With hundreds of opinions out there and thousands of diet books, knowing what to eat can feel overwhelming. With all the counting, restricting and renaming, navigating the health landscape can seem impossible and not even worth the effort.
But you don’t have to try crazy or extreme diets to live healthier. The basic building blocks of health are always the same: eating and exercising.
What makes a healthy diet?
A healthy diet centers on nutritious food. Unfortunately, the majority of the foods we eat have little or negative nutritional value. Topping the list, most Americans eat far too much sugar and junk food. Just by cutting back on these two things, you can dramatically increase your health and, if you’re overweight, you can lose a lot of weight.
Since sugar is found even in seemingly healthy foods like salad dressings, sauces, meat marinades and spice mixes, our bodies become overwhelmed with this toxic ingredient. Replacing sugary foods with nutritious choices, like vegetables and simple, homemade meals, will show considerable results in just a few months.
However, sometimes sticking to diets and eating plans is easier when you have specific guidelines. If you do nothing else to improve your health this year, add these three things to your regular routine.
What is a live food? A live food is a freshly picked piece of produce. It can be anything from the grocery store produce section.
Rather than cooking every food, consume some of it raw. According to research, raw vegetables and fruit can contain up to one-third more nutrients than cooked food and make you more likely to eat a variety of vegetables. For example, a salad usually contains over five different vegetables or fruits, but veggies cooked on the side are usually limited to one or two varieties. Including many different varieties of fresh food is extremely valuable.
Nutritionists from the Food Doctor Nutrition Clinic recommend including one raw vegetable or fruit with each meal. In the morning, this could simply be snacking on an orange or making a smoothie. At lunch, include a piece of fruit or salad. And for supper, eat at least one raw vegetable or make another salad. This will allow you to maximize the health benefits of raw food.
A study from 2008 published in the British Journal of Nutrition found that individuals who ate mainly raw foods were higher in many vitamins, such as vitamin A and beta carotene, but they were also lower in some nutrients that are activated by cooking food, such as lycopene. Add some live food to your diet, but don’t replace all cooked vegetables with raw produce. Raw food can be more difficult to digest, so listen to your body and eat what feels nutritious.
Omega-3 fats provide a wealth of health benefits. Most Americans consume barely any omega-3 fats and instead consume far too many omega-6 fats, which come primarily from seed oils in processed foods. Omega-3 fats are found in seafood, with high concentrations in salmon, sardines and other fatty fish. The best way to maximize the health benefits of omega-3s is to eat them directly from fish, but you can also take cod liver oil supplements for an omega-3 boost on days when you don’t eat fish.
Research shows omega-3 fats can:
- Reduce high cholesterol
- Fight heart disease
- Reduce diabetes risk
- Build strong bones
- Fight mental diseases
- Regulate emotion control/impulse control
- Improve the appearance of skin
- Boost eye health
- Reduce cancer risk
- Soothe bowel disorders
- Reduce inflammation
- Healthy fats
In addition to omega-3 fats, there are other fats that are healthy. For years we’ve been afraid of fats, but research now shows that these healthy fats were never a problem and are in fact healing. Avoid trans fats (soon to be banned from food products) and vegetable oils, as vegetable oils are high in omega-6 fats, which can cause inflammation. Healthy fats to use instead include:
Fats to use cold:
- Olive oil
- Nut oils
Fats to use with heat:
- Coconut oil
- Animal fats (butter, lard, etc.)
Make these three changes in your diet and you will start to see big health results in just a few weeks. You don’t have to make drastic diet changes to become healthier this year.