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).
Grains and legumes can be a great source of fibre, low-GI carbs, vitamins and minerals. The fibre can support healthy digestion by giving bulk to stools and lowering the risk of constipation as well as acting as a prebiotic that can help to feed the beneficial gut bacteria. While whole grains are healthy for many people, they may not be appropriate for all people at all times, especially for those with a gluten sensitivity.
Avoid putting toxins into your body if at all possible. Alcohol is a big one, but also things like trans fats and non-organic food with loads of pesticides should be minimized or eliminated if possible. Think about your water too – heavy metals in your drinking water can cause many health issues, especially the halides (e.g. fluoride, chloride).
The biggest culprit here is refined sugar, and yes EVERYBODY should remove this “food”. The next two most common food groups causing an inflammatory response are gluten and dairy – both have proteins that can cause digestive upset and subsequent systemic inflammation. Soy, yeast & corn are also high up on the inflammatory list, but remember that it's not always the obvious foods mentioned above that are causing your health issues – many healthy and nutritious foods can also be inflammatory for some people. For example, I am sensitive to brazil nuts and eggs, and some of my clients are sensitive to bananas and strawberries! It really depends on your biology and particularly the health of your gut. If you have a hyperpermeable gut lining that is leaking out undigested proteins into your blood stream, then you may be reacting to dozens of foods.
Maintaining normal blood sugar levels is a very important part of avoiding long-term health issues, managing your weight and just feeling good. Health problems related to blood sugar imbalances are a rapidly growing burden that is reaching epidemic proportions. Some easy ways to prevent blood sugar spikes throughout the day are to reduce overall sugar intake, get regular exercise, eat more fibre, stay hydrated, reduce stress, improve sleep, reduce alcohol consumption.
If any of this resonates with you and you'd like to chat some more, please leave a comment or shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
In health and wellness,