Quick advice for a healthier lifestyle


10 Tips To Jumpstart Your New Eating Practices

Posted on May 5, 2018  - By Steph

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.

0. Be open to change common preconceptions

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.

1. Double your intake of vegetables

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:

  • Eat a lot of different colors.
  • Choose the vegetables that have the brightest colors.
  • Make it 60% of your plate
  • Eat mostly from season.
  • Eat organic, if you can afford it. Pesticides are connected to chronic diseases + lots of good nutrients are in the peel!

2. Replace every grain with whole grains. Always.

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.

  • Always be diverse in your grains choice: do not only eat wheat (even if you can support gluten) but think about rice, rye, quinoa, oats, etc.
  • Always choose brown rice or basmati rice over white rice. Those are whole.
  • Eat pasta 2 times a week maximum: whole grain pasta.
  • For bread, choose whole grain instead of multigrain. Multigrain is usually white flour with added grains to it. Even choose Sourdough Bread instead of conventional bread with yeast (it is more acidic).
  • For oats, choose steel cut grains. Rolled (or old fashioned) oats and quick oats are processed while steel cut are not.

3. Reduce your meat consumption. Avoid all processed meat.

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:

  • Limit overall meat consumption to 2-4 times a week maximum
  • When you add meat to your plate, cut your usual amount in twice. Vegetables should take the majority of your plate
  • Stop eating processed meat
  • Choose organic grass-fed meat (modern cows are fed with antibiotics, hormones and their food is corn, changing their microbiota, making them more susceptible to have bacteria like E-Coli, etc. - making them and then you sick)
  • Start using tofu (scrambled in woks or dipped into soy sauce to enhance the taste), tempeh and seitan. Soy is full of calcium and proteins. It's also a powerful anti-cancer.

4. Stop processed sugar. Emphasize on fruit.

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.

  • Stop and limit strictly all processed sugar.
  • REMEMBER - Replacements for sugar are worse: (high fructose) corn syrup, tapioca syrup, ...even organic have all a higher glycemic amount than sugar itself. Making your insulin levels skyrocket.
  • Replace sugar cravings by a variety of fruits or nuts snacks. Fruits are full of fibers that help us digest better, feed your healthy microbiota, and also help release glucose slowly.
  • Add smoothies but not juices to your diet. Juices are full of sugar but lack the fibers that help release glucose slowly and nutrients that hide in the peel/pulp.
  • Be careful with added sugar : it's everywhere. In your granola, cereals, ketchup, sauce, prepared meals, etc. Start reading labels.

5. Stop processed food. Read the labels

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!

6. Replace dairy by different vegetal options

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:

  • Replace milk by other plant-based alternative (almond, soya, ...)
  • Limit your cheese consumption and favor hard cheese than soft ones.

7. Learn to love the fats that are good for you

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.

  • Emphasize olive oil. It's the only one that supports high temperature.
  • Strictly remove margarine, canola oil, etc. from your diet.

8. Eat more seeds & nuts

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.
Some anectodes:

  • The seeds (chia, hemp, pumpkin, ...) are super rich in zinc. Zinc is needed for everything from nails to metabolism.
  • Flax seeds are especially full of good EPA, OMEGA 3. Try to add them in some dessert, smoothie, or breakfast bowl.

9. Be generous with superfood

Superfood? Kesako?
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:

  • The berries: blueberries, acai, - low in sugar, high in antioxidants.
  • All cruciferous vegetables, your winter friends: cauliflower, cabbage, bok choy, brussels sprouts - at them without moderation
  • Green tea
  • Red Grape extract find in red wines: one glass a day is even recommended

10. Be active, see the daylight and give your body some rest

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:

  • Spirituality and sense of community: feeling that your life has a sense and that you're needed is really important.
  • Whole food diets mostly from plants existed in these villages.
  • Lots of daylight exposure. Vitamin D is really important in killing cancerous cells (be of course careful with UV)
  • Moderate exercise. The Western new way of exercising is always tough workouts. Simply walking a minimum 30 min a day is a great start to a healthy lifestyle.