Updated: Apr 12, 2020
"Eating a properly prepared, nutrient-dense, whole food diet provides the fuel and essential building blocks the body needs to maintain health and balance." (Nutritional Therapy Association)
God created our bodies with amazing innate healing mechanisms! In order for these mechanisms to work, our bodies need macro and micro nutrients, vitamins, minerals as well as enzymes, phytonutrients and antioxidants to help reduce inflammation, help us get rid of toxins and promote healing and regeneration.
While we are all bio-individuals, with different needs, there are some general principles that apply to everyone, when it comes to eating a healthy diet (an individual healing from a chronic health issue will have significantly different nutritional needs than someone who has no or minimal health history):
1. Drink enough water each day
We can't achieve optimal health without proper hydration. Water is essential for nutrient and oxygen delivery to our cells, it helps lubricate joints, it helps regulate body temperature, helps improve cellular communication, helps flush out toxins and more. Here are a few guideline for water consumption:
Drink about half your body weight (lbs), in ounces of water. For example, a person weighing 120 lbs needs to drink approximately 60 oz of water. You may need more or less water depending on climate you live in, level of physical activity, pregnancy or breastfeeding and overall health.
Sip water throughout the day, don't chug it all at once. The body can only process a limited amount of water at a time.
Don't drink too much water. Avoid drinking more than a gallon of water each day as it can lead to hyponatremia.
2. Avoid refined sugar and refined carbohydrates
A diet high in sugar causes major blood-sugar swings, with increased levels of insulin that stress the pancreas, long term, and sets the stage for adult-onset diabetes. Sugar worsens pain and inflammation in the body, it feeds yeast in the gut, it can deplete minerals and can cause or worsen allergies, asthma, irritable bowel syndrome, headaches, fatigue, depression and more.
Check out this article for ways you can significantly reduce your sugar consumption.
3. Cook at home, from scratch
The goal is to avoid foods that come in a box, bag or can. Processed food does not support health. Boxed foods and sadly, most restaurant foods, often contain refined vegetable oils such as canola, soybean, corn, safflower and sunflower oil that are toxic and can wreak havoc on your health. Many of the canned and packaged products also contain preservatives, artificial coloring, toxic additives and can leach harmful chemicals such as BPA or aluminum.
Food that is not properly prepared is depleted of nutrients and beneficial enzymes and manufacturers will often fortify the foods with synthetic vitamins that are more difficult to be absorb and used by our bodies.
Cooking at home, from scratch, can get overwhelming and frustrating. I will soon be writing an article about ways you can make this transition more enjoyable and more affordable.
4. Eat a wide variety of vegetables
Make vegetables the bulk of your diet and include as many colors and varieties in your diet as you can. Aim for at least 2-3 servings of veggies with each meal. Include at least a serving of leafy greens each day, and rotate through the varieties. A few examples are: spinach, red leaf lettuce, green leaf lettuce, Romaine lettuce, arugula, radicchio, kale, beet greens (yes, they are edible), chard, dandelion greens and many more.
Focusing on eating vegetables that are in season and local is not only more affordable but also
ensures you get the most benefits, as some nutrients get lost shortly after harvesting. Grow your own vegetables, if you can, or find local farmer markets or farms that deliver in your area, for the freshest and most nutrient dense options.
For increased nutrients and health benefits, select the varieties that are more brightly colored. Replace white potatoes with red, for example, or if you're lucky enough to find them, purple potatoes. When selecting leafy greens, choose the darkest ones. The "greens" that are the most nutritious are actually not green but purple or red. These are followed by dark green varieties.
A great book to read, on this topic, is Eating on the Wild Side by Jo Robinson.
5. Prepare your food properly
Some nutrients are better used by the body when they are in raw form while others get absorbed easier when cooked, fermented, sprouted or at least soaked. A few key ideas to remember are:
According to the Nutritional Therapy Association, foods rich in lycopene, beta-carotene, carotendoids in green vegetables, sulphoraphane, folate, iron and high protein foods are optimally cooked, in order for us to best utilize their nutrients
Roasting or sauteing vegetables for a few minutes allows them to keep most of the nutrients. When you boil any vegetables, a high content of the nutrients are lost in the water
Plants produce anti-nutrients (phytic acid, lectins and other enzyme inhibitors) that protect the seeds from premature germination and ward off predators. When we eat grains, legumes, nuts and seeds that have not been sprouted, fermented or at least soaked, we are also consuming these anti-nutrients. And while there are some health benefits to eating these anti-nutrients in small quantities, they can wreak havoc on our bodies when eaten on a regular basis. I will write an article with more information on how to properly prepare these foods.
7. Eat slowly and chew properly
Our saliva contains enzymes that facilitate digestion. When we chew our food until it's liquid, our bodies can better absorb the nutrients, digestion can happen easier and the risk of harmful bacteria growing in the gut is decreased.
To form this new habit, count each bite at least 20 times, before you swallow or set your fork down between bites to slow your pace.
8. Eat fermented foods
If your body is tolerating fermented foods, aim at incorporating a few bites of a fermented food, each day. Fermented foods are high in beneficial bacteria that will help keep the harmful bacteria under control, provide you with digestive enzymes and much needed nutrients.
It is best to alternate the variety of fermented foods you eat (ex: raw kimchi, raw sauerkraut, raw beet kvass and various kefirs).
I shared a lot of information and you may feel overwhelmed. Remember you don't need to do it all at once. Start small and set goals for yourself, each week or each month. Don't take on more than you can handle. In order for you to be successful, these changes need to be sustainable and realistic for your situation. I am proud of you for taking the time to learn about nutrition and trust that you will look back, in a year or two, and you will be proud of how much you accomplished.