I’m loving the growing swell of interest in nutrition and the recognition that how what and how we choose to eat affects how we feel from day to day, and how our health fares now and into the future. However it can get disheartening when the most solid messages about what constitutes a healthy diet are lost in the storm of different ideologies.
But here’s the thing. There is not just one healthy diet. There are many. What suits you may not suit me and vice versa. The optimum diet for you depends on a whole host of factors from your culture (and upbringing), your genetics, your likes and dislikes, any allergies and intolerances, your activity level, your age, your body type, your health, the time of year, the weather and your moral/ethical beliefs.
What we do know from research is that there are commonalties to the most healthful diets. If these are the foundations of your diet, you can build from there to suit your needs. So in a nutshell here are my basic philosophies:
- Develop and maintain a healthy relationship with food where it holds it’s rightful place as something important, but it is not the centre of your life. Be interested and enthusiastic, without becoming cultish and obsessed.
- Enjoy food with friends and family as much as possible, around a table with conversation and not the TV for entertainment.
- Develop and maintain a healthy body image, whatever your size, where you want to nourish your body not to look a certain way, but to be as healthy as you can be.
- Eat more plant food, especially vegies of all colours (I don’t count potatoes here). Half of your plate should be vegies at most meals. This is where your Vitamix is invaluable to add plant food into not just meals, but snacks too.
- Eat nuts and seeds every day – with the exception of allergies. Eat them as whole foods and not as the extracted refined oils.
- Cut back on, or for the more hard core, cut out completely, refined grains i.e. those made from white flour. Choose instead wholegrain varieties – with the exception of allergies and intolerances. (The discussion on grains is a topic for another blog – watch this space!)
- Eat legumes (lentils, chickpeas, beans) – there is even evidence of hunter-gatherers consuming these foods and provided they are soaked and cooked properly we can harness their nutrition and degrade all the so-called anti-nutrients.
- For omnivores, choose best quality meats, taking nutrition, environmental concerns and animal welfare into account. I favour free range or organic (if possible), wild game meats and diversity of meats from animals and birds.
- Choose fish and seafood according to Australia’s Sustainable Seafood Guide.
- Dairy foods offer valuable nutrition to most of us – but you can live without them if you want to or cannot tolerate them. Do be careful with self-diagnosis however – myths about dairy abound and affect your evaluation.
- Enjoy nature’s sweet treats with fresh fruit, a little dried fruit and perhaps a drizzle of honey or maple syrup. Limit instead the foods you buy with little nutritional value and stacks of added refined sugars (e.g. lollies, confectionary, soft drinks, biscuits, cakes and so on).
- Drink water as your main drink. Tea, coffee and vegie-based juices also have valuable benefits.
- Use extra virgin olive oil as your major added fat for dressings and cooking. A little butter and/or coconut oil are fine, but we have no need to have them as supplements. The whole foods have more to offer.
Finally these should be part and parcel of a lifestyle that embraces exercise and activity, stress management, good sleep, and above all be underpinned by joy. If you want to live this way, then you’ll do it. If I tell you that you should live this way, you almost certainly won’t.
To read Dr Joanna's full biography, click here.