Healthy Eating Tips
Alexander Pope famously said once: “A little knowledge is dangerous.” Expanding this further “If a little knowledge is dangerous, then too much is disastrous!”
Today’s world is overloaded with data, from newspapers, magazine, internet, television which weigh us down with images of the standards of perfection and thousands of quick fix remedies; which truthfully are not always realistic.
Here are some basic tips on healthy eating, which is a combination of western and eastern knowledge.
1. Eat food that was living once in its natural form.
This means that your food should not be artificially produced, such as genetically modified foods, processed foods or food with additives and preservatives.
Our body possesses the natural intelligence to process those foods that are closest to nature — whole grains, organically grown vegetables and fruits, natural growing herbs.
Hormone injected cattle, chicken, sheep go against the natural process of growing and this affects the human body immensely. You are in effect congesting hormones too. Studies have shown an alarming increase in cancers, sterile couples, birth deformities, metabolic disorders etc.
2. Do not follow food fads.
There is a colossal amount of information on diets, super foods and the new ‘’in’ diets. What works for one person might not work for you. And most fad foods/diets work on removing one major nutrient or cutting it to half its requirement. This would obviously mean less calories in your diet.
As for miracle drinks and super foods, there are none. Food is meant to be eaten in combination in a balanced way. Listen to your own physiology; rotate your menus, varying cooking methods – sauté, steam, boil, roast and bake. Make your meal time enjoyable and pleasant.
Food fads and roller-coaster diets end up doing more harm than good, starving the body of balanced nutrition and nourishment needed to build healthy cells and tissues.
3. Opt for lots of fruits and vegetables
Fruits and vegetables contain lots of phytonutrients, and vitamins and minerals. Fruits and vegetables are packed with anti-oxidants to remove free-radicals (molecules that damage living cells & may cause heart disease and aging.
Try to eat organic fruits and fruits in season. The amount of pesticides on fruits is staggering. Start your day with fruits. Eat a handful of berries for your mid-afternoon snack. And end off the night with bananas. Try to eat fruits and vegetables in season. Keep away from frozen and canned fruits as most of the water soluble vitamins minerals have been reduced by degradation or leaching.
Vegetables do not, necessarily, have to be cooked as separate dishes — add them to grains, stuff them in breads, toss them in stews and soups — there's always room for your favorite veggies in every dish. Root vegetables (sweet potato, carrots, squash) are the most nutritious then, green vegetables (includes leafy vegetables, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, brussel sprouts and kale) followed by nightshades (potato, tomato, eggplant and bell peppers). Pungent vegetables are the least nutritious. Vegetables should not be under or over cooked.
Fruits should be eaten at least 30min before your meal, as fruits are lighter and digest faster. If eaten with other foods they will ferment and cause bloating and gas.
4. Use spices/ herbs
Spices are not merely there for your taste buds, flavour and aroma. Many spices aide in digestion, help boost your immunity and assimilate nutrients from the foods we eat.
5. Give your digestive system a break
It is important to cleanse your gut every change season, Ayurveda suggest early spring because this is a time nature starts the annual cycle of regeneration as well. Eat light, nourishing meals like mung bean soup. Have plenty fruits and vegetables. Fresh fruit juices are suggested. Have two cups of green tea daily. You can continue this from 2 weeks to 1 month. The Tamil people of South India have been fasting in the month of Purtassi (17 Sep – 16 Oct) (spring in the southern hemisphere and before monsoon in Tamil Nadu) for centuries. Fast includes of lacto-vegetarian diet only. In fact, Tamil Indians all over the world prescribe to this diet even today.
6. Drink to your health
Try to avoid caffeine, alcohol and carbonated soft drinks and switch to life-giving, vitality-boosting beverages
Start with water. Drinking lots of water through the day helps to rehydrate your system and flush toxins out of the body. Western thought is to consume as much as 3 litres a day.
Listen to your body, drink water when you are thirsty. Drink more during summer months. Do not drink bottled water, as most of them have been deoxygenated. Invest in a good water filter if your water in your area is not from natural sources or contains high amount of sediments, bacteria etc. Water that has been boiled and cooled has the added healing element of fire (energy) in it. Do not drink water ice-cold, room temperature or warm water is best. Spiking your drinking water with herbs and spices suited to your physiology, or a mix of herbs and whole spices designed to correct a specific imbalance, can enhance the healing quality of the water you drink.
In South India, there is a common drink called Moor: Made from a little curd (plain yoghurt), water, hing and salt, flavour is added with curry leaves and a tiny bit of ginger. This helps with digestion and to decrease gas and bloating. Some effects on fat reduction are known. At bedtime, drink a cup of warm milk, boiled and cooled for added digestibility, blended with a tiny pinch of turmeric, pinch of cardamom or nutmeg to aid sleep.
7. Cultivate good eating habits
You can add life to your years as well as years to your life by following a good eating routine. Too often we are rushing through meals, skipping them, replacing them with non-healthy fried foods or convenience fast foods.
Eat three regular meals at the same time daily. Lunch should be main meal of the day - eating a heavy meal at night taxes your digestion and disrupts sleep.
Cook and eat fresh food- leftovers are "dead" foods from the perspective of Ayurveda, offering only substance, not sustenance. Practice deep breathing for a couple of minutes before you start a meal. Say thanks for the food you eat. Sit quietly for a few minutes after a meal. Small things, but they add up to good health and longevity. Do not drink any liquids with your meals; wait 20 minutes after eating to drink water.
8. Eat for your soul
We are constantly chasing the quiet, peaceful moments in our life or day. Make these moments at your mealtime. Do not eat when you are angry or stressed, this can turn your food into “poison”.
Set your mealtime: Try aromatherapy; soothing or uplifting music playing softly in the background; a tidy, cheerful dining table; and the nurturing company of friends or family. Try eating in silence sometimes - the total focus on your food can turn the meal into a feast, no matter how simple the fare. You will find yourself relishing colours, textures, aromas and flavours in an eating experience that is optimal for health.
Note your brain takes about 15 minutes to register that you are eating. Hereby eating too fast might cause you to overeat. Eat until you are just full, not until you are full, as this means you have overeaten. Eat fruits first, then vegetables, starches and last your protein.
Try to vary your dishes and recipes. When shopping, break from the usual, and experiment with new foods and flavours. If you have a favourite vegetable or grain you like to eat often, try preparing it differently each time or combining it with other grains, vegetables or herbs for variety. Once a week, create a healthy dish from another part of the world. There are many ideas on the internet.
Just remember to watch the ingredients, no hydrogenated fats, sugar, deep-frying and alcohol.
10. Be careful of advertising
Food companies are there to make money, not to take care of your health. That is in your hands. So do not buy into the hype or wonder “cures”. All canned, processed foods should be avoided. Most labels are trying to convince you that the product is safe. So if you must, read labels carefully. If something looks strange, leave the product, you can always find a replacement in a fresh item.
11. Fats and Oils
Most oils are processed or refined. If you are able to purchase cold pressed oils, these would be the best. The oils that are best to use is Ghee, Sesame, Peanut and Olive. Use a combination of oils. Each dish can be prepared with different oil, so that you receive all the different omega 3 fatty acids. Sunflower is used often for frying due to its high cooking point, which can be easily substituted with peanut oil. Ghee and sesame oil heats
When oils or fats are partially hydrogenated or hydrogenated this is when they become toxic for your body.
Butter and ghee is fine, in limited amounts. Stay away from margarines, even if the claim is that they are made from vegetable fat, it is mostly synthetic.
A surprising oil is Coconut Oil; even though it is high saturated fat. One should remember what kind of saturated fat it is; ie. A natural occurring saturated fat not synthesized through processing. Also 50 percent of the fat content in coconut oil is a fat rarely found in nature called lauric acid. Lauric acid is a powerful virus and gram-negative bacteria destroyer, and coconut oil contains the most lauric acid of any substance on Earth! Capric acid, another coconut fatty acid present in smaller amounts, has also been added to the list of coconut's antimicrobial components. Another key reasons you should consider consuming coconut oil, is that there are not many sources of monolaurin (a microbicide) in our diet.
12. Food preparation and effects on nutrients
One would expect eating raw foods would be the best way to absorb nutrients. This might be true theoretically, but our guts have evolved over centuries and so as our palate. Foods that are most suitable in its natural form are nuts, seeds and fruits.
Fruits take 6 hours to digest and be absorbed into your system. Meat eaten at every meal takes up to 72 hours to be digested, absorbed or expelled from your body.
Methods vary from steaming, sautéing, braising, baking, roasting and frying; of which deep-frying is the worst. Steaming is the best, as no oils are used and most nutrients, natural colour and texture are preserved.
Liquid foods compared to solid foods are not suggested for long periods of time, as this could cause the muscles of your colon to lose its tone. Further to this, the transit time of liquid meals compared to solid meals would be much faster causing a decrease in absorption of nutrients.
Combining of foods is also an important issue. Try not to combine certain foods as this would cause bloating, gas, diarrhoea or constipation.