My interest in nutrition was spurred on by health problems I had in my early twenties. They included fatigue, acne, anxiety and mood swings.
I was lucky enough to come across an amazing clinical nutritionist who helped me uncover some answers and helped me to solve my health issues through a number of different lifestyle changes. Not long after this time my father was diagnosed with a rare cancer, he began a nutrition program in an attempt to support his body healing. This change in diet improved his health for many years.
Witnessing the positive changes in myself and my father that can be made through a healthy diet stimulated my passion for health and wellbeing.
Over the last decade I’ve dedicated myself to learning as much as I possible could about health. I’ve learned an incredible amount in this time and have tried and tested many different ways of eating.
It’s a real challenge in this day and age with the overwhelming amount of information out there about the ‘best diet/food’ for people. The list seems endless with the different ‘diets’ available such as high protein, low fat, high fat, paleo, vegan, vegetarian, Atkins, macrobiotic, raw food diet, Mediterranean diet, ketogenic, low carb, just to name a few! No wonder people are confused and often give up.
What I’ve discovered over the years is that there is no one size fits all approach. Sometimes it does take some trial and error and experimenting with what works for you. The research I have read outlines there are some fundamental aspects of diet that if incorporated into an eating plan have been found to be fairly conclusive in terms of health improvement.
- Eat a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, at least 5 servings a day but preferably 8 for optimal health. Studies have shown this reduces the risk of cancer, stroke, heart attack, depression and anxiety, psychological stress and early death.
- Eat adequate protein. This can be from many different sources, vegetarian or animal sources. As you age you lose muscle and muscle depends on protein to be maintained. This is particularly important for people over the age of 50. Protein is required for just about every function in the body and is vital for physical and mental health. Try adding a protein source to every meal.
- Avoid highly processed foods. The evidence is strong for this, as these foods lack fibre and nutrients and are usually high in sugar, trans-fats and chemicals. Avoid products like soft drink, chips, biscuits, cake, sugary cereals, and processed meat. These foods have been linked with many health problems such as cancer, weight gain and poor mental health.
- Eat high fibre foods. Fibre is unequivocally linked to better health and has been shown to reduce the risk of obesity, diabetes, cancer and improves the quality of the gut microbiome which is a major driver of the immune system. Foods that are high in fibre include fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and nuts and seeds.
- Eat good quality fats from sources like nuts and seeds, avocadoes, olive oil and omega 3 fatty acids from fish and seafood. Our brain relies on quality fats to function normally. Avoid trans fats like canola oil that are found in processed foods, junk food, fried foods and often found in take away and restaurant meals. These fats have also been linked to health problems.
- Limit sugar or avoid altogether. Sugar is high in calories, has no nutritional benefit and is associated with a wide variety of problems such as obesity, diabetes, heart disease and dental problems. Sugar is hidden in many canned and packaged foods so always read the label. Alcohol also has high sugar content. If you do crave sweets fruit is the healthier option.
The gold standard is that eating whole, fresh, unprocessed home cooked food contributes to wellbeing and vitality. If you do eat out choose meals that contain vegetables, are not deep fried and have minimal sugar content. Changes in diet can be hard, but even starting with one or two small changes at a time can make a big difference. If you have a particular health issue consider seeking support from a nutritionist or specialist health care professional.
Nutrition is one aspect of good health. Others include regular exercise, quality sleep, stress reduction and healthy social connections. I hope you have found this helpful, remember you can call us about any aspect of your health including if you want support in changing your nutrition!
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