Many of us often wonder what healthy eating actually means. It is not difficult to see why most of us can be quite confused. "Should I be vegan, gluten-free, grain-free, dairy-free, etc?" "Is sugar evil or is it fat?" Many of these nutritional guidelines are important for some conditions but there are some healthy eating principles which are universal for most of us. Here are a few suggestions you might consider when planning your next meal.
Make PFFs your BFFs
Protein, fats and fiber are the building blocks in keep us satisfied and our blood sugars stable. A steady supply of glucose is essential for optimal brain function. Once our blood glucose drops, we can become irritable, anxious, dizzy, tired, depressed and prone to headaches. Having protein doesn't just balance blood sugars but it also supplies us with amino acids, which are the precursors for many neurotransmitters like serotonin. So having enough is important for mood and sleep. Healthy fats (avocado, olive, flax, hemp, coconut, whole nuts and seeds, fish and fish oil) help to facilitate slow digestion and satiety as well as support the brain and decrease inflammation. Fiber is found in the outer layer of grains and the skin and pulp of fruits and vegetables. When the fiber is missing from carbohydrate foods, they can cause the blood sugar to rise and fall very quickly. Don't be fooled by labels that say whole grains, if there isn't at least 2g of fiber, leave it be.
Timing is Everything
When we eat may be just as important as what we eat. A recent study using mice showed that when they consumed the majority of their nutrient intake at night their liver triglyceride levels decreased by 50% in just 10 days. If you think I am now advocating a midnight refriderator raid, hold your horses. Mice are nocturnal animals, we are not. This study supported the reason why night-shift workers have a higher incidence of obesity, metabolic syndrome and fatty liver disease. So as a rule of thumb consume your largest percentage of food during the day. Another reason to implement "the kitchen is closed after 8pm" policy.
Make Room for Green
Dark leafy green vegetables like kale, collards, and spinach and are excellent sources of minerals, vitamins, fiber and protein while being relatively low in calories. One of their greatest benefits is they support the liver, blood and detoxification. To get the most benefit from these vegetables, it is recommended to lightly cook with a little oil and lemon or vinegar. Greens need oil so we can absorb Vitamin A, a fat soluble vitamin. Cooking these vegetables is important to denature isothycanidins, which can interfer with thyroid hormone synthesis leading to hypothyroid. Acids like lemon counteract enzymes in these vegetables that inhibit mineral absorption.
Set the Mood to Chew
For many of us, eating is a rushed multitasking activity that we do at our desks or on the subway. By giving ourselves more time to eat, we are able to fully digest and enjoy our food in a relaxed manner. If we are rushed and stressed, we activate our "flight or fight" response which turns digestion off. The more we chew our food the less air is able to enter our stomach which decreases gas and burping. This can also help prevent IBS, constipation, and bloating. As a rule of thumb, try for 5-10 chews for easy to digest foods (vegetables, fruits, carbs) and 20-30 chews for difficult to digest foods (meat). Before your next bite, wait until you have completely finished chewing. If all of this seems hard to remember, then .