I'm sure you've heard the expression "you are what you eat". A more accurate version would actually be "you are what you absorb", but it shows the huge impact of what we put into our bodies. Do any of the following sound familar?
- Frequently feeling tired and sluggish?
- Feeling bloated?
- Craving sweet foods?
- Always feeling hungry?
- Suffering from brain fog?
If you've answered yes to the above, it's worth examining your diet. The most important step is to be mindful of how you feel after eat as there is no optimal diet for everyone. However, the following guidelines are what does work for the vast majority of people, including myself and my clients. Or if you prefer to watch a video presentation instead of read, one is available below.
Remove or limit inflammatory foods
The body has a limited capacity to handle inflammation, and an excessive or chronic amount of inflammation is the root cause of many diseases. Try removing, or at least limiting, these foods from your diet:
- Sugar - processed sugar is highly inflammatory in the body. It also causes our body to produce large amounts on insulin to deal with the sugar, which results in a sugar crash which causes brain fog, crankiness and tiredness, as well as then making us crave more sugar! Long term high carbohydrate diets also lead to insulin resistance and eventually diabetes. Natural sources such as honey and maple syrup are better, but don't go overboard using these either.
- Processed oils such as canola and soy - these were initially thought to be healthy, but research has since shown they cause inflammation in the body. Use healthy oils instead (see below).
- Dairy, including whey protein powder - even if not dairy intolerant, the proteins in dairy tends to be inflammatory and cause excessive mucus in the body. Try removing dairy for 30 days, then add it back in to see the effect is has on your body.
- Gluten - again, even if not gluten intolerant, it tends to be inflammatory effect in the body. Try removing gluten for 30 days, then add it back in to see the effect is has on your body.
- Soy - this one is still a little controversial, but soy is also inflammatory in the body. Limit the consumption of this, or make sure you the sources of soy in your diet are fermented (tempeh, miso etc) as this process removes the majority of inflammatory compounds of soy.
- Alcohol - while the fermentation process does confer some antioxidant effects, especially in wine, alcohol is toxic to the body. Limit consumption to once or twice a week, and only have one or two drinks at a time. Alcohol also disrupts sleep patterns.
Eat nutrient dense foods
- Vegetables - full of vitamins, nutrients and antioxidants, these should form the basis of your diet. Limit potatoes as these are high in simple carbohydrates and can be slightly inflammatory - use sweet potato or some other root vegetable instead.
- A small amount of fruit - fruit contains a lot of nutrients, but it is also high in sugar. Limit consumption to one or two servings per day. Berries are the best fruit to consume as they are low in sugar and extremely nutrient dense.
- Organ meats - in today's world we focus on eating the muscle meat and get a bit grossed out about eating organ meats, but these are far more nutrient dense than muscle meat. Liver has been called nature's multi-vitamin, but also heart, kidney and even marrow are very good for you - try to eat these once or twice a week.
Protein helps the body repair itself and keeps you full. Protein is an essential macronutrient. Try and eat hormone free / free range chicken, and grass fed meat.
- Eggs - full of vitamins (contains everything required to grow a baby chicken!), eat both the white and the yolk
- Fish - fatty fish such as salmon, tuna and sardines are the better choices due to their high omega 3 content
- Chicken - chicken does contain more omega 6 than omega 3, so be sure to balance it's consumption with fish (or fish oil) or other healthy oils, nuts and seeds.
- Red meat - eating red meat is not bad for you, but limit it's consumption and try to include more of the above protein sources
- Lentis - while other pulses such as beans and chickpeas may be mildly inflammatory in the body (depending on the source), lentils are a great source of protein while still being anti-inflammatory. Just be sure to soak all pulses first to remove anti-nutrients (and for less gas!).
- Pea, rice or hemp protein powder - these are good plant based sources of protein
Simple carbohydrates such as pasta, bread and rice act like sugar in the body. Small amounts are fine, but do reduce these foods. Carbohydrates are actually not an essential macronutrient as the body can produce sufficient energy from protein and fat. Instead, replace these foods with vegetables and protein. You can use also use coconut and almond flour as low carb substitutes in bread, cakes and pancakes.
Eat healthy fats
Dietary studies have shown that fat from healthy sources are excellent for the body and brain, and in fact fat is an essential nutrient and is necessary for hormone production. Fats consumed are not simply stored as body fat! Consume the following:
- Olive oil, coconut oil, ghee (clarified butter - basically butter without the dairy component), and avocado oil - use liberally when cooking vegetables
- Nuts and seeds (including chia and hemp seeds), olives and avocados. Soak all nuts and seeds first except chia, hemp and sessame seeds
- Fatty cuts of fish, chicken and meat, eggs
Think about gut health
Our guts contain billions of bacteria and keeping this microbiome healthy means you can absorb the nutrients from the foods you eat. These bacteria also product a lot of the beneficial neurotransmitters such as serotonin. An unhealthy microbiome can lead to leaky gut, which is food literally passing through the lining of the gut into the body, causing auto-immune diseases.
- Eat fermented foods such as sauerkraut, or kefir - these actually contain healthy bacteria to colonise your gut. If you wish to eat some dairy, a little bit of yoghurt or aged cheese is OK as these are fermented which removes a lot of the inflammatory components of the dairy.
- Try adding bone broth or gelatin to your diet
- Eat plenty of fibre - fibre is food for your gut bacteria
- Try probiotics - if you're struggling getting on top of your gut health, or especially if you have been taking antibiotics which kill healthy and harmful gut bacteria)
Nutritional advice also forms part of my Holistic Personal Training service.
30 days to conscious living
As busy people, we often don't have the time to ensure our diet is on point, and it's difficult sticking to a healthy eating plan. If this sounds like you, there is a 30 days to conscious living program that can help you learn to live and eat consciously. It includes information about being conscious about what you eat and how you live, along with support material, a facebook group and an accountability checklist.
Here is a video prentation with some more info about the program - contact me now if you're interested in joining and working towards better health and wellbeing!
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