It is vital to use nutrition and food as medicine to support all of our 11 Body Systems, including our immune system. This is why NUTRITION is the 4th of our 7 Pillars of Wellness. Our bodies need whole-food nutrition and clean water married in with herbs, spices & powerful gut supportive condiments such as sauerkraut and kimchi.
The goal is to reduce pesticides, chemicals and hormones from your food. To eat more organic, whole-foods versus synthetic, reduce toxic artificial sweeteners and a review of your coffee and alcohol load. I’m not asking you to be a purist, but it is essential to understand your lifestyle. Armed with this information, we can support you and make a plan that allows you to have a glass of wine, a takeaway meal, some chocolate or other treat foods.
Nutrition, Food as Medicine
Most people know how to eat well, to eat more plants, less meat, less sugar, less gluten and less dairy these days, but really what’s letting them down with their health is they’re not functioning well anymore. So using the whole foods, and gut-supports like sauerkraut, kimchi, kombucha and kefir looking to see how we can support our gut-brain function as well.
Nutrition is not a one-size-fits-all. Your age, body metrics, activity level, life stage, blood markers (e.g. cholesterol) and genetics can affect your nutritional needs. Our bodies absorb and metabolise food slightly differently after a meal. These variations exist due to the differences in the microbiome and resting metabolic rate.
It would be best if you had your daily meal plan tailored based on your lifestyle, diet, and personal preferences, so it is most successful in helping to meet your unique needs and goals.
Here are a few tips to get you started
- Listen to your body and stop eating when you feel nearly satisfied.
- Focus on quality rather than quantity.
- Try to eat organic, seasonally, and locally.
- Eat a varied diet and variety of food across all food groups. If you eat seasonally, this should happen naturally. Eating the same food every day causes your body to build up intolerances.
- A healthy eating plan should include fruits, vegetables, protein, fibre and healthy fats to support all essential body functions.
- Try to eat a majority of whole foods and foods with fewer than five ingredients. Try to avoid chemicals, antibiotics, GMOs, food additives, colours, dyes, artificial sweeteners and preservatives.
- Drink more water. On average, women should drink about 2 litres and men 3 litres per day: Limit sugar-sweetened soda, juices, lattes, and tea with lots of sugar. Don’t drink your calories!
- Include prebiotic and probiotic foods for a healthy gut microbiome.
- Chew your food thoroughly before swallowing. Try to chew softer foods 5-10 times and more dense foods up to 20 times before swallowing.
- Fill your plate with mostly vegetables with half green veg and the rest as colourful as you can.
Why Nutrition Is Important?
- Increasing your consumption of fruit and vegetables lowers your risk of stroke, cancer, heart and other inflammatory diseases.
- A healthy diet can give you more energy and vitality.
- Lifestyle has shown to work better than drugs at preventing and treating diabetes and other chronic diseases.
- Healthy eating leads to weight loss and healthy weight maintenance, while excessive consumption of foods such as soda, potatoes in all forms, red meat, refined grains such as pasta and bread, sweets and fruit juice are all linked to weight gain.
- Eating processed grains and sugars (foods with a high glycemic index) spike blood sugar, which increases insulin release. This signals for the quick removal of the sugar from the bloodstream, dropping the blood sugar levels quickly low, causing hormonal changes that generate new hunger signals. This leads to an increase in calorie consumption and weight gain.
- A diet rich in saturated animal fat and simple sugars alters the gut microbiome in such a way that contributes to fat gain and increases your cravings for junk foods.
- A diet high in sugar can lead to poor memory, low concentration, mood swings, depression, headaches, feelings of anxiety, irritability, tiredness in the afternoon, and difficulty losing weight. A diet high in salt leads to hypertension and increases your risk of cardiovascular disease.
- The health of your gut can be associated with diseases including obesity, inflammatory bowel diseases, arthritis and cancer.
- Lifestyle changes to one’s diet from one high in refined carbohydrates, sugar and processed foods, to one that is plant-focused and full of whole foods, is able to influence gene expression and angiogenesis. Specifically, genes that cause inflammation and oxidative stress; breast, prostate and colon cancer; and cardiac disease were down-regulated or turned off, and blood supply to tumour cells was cut off. These changes have also been productive in reversing the progression of cardiac disease, early-stage prostate cancer in men, telomere shortening, and depression symptoms.
- A continuous energy imbalance of about 200-400 kcal/day is sufficient to cause weight gain in most people.
- The digestion of food begins in the mouth and can act best on thoroughly chewed food. This process also signals your body to release digestive enzymes in the stomach that help to digest the food as it moves through your digestive tract. This reduces the risk of bacterial overgrowth in the colon due to food particles are improperly broken down, which can cause indigestion, bloating and constipation.
- A high fibre diet helps you to feel full and helps to support digestion and the growth of good bacteria in your gut. It is also associated with a lower risk of heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and bowel cancer.
Nutrition Food Group Guide
Protein is crucial for your body to grow, maintain and repair your body; it provides energy and helps to regulate hormones as well. Try to include it in some form at every meal.
Proteins To Have:
- Fish – A lean, healthy source of protein. Opt for wild and low in heavy metals (smaller fish tend to have less heavy metals.) Enjoy up to three times weekly and limit the portion size to 85g.
- Nuts and Seeds – Provide healthy fats, fibre, minerals and vitamins, promote longevity and promote brain health. A good guideline is to have 20-30g a day.
- Beans/Pulses – High-quality protein and fibre. If buying canned, avoid options with added salt, sugar or chemicals. Stay away from canned beans if you suffer from digestive issues. A good rule of thumb is a serving a day (80 g).
- Eggs – Eggs are full of vitamins, minerals, high-quality protein and essential nutrients. Choose free-range and organic. While there isn’t a set limit, we would recommend a maximum of 2 per day.
- Chicken/poultry – Always organic Grass-fed, grass-finished, and sustainably harvested from regenerative farms. Appropriate serving size should be similar to the size of your fist.
Proteins to Limit or Avoid:
- Red Meat/animals with four legs or more; (grass-fed and organic) – 1 serving per week maximum.
- Processed meats such as hot dogs, bacon, and sausages.
Healthy fats can help you to feel full after a meal, help your body to absorb nutrients, produce essential hormones, keep your brain working and mood balanced and reduce inflammation.
Fats to Have:
- Unsaturated fats: found in fatty fish, olive oil, vegetables, nuts, algae, avocado, flax seeds and hemp seeds. This fat is proven to help maintain healthy cholesterol levels and reduced risk of cancer and diabetes.
Fats to Limit or Avoid:
- Saturated fat: in red meat and dairy products, sausages, cheese, butter, ice cream, chocolate, yoghurt, coconut oil etc. This fat can increase blood cholesterol levels and the risk of developing heart disease.
- Trans fat/Partially hydrogenated oils: found in margarine, vegetable shortening, partially hydrogenated vegetable oil, deep-fried fast foods, and commercial baked goods. Trans fats increase your risk of developing heart disease and stroke. They are associated with a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
Some easy and healthful Fat substitution ideas:
- Instead of sautéing with butter – use coconut or grape-seed oil.
- Instead of regular peanut butter switch to a nut butter such as almond butter (free of trans fats).
- Switch sour cream to organic kefir or plain yoghurt.
Carbohydrates to have:
- Complex whole-grains and low-glycemic, unrefined carbs
These types of carbohydrates balance blood sugar levels and are more satisfying: barley, spelt, wheat berries, quinoa, gluten-free oats, brown rice, black rice, teff, buckwheat, amaranth, and sweet potatoes.
To keep lean, limit complex carbs after 4 pm.
Nutrition Food Medicine – Colourful varieties of fruits and vegetables:
- Red – cancer-protective, healthy inflammatory response, cell protection, hormone balance and gastrointestinal, liver and heart health.
- Orange – cancer-protective, immune health, cell protection, reduced all-cause mortality, immune health, skin health, a source of pro-vitamin A.
- Yellow – cancer-protective, healthy inflammatory response, cell protection, cognition, skin health, eye health, heart/vascular health.
- Green – healthy inflammatory response, brain health, cell protection, skin health, hormone balance, heart health, liver health.
- White/Tan/Brown – cancer-protective, anti-microbial, cell protection, gastrointestinal health, heart health, liver health, hormone balance.
- Blue/Purple/Black – cancer-protective, healthy inflammatory response, cell protection, and cognitive, heart and liver health.
Carbohydrates to Limit or AVOID:
- Unhealthy sources of carbohydrates such as highly processed refined-grain carbohydrates and flour
- These types of carbohydrates spike blood sugar levels due to their high GI and don’t keep us feeling full or satisfied: white bread, pastries, cereals, crackers made from white rice or white flour.
- Excessive amounts of starchy vegetables (like potatoes)
Foods high in sugar and sweeteners will spike blood sugar stimulating insulin (a fat-storage hormone) to signal to the body to store glucose rather than use it, leading to weight gain. Excessive starchy carbohydrates can convert to fat and as a result, raise blood triglycerides associated with cardiovascular disease and fatty liver. Insulin also stimulates cholesterol production.
- Avoid sugary drinks: soda, fruit juices, and store-bought smoothies. (These tend to use apple juice as a base.)
- Avoid all artificial sweeteners for they are linked to cancer and Alzheimers.
- Eat starchy carbohydrates with protein and/or fat to balance blood sugar levels (e.g. an apple and seeds/nuts, rather than an apple alone).
- Eat fruits with lower sugar content, e.g. berries, apples, plums and pears with a GI of 50 or lower.
- Be aware of other names – sucrose, glucose, fructose, lactose, malt, malt extract, syrup, and honey are all different names for sugar.
Key Nutrient Food Medicine Guide:
- Magnesium: Helps with anxiety, mood disorders and irritability. Found in seeds, beans, dark leafy greens (spinach/chard), dark chocolate and cocoa. It also helps to balance blood pressure and contributes to energy production, bone formation, protein synthesis, carbohydrate and fat metabolism and muscle and nerve function.
- B complex vitamins: Important for brain function, neurotransmitter function, detoxification, inflammation, and gene expression
- Vitamin B6 – Found in fish, meat, whole grains, eggs and nuts. Essential for the metabolism of fats, proteins, and carbohydrates and supports healthy enzyme function.
- Vitamin B12 – Found in eggs, meat, dairy food, fortified nutritional yeast, shellfish, and seaweed. Essential for protein metabolism and the formation of red blood cells and the central nervous system. This is an incredibly important vitamin for vegetarians and vegans to supplement, as it is harder to obtain proper nutritional amounts when not consuming animal protein.
- Vitamin B9 (Folate) – Found in leafy greens. Improves memory and concentration, prevents Alzheimer’s and dementia.
- Vitamin D: From exposure to the sunlight and found in dairy products, herring, salmon, trout, sardines, mackerel, and fortified tofu. Promotes calcium absorption in the gut, is needed to maintain healthy bones, helps brain function, mood, and cognitive function.
- Calcium: Found in dairy, leafy greens, white beans, black-eyed peas, sardines, mackerel, salmon, anchovies. Necessary for cell-to-cell signalling, muscle function, hormone secretion and bone health.
- Omega 3 Fats: Found in oily fish, walnuts, flax and chia seeds and helps depression, ADD, and other brain issues. Also supports heart and eye health, helps reduce inflammation in the body, and assists in maintaining already normal triglyceride levels and blood pressure.
- Probiotics: Found in yoghurt, kefir, kombucha, and pickled vegetables. These support a healthy gut microbiome, which influences the digestion and absorption of nutrients and the function of your brain.
- Pre-Biotics: In foods such as Jerusalem artichoke, garlic, onions, leeks, asparagus, bananas, barley, oats and flaxseeds. Helps to support a healthy gut microbiome
Nutrition Food Medicine – Reference
To include more plants into your diet see the app & cookbook; Forks over Knives, by Gene Stone (Editor), T. Colin Campbell ( Caldwell B. Esselstyn (The premise is eating more plants & fewer animals will prevent disease. This doesn’t mean that you need to be vegan, but pesca-vegan (with wild fish) is a great base diet and have heaver proteins 1-2x a week as per your metabolic type allows.