By Dana Leipold
Have you ever wondered why figuring out what to eat is so confusing? I sure have!
If you try to follow diet trends, like Keto, Paleo, Low-Carb, Vegan, Raw, No Sugar, you probably end up getting overwhelmed. When I was trying to find the right eating plan for myself, I ended up spending tons of money on special protein shakes, crazy ingredients, detox programs, and supplements. Any of this sound familiar?
How Do You Figure Out What You Should Eat?
We assume that because we’ve been eating our whole lives, we know how to properly nourish our bodies. Most of us eat the way our parents did or the way our friends do without thinking about whether it will help us achieve our health goals. Others eat what they crave, which can be misleading because there are a lot of foods we crave that don't actually nourish our bodies.
The facts are that each individual is unique in their health needs and there are hundreds (if not thousands) of different philosophies of eating. Hello overwhelm! So when I work with clients on their nutrition, I like to keep it simple because when it comes to actual science there’s substantial consensus about what foods make us sick and what foods make us healthy.
That's why I subscribe to Michael Pollan's, author of In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto, philosophy when it comes to what we should eat:
What Does this Actually Look Like on Your Plate?
You want to eat whole foods instead of highly-processed foods and get most of your calories from plants. A whole food is one that is close to its original state (think apple or banana), it spoils if you let it sit longer than a few days, your great grandmother probably ate it regularly, and it has very little packaging. Processed foods on the other hand bear little resemblance to their original state (think Cheetos or protein bars), your great grandmother wouldn't recognize it as food (want some cheese whiz, great grandma?), and they are boxed or come in a package or some kind.
Just swapping out processed foods with whole foods will have a major impact on your health and well-being. Eat actual fruit instead of drinking fruit juice, use brown rice instead of white rice, or put more vegetables on your plate instead of bread.
What Happens to Your Body When You Eat More Whole Foods?
Keep swapping out packaged/processed foods with whole foods for a period of three weeks straight and you may notice that you have fewer headaches, you have more energy, you won't have as many mood swings, your skin may improve, and you may even end up disliking all that processed food.
Why are whole foods better for you? They are full of nutrients and fiber which helps to lower rates of heart disease, cancer, and type 2 diabetes. Whole foods like fruits and veggies are packed full of phytochemicals--natural compounds can help reduce inflammation that often leads to chronic illness.
When you eat a diet made up mostly of whole foods, it’s easier to eat less of the unhealthy fats, like trans fats and saturated fats which are often added to ultra-processed foods and fast food. At the same time, you’ll be boosting the amount of healthier fats such as omega-3 oils from fish, nuts like walnuts, and plants like linseed and chia; and monounsaturated fat from plant sources such as avocado, and nuts such as almonds, cashews, and peanuts.
There's no need to get confused when you want to eat healthier. It comes back to the basics: eat real food, not too much, mostly plants.
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