Healthy Food Nutrition Overview
8 Fundamental Basics
by Nancy Hearn, CNC
Healthy food at a farmer's market
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Deciding which foods to eat for a healthy diet can be a bit confusing. Some of the most reputable health advocates often disagree and there always seems to be a new "health food diet" that comes on the scene.
For 30 plus years, I have explored healthy food nutrition and have personally tried various diets, including vegan, raw foods, vegetarian, Macrobiotic, Ayurvedic, Mediterranean, Paleo, gluten-free, and others.
In my nutrition consulting business, I have helped many clients lose excess weight on a health food diet.
I know what type of nutrition plan consistently gives the best results in terms of both weight loss and health improvements and I will be sharing my healthy food nutrition plan for fat loss.
Even though each person has different nutritional needs, I believe there are some fundamental basics of healthy food nutrition that will benefit just about everyone who follows them.
8 Healthy Food Nutrition Basics
- Water nutrition is the foundation of health. Water and oxygen are the two most essential nutrients for the human body. In addition, water is the means of transport for delivering nutrients from food to all the cells. Adequate water intake is critical for helping your body remove waste and toxins from the cells and organs. You can read more here on water nutrition.
- The beverages you drink are just as important as the food you eat. If you are drinking enough water daily to keep your body fully hydrated and energized, you will simply will not want or need other beverages. The problem is that most people drink many beverages (such as coffee, tea, sodas, alcohol) that further dehydrate the body. In addition, many beverages are high calorie, full of sugar, and highly acidic. The most acidifying beverages are sodas, sports drinks, alcohol, coffee and tea. Find out how much water you need to drink on a daily basis.
- There is no one-size-fits-all health diet that is best for every person. One of the key lessons I learned fairly quickly as a nutrition consultant is that every person is unique in regards to their nutritional needs, body type, blood type, metabolic type, levels of activity, age, cultural upbringing, and psychology in regards to food and eating. Thus, I will be addressing many of these different aspects in this series as they relate to nutrition. In addition, I will be summarizing what I consider to be the pros and cons of some of the most popular health diets.
- Food quality is the most important factor in healthy food nutrition. The healthiest plant-based foods are locally grown (preferably organic), are not from genetically modified seeds (choose foods that are non-GMO), the plants are not sprayed with chemical pesticides and fertilizers, nor are the harvested foods irradiated and stored in refrigerator trucks. The healthiest animal-based foods are grass-fed, organic and free range. The best fish is wild harvested rather than farm-raised. If organic produce, free-range meats, and wild fish are too expensive or unavailable where you live, you might want to start your own small vegetable garden. Or find a local grocery store, farmers market or health food store that offers natural foods, preferably locally grown. Always wash your fruits and vegetables with a chemical-free produce wash. Avoid ALL processed or packaged foods. You simply will not get adequate nutrition for optimal health if you eat primarily packaged, canned, or other processed food. Needless to say, fast food is not recommended.
- Sugar is a slow killer and is highly addictive. Avoid all forms of sugar, including white sugar, brown sugar, honey, and maple syrup. Even a large amount of fruit is not a good idea for most people because of its high sugar content. Be aware that ALL processed foods have high levels of “hidden sugars” in them, such as barley malt, maltose, glucose, fructose, sucrose, dextrose, lactose, sorbitol, corn syrup, and fruit juice concentrate, just to name a few. High-fructose corn syrup is one of the unhealthiest hidden sugars found in many processed foods. If you constantly crave sugar, you can overcome this addiction through an ongoing healthy eating plan that will give your body the nutrients and energy it needs. I know this is possible because I used to be a sugar addict myself, and I no longer crave sugar. Read more here on eating and drinking sugar.
- The ratio of macronutrients is critical. As much contradiction there is about healthy food nutrition, one thing we know for sure is that we all need the 3 essential macro-nutrients—proteins, fats, and carbohydrates. The source of these foods and their ratio in our diet is where a nutrition plan or specific diet comes into play. The bottom line nutritionally is that we all need a variety and an abundance of fresh vegetables, a moderate amount of protein (either plant-based or animal-based), a minimal amount of healthy fats (such as avocadoes, nuts and nut butters, olives, olive oil, coconut oil, and salmon), and a minimal amount of fresh fruit.
- Avoid starches, processed grains, and gluten as much as possible. This is the guideline that no one wants to hear because we all love our breads, pastas, potatoes, pastries, crackers, cookies, chips, cereals, etc., etc. All of these starchy foods convert to sugar in the body in varying degrees and time frames. Whole grains and sprouted grains are going to be much healthier than highly processed grain foods, but I still do not consider grains as necessary daily foods—not to mention that grains are fattening! Just think, what do ranchers feed cattle to fatten them up? It’s not plant foods or protein; it is more grains. Gluten is another big issue that warrants our attention because it creates excessive inflammation in the body, and especially in the brain. Recent studies are showing that gluten is pro-inflammatory and problematic for everyone, not just for those who have been diagnosed with gluten sensitivity. More on this important topic in future articles.
- Follow the 80/20 rule for a livable approach to healthy eating. Last but not least, we must take into account our individual relationship with food as it relates to our psychology, our upbringing, family culture and diets, self-image, food addictions, weight management issues, lifestyle and activity levels, and so forth. Making any lasting dietary change requires a balanced perspective and an understanding that we are going to slip and eat unhealthy foods at times. I have found that if I commit to eating healthy 80 to 90 percent of the time and allow myself to make less healthy choices (for various reasons, such as social affairs, convenience, travel, or lack of planning) the other 10 to 20 percent of the time, I feel little resistance and never feel deprived of my less healthy “comfort foods.”
Healthy food nutrition begins with an adequate intake of clean water daily.
The quality of food we eat is of ultimate importance, as well as understanding how to incorporate the correct ratio of macronutrients in our daily meals.
Understanding and making peace with one’s cultural background and eating habits is also a huge part of one’s relationship with food.
It is liberating to be able to eat to feel your best, to fully enjoy food, and to overcome unhealthy cravings.
More articles will be coming soon on specific health and weight loss diets, ways to overcome food addictions, and Nancy’s healthy food nutrition plan and supplement recommendations.
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