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Healthy Eating Made Easy-Nutrition 101

Healthy Eating Made Easy

The subject of healthy eating can get very complex, given the shift in dietary trends, and changing nutritional guidelines. Regardless of nutritional beliefs and dietary preferences, using the 5R rule can help make eating well simple and easy. The 5 Rs of eating well are as follows- Keep it Real; Reduce Exposure to Chemicals, Reduce Sugar Intake, Remove Trans Fats and Ramp up the Phytos.

Healthy Eating Rule #1- Keep it Real

Whole foods are nutrient dense foods from nature. These are foods whose nutritional value has not been diminished by refining or processing. These include fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and minimally processed dairy, eggs and meat. It is best to consume animal products from animals who were free to roam on grass and exposed to sunshine as opposed to the ones raised in confined animal feeding operations (CAFO)

Processed foods lack the enzymes that are found in fresh fruits and vegetables. Fruit juice that has been pasteurized, and fortified with artificial Vitamin C is different from fruit juice from a fresh squeezed orange. Fresh squeezed juice retains not only the natural Vitamin C but also all the synergistic flavanoids needed for the proper absorption and assimilation of Vitamin C.  Processed foods are laden with chemicals and artificial ingredients along with added sugar and salt. These play a major role in contributing towards chronic illness such as Cancer, Heart Disease, Diabetes, and Obesity.

Dr. Hyman has rightly observed- “Why do we believe that we can feed our bodies manufactured, nutrient depleted, food like substances, empty of all life and yet remain healthy? How did we come to believe that industrial chemicals and processing could replace what nature produces?”

Shopping at a Farmers Market, or the produce section of the grocery store will help keep most of your meal menu real.

Healthy Eating Rule #2- Reduce Chemical and Pesticide Exposure

The easiest way to eat well is to eat clean. Reduce processed, artificial, and chemical laden food-like substances and pesticide exposure. The complications of overly busy lifestyles tempt us towards convenience- the bait used by the food industry.  So, what can we do for those times when avoiding processed foods is not an option?

If we know what to look for, we can avoid the onslaught of chemicals commonly found in foods by becoming an avid label reader. Some brands are opting out of artificial colors, flavors, preservatives. The list of dirty dozen additives to avoid  has been published by the EWG and you can access it here-http://www.ewg.org/research/ewg-s-dirty-dozen-guide-food-additives#.WZgyMCiGO1s .

While grocery shopping, the simplest practice to adopt is to read the ingredient list always. Remember to avoid the food product if sugar is listed as one of the top three ingredients, if the ingredient list is long (more than three or four ingredients) and if it is hard to pronounce the ingredient names.

The best way to avoid high levels of pesticide exposure is to buy local, seasonal, and organic when possible. The dirty dozen produce list (published by EWG.org) are the ones with the highest levels of pesticide residue and are better purchased organic. The list for 2017 includes – Strawberries, apples, potatoes, grapes, nectarines, spinach, peaches, pears, cherries, celery, tomatoes, and hot peppers. For meats and dairy eggs choose organic or pasture raised as much as possible. Avoid processed meats which often contain nitrates and nitrites, which increase the risk for developing cancer.

Healthy Eating Rule #3- Remove or Reduce Sugar

Weight gain and insulin resistance, and other complications that arise from diabetes such as kidney failure, and blindness, can all be attributed to higher blood sugar levels. However, this is not the only problem that sugar poses. Did you know that post high sugar consumption, the immune system can remain depressed for up to 5 hours, making us more prone to infections?

Sugar can sneak in to our diets very easily. It turns out that condiments and sugary beverages-sodas and fruit juices are the major culprit. A can of soda alone (39g or ten tsp) exceeds the allowed dietary sugar intake per day (9 tsp for men and 6 tsp for women) for non-diabetic adults. Consider replacing sodas with kombucha drinks which are both fizzy and digestive tonic, loaded with gut friendly probiotics. Consider diluting fruit juices with water. If you have diabetes, please consider removing these completely or consult with your nutritionist for options. Always read all labels on cereals, breads and condiments and salad dressings, fruit yogurts-choosing <5grams per serving when possible. Avoid artificial sweeteners, although stevia and honey are ok to use sparingly.

Healthy Eating Rule #4- Remove Trans Fats

Trans fats aka partially hydrogenated or hydrogenated oils are commonly found in chips, cookies, fried and packaged foods. The FDA does not require trans-fat labels if the food contains less than 0.5gram/serving. Therefore, reading the ingredient list on packaged foods is important. Remove any foods from your kitchen cabinet that contains hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils- margarine and coffee creamers being the worst offenders.

According to a recent Harvard Health publication, “there never was any good evidence that using margarine instead of butter cut the chances of having a heart attack or developing heart disease. Making the switch was a well intentioned guess, given that margarine had less saturated fat than butter, but it overlooked the dangers of trans fats.” (https://www.health.harvard.edu/nutrition/butter-vs-margarine) Indeed, butter from grass fed cows, can be a very nutrient dense food. However, just like any other fat, portion control is always a good idea.

Extra virgin cold pressed olive oil is still the oil of choice for sautéing. For high temperature cooking coconut oil, grass fed cow butter, ghee, sesame oil, peanut oils and more recently avocado oil may be better choices.  It is best to avoid high temperature cooking, such as frying, as it produces free radicals which are agents of inflammation. Refined vegetable oils are also best avoided as they have not only been stripped of nutrition value but often produce higher levels of free radicals when heated.

Healthy Eating rule #5-Ramp up Phytos

Phytos also known as phytochemicals or phytonutrients are compounds found in plants that protect the plant from disease and have the same effect on humans when consumed. These compounds are key in fighting inflammation and are your single most ally in warding off disease and delaying degenerative ageing processes.

Phytos give fruits and vegetables their deep rich colors and these natural colors.  The easiest way to include these in your diet is to remember 3S- Salads, Smoothies and Spices. If you have diabetes, consuming fruit smoothies can cause a spike in sugar levels. Consider adding some fiber or healthy fats like nuts or flax or pumpkin seeds to your smoothies, along with greens and apples.

In Conclusion

“Every time you eat or drink, you are feeding disease or fighting it.” -Heather Morgan. The food we eat is intimately tied to the quality of our life and health. What is going to be at the end of your fork today?