Interested in understanding what healthier means but no time to spend in your kitchen? You're not alone. That's why these are the guidelines I follow myself when I’m out grocery shopping or eat at restaurants.
At its inception, nutrition was made of whole grains, vegetables, fruits and limited meat. Our bodies have evolved to thrive on this diet. Not for industrial processed food.
Our usual Western diet is making us sick. Cancer rates have risen exponentially since the 20th century. Some may say that it is the result of our aging society; however, cancer rates in children have ALSO risen by at least 37%. Today 44% of women and 38% of men will experience cancer in their lifetime. It can be disheartening that most people do not want care to acknowledge the means that they themselves can do to prevent those risks.
Today, there is a lot of scientific evidence about how food impacts our global health but most cannot break down this evidence into everyday lifestyle improvements. That's why I put these 10 main guidelines together - I’ve done the research and broken it down to help you take a step in the right direction.
The first thing I learned in my journey of understanding food, health and well-being is that I had to get rid of my family preconceptions and habits. It's funny how, when we talk about food, everybody has his or her own opinion on what's healthy and what's not. Most of the time depending on their environment, family, and beliefs. My goal here is to be able to lay out facts; scientific evidence that was collected from centuries ago until now.
If there is one point that everybody agrees on is vegetables. Vegetables are full of antioxidants (that help destroy free radicals, toxins, etc. ), anti-inflammatory components, anti-cancer, nutrients, fibers, and etc. They just have everything. We think we eat enough vegetables when we eat them once, at night, along with meat and grains. That is not the case. We SHOULD EAT 7-8 portions of vegetables a day! Surprised? It has to be the main portion of your plate at lunch and even at night. So whatever you're eating now: just double the portions. Some guidelines:
White flour is all about sugar: all the good nutrients are lost. Even more, processed food creates "Advanced Glycation" (proteins binding to sugar or fat), which sometimes also happen in your body (which shouldn't be happening). Advanced glycation has been linked to chronic inflammation, cancer, etc. There is basically nothing good about food transformation.
You always knew it was maybe better to have whole grains. I'm saying now: you have to.
You'll see a whole difference in your digestion mechanism, defecation, and energy levels. Whole grains are full of fibers that are not just digestible but serve to feed your microbiota and help you digest better.
Processed meat (sausages, hot dogs, bacon, ham, ...) have been associated with different types of cancers (pancreas, colon, ...). Even if it's always controversial, red meat has been implicated too in lots of cancer studies. So the general advice is to stop any processed meat (remember processed is not good), reduce red meat intake to a minimum and reduce the general amount of meat eaten weekly.
Sometimes we don't realize how much meat we eat: ham in a sandwich for lunch, chicken for dinner, burgers, etc. We also think we NEED protein, but too much protein is not healthy either. Our Western diet is generally high in proteins and processed food but low in fibers. That's exactly what we need to change.General advice:
What's feeding cancer growth? Sugar.
It has been discovered since the early 1900's that cancer cells are mutated healthy cells that use 18 times more sugar than healthy cells to grow. They're using another path that requires way more glucose to provide energy to build the cell and grow. Plus sugar, and all rapid sugars don't provide you with anything nutritious. Depending on their glycemic index,they go directly to your blood after ingestion, raising your insulin level way too quickly. Quick rise of insulin levels is connected to chronic diseases and cancer by generating inflammation and releasing growth factors.
As said before, processing food generates Advanced Glycation. Sugar and fat bind to proteins, which not only makes them inactive for metabolism use but leaves them damaged, creating inflammation that in turn creates and promotes cancerous cells. "Browning", is and example of Glycation - you can observe this when you stir food, sugar and it becomes "brown."Moreover, the more processed a food is, the more it becomes susceptible to lose nutrients.
If you're looking for a quick meal, think first of frozen vegetables instead of a prepared meal. Learn to cook vegetarian with a wok and a rice cooker. All recipes will suddenly appear to be very quick!
Dairy is as controversial as meat. Mainly because the dairy industry lobby is as powerful as the meat one, especially in America.
The food pyramid that we all learned at school? Forget about it. Dairy might be more important when we are kids, but it's not the case when we grow up. Scientific studies show a very clear link between dairy consumption and breast cancer relapse. Milk, a substance that is initially produced by animals to help their little one grow, contains a lot of growth factors - proven to promote cancer growth in turn. You see it? Do you have breast cancer history in your family? Please don't do dairy. Moreover, 70% of humans become lactose intolerant when turning 30's because they don't have the necessary enzyme to break it down.
Dairy contains calcium, that is true. However, few people know that calcium is found in high quantity in almonds, spinach, etc. So in my opinion:
Our century has seen different claims. There was a real battle in the 70's between fat and sugar. Fat lost. Fat has been seen since decades as the devil. Low-fat has been an excuse for added sugar because the good taste of fat was lost. Lose fat, gain sugar. Awesome.
However, there is a difference between poly and monounsaturated fats and saturated and trans-fat. Long story short, lots of plant-based oils especially olive oils are excellent for you. It has the ability to lower your cholesterol and are anti-inflammatory. Eating more of those fats are not related to human fat as it was always believed.
Nuts are amazing. They are super rich in proteins & essential minerals : calcium (yes!), magnesium, potassium, zinc, iron, ... that it is sometimes hard to find in other vegetables. They are also rich in fiber that we need to feed our gut microbiota and in Omega 3 acids.
They are just superfood.
So use them on a daily basis: in your breakfast bowl, on top of your salad, bowl, to cook with vegetables, or even as a healthy snack.
Superfood aims to mean "food that is good for you". Vegetables are usually good for you but some families have proven specific antioxidants, anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties. Among them, you'll find:
Blue zones is a project that aimed to go in villages with the most number of centenaries. What did they learn? The common denominators between those communities: