Family Health Magazine - NUTRITION
Tips for a Super Diet
What should your diet include?
Almost daily in the media, certain foods are reported as ‘must-haves’ for good health. These ‘superfoods’ typically have certain nutrients, and some science supports the claims about their health benefits. News about superfoods can be confusing. One year, spinach, blueberries and almonds are necessary for skin and brain health, and to lower diabetes risk. The next year, kale, salmon and monk fruit are essential. Grains have been contentious. Oatmeal’s beta-glucan (soluble fibre) is said to lower cholesterol. Recently, quinoa has been promoted for its slightly higher protein content. The grains freekeh and sorghum are becoming more popular. And what about gluten? If a grain has gluten, does that mean it is no longer a superfood? With fats, olive oil was once considered healthiest, then avocado and now coconut oil. What are the best choices? Do you need superfoods to be healthy?
The foods just mentioned do have certain properties that promote health. However, eating them occasionally will not improve your health dramatically. Nor will adding a few healthy foods to an eating pattern that is mainly unhealthy. For healthy energy levels, skin and weight, your overall diet has a big impact – not just eating specific foods. Remember that other factors, such as stress, smoking, your alcohol consumption, activity level, the time you spend sitting, and genetics also greatly affect your health.
‘Diet’ means the food and drink that you regularly consume. Kale chips or quinoa as an occasional side dish will not help you live longer or be in better health if the rest of your diet involves sugary drinks, large portions of meat and grains, and few vegetables. Following these tips puts you on the road to a super diet that helps you look and feel better, while reducing your risk of disease.
Tips for a super diet
- Choose a plant-based diet. The populations in the world that live the longest eat this way. This does not mean they do not eat meat. Rather, their diet is mainly made up of vegetables, fruit, beans, whole grains and nuts. Limit red meat to once a week, and try to avoid processed meat (hot dogs, salami or sausage). Start slowly by replacing one meal that has meat with a bean (lentils, chick peas or black beans). Make a bean soup or vegetarian chili for a meal. Beans are very high in antioxidants, and much cheaper than any meat.
- Choose drinks wisely. Sugary drinks just add extra sugar and calories. This includes specialty coffees, sugar-sweetened pop, fruit juice or fruit drinks, and vitamin-enhanced drinks. Drinking sugary drinks daily is linked with carrying extra weight. Such weight increases cancer and diabetes risk. Instead, choose water.
- Eat your (colorful) vegetables! The really colorful (red, yellow, dark green, orange and purple) ones are packed with nutrients and antioxidants. Include a dark green and dark orange vegetable daily to get enough of the B vitamin folate and vitamin A. Have a vegetable in each breakfast, lunch and supper. For breakfast, try a spinach, berry and yogurt smoothie. For lunch, have a salad or some raw vegetables. For supper, fill half your plate with vegetables. This will help you feel fuller and get the vegetable nutrients you need. Choosing mainly non-starchy vegetables helps reduce your cancer risk. Carrots, broccoli, okra, eggplant, turnips, rutabaga, broccoli, cabbage and green leafy vegetables are all wise choices.
- Re-think how many sugary foods you have every day. Most of us eat far more than we realize, and that includes sweets and treats. Remember, sugar is not just in cookies and cake anymore. It is added to pasta sauces, salad dressings, breakfast cereals, crackers and granola bars. Research shows that reducing how many carbohydrates we eat is very important in reducing the risk of heart disease. So, take stock of how often you eat sweets and treats, and try to reduce the frequency. Look at the ingredient list of the packaged foods you eat. Sugar can be called glucose, fructose, dextrose, honey, evaporated cane juice, agave nectar or syrup. Try to cut down on packaged foods or choose ones without added sugar.
- Choose whole grains in their natural form as much as possible. The term ‘whole grain’ is showing up in crackers, cereals and snack foods. While these are often better choices, the best choice of grain is in natural form. For instance, have oatmeal for breakfast instead of a boxed cereal or granola bar.
For meals, make brown rice or barley as a side dish. Grains like quinoa and freekeh are also whole grains, but can be more expensive options. Whole grains in their natural unprocessed form are lower in sodium and better for your heart!
Aim to work each of these tips into your current eating pattern. They will put you on a path to a diet packed with nutrients that will help you feel great!
While effort is made to reflect accepted medical knowledge and practice, articles in Family Health Online should not be relied upon for the treatment or management of any specified medical problem or concern and Family Health accepts no liability for reliance on the articles. For proper diagnosis and care, you should always consult your family physican promptly. Copyright 2012, Family Health Magazine, a special publication of the Edmonton Journal, a division of Postmedia Network Inc., 10006 - 101 Street, Edmonton, AB T5J 0S1 [NU_FHab14]