Food can be your medicine but choosing the right foods is the key!
Eating for health means choosing foods that are right for you and that promote balance and prevent disease and disorders. When the right nutrients from a wide variety of foods are eaten, you will not only feel more energized and well but you will reduce your risk of common health concerns. With a few tweaks to Canada’s current, out-dated food guide, you can create a healthy diet that supports optimal health.
Your New Food Guide – A Health Supportive Model:
Fruits & Vegetables
You should be eating at least 10 servings of fresh or frozen (never canned) fruits and vegetables each day, ideally in the following ratio:
- Leafy greens – 1-2/day
- Roots & squashes – 1-2/day
- General vegetables – 3-4/day
- Sea vegetables (kelp, dulse) – 2-5/week
- Nightshades (tomatoes, peppers, eggplant) – 2-3/week
- Fruit – 1-2/day
Mix and match your fruits and vegetables and use these foods as the base for any meal.
Include 2-3 servings of complex carbohydrates each day. Complex carbohydrates include whole, unprocessed and unrefined cereals and grains. Think quinoa, raw oatmeal, brown rice and rye. Whole wheat may be an allergen for you so minimize its consumption.
Eat 2-3 servings of protein per day, primarily from plant sources, like beans, peas, nuts and seeds. Combine any of these vegetable proteins with complex carbohydrates (i.e. brown rice and red beans) to make a complete protein. Consume animal sources of protein 1-5 times per week, such as fish, eggs, poultry, bison, lamb, beef and pork (in that order).
Don’t forget your healthy oils! Have 2 tablespoons of healthy oils per day. Try olive oil, safflower oil, coconut oil, flaxseed oil, sunflower oil and unpasteurized butter. Always opt for unrefined, cold-pressed oils where available.
A healthy gut is the first step toward a healthy body, so keep digestion working with fermented foods. Consume fermented or foods containing active live bacteria 3-5 times per week. Yogurt and kefir fall into this category but try to keep dairy versions to no more than 2 servings per week, if tolerated. To get enough calcium, add nuts, sesame seeds, and broccoli and green leafy greens to you daily diet.
While not a food per say, do not forget about water. Drink at least half your body weight in ounces per day (so, for a 160 lb person, drink at least 80 ounces per day); if you haven’t been eating a lot of vegetables and whole grains normally, ease into these slowly and drink an extra 20-40 ounces each day to help prevent constipation.
And, last, because life is should be enjoyable, we have a ‘fun foods’ group. Eat foods you love, even if they don’t fall into the above categories, for special occasions or parties, or try to limit less healthy foods to just weekends.
A health supportive diet is, overall, low in calories, protein and fat, and high in complex carbohydrates (including fruits and vegetables). Your plate should include enough fruits and/or vegetables to cover 75-80% of it with each meal.
Foods to Avoid:
While I don’t want this health supportive model to feel like a diet or restrict you from living life, there are some foods (and non-foods) that should always be avoided, because they all reverse the effects of your healthy diet.
- sugar and artificial sweeteners (raw honey, all-natural fruit juices, maple syrup can be used moderately as sweeteners)
- pasteurized, homogenized vitamin-D fortified milk and dairy
- white flour, white rice, white pasta (anything refined)
- fried foods
- canned and packaged, processed frozen foods
- steak, nitrate- and nitrite-cured meats and fish, commercial eggs
(Yes, steak is listed. I’m sure you’re decrying that this is impossible but, in my opinion, choosing grass-fed, hormone- and antibiotic-free beef is still a health supportive food in small quantities.)
Now that you know what a health supportive diet looks like, I challenge you to test it out for yourself for at least 3 consecutive weeks and see how you feel. Take note of any symptoms you feel, regardless of whether you think they’re a problem, before you start and then note how things have changed after the 3 weeks have passed.
Please note – if you’ve been eating a lot of sugar, dairy, wheat, and processed foods for a long time, you may go through a detoxification period when you switch to a health supportive diet. Try to get through this time, though it may be tough. You may experience headaches, skin issues, constipation and other digestive disturbances, or mood swings; it will pass!!