In my work as a naturopathic nutritionist I always look at each person as an individual, and so there is no one diet that fits all. However, there is definitely advice that tends to come up again and again. So here are my three top nutrition tips!
Tip One: Eat More Fruit and Vegetables
OK, I hear your hearts sink a little, but believe me I’ve searched high and low for a healthy diet centered around increasing your pastry count, and they just don’t exist. In fact, given how many 1000s of diets and nutritional approaches out there, the one thing they all have in common is “eat more vegetables”. There are many areas of controversy in the nutritional science world, but this isn’t one of them.
Fruit is also incredibly important for our health, although I know some people advocate against too much fruit. Ok, if you have a serious issue with blood sugar levels then I probably would take into account someone’s fruit intake but I personally feel most people could do with eating more fruit and not being made to feel bad about crunching down on an apple. I seriously doubt anyone has diabetes from eating too many plums! Plus, substituting processed sweet snacks for a bunch of grapes is probably more appealing to many people than carrot and celery sticks.
So, why are fruit and vegetables so important? From a straight forward, scientific point of view, they are packed with fibre, vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients. There is currently a lot of research into the potential role phytonutrients play in disease prevention, particularly cancer and heart disease. What the studies show is that isolating specific phytonutrients and giving them in high doses is not so successful, whereas if you get high quantities through eating enough fruit and vegetables they are much more effective. And really why should this surprise us? Nature usually finds the most effective way of providing us with what we need.
From an energetic point of view this is also clear – the minute we start messing with what nature provides, the frequency changes. A fresh, organic apple (or any piece of fruit you can think of) holds a high vibration – whereas a processed, sugar-laden apple puree doesn’t. Or even extracting one element of the apple (e.g. apple pectin) and taking it in high quantities – whilst this can definitely provide some benefit, it’s important that this doesn’t become a substitute for eating fruit and veg in their whole form. We can learn a lot from our fruit and vegetables – left to their own devices, they grow in perfect harmony. When we eat fresh fruit and vegetables, we are taking this harmony into our system.
The best advice around fruit and vegetables is to eat a rainbow of colours. Variety is the key, and the different colours support the different chakras. People often over estimate how much they have, so it can be helpful to keep track for a week or two. You can download a tracker below to help. Fruit and Veg Tracker
Tip Two: Include Oily Fish in Your Diet
Oily fish include salmon, mackerel, herring, anchovies and sardines. All the good press they receive is well deserved for a number of reasons. They are an excellent source of protein, minerals such as iron, calcium, iodine and selenium, and fat soluble vitamins such as vitamin D and A. But what I want to focus on are the omega 3 fatty acids they contain. Omega 3 fats are hugely beneficial for our health, often due to their role in lowering inflammation which is associated with pretty much any condition you can think of. They have been shown to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, through keeping our heart and blood vessels healthy. They are also are known to support healthy brain function, healthy skin and a strong immune system. Aim for 2 servings of oily fish every week. Do make sure you look for the MSC label, which recognises sustainability with fishing practices.
Tip Three: Reduce Your Sugar Intake
Despite a misguided fat-free campaign, the anti-sugar message is now finally starting to take off. The problem with sugar is that it’s not just in the obvious things like sweets and cakes, but is also hidden in most processed foods including sauces, crisps and ready meals; therefore it becomes very difficult for people to judge just how much they are having. Our bodies are only designed to deal with a certain amount of sugar, and if we overwhelm our system, then our blood sugar levels rise too high and our body is forced to store it as fat. Although we are incredibly adept at dealing with high blood sugar levels, long term our system just can’t keep up and this is a big factor in the development of type 2 diabetes.
To start with, look for the obvious offenders like sweets and biscuits – but I’m not advocating you never have them because there really is nothing wrong with the odd bit of cake or biscuit with a cup of tea. Plus, the minute you tell yourself you “can’t” have something, then if you are anything like me, that’s all you can think about! It’s about getting it in balance and making sure you have plenty of healthy foods, like fruit and vegetables, in your diet. As you reduce the sugar in your diet you’ll crave it less, and the highly processed sugary foods won’t actually taste as nice. You’ll find you would rather go for the occasional treat with good quality ingredients, rather than the cheap, chemical laden versions – there is chocolate cake and there is chocolate cake after all! And these days it’s pretty easy to find really delicious options, such as raw chocolate or Nakd Bars.
So this is a little extra tip, based on my own experience. It’s great to focus on making healthy changes to your diet, I’m all for it, but it’s also important to do it in a relaxed way. Build things up slowly and make changes you enjoy – a few changes made consistently can go a long way. Making extreme changes and feeling guilty about eating any foods that aren’t strictly speaking highly nutritious isn’t great for self-esteem and can lead to getting a bit obsessed by it all. Some people with a medical condition or significant symptoms do require more drastic changes – I see this in my practice, but most people can realistically aim for an 80/20 type of balance – this way you can’t go too far wrong in any direction.
So over the next three months, why not try taking these tips on board. You could start on all three at once, or introduce a new one each month, starting with the one you feel would be easiest. Whatever works for you. The most important thing is to see making these changes as a choice, rather than something being enforced on you. That way you are much more likely to stick to them long term.