There is no one way to eat. Each of us has different genetics, different environments, and different demands we put on our body everyday. People survive on almost 100% meat (the Intuits), and people survive on 100% vegetable products (Vegans), and of course everything else in between.
When we decide what we are going to put into our mouths everyday most of us don’t think about the latest scientific studies that show what food is good for you or what food is bad for you. We only really eat what we think tastes good, and even beyond that we tend to eat what we have always eaten.
If you are seeking a certain result. If you want to change the way you look, have more energy, or prevent disease, then changing what you eat on a daily basis may be a good idea.
No matter how you eat now. No matter what your genetics are. No matter what demands you put on your body. There are a few things that people can do to improve their overall health by changing their diet.
- Eat More Vegetables – In study after study, no one food type has proven to be better for you than vegetables. Mom was right. We should eat our vegetables everyday to improve our health. Vegetables help people lose weight, have more energy, prevent disease, and help the body to run optimally. If you want to improve your health in any area, the best thing you can do is start eating a big heaping salad a day (preferably with oil and vinegar or lemon juice instead of dressings).
- Eat More Protein – Dietary protein provides most of the building blocks for our body in the form of amino acids. Every single part of your body needs amino acids for proper functioning of the cells. Your body mainly uses protein for this purpose and not as an energy source. For this reason protein is great for losing fat and building muscle. I think most of us know that meat, eggs, and fish are good sources of protein, but beans and legumes (soybeans, legumes, etc.) are great sources of plant protein followed by nuts and seeds such as almonds and sunflower seeds.
- Eat More Fat – For the longest time fat was thought to be awful for you, but all the latest research is pointing in the other direction especially in regards to healthy fats such as omega-3’s. Omega 3 and Omega 6 are called essential fatty acids because they are essential for survival. We need a certain amount of them to survive and it is better for us if they are in the form of Omega 3’s. Oily fish (sardines, trout, salmon, mackerel, etc.) have the highest Omega 3 content. Nuts and seeds have the next highest amount with flax seed ranking at the top. Finally grass fed animals produce eggs, milk, cheese, meat, etc. that is higher in Omega 3 content then grain fed animals.
- Eat Less Carbohydrates – While protein and fat are both essential for our survival carbohydrates (carbs) are not. Carbs only really provide us with energy. While more carbs are better for very physically active people, most people don’t need anywhere near the amount of carbohydrates they consume. This leads to an increase in fat (stored energy), and also contributes to diseases such as diabetes.
- Eat More Whole Foods, Not Processed Foods – One of the best pieces of advice I have ever heard about eating is to only shop around the edges of a grocery store. On the edges you will find fresh fruits and vegetables, meat and seafood, eggs, and other whole products that have been minimally processed. Processed foods such as bread, pasta, cereal, and anything in a can (high sodium), or a box (high chemical preservatives) should be avoided as much as possible. Two notable exceptions are rice and beans found in bags (again, not in cans or boxes). These are simply dehydrated and very near their raw form.
- Avoid sugar as much as possible – Sugar really does mess you up. It is raw energy in its purest form, has no nutritional value whatsoever, and should be treated as such. All baked goods contain sugar. Most of the processed foods in the aisles of a grocery store contain sugar. Sugar contributes heavily to increases in fat (again, stored energy) in your mid section, hips and thighs (where people want to try and reduce fat), and also contributes to diabetes (which is heavily linked to obesity). Just do yourself a favor, read labels, and avoid sugar at all costs.
- Enjoy Your Food – I don’t feel like I could tell you to eat this way without telling you that you should enjoy the process. Find out what tastes good to you, that will also keep you healthy in the long run. Learn to enjoy cooking and become good at it. Savor your food and eat slowly. Taste every bite. Become aware of your food instead of just mindlessly eating. There is nothing like a fresh crunchy salad with some olive oil and vinegar. Or a piece of salmon drizzled with a lemon butter dill sauce. A piece of dark chocolate is just as good as a candy bar or ice cream, and it is better for you. Eating right should enhance the pleasures of eating, not detract from them.
Put a little effort into these seven ways to eat and your life will never be the same. It will be better. Bon Appetit!
This is our 4th challenge in The Personal Health Challenge Series…