First, just let me say that I am a huge food nerd. I love food and I have always been interested in how food affects the body. Even as a young adult I had more than a passing interest in nutrition. Let's fast-forward 15 years and I am now a practicing Acupuncturist who is still obsessed with food and I have even begun studying an Advanced Diploma of Nutritional Medicine.
Before I delve into the controversial world of nutrition advice, please keep in mind that the below article is based on my personal opinions and self-study. If you suffer from a specific disorder you should always consult a professional before making any radical changes to your diet.
Ok, let us begin…
I find that the nutrition advice I come across today is so varied and it often contradicts each other to the point of becoming to difficult to understand. ‘Eat meat, wait don’t eat meat’, ‘fats are bad, oh no we changed our minds, fats are good!’ and on it goes. Even as someone that has researched this area for over a decade, I am often still confounded by the varying opinions. And so with that realisation in mind, I thought it was important to start at the very beginning with some very basic guidelines that almost everyone can agree with.
1. Eat a mostly plant based diet.
Notice how I said mostly? Yes, that’s right, I still think consuming small quantities of animal products are beneficial for us. But keep in mind that I said small. In the west, we eat huge amounts of meat and other animal products and I would agree that it’s probably not the healthiest choice. However, animal products contain some enormously important vitamins, minerals and essential fatty acids that are paramount to health and aren’t found in plants. Yes, I am aware that we now have these magical things called supplements to ensure we are getting all of the above but I’m a naturalist, the less man-made products I consume the better. I’ll go into more detail about the environmental effects, animal cruelty issues and the health benefits and risks of meat consumption in my next post, waaaaaaaaay too much information to fit into this article.
2. Eat organic where possible.
I know, I know, organic food is expensive, I can’t argue with you there. And a lot of people will maintain that organic food still contains remnants of pesticide residues. Again, I can’t argue with that. But what I can say is that they are found to have considerably LOWER pesticide residues than produce manufactured with synthetic chemicals. Organic food is also produced without the use of GMO’s and synthetic chemicals and is much better for the environment, being a more sustainable way of producing food. (This is another area where there is so much information about that I will go into further detail in another post.)
3. Avoid processed foods.
When I say processed foods I pretty much mean the entire middle section of the grocery store. Actually avoid the grocery store all together! (Ok, I realise this isn’t possible for everyone but you get the idea). If it comes from a packet and has an expiry date longer than a month from the date of purchase consider giving it a miss.
4. Avoid refined sugar
Sugar is a big topic these days. Ever since That Sugar Film came out, even the most mainstream consumer can’t ignore the information on the detrimental effects sugar has on the body. Sugar hides in almost all processed foods, hence the above numbered suggestion. Sugars in fruits and vegetables are another story because the water and fiber that comes with consuming these foods means that they take a little longer to than and digest than that snickers bar. By slowing down this process, the fructose hits the liver slowly, unlike refined sugars, which cause a giant sugar rush and strain the liver.
5. Drink plenty of water.
Filtered water is preferable if possible but as long as you are consuming at least 2-3L per day you are on the right track. I am constantly surprised by the regularity in which clients tell me they drink maybe a litre a day. And that’s if they are making a concerted effort! I mean by golly people, we are literally made up of 50-65% of water! I beg you, drink more H20.
6. Eat at home as much as possible.
Seriously, eat at home. It's easy and can even be fun! You want fries? Go ahead! Pizza? You betcha! But here's the catch, you have to cook them yourself. Michael Pollan makes a great point in one of his videos about the fact that foods from large corporations use massive amounts of sugar, salt and fat to make these foods taste great and keep us coming back for more. And because they are so easily accessible we have the option to eat these foods every day, but if cook them at home we are likely to only consume them maybe every month or so. Ever made potato fries from scratch? It's fun but I'm definitely not doing that regularly.
Disclaimer: Obviously, I am an Acupuncturist with a penchant for healthy food and nutrition, so this blog reflects my own personal opinions and research. This blog should in no way be used as a means to self diagnose and it is my responsibility as a health practitioner to recommend that you seek out a professional who is legally qualified to diagnose your condition.
Better Health. (2016). Organic Food. [online] Available at: https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/healthyliving/organic-food [Accessed 7 Sep. 2016].
Mayoclinic.org. (2016). Organic foods: Are they safer? More nutritious? - Mayo Clinic. [online] Available at: http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/organic-food/art-20043880 [Accessed 7 Sep. 2016].
Authoritynutrition.com. (2016). [online] Available at: https://authoritynutrition.com/is-fruit-good-or-bad-for-your-health/ [Accessed 7 Sep. 2016].
Chemistry.about.com. (2016). How Much of Your Body Is Water? What Percentage?. [online] Available at: http://chemistry.about.com/od/waterchemistry/f/How-Much-Of-Your-Body-Is-Water.htm [Accessed 7 Sep. 2016].
That Sugar Film. (2016). That Sugar Film. [online] Available at: http://thatsugarfilm.com/film/synopsis/ [Accessed 7 Sep. 2016].
LIVESTRONG.COM. (2016). The Effect of Processed Food on Health. [online] Available at: http://www.livestrong.com/article/433121-the-effect-of-processed-food-in-health/ [Accessed 7 Sep. 2016].