When it comes to what we eat and how to stay healthy, there are a lot of different opinions out there. People think all sorts of things about food. I’d like to share my thoughts, it’s a little long, but hey it is complex!
Eating the right kind of food is important to stay healthy and avoid long-lasting sickness. A healthy diet means eating foods that give your body the nutrients it needs to work well, and not eating too much of the things that do the opposite.
- Fruits and vegetables: Fruits and vegetables are a rich source of vitamins, minerals, and fiber. They are also low in calories and can help to prevent chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. Aim for at least five servings of fruits and vegetables per day.
- Whole grains: Whole grains are a good source of fiber, which can help to regulate digestion and prevent chronic diseases. Examples of whole grains include brown rice, quinoa, and whole wheat bread.
- Lean protein: Protein is essential for building and repairing tissues in the body. Lean protein sources include chicken, fish, beans, and nuts. It is important to limit the intake off processed meats, which have been linked to an increased risk of chronic diseases.
- Healthy fats: Healthy fats, such as those found in nuts, seeds, and fish, can help to reduce inflammation and improve heart health. It is important to limit the intake of saturated and especially trans fats, which can increase the risk of heart disease.
- Water: Water is essential for maintaining proper hydration and is necessary for many bodily functions. Aim for at least 8-10 glasses of water per day.
It’s important not to eat too much of the unhealthy foods, like processed things, sugary drinks, and fatty foods, because they can cause serious health problems like heart disease, diabetes, and obesity.
But you don’t have to be perfect all the time. It’s okay to enjoy some not-so-healthy foods once in a while
Saturated & Trans Fats
Saturated fats and trans fats are types of dietary fats that can increase the risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, and obesity when consumed in excess. It is important to limit the intake of these types of fats in our diet.
Foods high in saturated fats.
- Fatty cuts of meat, such as beef, lamb, and pork
- Butter and cream
- Coconut oil and palm oil
- Lard and shortening
- Processed foods, such as snack foods and baked goods, which often contain high amounts of saturated fats
Foods high in trans fats include.
- Fried foods, such as fried chicken and French fries
- Baked goods, such as pastries, cakes, and cookies
- Margarine and vegetable shortening
- Processed foods, such as snack foods and frozen dinners, which often contain high amounts of trans fats
Trans fats are formed when liquid vegetable oils are partially hydrogenated, a process that turns them into solid fats that are more stable and have a longer shelf life. This process also changes the chemical structure of the fat, which makes it more harmful to the body.
Trans Fats Negative Effects.
- Increasing LDL cholesterol: Trans fats can increase LDL (low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol, which is the “bad” cholesterol that can build up in the arteries and increase the risk of heart disease.
- Decreasing HDL cholesterol: Trans fats can also decrease HDL (high-density lipoprotein) cholesterol, which is the “good” cholesterol that helps to remove LDL cholesterol from the body.
- Contributing to inflammation: Trans fats can contribute to inflammation in the body, which is a key factor in the development of chronic diseases.
- Affecting insulin sensitivity: Trans fats can also affect insulin sensitivity, which can increase the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
Because trans fats are so bad for your health, many health groups say you should eat as little of them as possible. In fact, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) banned a kind of fat called “partially hydrogenated oils” (which is the main source of trans fats) in most foods back in 2018.
It’s smart to check the labels on food to see how much bad fat (saturated and trans fats) they have. The American Heart Association suggests that grown-ups should eat less than 6% of their daily calories from saturated fats and less than 1% from trans fats. To cut down on these bad fats, choose lean protein like fish and other healthy options.
Carnivore Diet, Ketogenic Diet, and Plant-Based Diets.
The carnivore diet, ketogenic diet, and plant-based diet are three popular dietary approaches that have been associated with health benefits. Here’s a brief overview of each of these diets and why they may be considered healthy:
Carnivore diet: The carnivore diet is a dietary approach that involves consuming only animal products, such as meat, organs, fish, and eggs, and excludes all plant-based foods. Advocates of the carnivore diet argue that it can improve digestion, increase energy levels, and reduce inflammation. However, there is limited research on the long-term effects of the carnivore diet, and some experts have raised concerns about its potential impact on nutrient deficiencies, gut health, and heart health due to its high intake of saturated fat and cholesterol.
Ketogenic diet: The ketogenic diet is a high-fat, low-carbohydrate diet that has been shown to promote weight loss, improve blood sugar control, and reduce inflammation. The diet works by inducing a state of ketosis, where the body burns fat for fuel instead of carbohydrates. This can lead to a reduction in insulin levels and an increase in fat burning, which can have positive effects on health. However, the diet can be difficult to follow, and some people may experience negative side effects such as constipation, bad breath, and nutrient deficiencies.
Plant-based diet: A plant-based diet is a dietary approach that emphasises the consumption of whole, plant-based foods such as fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, and nuts, while limiting or excluding animal products. This dietary pattern has been associated with numerous health benefits, including reduced risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, and cancer, as well as improved gut health, cognitive function, and longevity. Plant-based diets are generally high in fibre, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, and low in saturated fat and cholesterol.
Whether these diets are good for your health can vary depending on a few things, like your current health, what kinds of foods you like, and how you live your life. Before you decide to make big changes in your diet, it’s a good idea to talk to a healthcare expert or a dietitian.`
All these diets can make people healthier, but it’s probably because they focus on eating fresh, natural foods and avoiding processed junk. That’s where the real benefits seem to come from.
Why are Fruits and Vegetables?
Fruits and vegetables are healthy because they are nutrient-dense foods that are rich in vitamins, minerals, fibre, and antioxidants. Here are some of the key nutrients found in fruits and vegetables and their health benefits:
- Vitamins and minerals: Fruits and vegetables are excellent sources of essential vitamins and minerals such as vitamin C, vitamin A, potassium, and folate. These nutrients play a crucial role in maintaining a healthy immune system, supporting healthy bones and tissues, and helping the body convert food into energy.
- Fibre: Fruits and vegetables are high in dietary fiber, which can promote healthy digestion, regulate blood sugar levels, and reduce the risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, and certain types of cancer.
- Antioxidants: Fruits and vegetables are rich in antioxidants such as flavonoids, carotenoids, and vitamin C, which can help to protect the body from oxidative stress and inflammation. These compounds have been shown to reduce the risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease, cancer, and neurodegenerative disorders.
Free Radicals, Oxidative Stress & Antioxidants.
Antioxidants are vitally important because they protect the body from oxidative stress and damage caused by free radicals and inflammation. Free radicals are unstable molecules that are produced naturally by the body as a byproduct of metabolism, but can also be produced by external factors such as pollution, radiation, and cigarette smoke.
Accumulation of free radicals in the body can lead to cellular, tissue, and organ damage, contributing to chronic inflammation, accelerated aging, and the onset of chronic ailments such as cardiovascular disease, cancer, and neurodegenerative disorders.
Antioxidants function as protective agents by counteracting free radicals, thereby preventing them from causing harm to cells and tissues. A diverse range of foods, encompassing fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and seeds, contain antioxidants. Common examples of antioxidants found in these foods include:
- Vitamin C: Found in citrus fruits, berries, kiwi, and peppers, vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that can help to protect cells from damage caused by free radicals.
- Vitamin E: Found in nuts, seeds, vitamin E is another powerful antioxidant that can help to protect cells from damage and reduce inflammation.
- Beta-carotene: Found in orange and yellow fruits and vegetables such as carrots, sweet potatoes, and mangoes, beta-carotene is a type of carotenoid that is converted into vitamin A in the body. It is a potent antioxidant that can help to protect the body from oxidative stress and inflammation.
- Flavonoids: Found in a variety of plant-based foods such as tea, berries, and dark chocolate, flavonoids are a group of antioxidants that have been shown to reduce inflammation and protect against chronic diseases.
Oxidative Stress and the Harm By Free Radicals.
In general, having a diet that’s packed with antioxidants from various foods can shield the body from oxidative stress and the harm brought on by free radicals. This, in turn, may lower the chances of developing chronic diseases connected to inflammation and the aging process.
- Processed and fried foods: Processed and fried foods are often high in unhealthy fats and oils that can promote the production of free radicals in the body.
- Charred and grilled meats: Cooking meats at high temperatures can create compounds called heterocyclic amines (HCAs) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), which have been linked to the formation of free radicals and an increased risk of certain types of cancer.
- Refined sugars and carbohydrates: Foods that are high in refined sugars and carbohydrates, such as white bread, candy, and soda, can cause spikes in blood sugar levels and promote inflammation, which can lead to the production of free radicals.
- Alcohol: Excessive alcohol consumption can increase the production of free radicals in the body and deplete the body’s antioxidant stores.
- Trans fats: Trans fats, which are found in many processed and fried foods, can increase inflammation in the body and promote oxidative stress.
- Pesticides and environmental toxins: Exposure to pesticides and environmental toxins can promote the production of free radicals in the body.
Clean 16 and the Dirty Dozen.
The Clean 16 and the Dirty Dozen are lists of fruits and vegetables that are ranked based on their levels of pesticide residue. These lists were created by the Environmental Working Group (EWG), a nonprofit organisation that advocates for public health and environmental protection.
The Dirty Dozen
The Dirty Dozen is a list of 12 fruits and vegetables that are typically found to have the highest levels of pesticide residue, so you might want to go organic on these. The 2021 Dirty Dozen list includes:
- Kale, collard and mustard greens
- Bell peppers
The Clean 16
The Clean 16 is a list of 16 fruits and vegetables that are typically found to have the lowest levels of pesticide residue, so you don’t really need to worry about buying organic. The 2021 Clean 16 list includes:
- Sweet corn
- Sweet peas (frozen)
- Honeydew melon
To sum it up, having a healthy diet is crucial for staying well and keeping chronic diseases at bay. A balanced diet should have lots of fruits and veggies, whole grains, lean protein, good fats, and plenty of water. It’s also important to cut down on unhealthy foods and to eat in moderation and balance. When we make wise food choices, we boost our health and increase our chances of living longer and better. After all, you really are what you eat.