Spring is the time of year we’re usually thinking about doing a big clean out of the house and switching over the wardrobe for the warmer months ahead. It’s also a great time for us to be thinking about giving our diet a refresh, especially after those cooler months where we crave warm comfort food.
That said, when doing a full appraisal of our diet, it’s important to not go too gungho and ensure that any changes we make are sustainable year round, rather than simply jumping on the yoyo diet bandwagon - which we absolutely are not about! Therefore, we’ve got some simple tips for adding more nutrition in, while removing a few of the common culprits that sneak into our everyday diet but would be more suited as every now and again treats. Lastly we’ve got just a few lifestyle tips that might assist in keeping you on track for the long haul.
Foods to eat more of
You’ve heard it once, you’ve heard it twice, actually probably more than a million times from your mother to “eat your greens” and for good reason. Dark green leafy vegetables such as spinach, kale, swiss chard, bok choy, silverbeet and rocket all contain vital nutrients for energy production, immunity and nervous system function such as B vitamins as well as magnesium and plant-based iron. If that wasn’t enough for you, green vegetables also contain beneficial phytonutrients such as chlorophyll, carotenoids and sulphur compounds. All of these compounds, although subtle, have powerful benefits such as antioxidant actions and can even support liver detoxification.
Fibre rich wholefood grains & vegetables
Despite its absolute necessity to our health, sadly fibre is often an overlooked component of our diet with most of us not even realising where we can find it aside from that ubiquitous brown straw-like cereal or “whole grain bread”. Fibre is naturally occurring in all whole plant based foods such as whole grains, legumes, vegetables and fruits, and can be present in one or both of its varying forms of soluble and insoluble fibre. It's important we get a good balance of both kinds from a variety of foods to feed our beneficial gut bacteria, keep our bowels in motion and support a slow and steady release of energy from our food.
You know the drill, our bodies are 60% water so we have to stay hydrated in order to stop our organs from turning into sun dried raisins. Not really, but water is essential for every chemical reaction that occurs in our body and also keeps our beloved brains afloat so it's an absolute must. If you’re struggling to get your 2 litres of water daily, a good way to incentivize yourself to drink more is to make it taste more exciting by adding steeped herbal teas, fresh fruit or our Collagen Beauty™ flavours.
Plant based proteins
Protein is a highly sought after macro nutrient commonly consumed by gym goers to get those “gains”. But aside from its role as the building block for basically all bodily tissues, protein is also essential to the manufacture and function of our neurotransmitters, the chemical messengers of our brain, so without it, we literally couldn’t function. That said, eating excessive amounts of animal based protein has been associated with increased inflammation and less diversity of our gut microflora and weighs pretty heavily on the environment. Thankfully plant based sources of protein such as legumes, nuts and seeds are both kinder to the planet in terms of carbon and easier on our body too.
Fat is not only delicious, making any meal that much more satisfying, it's also an essential micronutrient that supports our cells' structural integrity. However, not all fats have been created equal. Healthy fats such as polyunsaturated (including omega-3) and monounsaturated fats such as those found in sardines, salmon, olive oil, avocados, nuts & seeds have heart protective actions, support hormone production and have anti-inflammatory properties.
High antioxidant foods
We all know that berries, chocolate and red wine contain antioxidants, but what do antioxidants actually do? Antioxidants act like cellular protectors and help to stop oxidative stress from damaging our bodies tissues. This is super important when it comes to our cardiovascular health as we want our blood vessels to be nice and robust to prevent adhesions or damage that could otherwise prevent blood supply to the rest of our body. That said, I would advise against relying on red wine as a source of antioxidants and turning to other sources such as berries, dark leafy greens, beetroot and green tea instead. Our Acai Berry Blend is the perfect product to meet this need, loaded with antioxidants and an ORAC score of 39540 which outstripes even the most potent antioxidant berries by about nine times.
Incorporate culinary herbs and spices into your cooking
Which side of the coriander fence do you sit on? I’m here to tell you that if you’d rather eat dirt than coriander, then unfortunately you are missing out. Coriander, amongst the other common culinary herbs such as parsley, dill, and basil, contains a multitude of beneficial phytochemical compounds that have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties as well as immune supporting beta carotenes and vitamin C. Spices such as turmeric and ginger have powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, so much so that herbalists readily utilise extracts of these herbs to support circulation and even brain health and so sneaking them into everyday cooking wherever possible is a great idea.
Foods to eat less of
Sugar can be very sneaky and can be found hidden in many foods, from your typical culprits in the treat aisle to lesser known foods such as tomato sauce, muesli, yogurt, skim milks and even bread! Refined sugar is everywhere and when consumed in excess, can have long term effects on our satiety, gut health and vascular health. So keeping an eye out for refined sugar and only consuming in moderation is the healthiest way to approach it.
Alcohol certainly isn’t good for our cognitive function when we’re under the influence but further long term heavy alcohol consumption (3+ drinks daily) has also been associated with increased risk of dementia, accelerated cognitive decline as well as cardiovascular and metabolic diseases. Therefore, it goes without saying that limiting consumption to less than two drinks per day for men and one drink per day for women is a neutral amount to be consuming.
Hmmm caffeine, every parent with young children's best friend! Caffeine is a naturally occurring nootropic, in that it increases focus and alertness. However overconsumption has been linked to increased risk of anxiety, heart palpitations and high blood pressure, whilst depleting vital minerals such as calcium and magnesium which support energy production long term. Sticking to just one cup of your favourite caffeinated beverage is a good idea or alternatively swapping out your afternoon cuppa for a matcha latte or clean energy that provides a smaller and steadier caffeine source is a good idea.
Highly processed and fast foods
When we think of food processing, you might think of apples going through a conveyor belt ready to be washed and assembled onto trays ready for the markets virtually unscathed. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for the majority of foods in the grocery store or from your favourite fast food establishment. Think foods like biscuits, bread, pasta, white rice and basically anything in the frozen aisle (aside from frozen fruit and veg). All of these foods undergo multiple processing stages to remove valuable fibres with vitamins and minerals being collateral damage.
Cook more at home
By cooking more at home with real ingredients, you can naturally remove a plethora of added sugars, oils and table salt commonly utilised in fast food restaurants while gaining all the benefits of fibre, vitamins and minerals that whole foods have to offer.
Planning ahead means no last minute drive through runs or cheeky midweek takeaway orders. It also means less stress for all involved in organising dinner each night and less food wastage which is a super added bonus for our environment.
Count colours, not calories/kilojoules
As already mentioned, food is a source of all the essential nutrients and phytonutrients we need to stay looking and feeling our best. When we reduce it down to kilojoules, we tend to deprive ourselves of these nutrients we literally need to live, but that is also extremely enjoyable. This aside, the human body is complex and not everyone will absorb or burn off kilojoules at the same rate. With this in mind, I would definitely recommend only looking at these numbers as a guide rather than a rule. Eating a diet that includes lots of vibrantly coloured fruits and vegetables is the best way to ensure you’re getting the most you possibly can out of your food while also staying fit and healthy.
Follow Eliza on Instagram @conceptofsunny for general Naturopathy advice.