0005 - What diet is the best for you?
Have you ever wondered what diet you should follow? The Mediterranean diet, the flexitarian, the Atkins, the paleo, the Whole30, the Weight Watchers, the vegetarian, the carnivore, the keto, the zone, the raw food, the if-it-fits-your-macro, the baby food, the cabbage soup diet... There are so many. I didn’t even make up the last 2!
First, ditch the word diet that often means calorie restriction and deprivation. Instead, start thinking about nutrition, about feeling nourished and satisfied, in tune with your body’s needs. Second, the nutrition that is the best for you depends on where you start from, what your current lifestyle is, what issues you have and what your objectives are.
So, the answer is: it depends! That said, there are a few key principles that you can adopt.
1 - Avoid processed foods
Some foods are just bad for you, full stop. They may taste good but they are devoid of nutrients such as healthy fats, proteins, vitamins, minerals... that are essential for your body to function properly.
Almost of all the processed foods contain harmful ingredients such as processed sugar, processed fats, chemical preservatives, artificial flavours and colours, texturants, GMOs... These nasties mess with your brain, guts, hormones, immune system, energy production and are associated with the exponential growth of many diseases (diabetes, obesity, cancers, Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, autism, cardio vascular diseases, depression...).
Processed foods taste good because they have been engineered for over-consumption, with added sugar, bad fat and salt, to make them incredibly rewarding to your brain, to the point where they become over-powering and addictive.
You know what most of these foods are: fast food, cookies, lollies, pastries, cakes, fries, chips, pizzas, sauces (BBQ, teriyaki, salad dressings...), soft drinks, energy drinks, ice cream, sliced cheese, deep fried food, canned soups, bread, most ready-meals, snack bars...
What you may not know is that other so-called "healthy" foods also fall into this category: margarine and butter substitutes, seeds oils (sunflower, safflower, corn, soybean, canola...), fruit juices, most cereals, low-fat yogurts, sugar-free products with artificial sweeteners...
And unless you can decrypt size 4 font on the labels and are some kind of food geek, you may not even know what's in your food: E150C, E221, high fructose corn syrup, emulsifier, carrageenan, maltodextrin, molasses, MSG, red, blue, green, yellow, benzoate, BHA... Sounds appetising?
If I have just listed all your favourite staple foods, the good news is that you will feel so much better once you have swapped them for healthier alternatives.
2 - Enjoy real wholefood
Real wholefood is pretty much anything from the fresh produces section of your grocer or supermarket.
Meat, fish, eggs, full-fat dairies, non-starchy vegetables, leafy greens and salads, fruits, but also nuts and seeds, fruit & nut oils (olive, avocado, macadamia, coconut), coffee and tea, unsweetened cocoa, herbs and spices. Even better if you can buy organic fruits and veggies, pastured-raised & grass-fed meat and wild-caught fish, to avoid pesticides, herbicides (ever heard of the infamous Roundup?), hormones and antibiotics.
Grains (rice, barley, quinoa, wheat, oat, corn...), legumes (beans, lentils, chickpeas, soy...) and starchy vegetables (potatoes, sweet potatoes...) are more complicated, due to gluten, high carbohydrate ("carbs") contents, GMO or anti-nutrients. Let's put them in the "may be in moderation" list for now. A subject for another blog.
So start swapping now.
If you buy a take-away lunch, it is usually not too hard to find shops or food courts that sell grilled meat, fish, salads and veggies. If you go to the restaurant, ask for replacements: salad or veggies instead of chips (French fries from my French friends), grilled meat instead of meat with BBQ sauce. Easy!
3 - Do not snack between meals
Attention! Attention! This one is really important. No more snacking!
Each meal or snack - even when it is healthy - spikes insulin, which promotes fat storage (see the roller-coaster story in my previous blog). The more often (and the higher carbs) you eat, the more fat you store and the more hungry you are a few hours later.
So, make sure you have a good healthy breakfast, lunch and dinner, but nothing in between.
Also, try extending the time between your dinner and your breakfast the following day. 12 hours is good (say dinner at 7:30pm and breakfast at 7:30am), but longer is better. It allows your body to rest, digest and repair. Just delay your breakfast by a few hours. Or even skip breakfast and have a nice early lunch instead. You can still have your morning coffee or tea, just without milk or sugar.
4 - Do not restrict calories, eat to satiety and not too fast
Even if the food is healthy, do not over-eat. But do not restrict calories either. Eat to satiety: at the end of the meal, you should feel satisfied. If you need to unbutton your pants or feel sluggish after your meal, that’s too much. Eating real wholefood will naturally regulate your satiety and hunger hormones and suppress your cravings. It does not take very long.
Last, pay attention when you eat. Take the time to sit down and enjoy your meal. Unplug from technology, even if only for 15 minutes: no computer, no phone, no social media. Just you (your friends, family or colleagues) and your delicious meal.
You can do it! Just one little step at a time.