Healthy Eating does not need to be complicated and balance is the key to anything in life. The 80/20 is quite popular and this principle includes 80 per cent of your daily diet ideally should be made up of unprocessed, wholesome foods. These foods come in natural packaging made by nature – peels, skins, shells or outer leaves. They either grow in the ground, grow on trees, or come from animals. They are not processed, do not contain artificial flavours, colours, preservatives or sweeteners. These are the foods that were made for human consumption and lead to good health. They also give us energy rather than steal energy from us.
The other 20 per cent of our diet can be made up of the other foods we enjoy in moderation including the high sugar, salt and fatty foods, as well as alcohol.
Fruits and vegetables – It is an established fact that the more fruits and vegetables we eat the lower our chance of heart disease, cancer and many other health problems. Try as best you can to buy fresh, seasonal produce rather than frozen or canned. Saying that, if you have to make a choice of eating frozen/canned vegetables/fruit or no vegetables/fruit due to budget constraints or remote location then of course you would choose the former. Try and eat vegetables lightly steamed or raw (not fried), because food in its natural state has all its enzymes. Enzymes are the chemical spark plugs in our bodies that start or speed up chemical processes that help our bodies with things like our digestion. There is no one better fruit or vegetable than another.
Enjoy all kinds and eat a variety.
Starches – Starches contain carbohydrates and include grains and starchy vegetables such as potato, corn, carrots, peas and sweet potato, as well as legumes and beans. Our bodies need carbohydrates to create energy and a sense of well-being, but in excess they can raise our insulin levels, which can eventually lead to Type 2 Diabetes. Choose unprocessed varieties such as wholegrain breads, whole-wheat pasta, quinoa, millet, amaranth, buckwheat and brown Basmati or Dongara rice. Do avoid eating too many ‘white’ starches including white bread, white rice, pastries, biscuits and crackers made from white flour. When baking opt for wholemeal flour, almond meal, spelt or coconut flour.
Dairy – Do choose unsweetened dairy products such as plain Greek yoghurt rather than flavoured. Limit cheese to occasional serves of hard and soft cheeses and opt instead for ricotta, cottage or feta cheese. As for milk, I do not recommend drinking unpasteurised milk as this has been linked to potentially life-threatening conditions especially for the young, elderly, pregnant, and sick. Some individuals find they can better digest A2 milk and others do better on lactose-free milk. Both of these are fine to drink. If you are intolerant to all dairy choose unsweetened rice, oat, almond, or soy milk. There is some concern that soy milk may lead to problems with thyroid function after long-term use. Due to this concern limit soy milk to occasional use and opt for one of the other dairy-free alternatives. If you are dairy intolerant, other sources of high-calcium foods include tinned sardines, tinned salmon, broccoli, and green leafy vegetables such as spinach and bok choy.
Protein – Try cutting down on processed meats like salami and packaged meat slices, which can contain high-levels of cancer-causing agents known as nitrosamines and opt instead for hormone-free, free-range chicken, turkey, beef, lamb, or fresh fish. Lightly grill, bake, steam, boil, or lightly stir-fry your meat rather than smoke, chargrill or barbeque as these processes have been linked with increased risk of bowel cancer. Avoid shark (flake) and swordfish as they have some of the highest levels of mercury and pesticides of any fish in the sea. Men, limit your intake of red meat as men who consume high amounts of red meat increase their chances of prostate cancer by two-three times.
Eggs – Eggs are a good source of protein and contain plenty of vitamins and minerals, as well as beneficial substances like choline, needed for cell membrane synthesis, and lutein, needed for protection of our eyes. Eggs were once thought to greatly elevate cholesterol levels but this does not seem to be the case. I recommend eating around 4–6 eggs per week. Do choose free-range or organic eggs, which often have a higher omega-3 content than caged chicken eggs. Boil or poach your eggs rather than fry them.
Fats – Have some good fats in your diet as your body needs some fat to survive. The right type of fats in the right amounts is important for your heart, brain, skin, hair and hormone production. Include a small amount of healthy fats found in avocados, cold-pressed extra-virgin olive oil, nuts and seeds, as well as in oily fish like salmon, tuna, herring, mackerel and sardines. Keep in mind that tuna, especially the larger yellow-fin tuna, contains higher levels of mercury than the other oily fish, so limit this particular variety.
Also keep in mind that olive oil is not the best oil to cook with as it has a low smoke point; meaning that when used for cooking at high heat it quickly starts to smoke and produce some toxic chemicals that have been linked to cancer formation. Choose instead to save olive oil for adding to your salads or vegetables as a dressing and cook instead with oils that have a high smoke point. These oils include grape seed oil, rice bran oil, macadamia nut oil, and avocado oil.