Eating is one of life’s pleasures, I love to eat and I’m pretty sure if you’re reading this you probably do too!
Eating healthily is possible whether you are an omnivore, vegetarian or vegan. These dietary options are a very personal choice and whilst there is no one size fits all, there are some key features to healthy eating that most doctors and health practitioners agree on that everyone can follow.
1. Eat fruit and vegetables
We all know eating fruit and vegetables is good for us but did you know they produce chemicals that are beneficial to our health? These chemicals otherwise known as phytonutrients are responsible for their bright colours, taste and defences: even the chemical that makes us cry when we chop onions is good for us!
Each colour has its own unique qualities so Dr Rupy Aujli, author of The Doctor’s Kitchen recommends adding two different coloured fruits or vegetables at every mealtime to reap the benefits of these health boosting chemicals.
2. Eat a diversity of plants
In addition to fruit and vegetables we should also add wholegrains, legumes, nuts and seeds to our diet. In his book Fiber Fueled Dr Will Bulsiewicz encourages us to eat a variety of these plants to increase our fibre intake. This not only keeps things moving but also feeds the microbes that live in our gut.
He explains that when they digest plant fibre, our gut microbes create substances that are essential to our health. Eating lots of different plants will ensure we have a great variety of microbes that can work to keep us healthy.
3. Keep it real and ditch the junk food
Gastroenterologist Dr Alan Desmond advises us to eat whole food not junk food. He explains how the good stuff; fibre and phytonutrients have been taken out of processed food and the nasty stuff; unhealthy fats, artificial flavours, emulsifiers and preservatives have been added in.
These chemicals have been scientifically proven to be harmful and according to Dr Desmond, have no business being in our guts. The more processed foods in our diet, the more likely we are to develop gut issues. Real, whole foods do not contain these artificial chemicals so we are less likely to develop problems.
4. Focus on eating the right food, not the right amount of food
Eating healthy is about eating the right food, much more than the right amount of food. We need to change our mindset from how many calories are in a food to how many nutrients are in it.
Counting calories or macro intake whether it be carbohydrates, fats or protein takes the fun out of eating and in my experience only succeeds in making you miserable!
Dr Angie Sadeghi, author of the Trifecta of Health says that when we eat a healthy, well-balanced, whole-food plant-focused diet there is no need to count calories and our macro intake will fall into a healthy range.
5. Pause and sit down to eat
How we eat is almost as important as what we eat. Taking time to eat in a relaxed manner will help you gain the most health benefits from food.
In his book The 4 Pillar Plan Dr Chatterjee explains how sitting helps us relax and takes us out of fight or flight mode. You digest food properly when you are in relaxation mode. When you’re standing your body is ready for action, it’s in fight or flight mode and this inhibits digestion.
Eating at the table with family, friends or even work colleagues is also a great chance to chat, catch up and make a connection which has also been proven to be good for your health!
#Bonus Tip – Enjoy Food!
‘taste, explore, pause and enjoy food’Dietitian Dr Megan Rossi
All the experts agree first and foremost we should enjoy what we eat. Forcing yourself to eat something because you think it’s healthy is really not worth it. So, if you really don’t like kale then don’t worry about it; there are plenty of different healthy foods to try instead that can nourish your body and feed your friendly gut microbes.
According to Dr Michael Greger, author of How Not To Die, any movement towards more plants and less processed foods can improve your health. If you want to try eating healthier but don’t know where to start, just start where you are and try adding more foods before taking anything away. Healthy eating is not about restriction, this only leads to a damaging relationship with food.
Try adding a different seasonal vegetable to your shopping basket each week to explore new flavours and enjoy those you may have not eaten for some time.
The more plant foods you eat the more you will start to crave the new vegetables you have been trying. This may have something to do with the microbes in your gut. Healthy microbes love plant foods and there is a theory that has been proven in mice studies that they may be able to control your cravings to get you to eat the foods they prefer!
As your food preferences change try to increase the variety of colourful whole foods you eat where nothing bad has been added and nothing good has been taken away.
Get into the kitchen and take time to prepare food and take even longer to eat it in the company of others that you care about.
You should soon feel more energised, healthier and happier and ready to take on any challenge that comes your way!
Photo by Caju Gomes on Unsplash
Dr Rupy Aujla – The Doctor’s Kitchen
Dr Will Bulsiewicz – Fiber Fueled
Dr Chatterjee – The 4 Pillar Plan
Dr Angie Sadeghi – The Trifecta of Health
Dr Megan Rossi – Eat Yourself Healthy
Dr Michael Greger – How Not To Die