The new food rules

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Better science has led to clearer advice on what you should eat every day.

1. Don’t worry so much about protein

There is no doubt that protein is essential in the diet, and is needed for repairing cells and healthy growth and development. Many people are anxious about not getting enough protein, especially if they are vegetarian. Most of us reading this consume too much protein; men should eat about 56 g per day and women about 46 g per day. This is enough to cover your palm. If you are eating enough calories, you should be getting enough protein.

On the other hand, excessive protein consumption has been associated with increased cancer risk and more rapid aging.

2. Whenever possible, eat outside the box
Avoid packaged and processed foods as far as possible. Anything that comes in a box is never going to be as beneficial for you as unprocessed, natural, wholesome food. Real food beats manipulated food on every score.

3. Don’t bother with pricey superfoods

Superfoods are all the rage; acai berries, chia seeds, hemp seeds, etc., but they are very expensive. Are they really better than all the common superfoods we have around us; garlic, ginger, legumes, fruit and vegetables, oily fish, etc.? Science would indicate there is no particular advantage.

4. Instantly improve your diet with this nutrient

Fibre is not a very glamorous nutrient, but 95% of us do not each enough of it! Research shows that you can change the make-up of your gut flora by eating more fibre. The bacteria consume the fibre to produce short chain fatty acids, which regulate the immune system and quieten inflammation. The diversity of good bacteria [probiotics] in the gut is responsible for a healthy immune system, which leads to less inflammatory and auto-immune diseases.

5. Stay away from zero calorie foods and drinks

Artificial sweeteners trigger greater activation of reward centres in the brain, which changes how the brain regulates satiety. Thus the brain’s ability to regulate appetite is negatively affected, and the person consumes more calories. They also negatively affect gut bacteria, which predisposes the person to glucose intolerance, which may lead to diabetes.

6. Some foods may wire you for weight gain

The old maxim: “Energy in = Energy out --> No weight gain” no longer applies to everyone, especially those struggling to lose weight. Research shows that calories from refined carbohydrates have a different effect on the body to those from vegetables, particularly in those “sensitive” to carbs. Refined carbs stimulate a rapid increase in insulin, which shunts the calories consumed into storage in fat cells [in case of famine]. This leaves a low glucose level in the blood, which triggers hunger and more eating. This situation is called insulin resistance, which leads to fat around the midline and increased risks of cardiovascular disease. It has been shown that one can retrain the fat cells by eating the right foods; olive and nut oils, saturated fats and dark chocolate. The result is fewer insulin spikes and better efficiency at burning off more calories too.

7. Some super pairings to consider

Many nutrients cannot be absorbed efficiently by the body on their own. Some combinations work synergistically to enhance the absorption of vital nutrients:

  • Egg in a salad increases the absorption of carotenoids from the vegetables.
  • Topping a burger with avocado, leads to reduced inflammation caused by the burger alone.
  • Tomato and broccoli each enhance the other’s anticancer properties in combination.
  • Frying tomato with onion releases more lycopene, which has important anticancer benefits.
  • Squeezing lemon juice into green tea preserves 80% of the catechins [antioxidants].
  • Oranges and other foods high in vitamin C improve the absorption of iron from spinach.
  • Black pepper improves the absorption of turmeric.

8. Two apples a day

Apples have been shown to have a remarkable effect on the mix of bacteria in the human gut, when consumed regularly. It was noted in the study that the numbers of beneficial Lactobacillus, Enterococcus and Bifidobacteria increased, while the pathogenic bacteria decreased, thus having a marked effect on reducing inflammation. This can be equated to about 15mg of cortisone a day!

Tip: cook the apples with raisins and add a generous amount of cinnamon. Consume about 2 apples daily.

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