Over the last two months, I’ve studied over 100 diets. While some are really out there, most diets have a lot of common ground.
While I personally eat a whole food, plant-based diet, no diet will work for everyone. Our bodies are different and have slightly different metabolic requirements. That being said, there are some universal truths that can make anyone healthier.
Cut out the processed foods.
Processed foods are loaded with sodium and sugar. Salt and sugar aren’t inherently bad for you, but when everything you eat has salt and/or sugar, you’re consuming amounts that are literally toxic for your body.
In addition, processed foods are loaded with chemicals. Take a look at the ingredients in a popular “heart healthy” cereal:
Whole Grain Oats, Corn Starch, Sugar, Salt,
Tripotassium Phosphate. Vitamin E.
Any idea what Trisodium Phosphate is? It’s is a food additive common in highly processed foods. It contains sodium and inorganic phosphate.
Eating small amounts isn’t harmful, but eating large amounts can create toxic levels of phosphorus in your body. Also, people with kidney disease, heart disease, osteoporosis, and inflammatory bowel disease should avoid eating it at all. Problematic given that it’s billed as heart healthy cereal!!!
Finally, processed foods have far less nutritional value than whole foods even when fortified, which basically means they tried to add back in some of the nutrients they processed out. In particular, processed foods lack the fiber our bodies need to feel full and protect our gut health.
Eat more fruits and vegetables.
If half of every meal you eat is fruits and vegetables, you’re off to a great start. If not, your body isn’t getting the nutrients it needs to function properly.
So many people are focused on macro nutrients and are missing out on their all important micro nutrients, which fruits and vegetables provide abundantly. While macro nutrients give your body energy, micro nutrients fuel your cellular processes that help your body function and heal itself. Your body wants to be healthy, but it needs the building blocks to make that happen!
Recommendations vary, but everyone agrees that you should be eating at least 5 servings of fruits and vegetables every day. Some recommend as many as 7 servings a day.
Ditch the white grains.
Grains aren’t inherently bad. Some people can’t process grains and should avoid them all together, but if you can eat grains, whole grains can be a great source of fiber and protein.
Those white grains though? Highly processed!!! Avoid the white pastas and breads. Just like other processed foods, they lack the fiber and nutrients your body needs and are instead full of chemicals your body doesn’t need!
Include healthy fats.
As someone who eats a whole food. plant-based diet, I don’t eat fish and I don’t eat oils (not even avocado oil). I do, however, include avocados, olives, nuts, and flaxseeds daily to make sure I’m getting healthy fats.
Several heart studies and weight loss studies all confirmed that people who include healthy fats in their diets saw more improvement in heart health and weight loss than people on strict no-fat or low-fat diets. Our bodies need fat, but they need natural healthy fats.
Limit meat and dairy intake.
I personally can’t eat meat or dairy, and most people don’t process dairy well, but that doesn’t mean you have to cut it out of your diet. Instead, eat healthy portion sizes (3-4 oz) of high quality, locally-produced meat and dairy.
Yes, I know that the meat and dairy at the farmers’ market is more expensive, but a 10-ounce steak was never meant to feed one person! It should feed 3 people. You know what else? That meat at the farmers’ market tastes better, is higher in nutrients, and contains less hormones. You will be more satisfied with a smaller portion!
Remember that health is a journey not a destination. Choose one thing to improve on and go from there. Listen to your body. It will tell you what works for you.