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Four Cornerstones of Good Health - Part 3

‘Let your food be your medicine and let your medicine be your food’ Hippocrates

Fat is essential! Avoid fat! Sugar provides no nutrition! Sugar is natural and provides energy. Confused? That’s understandable. There’s so much controversy about what actually constitutes good nutrition that it’s easy to lose perspective.  And with a veritable smorgasbord of fad diets and health crazes to choose from, it can be refreshing to remind ourselves of the simple stuff and stick to basics. Firstly, I don’t believe that any natural food is categorically good or bad.  When we start looking at foods in such a black and white way, we can lose perspective and end up swallowed in a whole host of dietary dilemmas and dramas.  Food shouldn’t be stressful, it’s to be enjoyed and embraced…just with a little bit of education under our belts…

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Whenever we hear the word ‘malnutrition’ we almost always think of the impoverished world, yet loads of us in developed nations are actually suffering from malnutrition! Malnutrition doesn’t just define those who are famished…it’s a condition that results from taking an unbalanced diet in which certain nutrients are lacking, in excess (too high an intake), or in the wrong proportions. We can be feasting on an abundance of food and yet still suffer from malnutrition if our diets lack the nutrients required for healthy cell development or contains artificial ingredients which can’t be processed by our systems. Individual nutrients differ in form and function, and in the amount needed by the body; however, they’re all vital for our health. If we don’t give ourselves the proper nutrients, we can impair the body’s normal functions and cause ourselves great harm. Even if we don’t show signs of illness, we may not necessarily be healthy.

Firstly, everyone needs the four basic nutrients – water, carbohydrates, proteins and fats – as well as vitamins, minerals, and other micronutrients. By choosing the healthiest forms of these nutrients, and eating them in proper balance, you enable your body to function at its optimal level. Transport your thoughts for a moment and imagine your body as being composed of millions of tiny little engines, with some of these engines working in unison and some working independently. In order for these machines to work properly, they require specific fuels. If the type of fuel given is the wrong blend, the engines won’t perform to their maximum capacities and if the fuel is of a poor grade, the engine may sputter and stall.  Finally, if the engine has no fuel at all, it will run out of juice and stop completely. The fuel we give our bodies engines comes directly from the things we consume, so let’s chew the fat over some basic dietary guidelines to get ourselves geared up with healthy foundations…

  • Include whole grains and their minimally processed cereals and flours
  • Choose healthy protein sources – fish, lean meats, eggs, organic milk products, nuts and seeds
  • Eat from a variety of high-fibre sources including vegetables, fruits, grains and legumes (quick hint – increase fibre intake gradually to avoid excess gas as your body adjusts!)
  • Eat some fruit/vegetables with every meal, at least 5 varieties each day, both raw and cooked.
  • Avoid frequent consumption of refined carbohydrates (such as white flour and rice) and processed sugars (white, raw and brown)
  • Consume less saturated fat and cholesterol by reducing or eliminating the amount of animal products in your diet and increasing your consumption of Rich-rich plant foods

Avoid trans–fatty acids – margarine and other hydrogenated vegetable oils not only raise low density lipoprotein and cholesterol (LDL is the ‘bad’ form of cholesterol, linked to heart disease), they also lower the protective high density lipoprotein (HDL is the ‘good’ cholesterol), interfere with essential fatty acid metabolism, and are suspected of causing some cancers, including breast cancer.

Tip – keep the low-density lipoprotein intake low and the high-density lipoprotein intake high

Eliminate the intake of refined sugar – refined sugar and simple sugar (corn syrup, honey, maple syrup, white grape juice concentrate etc) place stress on our blood sugar control and other body control mechanisms. When high sugar foods are eaten alone, blood sugar levels rise quickly, producing a heightened release of insulin, which can result in energy slumps as the sugar ‘high’ wears off, and as insulin is actually a hormone, excessive amounts within the body can contribute to weight gain.  Sugar also has a detrimental effect on mood, premenstrual syndrome, and many other health conditions, especially when combined with caffeine.

Tip – if you are adding small amounts of sugar in your diet, make sure that you consume protein in the same meal as this helps balance blood sugar levels

Keep salt intake low and potassium intake high - excessive consumption of salt, coupled with low levels of dietary potassium, greatly stresses the kidneys’ ability to maintain proper fluid volume. As a result, some people become ‘salt sensitive’; causing high blood pressure or water retention.

Tip – in order to avoid becoming salt sensitive, you must not only reduce salt intake, but also simultaneously increase your intake of potassium by including foods such as bananas and avocados.

Drink adequate water - water is vital to our health. In fact, water is the most plentiful substance in our body, as it constitutes over 60% of our body weight. It’s an essential nutrient that is involved in every function in the body and helps transport nutrients and waste products in and out of cells while also being necessary for the maintenance of body temperature, all digestive, absorptive, circulatory, and excretory functions. The tissue of the human body swims in a salty sea. The more salt there is in our inner sea, the more water is needed to dilute it to maintain the proper concentration of sodium which is why salty foods make us feel thirsty.  When you know that the average person loses about 3 litres of water daily through excretion and perspiration, you understand why it’s vital to drink at least 2 litres of water daily to replace this fluid  (the remaining quota is made up from our food, primarily from fruit and vegetables)

Tip – herbal teas count towards your water intake, so you get the chance to get two health hits in one – peppermint for digestion, chamomile for relaxation…so may to choose from – go wild!

Avoid additives - additives are placed in foods for a number of reasons – to lengthen shelf life; to make food more appealing by enhancing colour, texture or taste; At their best, additives and artificial ingredients add little or no nutritional value to a food product. At their worst, additives can wreak havoc with many of the body systems.

Tip – you can buy or download little guides to help you decipher the meaning of all those ridiculously long words or numbers on labels that indicate additives have been, well, added! Bring out your inner detective when you go shopping!

Go organic where possible - The healthiest fruits and vegetables are those that have been grown organically- without the use of insecticides, herbicides, artificial fertilizers, or growth stimulating chemicals. Organic is undeniably more expensive, so just try to make changes as and when you can.

Tip - maybe start with growing some veges of your own – so satisfying and I swear they are extra tasty when you know you’ve nurtured them yourselves!

Go fresh – when choosing your produce, look for fruits and vegetables that are at the peak of their ripeness. These contain more vitamins and enzymes than do foods that are under-ripe or over-ripe, or that have been stored for a length of time.

Tip – remember that the longer a food is kept in storage, the more nutrients it loses. So buy smaller amounts, more regularly, or even better, get picking from that new vege garden of yours!

I really could go on forever with more healthy bits about diet, but I’ll leave you to digest these basic foundations this week and please do let me know any specific topics or myths you want clarified about nutrition and I’ll try to break them down in more detail in future posts. Enjoy healthy eating, the odd treat (vital in itself), and remember to always nourish your body and soul.

Live well, live long, live naturally

Renée x

Comments

so happy to read this! thanks renee.

Hi! Great post! I've recently been reading about cheese, some say it's healthy and prevents tooth decay and is high in calcium. But some sources say that eating cheese, which is itself a fermented food produce, makes your body decay as well! Which is really confusing me and freaking me out! So am wondering if you have any opinion on this matter? Shield we eat cheese at all, and if we do, should we stick to only low fat ones or cottage cheese? Thanks!!! Love xxx

Cheese is both good and 'bad', and quite honestly, it can be addictive! A natural component of cheese (casein) actually acts somewhat like morphine in the brain, meaning that it can make us feel relaxed and content. Ah ha...that might explain that uncontrollable urge when one slice of perfectly aged blue cheese just won't do! When it comes to cheese, I think it's benefits or detriments are very specific to the individual. It's estimated that around 70% of the population is lactose intolerant (a protein found in most dairy products), so if you suspect that you are intolerant to lactose, cheese might be worth eliminating for a while and then seeing how you feel. If you are only mildly intolerant to dairy products, or want to avoid the possibility of experiencing symptoms , it is best to opt for harder cheese and goat's cheese as most of the lactose is removed with the whey during manufacturing. Alternatively, goat's cheese has a low lactose content and is more easily digested by most people. As for fermented products making your body decay...I think take this comment with a grain of salt! Naturally fermented foods can actually be really beneficial for your health (think miso, apple cider vinegar..) While there is no doubt most cheeses are high in fat (meaning that moderation is the key here!), it is a good source of calcium and protein. I think cheese can be enjoyed in a balanced diet, but the best way to judge is to observe how you feel after eating it. Are you bloated? Do you have stomach cramps? Does your skin breakout? Are you gaining weight? If so, try eliminating cheese from your diet and seeing if symptoms disappear. You are always the best judge for what is right or wrong for your body. Hopefully a little bit of cheese every now and then will keep you and your body happy and healthy! x

Thanks Renee for your comment above! Really clears up some of my misconceptions :) lots of love, Lou

Thank you sooo much Renee, cant wait for that post :) xxx

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