There are so many misconceptions about what healthy eating really is. Our notion of healthy eating is getting lost in a mound of quinoa flakes, gluten free raw food paleo bars and activated almond milk. We are eating less fat and more supposedly “healthy” food than we ever have before – yet the fat are getting fatter and the sick are getting sicker. It doesn’t make sense… Or perhaps it does.
We are becoming nutritionally deficient due to poor soil quality, processed foods, digestive issues and poor food choices, which many seem to think are healthy. Before long, we will start to develop chronic deficiencies, which can then eventuate into health problems. My personal belief is that most health conditions can be traced back to a nutritional deficiency. Eating a diet that is based on nutrient rich wholefoods, high in plant foods and low in processed foods and free from toxic chemicals gives our bodies the necessary nutrients we need for health and longevity.
Eat a variety of different foods. Every day, ensure you are getting enough nutrients. If you are having the same breakfast, lunch or dinner every day, you are putting yourself at risk of not allowing your body the necessary nutrients that it needs.
Try to eat a little bit of everything and not too much of any one thing.
Portion Control. As a nation, we eat too much. Our portion sizes are out of control and we have forgotten what a real portion size is. I have included a portion size fact sheet for you to download to help guide you.
Eat wholefoods. Choose foods that are close to how you would find them in nature. The more refined or processed a food, even a healthy food, the less beneficial it is for your body.
Ditch the diet food. Avoid foods that are marketed as low fat. They tend to be highly processed, full of toxic chemicals and high in sugar to replace the taste loss from the removing the fat.
Cut down on refined carbohydrates. This includes white bread, pasta, noodles, chips, and alcohol. These cause blood sugar spikes and promote accelerated aging and disease within the body. They also promote obesity when eaten in excess.
Avoid diet fads. This includes calorie counting and extreme diet rules and regulations.
Finally, choose foods based on their nutrient content rather than their calorie content.
Almost every year there is a new diet or food fad craze that promises us an easy way to lose weight and stay fit and healthy. You only have to look at the rows of books in the health section of your local book store or hop on the internet to find out what the Hollywood stars are doing to keep fit and healthy. The health and wellness industry is a beast and it constantly has something new to offer.
What we are witnessing is a culture of diet extremism, from raw food only diets and coffee enema detox diets! The majority of diet fads are just that – a fad. They’re another marketing scam to encourage you to join a tribe of extremists in the hope that you will eventually find a diet that works whilst at the same time, parting with more of your hard earned cash.
The paleolithic (or paleo for short) diet is a very popular, dare I say it “cult” like diet. It is founded on the belief that we should be eating like our caveman ancestors and live off a diet that consists of meat, fish, eggs, vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds. These are all the foods that were available to us prior to mass farming and agriculture, which saw the introduction of grains and legumes.
Foods that are not allowed on the paleo diet include wheat, corn, rice, quinoa, peas, legumes and all grains. Bread, pasta and flour are all off the menu. The diet is high protein and low in highly refined carbohydrates, which is most likely why so many people lose weight when eating the paleo way. Paleo advocates still eat cakes and cookies but they are special paleo treats, free from grains, which are usually replaced by almond meal or sometimes coconut flour. Many people claim an improvement in their health and general feelings of vitality after following a paleo diet although a true paleo diet is quite strict. A more flexible approach to paleo is becoming popular, which includes foods such as peas and quinoa.
Pros – The diet is free from processed foods and consists of fresh natural produce, which is always a win in my book. Cutting out refined carbohydrates such as wheat flour and refined sugar will have health benefits so on the whole, the philosophy of eating fresh wholefoods free from artificial additives can only be a good thing.
Cons – The diet tends to be high in animal protein, nuts and concentrated forms of nuts such as nut butters, nut milks and raw whole nuts so there is potential for nut toxicity and raised IGF 1 from the animal produce and saturated fats. Cutting out all grains and legumes can lead to nutritional deficiencies and trying a vegan or vegetarian paleo diet would simply be dangerous. In my opinion, a more balanced approach of including some legumes and grains such as quinoa or buckwheat would give a more well-rounded nutritional profile.
The blood type diet has been around for almost twenty years now but is still a popular diet that I get asked about all the time. The blood type diet proposes that certain foods are best eaten by certain blood types and certain foods best avoided. Each blood type is thought to represent genetic traits of our ancestors and the types of food that they would eat. The blood type theory is based on how we react to Lectins found in the foods that we eat. Lectins are proteins that bind to sugar molecules and are thought to inhibit nutrient absorption and have potentially damaging effects to the lining of our gut. There are many different lectins in food that are theorised to target specific blood types. Knowing which foods to avoid for which blood type is the basis of this diet plan.
The following blood types should eat and avoid the following foods:
Type A (The Cultivator) – These people thrive best on a largely plant based diet and don’t do well on red meat. Very similar to a vegetarian diet.
Type B (The Nomad) – These people thrive on a mix of plant and meat but should avoid chicken, pork, wheat and some legumes.
Type AB (The Enigma) – These people are a combination of type A and type B but should avoid chicken and beef.
Type O (The Hunter) – These people thrive on a diet of red meat, poultry, fish and vegetables but should avoid grains. This one is very similar to paleo.
Pros – Many people find they feel better by following the blood type diet. It is full of fresh foods and free from processed foods, which may explain why so many people claim they feel better. There is no one-diet-fits-all-approach, therefore some people do feel better by eating more red meat and some people feel better by cutting it out.
Cons – There is little scientific evidence to back up the theories. Completely cutting out food groups can result in nutritional deficiencies so a balanced diet approach needs to be taken.
The Fodmap diet is gaining popularity amongst the irritable bowel crowd, many of whom report marked improvements in their symptoms when following a fodmap diet. Fodmap is an acronym that stands for Fermentable Oligosaccharides Monosacaccharides and Polyols. Basically, this refers to types of sugars that are poorly absorbed in the intestines which some people are more reactive to. When these sugars reach the large intestine, the bacteria in the gut can begin to ferment them which can cause bloating, pain and wind. Some people even find that they experience diarrhoea after consuming foods that contain these sugars. The fodmap diet is a diet that eliminates fodmap foods, thereby reducing abdominal discomfort. In theory, this all sounds wonderful however, following a fodmap diet can be extremely restrictive as it does limit many foods.
Pros – Many people find relief from uncomfortable tummy problems by following a fodmap diet.
Cons – A very restrictive diet that can become mundane and limited. Cutting out foods could put you at risk of nutritional deficiencies if you do not ensure you are eating a variety of different nutrient containing foods every day.
The health benefits of a high plant based diet cannot be denied. Plant based diets have been associated with lowered obesity, lower cardiovascular disease, lower cancer rates, and lower blood pressure. This is due to plants being high in phytonutrients, antioxidants and fibre, all of which lower our risk of disease. Excluding animal based products from the diet completely however, can put you at risk of becoming deficient in several important nutrients, particularly Vitamin B12, protein, zinc, choline and iron.
Lacto vegetarians eat a plant based diet that includes eggs and dairy, which will provide a broader array of nutrients and put them less at risk of nutritional deficiencies than a completely vegan diet.
Vegan diets completely cut out all animal derived products, including butter, milk, cheese and eggs. Vegan diets contain minimal Taurine, an amino acid found in animal tissue. Taurine is essential for a healthy cardiovascular, muscular and nervous system. It also plays an important role in liver health and detoxification. If the diet is low in Taurine it may mean that the liver has a harder job detoxifying and removing toxins from the body making you more prone to chemical sensitivities and allergies. Adults can produce Taurine from the amino acids cysteine and methionine with the help of vitamin B6 and vitamin C. A vegan diet therefore needs to be meticulously planned, particularly for growing children and pregnant women to avoid becoming nutritionally deficient. Unfortunately, many vegetarians simply cut out animal foods without carefully planning their foods, which does put them at risk of becoming malnourished. Every meal should be a combination of grains and legumes to ensure adequate protein in the diet. If you cut out grains and dairy for example and eat a paleo diet without the meat, you will most certainly be not getting your nutritional needs met.
Pros – High plant based diets have a lowered risk of disease
Cons – Cutting out food groups completely may put you at risk of nutritional deficiencies. Carefully plan your diet to ensure you are eating complimentary proteins and please note that this diet is not recommended for children and during pregnancy. Nutritional supplements are also a must to replace the nutrients that you are not receiving from food.