As the saying goes, ‘we are what we eat’. What we put into our body provides us with our basic building blocks for our health and wellbeing. It is impossible to reach our optimal health on a diet missing essential nutrients.
We are also ‘what we assimilate’. This means that not only is what we put into our bodies important, but how our body processes this ‘information’. How we digest and integrate these nutrients determines if our health is optimal or if symptoms and diseases eventuate.
Nutrition encompasses the practice of optimising one’s health by improving what is consumed and supplementing as necessary. Unfortunately with the influences of a number of factors, our food quality is declining thus influencing our need for supplementation. There are thousands of studies supporting the efficacy and impact of nutritional supplementation to correct deficiency states.
In clinical practice I routinely see the positive impact and resolution of symptoms by correctly addressing specific nutritional deficiencies. It is essential that the quality of the supplement prescribed is optimal. As such I have implemented strict criteria before I prescribe certain products. These products have to be formulated without any potential negative side effects, are required to be free from harmful ingredients and are required to have optimal dosage and form of key nutrient. In addition, they have been selected due to increased bioavailability and absorption and have shown significant positive clinical outcome.
For more information regarding our prescribed nutritional supplements, please see the Dispensary page.
What is a healthy diet?
From a complementary health perspective a healthy diet could be considered to be one that provides all nutrients, and other beneficial substances, in adequate amounts, whilst containing low levels of substances that may be detrimental to health, such as: refined sugars, saturated fats, salt, preservatives, alcohol, colourings, preservatives and additives. A healthy diet is rich in whole and unprocessed foods, and contains high intakes of plant-based foods, such as: fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes/pulses, seeds and nuts. A healthy diet is also varied, and balanced.
The Wholefood Diet
Consuming foods that have had minimal processing and refining is called a wholefood diet. The closer a food is to its natural state, the more nutrient dense we can expect it to be. This is why it is important to eat whole foods as much as possible.
Processed foods often lose a great deal of the nutrients they naturally contained. Even after a process known as fortification (putting back what was lost prior to processing), the original balance and complexity of nutrients is lost. This is because fortification replaces certain nutrients, and not others. Also the nutrients that are added are often in amounts greater than would have naturally been found in the food.
Preparing and cooking our food correctly is also important as nutrients can be damaged or lost by excess heat, over-cooking, extensive soaking or washing, or prolonged exposure to air or light.
Many people believe that they can eat poorly and substitute what is missing with supplements. However, this is unfortunately not the case. Supplements do not offer the same benefits as eating a healthy, balanced, whole food diet. This is because food is very complex, containing nutrients as well as an array of non-nutrient substances – something that supplements have so far not been able to replicate.
Guidelines for Optimal Nutrition
- Eat foods as close as possible to their natural state and as fresh as possible.
- Cook your meals from scratch wherever you can, rather than using processed and pre-prepared ingredients.
- Eat a large variety of foods, especially plant based foods and those that are in season. Eating fruits and vegetables of different colours is a good way to start – make your food look like a rainbow! Also eat foods with different flavours and textures. Aim to eat at least thirty different types of foods each day.
- Always wash fruits and vegetables before cooking or eating.
- Eat foods that are of a high quality.
- Consider organic foods may be a healthier choice.
- Use cooking methods that retain the nutrients in the food. Grilling, steaming, baking, stir-frying and eating some foods raw are healthier choices than deep-frying or boiling.
- Ensure a good intake of plant-based foods, such as fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, legumes, herbs and spices.
- Moderate your intake of saturated fats, salt, alcohol, refined sugars, processed foods, and caffeine
- Avoid old nuts, grains, and seeds – as these can grow moulds and the oils may become rancid.
- Avoid burnt foods, including meats that are blackened, burnt toast, or other burnt foods.
- Avoid organ meats; whilst these are often rich in nutrients, they may also contain unwanted substances such as drug, hormone, or pesticide residue, particularly when they are eliminative organs like the liver and kidneys.
- Avoid foods with additives, preservatives, or colourings.
- Make sure all the essential nutrients are provided in each meal. Aim to balance the macronutrients (carbohydrates, protein and fats).
- Drink at least 1.5-2 litres of pure, filtered/spring water per day (8 glasses).
- Learn to rotate foods to provide variety, and ensure that you are not eating the same type of foods every day.
- Remember to enjoy eating! Take pleasure in preparing wholesome meals that you will enjoy eating, as food is nourishment for life. Digestion starts in your brain so think about what you are going to eat and enjoy eating.
- Chew your food carefully and slowly.
- Partake in regular aerobic exercise for at least ½ – 1 hour every day.
- Enjoy your food; remember that good nutrition and health is about balance and variety!
©Leah Hechtman 2017
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