The bottom line is that the food we eat becomes our cells, our blood, our organs, our bones - every single part of us. So, why would we fuel our bodies with junk? Because it's EVERYWHERE, it's easy, and we're bombarded with ads! It seems easy enough to understand that we can't eat junk and expect to feel energized, perform well, thrive, and avoid disease. I wish I believed this 20 years ago! Perhaps you feel the same way.
What We Eat Absolutely Matters.
We’ve been told to eat low-fat, nutrient-deficient foods and then we wonder why we’re always hungry and can’t lose weight. We think it’s our fault! We’ve been following bad advice for too long. What if we changed our focus to eating healthier with whole foods? What if we changed our focus to GETTING healthier rather than being focused on losing weight? What if we focused on NOURISHING our body and giving it what it needs to thrive? I believe the biggest difference would be that you will lose the weight as part of a lifestyle shift, not just because you went on yet another diet that you can’t maintain indefinitely. The end result will be better because you will have improved your health in the process! Now THAT is truly priceless!
As we’ve touched on before, the foods you eat can have a DRAMATIC impact on how you look and feel (your mood, energy levels, skin, hair, etc.), as well as how YOU age. Food is also FUEL for your body; it’s what gives us energy.
Our main focus isn’t on counting calories but on the types of foods that fuel us and give us what we need for optimum health. When this is implemented as part of a mind and lifestyle shift, the result is achieving and maintaining an ideal weight range and having a healthier relationship with food.
“While calories do count for something, good health depends on far more complex factors – and simply reducing calories (or fat) isn’t the answer. The foods you eat exert a powerful psychological influence, stronger than any act of willpower: They influence your hormones, silently directing your metabolism. They affect your digestive tract, your body’s first line of defense. And they impact your immune system and your risk for any number of diseases and conditions. Your good health starts with the foods you eat.” Dallas and Melissa Hartwig, authors ‘It Starts with Food’
In addition to micro-nutrients (vitamins and minerals), fuel for your body comes in the form of macronutrients. Whole food (think real food) macronutrients (protein, fat, and carbohydrates) contain the highest levels of micronutrients (vitamins and minerals), which are critical for our health and wellbeing. Micronutrients are lacking in diets that include a lot of processed foods. This is why focusing on the quality of food and maximizing your intake of nutrients is so important and why our focus is not all about counting calories. When we eat processed foods we are getting very few vitamins and minerals. Counting calories may be helpful, but it’s important to remember to always choose quality over just the number of calories a food contains. For example, chips worth 200 calories are not going to give you even close to the amount of what your body needs in nutrition as the 200 calories in fruits, vegetables, or other whole foods.
“Macronutrients are nutrients that contain calories. There are only 3 macronutrients - fat, carbohydrates, and protein. Macronutrients give us the calories we need for energy and growth. All-natural foods contain a mixture of fat, carbohydrates, and protein, although some (primarily animal products) contain only two of the three.” Joel Fuhrman. M.D.
“Protein is an important essential nutrient because your body uses it to build new cells, maintain tissues, and synthesize new proteins that make it possible for you to perform basic bodily functions. Proteins are nutrients that are essential to the building, maintenance, and repair of your body tissues such as your skin, internal organs, and muscles. They are also the major components of your immune system and hormones. Proteins are made up of substances called amino acids -- 22 of which are considered vital for your health. Your body can make 14 of these amino acids, but the other eight, known as essential amino acids, must be obtained from what you eat.” mercola.com
Protein is found in both animal and plant foods such as meat, chicken, fish, eggs, nuts, seeds, dairy products, legumes, grains, and some vegetables. Protein helps us feel satiated (feeling full and satisfied), so be sure to incorporate it into every meal. It also helps stabilize blood sugar levels and minimize mindless munching. Each person has different protein needs based on their weight, age, fitness level, and other factors. By incorporating different types of protein into your diet, you can learn which proteins work best for your individual requirements. Tracking what you eat and noting how you feel and how your body responds will give you a clear picture of what you are consuming and what makes you feel the best.
Carbohydrates are important for our bodies for many reasons including giving ENERGY to all our cells and aiding in the recovery from physical activity. Carbohydrates can also be a good source of fiber, which is very important.
Carbohydrates can be categorized as refined or unrefined; they are also called processed or unprocessed, simple or complex. Unrefined carbohydrates are full of nutrients, fiber, vitamins, and minerals, which are necessary for the production of energy in the human body. Examples of unrefined carbohydrates include vegetables, fruits, beans, nuts, seeds, and whole grains. BONUS! By adding fresh, whole foods into your diet, a big benefit you may notice right away is improved digestion and elimination. Yay!
Refined Carbs are stripped of nutrients and other additives and chemicals have been added to take the place of what was taken out. Many of the additives are addictive and harmful to our health. These are some of the foods that cause us to have energy crashes and put us on the sugar roller coaster ride. Refined carbohydrates include foods such as packaged cereals, white bread, white rice, white flour, chips, most pasta, cakes, and candy. These foods, obviously, are best to limit in your diet. That doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a ‘treat’ now and then, but just be conscious of how much you consume each day. Awareness is the first important step and this is where tracking your food can be very helpful.
One thing we are NOT going to focus on in these sessions is feeling guilty about food! Food is meant to be enjoyed and the healthier choices you make each day, the better you will feel, and the less frequently you’ll even WANT the processed, refined, and less nutritious options. Your body will start to CRAVE healthy foods!
Consuming sufficient amounts of fat in the right forms and proper proportions has been shown to offer significant health benefits. Among other things, it can strengthen the immune system, enhance brain and nervous system functions such as mood, intelligence, and behavior, greatly reduce cardiovascular disease, increase energy and performance, give you healthy skin, hair, and nails, regulate body weight, and improve organ and gland function. Fat is also critical for the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins like A, D, E, and K, as well as optimal hormone function.
“But, wait, I thought fat was bad for me!” This train of thought is due mostly to the debacle called the “Low-Fat Diet Craze” that caused most Americans to run scared from all dietary sources of fat. The fat was replaced with sugar and other chemicals to make foods taste good. This did not bode well for our health or our waistlines. The time period of the low-fat diet craze is when the rate of obesity in this country really started to skyrocket. In fact, some medical sources now refer to the low-fat diet fad as “the great American experiment in obesity.”
‘Consuming dietary fats does not mean that you will get fat; in fact, fats and oils are essential to optimal health. Your body needs fats to build cells and manufacture key hormones. Just as with all foods, however, you must consume high-quality fats and oils for your body to effectively use them—remember, You are what you eat.’ Paul Chek, Eat Move and Be Healthy
Healthy fats are found in foods such as meat, eggs, nuts, seeds, and oily fish, like salmon. Purchase the highest quality you can if your budget allows. Other good fat sources include olive oil, coconut oil, and avocado (i.e. olive oil as part of salad dressing; coconut oil for cooking, baking, and more; and avocado in smoothies or on your sandwich or salad). Remember you only need to eat a little of these to get all the benefits from fat.
A good fat source should generally come from an organically grown, plant-based source with minimal processing to preserve its “raw” nutrient state. Look for oils that are virgin and cold-pressed and have not undergone a distillation or purification process. In addition to olive oil, there are many other oils you can include in your diet: hemp seed oil, flaxseed oil, and pumpkin seed oil. They each have a different taste so try some and see what you think. Not all fats/oils are stable at higher heat points. Oil for cooking at high temperatures above 350º include clarified butter (ghee) and coconut oil. Olive oil is reported to be fine for low to medium temperatures up to 325º. When you add healthy fats/oils to your diet, you may also notice an improvement in your skin texture, including a reduction or elimination of dry skin patches.
Unhealthy fats abound in fast foods, processed foods, chips, crackers, cookies, and many snack foods. Most processed foods contain hydrogenated oils, which are highly processed oils that we want to avoid. These cause inflammation in the body and inflammation is the leading cause of chronic diseases. Just like adding protein to your meal will help keep you full longer, adding some healthy fat will do the same. Ideally, you want to have some protein, carbs, and a little healthy fat at each meal to have a healthy, balanced diet. Note: A great way to track your macronutrients, as well as some micronutrients, is to use an app like MyFitnessPal.
The way you begin your day can set you up for success. Consider adding some protein to your breakfast. You’ll likely discover that you will feel full longer and not experience a mid to late-morning crash. Try a different breakfast each day for a few days and see which ones give you sustained energy, keep you full longer, and have you feeling better. Be open to trying new foods. You can start with one meal at a time if that makes it easier.
Which new foods would you like to try this week?
TO DO THIS WEEK □ Try different foods for breakfast – notice how you feel with different foods. □ Use a food-logging app like MyFitnessPal to get an idea of how much protein, fat, and carbohydrates you are getting each day. You can also track your intake of fiber, sugar, and more with this app. □ Use a Food Journal to track what you’re eating and how you feel. Notice which breakfast options kept you full longer and gave you more energy. Consider how you feel after you eat so you can tune into what makes you feel better or worse.