Dr Kate Barry
Nutrition – What Do I Eat?!
Updated: Mar 30, 2021
It’s the million-dollar question isn’t it? What to eat to optimize your health and wellbeing. This is especially important when you have some health challenges, either acute infection or chronic illness. There are so many schools of thought out there, and obviously everybody is different so you need to find out what works best for you, but here are some of the basics that I think are relevant for the majority of people.
This is by far the most important in my opinion. If everybody ate this way from childhood then the world would be a very different place, and we wouldn’t be seeing such high levels of chronic illness today.
The top dogs are fruits and vegetables – so important for a healthy mind and body but so underrepresented in most modern diets. We need them for the micro- and phyto-nutrients, as well as for the fibre that feeds our microbiome and keeps us regular. They also provide us with the carbs that fuel our energy production but are (mostly) low GI and therefore don’t tend to spike blood sugar and raise insulin levels significantly.
Nuts and seeds are similarly high in micronutrients and are also loaded with antioxidants like polyphenols that combat oxidative stress by neutralizing free radicals. They are high in beneficial fibre and function as a kind of prebiotic food for healthy gut bacteria. Nuts have also been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties, with research suggesting that nuts can decrease inflammatory markers by up to 90%.
The use of herbs and spices has been incredibly important throughout history, with many celebrated for their medicinal properties well before culinary use. Here are some examples:
(1) Cinnamon – lowers blood sugar levels, improves insulin sensitivity, potent antioxidant activity
(2) Turmeric – powerful antioxidant, strong anti-inflammatory
(3) Ginger – great for treating nausea, strong anti-inflammatory properties
(4) Garlic – fights infection, blood pressure reduction, LDL cholesterol reduction
(5) Basil – cholesterol lowering benefits, high in antioxidants, antimicrobial benefits
Eggs are natures perfect little packets of nutrients – one egg has only 75 calories but 7 grams of high-quality protein, 5 grams of fat, along with iron, vitamins, minerals, and carotenoids. They are also high in choline, a phospholipid that is great for brain development, memory, and cell membrane maintenance. Make sure you get them from pastured chooks!
Meat and fish are not only great sources of protein, but often provide other essential nutrients that are more easily digestible/absorbable than plant-based sources. This is especially important if you are unwell and require lots of protein for cell repair. Oily fish like salmon and trout are high in omega 3s, low in toxic load, and better choices from a sustainability perspective. Choose wild caught options to minimize the unnecessary ingestion of antibiotics and to get a higher overall nutritional content (due to wild fish eating
a more diverse diet than farmed fish). Grass-fed/organic meat is also highly nutritious, with almost five times the Omega 3 content and none of the downsides of conventionally-raised animals (e.g. antibiotics, environmental footprint, unnatural diet).