and carrier molecules for proteins, neurotransmitters and hormones that keep our hormone levels in balance.
A small amount of protein should be eaten at each meal which can be poultry, fish, red meat, eggs, legumes or beans including tempeh or tofu if you include soy (once organic), nuts and seeds. For some people dairy can provide protein however 50% of people develop inflammation from dairy so over consummation is not recommended.
These include grains and legumes and starchy vegetables. Starches are important for blood sugar balance. Having fiber in our diet is critical for elimination, feeding gut bacteria and also cancer prevention. Grains include B Complex which we need for our nervous system and getting starches in our diet is very important for cortisol or blood sugar balance. We need some form of carbs at lunch and dinner to keep our blood sugar imbalance. When we include healthy carbs in our meals we have healthier cortisol levels and when we have better cortisol levels in the evening we have healthier sleep and less weight problems.
A small amount of fats should be eaten at every meal such as half an avocado, 2 tablespoons of olive oil or one tablespoon of another oil. The importance is to get good quality fats into your diet which include olive oil or nuts, especially almonds, walnuts and pecans, seeds, avocado and even small amounts of butter or ghee or coconut butter.
The only food that is an FDA endorsed fat for a health benefit is olive oil – 2 tablespoons of olive oil a day or up to 4 teaspoons has been shown to prevent a primary heart attack in up to 80% of people.
Fruit and vegetables
Some people don’t tolerate fruit and vegetables very well as for them it can trigger gas, bloating and dysbiosis. But for the most part nuts and berries, low glycemic fruits and a good mix of vegetables are extremely important for daily consumption.
8-10 portions of vegetables and a couple of portions of fruits per day causes antioxidant activity which reverses the damage that happens from inflammation. Vegetables, especially green leafy vegetables are tremendously important for detoxification as are berries. A wide variety of these ensure that we are getting the nutrients we need every day.
The Fiber in fruits and vegetables, legumes and wholegrains act as a prebiotic and creates the food for the healthy gut flora. A diet without these will lead to an absence of the good gut flora and a prevalence of the unhealthy flora. The Fiber in fruits and vegetables, legumes and wholegrains improve the microbiome, improve weight, cause detoxification and hormonal balance and reduce the risks of diabetes, heart disease and cancer.
Legumes are a very important part of a healthy diet. They lower cholesterol, lower cancer risk, lower obesity and lower diabetes. Some people are sensitive to legumes and they can sometimes cause gas and bloating or are they being improperly cooked. There are ways to cook legumes to reduce their gaseous properties in particular by using herbs such as cumin.
Going organic can lead to a “wash out period” where we eliminate herbicides, pesticides, phosphates and other food toxins from our bodies. But it can be expensive and we can lack access to organic foods.
In terms of going organic:
An organic diet is obviously optimal but how can you go organic without drastically increasing your food bill? The key is to pick the foods that are most likely to expose you to toxins and ensure that they are organic or can be avoided. Then depending on your food budget and your access to organic foods you can pick and choose how much of the rest of your diet you want to make organic.
Meats and dairy
Meat and dairy are heavy repositories of environmental toxins, herbicides and pesticides and these should be organic.
Wholegrains and legumes
While organic wholegrains and legumes are optimal they do not have to be organic with the exception of tofu which should be organic to ensure that it is non-GMO.
Fruits and vegetables
Certain fruits and vegetables are heavily exposed to toxins and should be organic. The environmental working group has created a helpful list of fruit and vegetables setting out the dirty dozen and clean 15. The dirty dozen are normally so heavily pesticided that unless they are organic they should be avoided. The clean 15 are normally so low in environmental contaminants that you can consume them without worrying so much if they are organic.
Also are you:
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