Your healthy eating questions, answered
Who here thinks that all the information you get online about healthy eating is confusing? (Raises hand in frustration).
After 5 years of trying diets, reading blogs and books, experimenting on myself, using apps that count calories or monitor sleep, losing 45lbs in the process, and doing extensive health checks that only confirmed what I already knew, I’m here to tell you that the truth is boring.
When it comes to health, your common sense and your own body signals know best what you need.
It really it this simple:
- Eat real food.
- Drink water.
- Eat when you’re hungry and stop when you’re satisfied.
- And maybe stop allowing the developers in Silicon Valley tell you when and how much to eat.
Disclaimer: before I go into details, please have in mind that this is in no way medical advice and you should always seek the opinion of a professional when dealing with a condition.
Healthy eating principles
1. What foods should I eat? What does real food mean?
The closer the food is to its original form, the better. Once foods are processed, part of their nutrients are lost and the fibre is broken down. So if you want maximum return of your investment, go for fresh vegetables, fruit, whole grains, beans, nuts, seeds, and check the ingredients when you buy a packaged product. When you go shopping, aim for 90% of your cart to be exactly how Mother Earth intended it.
2. Can I eat carbs?
You can eat carbs. It’s recommended even. They’re your main energy source. But here’s why they got a bad rep.
Every time you eat carbs, they are broken down and you get a spike of blood sugar. The moment you get a spike, your pancreas releases insulin. Insulin travels to your blood, and transports the extra sugar to be stored in the muscles or liver, to be used later as energy. However, if the stores are full, the extra sugar is turned into body fat.
The simpler the carb, meaning the more processed it is (think white flour, sugar, and all the products we make out of sugar and flour), the greater the spike. Regular, high spikes of blood sugar can in time cause insulin resistance and diabetes, apart from extra body fat.
The more complex the carb is (whole vegetables, whole fruit, whole grains, beans), the smaller the spike. You’ll also be able to maintain more constant energy levels thorough the day, rather than going up and down every time you eat.
3. But everything in moderation, right?
I’m going to play bad cop here and say No. Moderation tends to be used improperly because everyone defines it however they want.
For you moderation might mean only having dessert at lunch time. For me moderation means only having dessert on Sundays. 90/10 is the proportion you want to go for.
4. What if I don’t like fruit and vegetables, but I use vitamins or supplements?
If what you’re looking for is very expensive wee, supplements are definitely the way to go. But for optimal health, your best bet is still your diet.
Though there are some vitamins and minerals that we could or should get as supplements, antioxidants can’t be absorbed from pills.
5. How much water should I drink?
Drink until your wee is a clear yellow colour. Yes, seriously.
Your water needs are as unique as you. Everyone needs different quantities, depending on activity levels, temperature, metabolism, etc.
6. Is breakfast really the most important meal of the day?
If you own a company that sells breakfast cereals, it most definitely is! Otherwise, no.
I love skipping breakfast. It allows me to keep a low insulin level for longer, and my body uses stored energy instead of being fed, while I get some work done.
Many people thrive on only two meals a day, and I’m one of them.
You don’t have to eat if you’re not hungry. It’s also unrealistic to expect every day to be the same. Some days you eat very little, and some days your stomach is a bottomless pit. It’s called balance.
7. Should I get the low fat options?
For many foods, once the fat is removed, the food becomes tasteless. So obviously, something else needs to be added in, and that is usually sugar. Check the ingredients, and if you’re happy with them, you can buy the product.
8. Gluten-free everything?
Gluten free is not needed and not healthier, unless you are gluten intolerant. Even though the free-from isles are very useful, they are also abused. Many of the items on the shelves are naturally gluten-free (oats and corn flakes come to mind), but they are labeled as gluten-free for pure sales and marketing reasons.
9. Is the plant-based diet only a hype?
OK, I may be biased here, having been plant-based for many years, but according to science it’s not a hype. Removing animal products from your diet reduces inflammation in your body, risk of cancer, heart disease and diabetes. Of course, all the other principles still apply.
The huge rise in products in the last few years has made transitioning very easy, but staying healthy hard. (I’m only going to mention the delicious vegan sausage rolls from a certain UK bakery chain).
If you want more information and plenty of studies on the topic, I recommend Dr. Greger at NutritionFacts.org. His book, “How Not to Die”, has been a manual for me while I was still learning about veganism and nutrition in general. My only regular supplements are B12, and occasionally Omega 3&6.
10. What foods do you recommend to add in the diet?
Every week, aim to include these foods:
- Leafy greens (spinach, kale)
- Cruciferous vegetables (cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower)
- Other vegetables
- Other fruits
- Beans (including hummus or soya products)
- Anti inflammatories and antimicrobials (ginger, turmeric, garlic)
- Grains, as unprocessed as possible
11. Anything I should absolutely stay away from?
Poison, probably :).
No food is inherently bad. Food is food. However, some foods serve you, and some don’t.
At the same time, occasionally eating a certain product will not change anything. Your health is the result of what you regularly eat. That being said, I recommend reducing:
- Snacking, due to the insulin spikes
- Sugar and flour
- Grilling, especially meat
- Sweeteners, as there isn’t enough research done to prove they’re harmless
- Processed foods, including juices and shakes
Eating healthy should be simple. Follow your gut and your common sense. The rest is just fluff.
Love and gratitude,
Categorised as: Health