We can talk about healthy living all day long, but learning and researching nutrition is a necessary component that most people don’t have the time to do. In fact, there are so many different theories about the “best” nutrition plan that only works for some people. For those cases, rest assured that there are some nutritional facts that will always hold true for everyone:
- Diets don’t work: Gasp! We know, but hear us out. The main reason diets never work is because they are temporary in nature. Making temporary changes will only ever lead to temporary results. The diet industry profits on the fact that diets are made with built-in failure so you’re always coming back. The best way to improve health and maintain a healthy weight is by taking some characteristics of healthier diets (like Mediterranean, paleo, and plant-based) and incorporating them into your lifestyle. Doing things like eating out, having dessert, and drinking alcohol should be done just as often as diets are done (on occasion and not frequently).
- Fruits are not bad for you. “It’s just too much sugar,” is a common saying about fruit that is preached by several fad diet programs that claim nature’s candy isn’t good for you. Although fruits are natural sources of sugar (complex carbohydrates) they also contain tons of fiber. Fiber helps slow down the transformation of carbohydrates into sugar and therefore the sugar does not get released into the bloodstream as quickly as a simple carbohydrates, like table sugar, candies, and juices.
Yes, you read it right. Fruit juices– even if it comes from 100% fresh fruits– tend to strip away the fiber we need when turning fruits into liquid. The best way to enjoy fruit and all of its benefits is eating it whole.
- Omega 3 fats are healthy and most people don’t get enough: The best sources of omega-3s to add to your diet are salmon, grass-fed meat, and pasture raised eggs while poultry, whole-grain breads and nuts are great dietary sources of omega-6s. We need both omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids for their anti-inflammatory properties. However, most people do not get enough omega 3s while they consume too much omega 6s which leads to unwanted inflammation in the body. We need a good balance of both fatty acids to properly nourish our bodies.
- Seeds (especially Flax seeds) should be ground: Some of us may already know that flax seeds are a great source of omega-3s and fiber, but most people don’t realize that by consuming them whole they won’t be able to absorb most of the beneficial nutrients. Its best to buy or prepare ground flax seeds, often labeled “flax meal”. Bonus tip: using 1 tablespoon of ground flax seeds with about 2 tablespoons of water is a great plant-based egg substitute since the ground seeds absorb water making an egg yolk-like consistency.
- Most vegetables are more nutritious when cooked: While eating all foods in their untouched, raw state may sound like a healthier idea (looking at you raw diet) that’s not necessarily the case. Orange, yellow, and red vegetables along with dark leafy greens contain an antioxidant called beta-carotene that converts to vitamin A in the body. By adding heat and cooking these veggies, the beta-carotene becomes more bioavailable and is better absorbed in the body. The best way to cook veggies is by steaming them.
- There is no such thing as “detoxing”: So many magic liquid tonics, alkalizing diets, and flat tummy teas have become popular with claims that they “detox” or remove harmful toxins in the body. Fact is: your body is so tightly regulated that only your kidneys and liver have the power to detox anything bad. The best way to keep these organs happy is by drinking more water and eating less junk food and alcohol.
- There is a correct way to eat “healthy” fats: First rule when adding healthy fats to your diet (like avocados, nuts, seeds, and plant oils): it is important that the healthy fats replace unhealthy fats such as saturated fats found mainly in animal meats, non-vegetable cooking oils, and dairy. Choose lean meats and proteins while adding seeds and nuts to your diet. When cooking, it’s best to cook things by boiling, broiling, or steaming where you don’t have to use oils. Instead, add those vegetable oils (i.e. avocado and olive oils) to things like salad so that you don’t overheat the oil (which ruins its beneficial properties).
- Unprocessed foods are healthier: Instead of focusing on calories to determine whether or not you’re making a healthy choice, just ask yourself how natural is the food you’re eating? Is it something that’s found readily in nature or was it something made in a factory? For example, it should be obvious that a handful of strawberries are the better choice to a strawberry grain bar. Another good rule of thumb as explained by author and health crusader Michael Pollan: “if it has a commercial you probably shouldn’t eat it”. But that’s not to say you have to be obsessive. Just use it as a guideline and keep packaged foods to a minimum.
- Eating the right type of calories is still important when trying to lose weight: When it comes to weight loss the general consensus is that you have to burn more calories than you consume. But the type of calories does in fact matter. Whole and unprocessed foods like fresh fruits and vegetables, unrefined whole grains, and plain animal proteins offer more than just calories. Extra nutrients like vitamins and minerals improve metabolic functions which are undoubtedly used when burning fat and intentionally shrinking our waistlines. By eating whole foods you’re also likely to have more energy and less crashes which leads to making better choices while reducing cravings of junk foods.
- Supplements do not replace real food: Nature has designed foods to provide all the essential nutrients we need. Unfortunately, we don’t always eat the correct balance of whole foods and taking a pill seems like a healthy and easy way out. But the supplement industry is loosely regulated and it’s hard to tell what you’re actually consuming. On top of that, most pills/supplements include additives like binders and stabilizers that alter the digestion and reduce the absorption of nutrients. Whole foods are always the better option because nature designed foods to work together to improve absorption. For example, consuming a spinach salad with a citrus dressing actually uses the vitamin C in citrus to improve the absorption of iron found in spinach. Without overthinking it, you should strive to eat a variety of whole natural foods to ensure you’re getting enough nutrients. The only time supplements are beneficial is if your doctor has diagnosed you as deficient. In that case, you can still make changes to your diet to eat the correct foods you might be lacking.
While there are many other nutrition factors, these tips are a few you can add to your health quest to help you make the best choices while navigating through all the information out there. Happy nutrition-ing!