Love your body. Love life. Twelve simple ways to boost your health through your food and drink choices.
Why are you so slim — you’re always eating? How is your skin so clear — what products do you use? How do you get your skin so soft — it’s like a baby’s bottom?
My answer — nutrition, sorry there’s no wonder pill or product, it really is that simple.
The cure for your ailments can often be found in different foods and drinks. Have you tried eating raw cloves of garlic to help prevent a cold you can feel coming? It works for me, I’m rarely ill; when I am ill I can pinpoint it being down to me slacking on my diet and fitness.
So I thought I would answer some of those frequent questions, which are often thrown my way, by sharing some of my health tips.
1. Swap empty carbs for complex carbs
Swap those empty white processed foods for those nutritious brown whole grain foods. Grab the whole grain brown bread in the shop instead of that refined white bread; swap that white rice or pasta for that wholegrain brown type. Why? Whole grains are full of the original great nutrients which provide you with a long slow release of energy; whereas refined grains have been stripped of their nutrition in the refining process, so merely provide an energy rush leaving you feeling hungry again shortly.
2. Know your sugar
Nearly everything you will eat will have glucose in. ‘When you eat complex carbohydrates, your body turns those whole foods into the glucose that you need to live’ (The Body Book, page 49).
A sugar present in dairy products. ‘It is a disaccharide containing glucose and galactose units‘ (Oxford dictionary definition: http://bit.ly/1LkacI8).
This is sugar found in fruit, but also many other products. It is currently under scrutiny as being the cause of many health problems. Fructose from fruit is good if not over consumed. Go for fibre-rich fruit, as when your body absorbs the fructose for energy ‘the fibre keeps the sugar from overloading your system because it slows down your digestion’ (The Body Book, page 49). Be cautious of overloading on smoothies which boast 2 of your 5 a day in one glass, as these are high in sugar. I’ll be the first to admit that smoothies were once my weakness. It’s easy to think what you’re drinking is healthy when it is purely something natural with no added sugar, but smoothies have a high sugar content because of the amount of fruit used to make them. It’s easy to exceed your sugar quota for the day if you are consuming a couple of glasses of smoothie within your daily diet. If you actually tried to eat the amount of whole fruit which was used for that glass or two of smoothie, you’d realise it was a ridiculous amount of fruit. When you eat whole fibre-rich fruit you benefit from the nutrition from the fibre, which is lost in the juicing process, and thus feel full and don’t over indulge. Whole natural fruit ‘is natures energy delivery system — offering delicious sweeteners in a formula that sustains us’ (The Body Book, page 49).
This is a combination or glucose and fructose. Studies have shown ‘that when you ingest sucrose, the sugars bypass the hormones that tell you that you’re full, which means you can overeat without realising it’ (The Body Book, page 49).
So make your sweet treat a tasty fibre-rich fruit; instead of grabbing the pack of sweets, or a fruit juice or smoothie, grab a tasty apple.
3. Drink plenty of water
It allows your body to absorb all the nutrients you’re eating. ‘Without water, you couldn’t turn those carbs, proteins and fats into usable energy that powers every breath’ (The Body Book, page 38).
4. Eat little and often
Don’t feel guilty about being hungry five or six times a day. Eat when you’re hungry. Starving yourself from breakfast to lunch will probably mean you’ll overeat at lunch, meaning soon after you’ll feel horrid and sluggish and just want to sleep.
5. Begin your morning with green tea, one or two cups
Green tea is a great antioxidant. Personally I love Clipper Teas range of green teas.
Eating an antioxidant-rich diet is one of the most important things we can do to protect ourselves from the onset of disease as well as look and feel healthier longer (The Body Book, page 80).
6. Swap that low cocoa content chocolate for chocolate with 60% cocoa or higher
Eating a healthy diet doesn’t mean no chocolate. Chocolate can be healthy in moderate amounts. Chocolate with a high percentage of cocoa is rich in antioxidants, so you get the feel good pleasure and health benefit all in one. My favourite make is Green and Black’s, who do some great types of chocolate with a higher cocoa percentage. Try their dark chocolate with warm crystalised ginger, or with spices and chilli.
7. Aim to eat 7 different fruit and vegetables a day
Before you skip the fruit or deliberately forget the vegetables in the shop, remember ‘Do you love having soft, smooth skin? Do you love being able to think clearly? To see clearly? Then eat your fruit and vegetables!!’ (The Body Book, page 71).
Focus on eating a range of different coloured fruit and vegetables daily — make your plate as colourful as possible, like a rainbow. The more colourful your plate, the more colourful your life will be. Try to consume more vegetables than fruit, so as not to consume too much sugar.
8. Always make time for breakfast
Start your day right and you are more likely to have a successful, productive, day and see things in a more positive light. Breakfast sets you up for the day: you need nutrients in the morning. My favourite breakfast is whole grain porridge with rice milk, a teaspoon of honey, topped with a spoonful of flax seeds or chia seeds, and fresh fruit.
9. Know your fats – love fat
Fatty acids are essential to our health. With all these low-fat and low-carb fads its can be confusing sometimes. There are healthy and unhealthy fats. Aim for unsaturated fats and cut down on the amount of saturated fats, trans fats and cholesterol in your diet. Omega-3s ‘are among the essential fatty acids we need’. They are ‘some of the best fats you can choose’ (The Body Book, pages 66-67).
Little things like swapping the oil you use can boost your health too. I love to swap olive oil for rapeseed oil; it has great health benefits whilst being a versatile oil with a medium smoke point.
It’s low in saturated fat, so has been hailed for its health benefits and also has other nutritional bonuses — it contains omegas 3, 6 and 9, which reduce cholesterol and help to maintain healthy joint, brain and heart functions. As it is high in mono-unsaturated fats, it is one of the only unblended oils that can be heated to a high frying temperature and not spoil its antioxidants, character, colour or flavour (see: http://bit.ly/1O6wPVC).
It also has a delicious distinct nutty flavour; it’s yummy to dip bread into.
10. It’s not about the calorie counting — it’s about the source of the calorie
‘A large avocado can contain as many as 400 calories’ (see: http://bit.ly/1g3Ka3d); that doesn’t mean eating a Snickers bar (250 calories) is a healthier snack option. Eating healthy is about balance. The fats in a avocado are healthy, unlike those in a Snickers bar. There is no set amount of calories you should be eating a day, it really depends on your lifestyle and how active you are. Eating a balanced healthy diet means you can trust your body when it’s telling you that you are hungry. Actor Damon Gameau recently undertook a great experiment focusing on sugar consumption. You can see the results in his documentary ‘That Sugar Film’, which was released this year. In the documentary Gameau shows us the effects on his body, over the course of two months, when he eats an unhealthier high-sugar diet consisting of commonly perceived healthy foods. The foods and drinks he consumes are the only change he makes to his diet and lifestyle, and he maintains usual exercise. He consumes the same calories as when he was healthy, if anything slightly less calories, however he is shown to gain significant fat on his body. Tests done on his body, throughout the two months during which he undertook the experiment, showed his food and drink choices to have had a negative effect on his body, externally and internally.
11. Remove salt from the table
Generally you can easily be eating too much salt even if you don’t add salt to your foods: salt occurs naturally in most foods as well as being added to processed foods. But if you do use table salt, this is the first step you can take to cut down on your intake. If you generally add salt to pretty much every meal at first you will probably think the food without your table salt is bland, this is because your taste buds are used to this salty flavour. Give it some time though, and soon you won’t miss a thing — your taste buds will adjust and you will begin to appreciate the natural flavour of food. I rarely add salt to anything, sometimes I add a pinch on my salad. If your plate is filled with a variety of proteins, fats, carbohydrates and fruit and vegetables you should find it will be flavoursome without the added salt.
12. Avoid preservatives
They are great for preserving food, such as most of those yummy pre-packed sandwiches you find in the shops, but they ‘kill the healthy bacteria in our guts that help us stay alive’ (The Body Book, pg 103). Prepare a homemade sandwich for your packed lunch yourself, or if you’re in a hurry grab a sandwich from Pret. Pret’s sandwiches are free from preservatives; they are obliged to make food fresh everyday, as it wouldn’t keep without those preservatives.
Once you’ve made these twelve changes try changing something about your diet every week. Before you know it you’ll be feeling amazing. Eventually there will come a time when you won’t need to think about your nutrition anymore — your nutrition will become like brushing your teeth in the morning, you’ll do it without thinking.
For further inspiration, I recommend —
The Body Book by Cameron Diaz, with Sandra Bark, published 2014.
Aimed at women, however still very relevant to guys too. It is full of great insights into how your body works, and how your food and drink choices effect your life.
That Sugar Film, a great documentary by Actor Damon Gameau, released this year.
Gameau undertakes an experimentation with sugar. For two months he consumes foods and drinks which are commonly perceived as healthy, but which have a high sugar content. These items include products such as low-fat yogurts, various cereals, fruit juices, and smoothies; if you’re not already health conscious you will be after watching his documentary.
Are you a Londoner? Check out my posts published by Time Out.
Follow my FB page for news on upcoming blogs and articles of mine.