Why eat healthy?
Because otherwise, you might die young! But seriously, eating healthy brings all kinds of benefits, and avoids all kinds of downsides. The benefits of eating healthy are:
- You feel better
- have more energy
- can think more clearly
- are generally in a better mood
- better able to deal with life
- live longer
- reduce the chance of many diseases and illnesses
- promotes weight loss
The downsides to not eating healthy are:
- type 2 diabetes (and all the dangers that go with it)
- high blood pressure
- cirrhosis (liver)
- heart disease (including heart attack)
- higher risk of breast, prostate, and lung cancer
- overweight and obesity
- decreased life expectancy
What does eating healthy mean?
Eating healthy simply means putting good stuff in your body. Stuff that nature meant for you to eat; not monosodium glutamate, not hydrolysed vegetable protein, and not propylene glycol. You’d be surprised at how often you eat these ingredients, perhaps without even knowing. You might be even more surprised at how they can damage your body.
Eat whole foods
Jump back to early last century, when what we ate was what we grew in the field, or it was livestock – nothing added, no chemicals, it was unrefined and unprocessed (or as little as possible) – just food, whole food. An apple was an apple, an ear of corn was an ear of corn. It wasn’t a large list of ingredients, which are mostly chemicals, that you can’t pronounce, listed on the side of a shiny package. Our bodies know what to do with whole foods, and doesn’t have to figure out what to do with all the stuff that’s in our food these days.
Eat the right amounts from each food group
Remember the four basic food groups you learned in school? Well, I think we’re up to five now, and to eat healthy, they still apply. They are:
- breads, cereals, rice, pasta, noodles and other grains
- vegetables and legumes
- milk, yoghurt, cheese and/or alternatives
- lean meat, fish, poultry, eggs, nuts and legumes.
It’s often set out like a pyramid, which gives you the amounts you should be eating every day:
Keep sugar low
All those years ago, humans didn’t eat a lot of sugar. It was rare in the wild, and so when it was found and ingested, the body stored it away as fat, for survival purposes, in case it needed to go without food for awhile. Well to this day, the body still tries to store sugar as fat, not really knowing that it doesn’t need to, and since we have so much sugar readily available, we tend to eat a lot of it. Sugar is another ingredient in food that goes by many names on the side of packages:
- corn syrup
- corn syrup solids
And the list goes on – there are 50 or more. The main point here is to keep your sugar intake as low as you can, and read the labels so you know that you’re not eating sugar that you hadn’t intended. If you do wish to eat sugar (and let’s face it, we all love it!), try to choose foods with sugar in as natural a form as you can find – honey, barley sugar, cane sugar, stevia. Obviously, the more sugar, the more calories, the more weight you gain, and are also susceptible to all kinds of other problems.
Stay away from chemicals
There are so many chemicals in food these days, it’s hard to know what is good, and what is bad for you. As an example, glutamate occurs naturally in many foods such as tomatoes, cheeses, and other vegetables, and is fairly harmless to the body. But monosodium glutamate (MSG) is a manufactured chemical used as a flavor enhancer in most flavored chips, sauces, asian restaurants, and fast food. Although there is no scientific conclusive evidence, there are enough anecdotal findings that MSG is bad for you. It can cause headaches, weight gain, the chinese restaurant syndrome, type II diabetes and the list goes on. Hydrolysed vegetable protein, yeast extract, and monopotassium glutamate, are all just different names for MSG. But I’ll save the dangers of MSG for another article.
Propylene glycol is used in things like vanilla ice cream, and many other foods, but it’s also used in products such as anti-freeze, as a moisturizer in medicines, and in smoke machines. In low levels the body can process it, so it’s not really toxic or lethal. So you might think, what’s the harm? Well, the point here is why put all these chemicals into your body at all?
Well, for one, they are probably hard to avoid in today’s world. MSG seems to be everywhere, and as already mentioned, it goes by many names. And for two, if you had a choice, and you do, and if you want to eat healthy, you should choose to avoid as many chemicals as you can. Your body still has to work hard to process these chemicals, and the ones it can’t process, it stores in fatty tissue. The body then doesn’t want to get rid of the fatty tissue, because it is storing the bad chemicals. So, you can’t lose weight. This is where green vegetables come in.
Why green vegetables are important
Green vegetables store chlorophyll, which is very helpful in breaking down chemicals in the body. Chia seeds, aloe vera, and seaweeds are great examples of food that is very helpful in helping the body eliminate chemicals. The gelatine that these foods produce when mixed with water combine with these chemicals and toxins and take them away from the liver, so they don’t get re-absorbed by the small intestine.
Believe it or not, parsley and coriander are great green vegetables that can help clean your blood, and get rid of heavy metals in the body (which have recently been found in protein shakes!).
Keep away from them! This should be obvious, but it isn’t for a lot of people. Fast foods are very high in calories, sodium, and fat (trans fat and saturated fat) – not too mention sugar. And, very low in nutrients. Usually eating one meal from many of the fast food chains gives you enough calories for the whole day, and sometimes two. Yes, it’s usually the cheaper option, but in the long run, it will probably kill you if you eat it too often. Again, this is the subject of another post.
Read the labels before you buy anything – it may take you a lot longer to get through the supermarket at first, but eventually your family will thank you for it. Your guiding principle here should be, the less ingredients in a food, the better. I compared two breakfast cereals the other morning – one a supposedly healthy 4 grain cereal which was loaded with sugar, and lots of other additives.
- whole grain corn, whole grain wheat, whole grain oats, whole grain rice, corn starch, brown sugar syrup, corn bran, salt, tripotassium phosphate, conola and/or rice bran oil, colour added, vitamin E (mixed with tocopherols) added to preserve freshness.
- then a whole host of vitamins
At least the above has whole grains.
The second cereal was a porridge with these ingredients:
- wholegrain rolled barley flakes, 51%
- wholegrain rolled oat flakes, 49%
Well, you can’t go wrong with that! I did add some honey for sweetness, but honey is a very natural sugar, easily digestible.
Take back control of your eating habits, and buy foods that are whole, low in additives (hopefully none), and high in nutrition. Read labels, take all things in moderation, and be safe. Remember, their are many benefits to eating healthy.
Have Fun Eating Healthy!