Over the past 5 years since I started my journey into holistic nutrition, I’ve incorporated well over 100 changes into my diet and lifestyle. Here are 3 key dietary changes that I feel really made a big difference to my health and well-being:
1. Eat lots and lots of plant foods, especially dark leafy greens.
2. Eat abundant healthy fats.
3. Eat probiotic-rich foods.
Eat lots and lots of plant foods, especially dark leafy greens.
Our human physiology evolved on a diet rich in plant foods. Besides vitamins, minerals, and fibre, plants have thousands of other nutrients known as phytonutrients. Many of these phytonutrients are used by plants as a way to naturally fend off pests. Only a small percentage of these phytonutrients have even been identified by scientists. The research is pretty astounding. When we eat a diet rich in plant-based foods, these nutrients have been shown in studies to help prevent and in some cases reverse many serious diseases such as cancer, heart disease, and diabetes.
Some of the best plant foods are dark leafy greens such as romaine lettuce, spinach, kale, swiss char, cabbage, spinach, parsley, cilantro and dandelion greens. Eat a variety of brightly coloured vegetables such as purple cabbage, beets, carrots, and bell peppers. Eat them raw, steam them, roast them, cook them in soups and stews, or however you’d like. Don’t forget to include fruits, especially berries that are low in sugar and rich in anti-oxidants.
An amazing book that demonstrates the power of plant foods is The Wahls Protocol. Medical doctor Terry Wahls wrote this book to share what she learned through using diet to help reverse the course of her multiple sclerosis and help many of her patients. Her TEDx talk is amazing!
There are of course many website with lots of information about plant foods. An amazing resource is The World’s Healthiest Foods.
Eat abundant healthy fats.
Fats were labeled as unhealthy back in the late 1950s when some bad science kicked off the notion that dietary fat was bad. This ushered in the era of low-fat diets.
Our brains are made up of about 60% fat, every cell in our body has a cellular membrane made mainly from fat, and we need dietary fat to help digest fat soluble nutrients such as vitamins A, D, E, and K. Dietary fat is also a great source of energy and helps keep us satiated. When we eat a very low-fat diet we usually end up eating way too many carbohydrates and our health may suffer over time.
Some of the sources of healthy fats you may want to include in your diet include: extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil, butter (ideally made from grass-fed milk), nuts, seeds, and avocados. Oils such as flax, hemp, sunflower, and sesame are great to consume, but never heat these oils and store them in the fridge or freezer as they are easily damaged by heat. Even animal fats such as lard or tallow can be healthy if they come from free-range animals eating a pesticide-free diet. These animal fats are some of the safest for high temperature cooking as they are highly heat stable.
The list of fats to avoid includes: trans-fat, hydrogenated oils, margarine, Crisco and soybean oil. These fats are found in practically all processed and fast foods such as salad dressings, cakes, cookies, and crackers. These fats are highly inflammatory and damaging to our health. You can make your own salad dressing in a few minutes and learn how to bake with coconut oil instead of Crisco.
Eat probiotic-rich foods.
Did you know that we are made up of about 10 trillion cells? Did you know that our body has nearly 100 trillion bacteria? We’re 10 times more bacteria than human. These bacteria cover our skin, populate our large intestine, and line our oral cavity. Our gut has about 3 lbs of bacteria. Many people associate bacteria with illness but many bacteria are beneficial. These healthy bacteria help in many ways including helping to keep bad bacteria and parasites in-check, producing vitamins B12 and K2, aiding in the absorption of nutrients, and helping rid our body of toxins.
Great sources of healthy bacteria include sauerkraut, kimchi (spicy Korean sauerkraut), pickles, kefir, kombucha, and yogurt (full fat, plain, with probiotic cultures). Make sure that your fermented foods such as pickles, sauerkraut, and kimchi are unpasteurized and made without vinegar. Including them as a daily part of your diet can help keep you healthy. You can find most of these foods at your local health food store or farmers’ market. Fermented foods are also fairly straightforward to make yourself.
If you want to learn more about how bacteria play a huge role in your health, there’s a new book published in 2015 by Dr. David Perlmutter called Brain Maker. This book is a bit technical but you’ll learn about all the latest research into the importance of bacteria for our health.