It's that time of the year when people are evaluating what they want from 2023.
Often people are thinking about their health and making adjustments to their food and exercise plans. Sometimes this includes resolutions to cut out various food groups or alcohol.
While cutting out unhealthy foods is important for our health, sometimes when we spend all our time thinking about what we shouldn't eat, we forget about what we should eat and the foods we need to promote health, prevent disease, and improve our lifespan.
Of cour. - Falling into the pitfalls of the avoidance diets is pretty easy to do. Here's 3 examples of how cutting out foods can sometimes lead to poor nutrition outcomes
1- THE PRE-DIABETIC
Imagine someone who has been told to reduce the sugars in their diet to improve their insulin resistance. They do what they think is the right thing and cut out all sugary foods, but they replace them with other foods that are devoid of nutrition, or with simple carbohydrates, or foods laden with artificial sweeteners.
A sample daily diet might now look like this:
Breakfast - diet weight loss shake (with artificial sweeteners to sweeten)
Lunch - ham and cheese sandwich
Dinner - baked potatoes
So they've definitely ticked the 'no sugar' box, but in the process of making these changes, they've neglected to swap over to foods that are health promoting and have instead opted for nutrient devoid choices. The simple carbohydrates in the above diet can also lead to quick increases in blood sugar which is counterproductive for someone trying to manage their glucose and insulin.
2 - THE GLUTEN AVOIDER
Aside from the celiacs, there are lots of people that are non-celiac gluten sensitive, or just choose to avoid it in the hopes of improving their health. But if not done right, a gluten-free diet can be a minefield. While gluten free food has come a long way, this also means there are now plenty of unhealthy gluten free foods available to replace their gluten counterparts that form a large part of a typical western diet
Breakfast - skipped - sometimes a coffee
Lunch - Gluten free pie and hot chips
Dinner - Gluten free pasta with a carbonara sauce
So while this is absolutely gluten free, it is also definitely not a shining example of a healthy diet.
3 - THE VEGAN
Picture a vegan diet and you think of wholesome foods featuring an abundance of plants, but if not done right or planned well, a vegan diet can be just as unhealthy as the next person's, and lead to significant nutrient deficiencies.
Like with gluten, new vegan products are popping up daily in our supermarket, but many of them are highly processed and far removed from anything resembling a natural food product.
This daily diet has no animal products, but is quite high GI, and contains very little necessary nutrients
Breakfast - toast with jam
Lunch - fried rice (made with white rice)
Dinner - fake meat burger with fake bacon - both made with heavily processed soy products
All these sample daily diets share a common feature - none of them are conducive to long term positive health outcomes. They contain very little fibre to make our digestive system work properly and create a healthy microbiome. There are very few 'colourful' plant foods which provide a wide variety of phytonutrients, vitamins and minerals that are beneficial to health (think foods like beetroot, sweet potato, blueberries, leafy greens), and there is also very little protein which is necessary for just about everything our body does (including energy production, neurotransmitters, healthy muscles, tissue regeneration, blood sugar regulation and more)
My food philosophy has always been about nutrient density - making sure that when I eat, what I'm putting into my body contains nutrients that my body needs, but the last 3 years I've seen some bad habits slipping in and my resolve to eat well slipping a little, allowing some bad habits to creep in. But with (hopefully) the craziness of the last 3 years mostly behind us, 2023 is the year that I hope to get back on track.
So if like me you want to spend you want to spend 2023 focusing on the nutrient density of your diet, here's just a few suggestions to get you started.
- A variety of colourful foods every day. The old saying 'Eat a Rainbow a Day' is still a great adage to live by. Eating a variety of coloured plant based foods gives our body a wide range of vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients
- Leafy greens - packed with fibre, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals
- Legumes - also contains loads of fibre and antioxidants. A good non-meat source of protein. Great for improving blood sugar regulation, lowering cholesterol, and promoting the growth of good bacteria in the gut.
- Quinoa - great for anyone lowering their meat intake. It's one of very few non-meat products that is a 'complete protein' (meaning it has all the essential acids your body can't make itself). A fabulous alternative to using white rice for anybody.
- Chia seeds - high in omega 3's, and also a great source of fibre, antioxidants and protein.
Of course anyone with specific dietary challenges may have a little bit more trouble getting their daily diet where they want it. If you need a bit of a helping hand, there are plenty of great practitioners out there who can give you the guidance you need whilst working with you on your specific health issues.
Naturopath and Nutritionist
The Natural Health & Wellness Clinic
(03) 5977 7342