People often ask me what my top tips are for nutrition or diet, and many are surprised by my response. For those who are just starting out on their health journey and want to know what the biggest offenders are, and best foods to add in or replace, then start here:
#1 Eat Healthy Fats
Eat healthy fat and avoid toxic fats/oils. Toxic oils are industrialized seed or vegetable oils. These are man-made oils and include oils such as rapeseed (canola oil), soybean, cottonseed, sunflower and safflower seed oil, as well as margarine. These are polyunsaturated oils which are very unstable and oxidize (rancidify) easily.
They’re extracted using heat and petroleum-based solvents like hexane. After that, they’re deodorized due to the rancid smell, bleached and then have chemical colors added to make them look more appealing. If you’re interested to the history of how these oils, which were once deemed “toxic waste” became part of the American diet click here.
Unfortunately, these oils are found in almost everything –restaurant food, packaged foods (even organic versions), salad dressings, breads, crackers, chips etc.
Therefore, I recommend eating at home as much as possible. These oils are associated with many health conditions we see today, such as heart disease, diabetes, inflammation, IBS, autoimmune diseases, cognitive or mental health conditions, and osteoarthritis.
So which oils and fats are healthy? Traditional oils that can be cold pressed and don’t require industrialized machinery to extract the oils, such as extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil, avocado oil and fats such as grass-fed butter, tallow, duck fat, ghee (clarified butter). It’s also important to add fats into your diet through raw nuts, seeds, avocados, eggs, cheese and other animal foods. These are the fats and oils which have been used for centuries when the health conditions mentioned above didn’t even exist and still don’t exist in countries that eat real unadulterated food. Good fats are essential to human health. Our brains and cell membranes are made of fat, and our hormones are made from fats (cholesterol). Fat produces long lasting energy like logs on a fire as opposed to simple carbs which are used up quickly like kindling, leaving us needing more glucose to keep going. Fats are required to absorb fat soluble vitamins A, D, E and K.
Many of my clients who have been on a low-fat diets struggle with issues such as hormonal imbalances, and gallbladder disfunction (fat in the diet is required to move bile out of the gallbladder along with toxins that are stored there).
Fats make food taste good and keep us feeling satiated. Lastly fat does not make you fat, if we want to look at a food that can contribute to weight gain it’s excess sugar/refined carbohydrates, which brings me to number two.
#2 Reduce Sugar Intake
Reduce your intake of sugars and refined carbohydrates. Refined carbs turn to sugar/glucose in the body. Elevated glucose and insulin are a huge cause of inflammation of the cells. Excess sugar in the diet affects our health in so many ways. It can cause insulin resistance, diabetes, affects your adrenal glands/stress hormones, stresses the liver, pancreas, brain and depletes the body of minerals. Sugar feeds pathogens, bacteria and cancer cells. Sugar/refined carbs can affect your mood, cause anxiety, depression, brain fog and fatigue. Sugar makes you crave even more sugar, as the quick energy hit is quickly used up and the body craves more after the crash resulting in low blood sugar, and this can continue all day long resulting in rollercoaster blood sugar highs and lows. Blood sugar dysregulation is one of the main problems I see in my practice, as sugar is so addictive and in almost everything. Even many healthy eaters can’t seem to quit their sugary treats. Excess sugar is responsible for many symptoms from anxiety, fatigue, low moods, menstrual issues, feeling shaky if you don’t eat for a couple of hours, feeling sleepy after eating, cravings and so much more.
This refers to all forms of sugar, including honey, maple syrup, coconut sugar, brown rice syrup, date syrup, and even white flours and refined grains as they all affect the body in the same way. Use them sparingly or after a protein and fat rich meal. I would suggest swapping white carbs (think of bread, pasta, crackers etc.) for colorful vegetables in your meals, it makes the world of difference. And if you want a sweet treat, make it one with healthy fat in it as it slows down the blood sugar hit, such as dark chocolate or a good quality ice-cream. Just try not to over-do it. A sugar detox can be very helpful in resetting the body, taste buds and removing the sugar and carb cravings.
#3 Eat Fermented Foods
Eat fermented foods such as kimchi, sauerkraut, unsweetened yogurts, kefir, and kombucha. Our ancestors ate fermented foods all the time because it’s how they preserved their foods before refrigeration. Fermentation has a positive effect on the nutrient content of foods such as increased B vitamins, iron, zinc, magnesium and many more. While also reducing anti-nutrients, which are plant compounds that can block the body’s absorption of nutrients in foods. They are so full of probiotics of many strains and varieties compared to most probiotic capsules, as well as being much cheaper than a good quality probiotic capsule. Probiotics benefit us in many ways. Especially in today’s world where our guts are so compromised due to pesticides, herbicides (like roundup which is everywhere), stress, poor diet, antibiotics in meat and dairy products and generally being overprescribed by medical doctors.
Probiotics support our gut microbiome by ensuring we have enough good bacteria in relation to bad bacteria which can cause a host of problems. Fermented foods have antifungal and antibacterial properties against common pathogens.
A compromised gut microbiome can contribute not only to physical problems, but also mental health problems such as anxiety and depression, as the gut is considered the second brain and an inflamed gut can result in an inflamed brain (the gut- brain axis is very well studied). Gut bacteria also affects memory, and cognitive alertness. Fermented foods positively impact our immune health and inflammation in general.
Also, fermented foods are easier to digest than their unfermented counterparts such as sourdough bread, which is known to cause less abdominal discomfort, gas and bloating than unfermented bread.
I hope this was a helpful start. Have you tried adding/switching out any of these yet? I’d love to hear how it has helped you.