Creating Balance - Nutrition Mini Series
Each and everyday we are bombarded with contradictory information from so called experts (I use that term loosely), celebrities and the media about what we should be eating, how we should eat and when we should eat. So deciphering what’s best for ourselves can be a mind field!
But let’s put it one way...If we all ate the same, we would still all look different. There is not a one size fits all, but what we can do is find what works for each of us individually and by following some simple pillars of guidance, this can help focus on what we should be doing rather than on what we shouldn’t be doing. Remember that we all have different lives, jobs, family commitments, so by trying to eat like everyone else or how we have been told to eat is not only going to affect our bodies differently but also how can this impact on our lives.
I mean no one wants to be told they can’t eat chocolate or pizza or pasta or spend their time counting calories and earn points with what they eat! This can only lead to issues with food, hormonal imbalances, weight fluctuations, nutritional deficiencies and even disordered eating.
So I am here to break down some of that misleading information, give you bite sized nutritional information that you can take away and include in your everyday life.
Life is busy enough as it is, so let’s start off with my main tip…
Don’t count Calories….Count colours instead.
Any kind of balance within the body is affected by what we eat, and restricting calories can have a major impact on our energy levels, hormones, concentration,lower your metabolism, may reduce fertility, weaken bones and cause fatigue and nutrient deficiencies.
But that's not to say that the type of calories we do eat doesn't matter! Of course the type of food we eat can have a major impact on our health! So a mcdonalds mcmuffin may have 228 calories and a veg packed smoothie bowl with granola may contain around 250 calories, but these two foods are completely different in their nutritional profile! I can safely say that a veggie packed smoothie bowl will provide far more nutrients than a take out.
Calories are not created equal! So if you've spent years counting those calories, please stop! It's an added pressure that you just don't need!
Did you know that calorie restriction can actually reduce levels of oestrogen and testosterone which can not only reduce formation of bone and increase bone breakdown, but can also increase stress hormones within the body, causing irregular menstrual cycles and even affect men's reproductive function.
Restricting calories can even lower your immunity making you more prone to illness and we all know that many calorie restrictive diets encourage lower intake of carbohydrates which are needed for hormone production and energy production.
What does matter over counting calories is counting colours...How often do you eat your meal and it's either beige, or only has a couple of colours.
The food we eat is information for our bodies cells, function, responses, and gene coding. So what we put into our body can either help to support our health and well-being or have a negative effect on our body.
Vegetables and fruit contain amazing and powerful antioxidants, phytonutrients, vitamins and minerals that we can’t get from any other food. They contain disease resistant chemicals. They can support heart health, brain health, skin health, have anti-ageing properties, reduce risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, some cancers, support the immune system and balance hormones!
You see each colour group can benefit different areas of our body from yellow foods that support our digestive system, to green foods that support heart health to red foods that support our adrenal glands.
So eating the rainbow is vital for optimum health....including a diversity of colourful vegetables and fruit at each meal time is not only great for the soul but provides us with an abundance of minerals, nutrients and phytonutrients that can nourish our body.
Remember that vegetables and fruit are actually carbohydrates, they contain calories but are vital for supporting our bodies systems, so it is essential that we are not restricting them from our diet, they are vital for optimum health including mental health.
Did you know that eating many different colours on a plate rather than a couple of different vegetables and fruit actually enhances the amount of phytonutrients you get.
The government guidelines of 5 a day is a little short of the mark so we should be aiming for at least 8 a day with 5-6 of them being vegetables and the rest fruit...but dont fret, this is easier than it sounds, think smoothie porridge/bowls with lots of veggies, colourful salads and not forgetting the wholegrains, traybakes which you can add in at least 5 veggies into the mix, curries, pasta sauces, it’s about thinking of ways to increase those veg, easy and effortlessly.
The foundation of how we approach each meal is to make sure that half the plate is vegetables; by eating the rainbow; looking at avoiding the calorie restivive diets, and look at the quality of the food we are eating! It's about nourishing our body, not punishing it!
Did you know that ultra processed foods make up 57.9% of an average person's calorie intake.
Many ultra processed foods have higher sugar contents, even the ones that say low sugar, have unnecessary added salts, flavours and preservatives.
Have you ever looked at the ingredient list of a processed instant meal or the ingredient list of some of these so-called healthy breakfast cereals, savoury snacks, cakes and biscuits and yes...even bread!!
Some of these products have a list as long as your arm, which is safe to say that most are unpronounceable and do not lend themselves to a balanced diet.
Did you know that artificial sugars which are added to no sugar and low sugar products, can actually affect our gut microbiome by increasing levels of bad bacteria. They are not natural like fruit sugars but in fact can cause more health problems.
Consuming preservatives such as nitrates in processed meats have actually been shown to increase risk of colon cancer and have the ability to transform into carcinogenic agents.
The use of preservatives and colourings in foods aimed at children have actually been studied and shown to increase hyperactivity, increase mood and behavioural disorders and affect focus and concentration.
Processed foods can actually disrupt our hormones and promote obesity, and can mimic our own hormones making our natural hormones ineffective.
These foods are not aimed at satisfying those hunger cravings or providing the nutrients that our body needs, they are designed to fill a void quickly without the need for those essential nutrients. Many are aimed at low calorie, so other ingredients are added to compensate for this which are often processed, but as mentioned above, calories are not the devil, it's about where the calories are coming from and in what form.
Limiting processed foods is a great way to create balance especially with gut health and hormonal health.
I always say to my clients that when we look at the foods we eat, ask yourself, will this food nourish me? And I don't just mean to satisfy you!
If the answer is yes then you are on the right track, if the answer is no, then its likely to impact your body somewhere and our body thrives on balance, so by helping to support that balance through what we eat can also help support the balance we feel through our energy levels, hormones, moods, gut health, skin health and brain health.
Next week we will look at Meals, and I'll be answering some of the questions I hear a lot within my clinic...should we be eating 3 meals a day? Can I include snacks? How do I create good food habits?