It seems like the US dietary guidelines change more often than technology itself. One day, an egg is good for you and the next it will increase your risk of heart attack. The next day, it's good for you again. Sometimes, the whiplash of these recommendations can all get a little bit....overwhelming, to say the least.
As research continues to evolve in determining what we should eat to attain optimal health, one piece of evidence remains clear: High-quality food is important.
FOOD QUALITY MATTERS
The dietary slogan, “A calorie is a calorie” can be a huge distraction when trying to determine what to include in your healthy diet. Rather than choosing foods based only on caloric value though, think instead about choosing high-quality, healthy foods, and minimizing low-quality foods.
So, what is the difference?
Low-quality foods include refined, processed, artificial foods with added preservatives.
1.) Highly processed snack foods (I'm talking about you, OREOS...)
2.) Sugar sweetened beverages like soda, energy drinks, and artificial fruit juices.
3.) Refined (white) grains such as rice and flour
4.) Refined sugars and artificial sweeteners (diet drinks contain these - watch out!)
5.) Fried foods such as french fries
6.) Foods high in saturated and trans fats
7.) High-glycemic foods such as potatoes.
High-quality foods are unrefined, minimally processed and usually fresh.
3.) Whole grains
4.) Healthy fats (avocados baby!)
5.) Healthy Protiens (don't limit yourself to just meat - plants have protein too! Some of the most powerful animals on the planet - gorillas, elephants, horses, etc. - are all herbivores.)
* Health Tip: Don't forget your water!
Obviously, there isn’t one “perfect” diet for everyone. However, there are some basic guidelines that you can follow to achieve your maximum beneficial diet...
BASIC NUTRITIONAL GUIDELINES FOR A HEALTHY LIFESTYLE
A study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry found that the levels of health-promoting anthocyanin pigments more than quadrupled as blackberries became fully ripe. With less transport time, local foods can be picked at the peak of freshness and will retain more nutrients than foods coming from farther away.
Another study performed by researchers at Montclair State University compared the vitamin C content of broccoli grown in season with broccoli imported out of season and found that the latter had only half the vitamin C as the former.
For maximum nutritional value, buy local.
The Soil Association notes that an organic diet increases the consumption of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and essential fatty acids. Who wouldn't want that in their diet?!?
Organic food is also much safer, as non-organic food often contains harmful hormones and pesticides which can cause a myriad of health problems for humans regarding neurological function, cancer, infertility, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, allergies/asthma, wheezing, rashes/skin problems, ADHD, birth defects and more.
If your reading this article, we're guessing that is something you want to stay away from. To avoid the poison, go organic.
GO PLANT BASED
In the most comprehensive study ever conducted on nutrition, T. Colin Campbell determined that a whole food, plant based diet can stop and in some cases reverse the growth of cancer, heart disease, type II diabetes (and most other diseases), while exponentially improving the overall health of an individual. In other words, eat plants, live better.
Not to mention, COWS contribute more to greenhouse gas emissions than CARS. Livestock emissions make up anywhere between 14.5 and 18 percent of total global greenhouse gas emissions. Comparably, the transportation sector is responsible for around 14 percent of emissions, so choosing more plant-based foods not only gives you a healthier more sustainable diet, it also helps the environment.
The higher the percentage of your protein intake that comes from plant foods, the more earth-friendly your eating will be.
LEARN TO READ LABELS
You should be able to pronounce most (if not all) of the ingredients on the food labels that you buy. If you can't, buy differently.
The cleanest and most healthful foods will usually have fewer ingredients and be easy to understand. Except for items like trail mix that just have...well a lot of different components, your food should be fairly simple. A good rule of thumb is stick to no more than 5-7 ingredients in a packaged food when possible.
This doesn't apply to everything, so use your best judgement and don't be afraid to whip out your phone in the middle of the market to look up an ingredient if you don't know what it is. Better yet, take some time at home and go through the labels already in your pantry. What are you consuming that you can't pronounce or don't understand?
Reading labels and being educated on ingredients will have a huge impact on the health of your diet.
FOCUS ON ADDING - NOT TAKING AWAY
We all have a kryptonite in our diets. Perhaps yours is an energy drink you use to get through the work week, or a go-to candy bar you consume when your sweet tooth is acting up. Instead of saying, "Im never going to eat _______ again, simply focus on adding higher quality foods into your diet. After all, life is about BALANCE.
If you're having a difficult time figuring out to what to eat, start basic and get out of your comfort zone. Ever had dragonfruit? Ever tried adding micro greens into your salad, or sprouts into your whole grain sandwich? Ever juiced a jicama? There are so many foods to experience, and keeping it simple is key.
The more you try, the more your palate will change and you'll start choosing higher quality foods over low quality foods.
HOW DO I START?
What we consume is our fuel, but no one is perfect. If you're having a difficult time implementing high quality foods into your life but don't have a lot of time, consider using a farm to table option like Kristin's Farm Stand or order a basket from Miller Farms here in Colorado.
Need more ideas? Simply visit the USDA's website to find farmers markets and other local services in your area.
There is always a way to eat better.