It’s a simple question, but the answer to what a healthy diet is, requires a much more complex answer…
Albert Einstein once said, “The most important thing is to never stop questioning,” and this is good advice when it comes to understanding diet…
Food is without doubt a contentious issue; everyone has an opinion and unfortunately many of those opinions spring from financial agendas and the information given may be little more than myth and propaganda.
Statistics published in 2011 showed that:
- 2.9 Million people living with Diabetes in the UK.
- 2.7 Million people living with heart disease in the UK.
- 1 in 88 children diagnosed with ASD or learning disorder.
Obesity has increased globally, but the rate of increase in England has almost doubled in the last 25 years.
Based on the above list, it may be fair to question a lot of dietary advice, even what I am about to share with you.
A Healthy Diet Comes Down To Context
If you want to move forward with your health, it may be worth looking back at ancient cultures’ diets as a point of reference. Consider the findings of Dr Weston Price as a guideline to begin your research on what creates a healthy diet for you.
Traditional ancient cultures embraced the art of soaking, fermenting and sprouting to access maximum nutrition in their food. Dairy was naturally raw… animals that produced meat were grass fed…
It’s worth noting that none of our ancestors lived on pasteurised, low fat or juiced diets, heated vegetable oils & margarines and nobody was afraid of natural fats. Did they duffer with diabetes, heart disease, learning disorders or obesity to the extent we do today?
Even today tribes such as the Maasai or Samburu of Africa eat a red meat heavy diet. Inuits eat a diet heavy in fat. Heart disease, cancer and diabetes are all low in these cultures and you have to ask why?
It may be that the meat they eat is not fed with hormones.
Does Being Healthy Mean Living On A Diet?
Living perpetually on a detoxifying diet such as raw, vegan or juices diet may not be the long-term answer. Sometimes we fall back on these diets as a reaction or “fix it” plaster against the challenging and toxic environment many of us find ourselves living in.
Simply, a healthy diet could just mean that you tune in to your own needs and honour who you are and what you really need.
- Does my food satiate hunger for a good length of time, say 4-6 hours?
- Does my food leave me feeling energised, focused and productive?
- Am I free of food cravings?
- Am I happy with my weight?
The Effects of Cholesterol On A Healthy Diet
Cholesterol is a natural defence and repair mechanism and it’s connections to cardiovascular disease are questionable. The topic has now become massive business for the food and pharmaceutical industry.
Sensible questions to ask if you have cholesterol might be: “Do I really need to eat a margarine spread to lower my cholesterol?” or “Does a drink that converts to sugar as soon as it hits my blood stream really help?” It may also be helpful to question foods that tell you they are “light”, “low in fat”, “low in calories”, or “Good for you”.
Important Factors For A Healthy Diet
Make sure you:
- Get proper hydration. Get a good water filter and drink plenty of good water. If you are not getting good hydration your body fails in it’s daily cleansing regime and this is where disease begins.
- Balance blood sugars. Eat plenty of good quality fat, protein and green organic vegetables. Make sure your carbs are complex (i.e. fruits and veg, whole grains, nuts and seeds) not processed (i.e. fruit juices, white rice, corn starch, sweeteners).
- Have good gut health. Choose fermented foods in your diet such as miso, Kombucha, kefir, sauerkraut, kimchee, sourdough (and idli and dosa if you like South Indian food ) fermented foods will carry probiotic microbes all the way down to the end of the digestive system. Fermentation is a natural way to keep your gut in optimal condition. Remember approximately 80 % of the immune system resides here.
- Aim to keeping energised focused and productive. If you do not feel this then consider your choice of foods. There may be something that’s not right for you or you may be suffering from stress or poor gut health.
A Healthy Diet And What Food To Avoid
Please keep in mind that what might be considered healthy food choices might vary a little from person to person, but keep in mind there are certain food choices that are universally unhelpful to the body and damaging to health. This is because those foods are not considered to be “real food” by the body. Items on this list include:
- Artificial sweeteners
- Refined sugar
- Processed junk ‘food’. These feed the pathogenic bacteria and generally destroy the ecosystem in our gut. Junk food allows bad bacteria to thrive and proliferate furthering your cravings.
- Refined vegetable oils/trans fats. These are inflammatory and have now been linked to heart disease. (See a BMJ Sydney Heart Study )
- Refined table salt- real sea salt is mineral rich, table salt has been bleached and heated to high temperatures killing off most of the 180 minerals present in sea salt.
Then on the spectrum of processing variables:
- Low fat commercial dairy
- Fruit juice – linked to high blood pressure. Fruit juice is highly lipogenic (it converts to fat in the body almost immediately). Fruit juice is just a glass of sugar.
- Mass produced Breakfast Cereals. Check out www.westonaprice.org to find out about cereal processing and extrusion.
- Mass produced bread. These are full of soya flour, fast acting industrial yeast, flour improver and unnecessary amounts of refined sugar. Mass produced bread has been linked as a cause to Caeliac disease, arthritis, bloating, IBS and numerous other health complaints.
- Mass produced sweets, chocolate, cakes and biscuits. You may already know that sugar and refined flour are inflammatory to the body and if eaten in any quantity can cause insulin resistance, obesity and numerous other health problems.
How Overeating Happens And How A Healthy Diet Stops The Desire For More
All foods that have been highly processed or adulterated in some way are not whole or complete and the body is unable to recognise these substances in its infinite wisdom switches off a hormone called leptin.
Leptin tells us when we have had enough to eat. Once switched off we succumb to overeating. Invariably weight gain occurs and we lose the battle of will power as our health goals becomes a distant memory. These kind of processed replacements for food undermine all of our futile efforts to remain optimally healthy.
Making Healthy Diet Choices – The Foods Question And Avoid
The key is to choose natural whole food that is right for our personal constitution, climate, season and lifestyle and as local seasonal and unadulterated as possible, everything in balance and eat mindfully.
Don’t be fooled by advertising and always question the health claims:
- Light, low calories, fat free, be good to yourself or various other dubious straplines are best questioned or avoided as these are invariably highly processed, high carb, packed with high sugar and very little nutrition.
- Keep in mind that “light” really could mean “light” in nutrition and “low fat” might mean “high sugar”.
- Something that claims it is “free” of something is often devoid of nutrition and may be filled with sugar or artificial sweeteners and cheap bulking agents of questionable origin.
- Grains are also carbohydrates which are a valuable source of energy if prepared correctly but if refined are simply sugar to the body and if not used for energy, stored as fat around the body. Cereals are nearly all processed except for a minor few, and are not an ideal breakfast choice as they raise blood sugar levels.
- Organic isn’t necessarily organic as the whole item may not be organic. Keep in mind just because something is organic or gluten or dairy free doesn’t make it healthy. Organic and gluten free products can be highly processed and full of refined sugar too and sometimes even more so than the non-organic products on offer. So choose wisely.
How To Choose Your Foods Wisely For Your Healthy Diet
Choose local seasonal vegetables if you can. Ideally choose organic and seek out a local farmers market. It’s often cheaper and fresher than the supermarkets.
Meat and Seafood
Choose free range, grass fed/organic meat. Ideally support your local butcher, find one at a farmers market or choose free range meat in Waitrose. Try to eat a range of responsibly sourced seafood and incorporate oily fish into your diet.
If you can tolerate dairy aim to buy organic and buy “whole” not “low fat”. If you can get it raw and unpasteurised direct from the farmer, so much the better. Fermented dairy is easier to digest. Choose yoghurt and Kefir. Look for organic butters, grass fed – the French is usually good and always superior to margarine. (If you are vegan choose extra virgin coconut oil instead.)
Preferably soaked overnight and fermented such as sourdough bread is ideal choose a variety of grains. Avoid your body developing an unhealthy relationship with any one food, that can lead to intolerance.
Try to incorporate plenty of fermented food and drink in your diet look into making your own kefir, Kombucha and sauerkraut if you have time.
Drink plenty of good quality water invest in an EVA filter if you can afford it.
Nuts, seeds, avocados, coconut oil, oily fish, grass fed organic raw butter.
This article was created by Charlotte Palmer, Food Specialist
Do you have anything to add to our list of healthy diet essentials? Leave a comment below, we’d love to know!