What is a healthy diet? At its most basic level a healthy diet should consist of good quality protein from an array of different sources, low GI carbohydrates, healthy fats and a rainbow of fruits and vegetables. All of these will work together to keep your blood sugar stable and stop those sugary carbohydrate cravings that we all get when we need a quick energy boost.
In this post you will learn about macronutrients and food combining to help you achieve a healthy well-rounded diet that will boost your health and vitality to the next level. Other advantages will include stable blood sugar, which is the absolute cornerstone of good health and will also keep you within a healthy BMI range and your weight down.
Sugar and Chronic inflammation
Sugar contributes to inflammation in the body and chronic inflammation is thought to be the driver of many diseases, but you can temper this inflammation by changing your diet and adding more nutritious plant foods in general.
Many of us have different ideas and beliefs as to what constitutes a healthy diet, and many of these beliefs are more than likely misguided. There are so many different diet and so called healthy eating plans out there that it can all get very confusing. We are obsessed by food, and this is more evident now than ever before what with the culture of instagram and other social media platforms all awash with pictures of beautifully prepared meals.
So many diets – so little time!
We are in a culture filled with so many different types of diets and ways of eating such as veganism, plant based, raw vegan, high protein, low carb, fruitarian – and that’s just the tip of the iceberg lettuce, excuse the pun. There are also lots of different short term diet plans and detoxification systems out there all promising you that fabulous beach body in an impossible amount of time.
It’s all so exhausting and can leave you pretty confused, or worse still, completely despondent about which way to turn. But fear not, you don’t need to go on some set up to fail crazy diet plan, simply apply small changes that will add up over time. For instance, swap your usual mid-afternoon snack of biscuits or cake, for a handful of nuts and a piece of fresh fruit; OR, eat less starchy potatoes with your main meal and pile on the green veggies instead.
These small changes, when applied daily, will start building new neural pathways in your brain until in the end they become habit. Change one small thing a week as per example, and just think how quickly this will set you on the path for LIFELONG changes – which is ultimately what you need to aim for if you want increased vitality, a stronger immune system, and a longer, happier life. Well worth the effort it right?
The body can heal itself given the right conditions
I started my healthy eating journey many years ago after looking endlessly for help to ease my depression and anxiety (this was back in the dark ages where there wasn’t the help available that there is today). I quickly realised (after finally discovering nutrition) that the body is this amazing tool that can heal itself from most things if given the right materials (i.e. the food we eat), and this PROVED itself over and over again to be something that would change my life forever.
The reason I talk so much about nutrition and depression and anxiety is because it is was the most effective tool that I used (and am still using to this day) to help overcome it. I’m not saying I’m cured as it’s a chronic condition, but I now know how to manage it through diet, and VERY importantly, exercise.
If you do suffer from any mental illness it is advisable to speak with your doctor first about your symptoms as you may need other treatment alongside healthy eating and exercise.
Foods to Ditch
This post is designed to help you understand the foods you should be be eating for better health; the foods you should cut down on; and how to implement correct food combining to be sure you are receiving all the nutrients you need . Remember, you don’t need to ditch everything at once, just start with a few items a week, or make simple swaps as you go along.
- Anything deep-fried.
- Confectionery such as sweets, pastries, biscuits and cakes.
- All kinds of vegetable oils such as corn, canola, soybean, safflower, sunflower and cottonseed.
- Anything refined such as white bread, white flour, white rice, white sugar and white pasta.
- Fast foods such as burgers, fries, pizzas and takeaways.
- Ready meals/ frozen meals such as pizza, pies, chips and most things in the frozen section. Exceptions are frozen vegetables, fruits, and some ranges of healthier low salt, low fat convenience meals.
- Fizzy drinks and fruit juices.
Foods to add in to your diet
To keep things simple, I have put them into groups of the nutrients they are dominant in, therefore if you choose your meals from all of these groups then you are sure to cover all bases.
Fresh Fruits of all Kinds
- High carbohydrate fruits – pineapple, papaya, mango, grapes, banana, pomegranate, fresh figs.
- Medium carbohydrate fruits – melons, apricots, peaches, apples, pears, orange citrus fruits.
- Low carbohydrate fruits – all berries including blueberries, blackberries, strawberries, raspberries, redcurrants, blackcurrants.
(These are high carbohydrate as their sugars have been condensed)
- Dates, figs, sultanas, raisins, apricots, mango, pineapple, prunes, goji berries
Vegetables of all kinds
- High carbohydrate vegetables – potatoes, parsnips, carrots, beetroot, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, squash.
- Low carbohydrate vegetables – all greens, broccoli, asparagus, spinach, courgette, cauliflower, avocado, peppers.
- Wholegrain bread
- Brown rice
- Wholegrain pasta
- Cracked wheat
- Oats and oatmeal
- Green peas
- Yellow split peas
- Beans – black, pinto, cannellini, butter, chickpeas, borlotti, haricot, kidney beans.
- Beans (beans are both a carbohydrate and a protein, though they do not contain a complete amino profile)
- Quinoa (quinoa is one of the few known foods that contains both protein, carbohydrate, omega 3 fats, and a complete amino acid profile, so can therefore be eaten alone as a complete meal on its own). It’s one of nature’s true superfoods.
FOODS THAT CONTAIN BOTH PROTEIN AND FAT:
- Nuts – peanuts, almonds, cashews, walnuts, brazils, macadamia, hazelnuts, pine nuts, and pecans.
- Seeds – pumpkin, sunflower, sesame, poppy, flax, hemp, chia.
- Nuts – peanuts, almonds, cashews, walnuts, Brazil’s, macadamia, hazelnuts, pine nuts, pecans.
- Seeds – pumpkin, sunflower, sesame, poppy, flax, hemp, chia.
- Olive oil (for cooking)
- Extra virgin olive oil (for using COLD only) – do not cook with extra virgin olive oil as it turns toxic when heated)
- Extra virgin Coconut Oil ( can be used cold AND for cooking at high temperatures; so a great all-rounder).
- Avocado oil (cold only)
- Flax oil (cold only)
- SUGAR ALTERNATIVES (These should be used only in moderation)
- Raw honey
- Maple syrup
- Coconut nectar sugar
- Brown rice syrup
You should also consider adding to your diet these antioxidant rich superfoods to ensure you are getting optimal amounts of all the nutrients you need. The high amount of antioxidants in these foods will not only help neutralise all those nasty free radicals in your body, but are anti aging, and will help keep your immune system strong.
Green Super Food Powders:-
Green superfood powders really are a great addition to any diet no matter how healthful it may be, as they are bursting with antioxidants, phytonutrients, chlorophyll, and all kinds of other fat busting and detoxifying nutrients. When your body is in a high state of detoxification it won’t be storing toxins into fat cells, but eliminating them instead, which ultimately means the shrinkage of these fat cells, therefore a slimmer waistline for you.
OR, for ease you could buy a blend such as Dr. Schulze’s superfood blend. This has a unique mix of all of the green superfoods, and is also processed in a way that gives it a high uptake and absorption rate into the body – meaning it is quickly transported into cells to give you an energy boost within 20 minutes. This REALLY works, and is probably the best super food powder and most powerful detoxifyer I have tried so far, and I’ve tried many!
Reasons to supplement with a superfood powder:-
- A fast energy boost.
- Clear, glowing skin.
- Twinkling eyes (yes, this really happens).
- It’s like the ULTIMATE multivitamin.
- Immune booster.
- Great for recovery from sickness.
- Pure, fast nutrition.
- Anti inflammatory.
- Can boost weight loss.
- Low GI, so great for diabetics.
CORRECT FOOD COMBINING
All of the above foods are healthy examples of what you should be eating at every meal and snack for optimum nutrition. I recommend reading this Beginner’s Guide, and veering towards a more plant based diet and obtaining most of your protein through nuts, seeds, wholegrains, soy, temph, quinoa, buckwheat and pulses. Animal products (especially dairy and eggs) are mostly acid forming and therefore may contribute to chronic inflammation in the body, in turn may lead to accelerated ageing on both the inside and out.
The astounding side effects of a plant based diet
Since eating a plant based diet, I have seen a LOT of changes in myself: I have great skin, more energy, and I notice I never get the aches and pains after exercise that I used to; plus, I rarely get PMS or hormonal problems, and I can also sleep a lot better; more deeply. I also find tat I rarely get sick with any colds, flus or viruses since eating plant based. and if I do it is much shorter lasting.
Another thing I have noticed, is that the painful knees I suffered with for years (the result of too much running on concrete) have also got a whole lot better since cutting out animal products – this one is for sure a result of less chronic inflammation, there is just no doubt about it, it’s as clear as day.
Chronic inflammation can make you sick!
All of those problems, funnily enough (or maybe not so funny), can be a result of too much chronic inflammation in the body, and so this proves my point about animal products (especially dairy) and their role in chronic inflammation issues. It is well worth considering cutting down on these to see how much better you may feel; but always make sure you combine foods properly so you don’t miss out on vital nutrients and amino acids.
How to combine foods correctly:-
To keep blood sugar as stable as possible, you should make sure you always have (with every meal or snack) some protein, a wholegrain carbohydrate or vegetable, and a little healthy fat. The carbohydrates and protein should be roughly in a 2:1 ratio. You should also add low carbohydrate fruits and vegetables on top of this ratio for extra nutrients, antioxidants and phytochemicals – all of which will boost your immune system, are anti aging, and help fight disease.
A perfect example of a complete meal would be a pick from each section of these examples:-
- Main meals:- Brown rice, chickpea curry, side salad with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, and a piece fruit, OR: A bean/lentil dish with quinoa and steamed greens, piece of fruit.
- Snacks:- 2 oatcakes with peanut butter, tahini or avocado. OR Handful of nuts or seeds with dried or fresh fruit.
Notice how these meals contain all the nutrients from the main 3 food groups of protein, fats, and carbohydrates.
In many cases, a single food may contain elements of all the main 3 food groups, and a perfect example of this would be quinoa. Another good example of a food that contains 2 of the groups would be peanut butter (or most nuts and seeds in general) as they are high in protein AND healthy monounsaturated fats. And pulses are an example of a food that contain both protein and carbohydrates.
Please check out this free 1 week diet plan for more great samples of correct food combining.
A FEW MORE TOP TIPS:
- Sugars are CARBOHYDRATES, so when deciphering food labels you can look in the section where it says ‘carbohydrates‘ and it will tell you the total amount, which will also include the starches. Underneath that section you will find the ‘carbohydrates of which sugars‘; this is the amount of actual sugar in that food. Check whether this is either per 100g, the whole product, or just a portion of that product so you can work out exactly how much is in the amount you are going to be consuming.
- Ideally you want to go for as low a sugar content as possible; I’m talking about the ‘carbohydrates of which sugars‘ here, and not just ALL the carbohydrates in total. 22g per 100 grams is considered very high, so that will give you some point of reference. Try not to go over 10 grams per 100 grams in total, and don’t forget to count this towards your daily amount.
- The average man should consume no more than 37.5 grams (9 teaspoons) of sugar, the average woman 25 grams (6 teaspoons), and a child 12 grams (3 teaspoons).
- Always eat a rainbow of colours every day from the fruits and veggies section.
- Eat fats and proteins alongside carbohydrates (especially the higher sugar carbs like potatoes, high sugar fruits, and the other sugar alternatives mentioned above), which will slow down the sugar release even more to keep blood sugar stable.
- Try not to eat fried, browned or burnt foods (especially meats) as they are carcinogenic (it is shown in some studies that carcinogens may be cancer causing, especially when eaten a lot and in a diet that contains few antioxidants to counteract the effects).
- It is always good to have a little fat with meals as it helps with the absorption of many of the fat soluble nutrients such as A,D,E, and K.
- If you have decided (as suggested) on going more plant based with your diet, then be sure to add extra calcium in the form of sesame seeds (tahini is a great sesame seed type butter or dip), oranges, sweet potatoes, tofu, fresh and dried figs, and lots of leafy green vegetables.
- If you are following a plant based diet then you will more than likely need a B12 supplement, as B12 is mostly found only in animal products.
Thanks for checking out this article today! If you have any questions you would like me to answer about the plant based diet then please feel free to post in the comments section below and I will be more than happy to help.