Various diet trends and ways of eating come and go; they work well for some but not for everyone, hence, we keep on searching. Paleo might work great for a friend and veganism for another, but that’s no reason for you to feel pressurized into going with either.
Ideally, we should make our own food choices based on our culture, religion, social and food preferences, and for environmental and medical reasons – regardless, what we can do is make the diet we do choose to be as healthy as we possibly can.
Our current state of health is a product of our genetics and our lifestyle to-date — how we move forward is up to us, based on how healthy we are determined to be
So looking to your genetics – if your parents are very healthy and ate a particular diet, then this might be what works well also for you. If on the other hand, they suffer from certain illnesses, and you carry the same risk, then take lessons from their diet and lifestyle.
If your own lifestyle and way of eating to date have contributed to non-genetic health symptoms, then it’s time to make some changes to your daily habits, not just relating to your nutrition, but perhaps also sleep, exercise, de-stressing and so on.
With respect to your diet, the important thing is to make the healthiest choice possible so that you consume the most natural, wholesome, nutrient-dense, additive-free, fresh food – ensuring your diet is varied and balanced. E.g. if you choose to consume dairy, aim for organic if affordable – but also enjoy milk, yoghurts and cheese from other sources – from organic rice, nuts, coconuts etc. That way you enjoy a wider variety of foods, and a broader range of nutrients.
In functional medicine, we talk about “food as information” – foods carry different messages to our cells regardless of their ‘energy’ or calorie content. For example, a sugary donut gives the message to our body to produce insulin to control the glucose hit to our cells. Overproduction of insulin causes us to hold on to fat, can lead to an overworked pancreas and eventually impacts our adrenals – which means our hormones are out of balance; meanwhile, that same sugar depletes our body of existing nutrients.
On the other hand, the signal from a fillet of roasted salmon (same energy, or ‘calories’) with all the essential amino acids (complete protein) and those healthy fatty acids (e.g. omega 3s) is to nourish our brain cells, reduce inflammation, absorb fat-soluble vitamins and strengthen our immunity. And of course the ‘cleaner’ the source of this food, the better.
So rather thinking about food in ‘calorific’ or satiety terms, think about the message it sends to your body, and make your food choices based on this.
If you have symptoms that are bothering you, rather than make sudden changes, I encourage you to be your ‘own nutritionist’ by keeping a Health Journal for a couple of weeks – this is a great way to step back and look at how healthy you are being overall – sometimes we get far too caught up in the detail, and don’t see the bigger picture.
As you track your food, water, sleep, exercise, energy levels, health symptoms, etc:
1) You get a picture of the overall quality (and quantity) of your diet/ sleep/exercise/hydration… you might be surprised with the findings here!
2) Be your own detective – often foods/environment make us feel tired, bloated, our skin to flare… because we have a slight sensitivity to it, or possibly an allergy. Ongoing, this can eventually lead to something more sinister (leaky gut, auto-immune) so best ‘nipped in the bud’ early.
There are many factors that influence how you feel – maybe your energy is low because you don’t fuel properly before a workout; perhaps you are dehydrated causing you to become constipated; being totally over-stressed might be impacting your thyroid health – this detective work might be enough for you to decide what culprit to eliminate from your diet to see if this makes a difference. It might become clear that you need to add nutrients to your diet (e.g. Omega 3s to help with inflammation; consume more fermented foods to help with leaky gut), and of course, tests can also be taken to confirm if you are lacking in nutrients.
There is no doubt we’ve over-complicated nutrition – there’s a lot of confusion out there regarding what we should and shouldn’t eat, how best to prepare and cook, and how much we should enjoy. An example is whether or not to be gluten-free. My advice has always been to vary your intake of grains (or any food), so as not be over-reliant on a single source. If you’ve no issue with gluten, and show no sensitivity to it, then continue to enjoy it in moderation. However, with leaky gut, digestive issues, or with auto-immune, then going gluten-free is very likely to help, and is certainly worth trying.
Probably the best way for me to give specifics regarding how foods and certain diet styles help towards your improved health is to take your specific questions firstname.lastname@example.org
Many thanks, and I look forward to hearing from you!
Also, if you e would like access to the Health Journal that I use with clients, feel free to email me.
When not not busy in my favourite role as mother to my two boys, I dedicate my time to educate, motivate and inspire us all to lead healthier, happier lives. This involves hosting Nutrition courses (in-class and online), corporate wellness talks, workshops and when I have time, private consultations.
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