One of the best Health Insurance plans you can invest in is to invest in your body and make sure it is nutritionally optimally balanced for long term health and wellbeing.
Here is Foods For Life Nutritionist Yvonne Bishop-Weston's top ten basic tips
10 ways to get the most out of your diet
- Carb crawling
Carbohydrates are the body’s main fuel providers. Complex or wholegrain carbohydrates also contain fibre which supports the digestive system, helping eliminate wastes and toxins from the body.
Avoid the white, refined carbohydrates such as white pasta, white bread and white rice, and sweet sugar-rich foods and drinks. Not only are they depleted of vital nutrients, they also increase levels of glucose (sugar) in the blood, quickly leading to energy highs but then also lows. In the lows you feel that you need more sugar to pick you up again. This excess sugar can also be turned into body fat and is one of the most common reasons for weight gain. Don’t forget it’s not just the starchy grains that are carbohydrate-rich, fruit and vegetables are too.
· Starchy carbohydrates such wholegrain pasta or bread, brown rice or potatoes should make up around 15% or just over an eighth of your plate.
· Fruit and vegetables should fill up 50 % / half your plate.
- Say no to drugs
You may think sugary foods and stimulants such as coffee, tea and cola’s are giving you the energy to drag yourself out of bed in the morning but in actual fact it is these addictive foods that are making you feel like you need them so much. Stimulants release the body’s stores of sugar, giving you energy highs and lows and leading to an increase in body fat. If you really can’t do without you daily cuppa, try decaff coffee or tea.
- Plant your protein
Protein is needed by the body for growth and repair, and for the control of most body functions via enzymes, hormones, neurotransmitters (messengers used by the nervous system), and immune cells.
Just like there are healthy and unhealthy sources of carbohydrates, the same is true for proteins. Proteins in red meat for instance tend to come along with saturated fats which can clog up the cardiovascular system and encourage weight gain and skin problems such as spots. Fish and lean meats such as skinless chicken and turkey and wild meats are less laden with these saturated fats and vegetable sources of protein even less so. Vegetable protein-rich foods include beans and pulses (especially when combined with a grain, E.G. beans on toast), soya and nuts and seeds. Eggs and cheese are also good sources of protein but again can come along with heavy helpings of saturated fat depending on the animal’s diet.
· Protein-rich foods should make up 20% or about a quarter of your plate.
- Good fat, bad fat
Fat is a rich energy source. It carries flavours making food taste good and helps us to feel full and satisfied after meals. It also transports fat-soluble vitamins and provides insulation, protecting the body’s organs.
Saturated fats are often thought of as bad fats as even though they have the above functions they also are sticky and can clog the cardiovascular system increasing the risk of heart attacks and strokes. Saturated fats also block the body’s use of good fats.
Trans fats are to be avoided at all costs. They are good fats turned bad by processing and are even more damaging than saturated fats. These fats are found in many processed ‘junk’ foods.
Polyunsaturated fats include the ‘essential’ fats, so called because we need to take them in through our diet as we cannot make them ourselves. They are needed for the nervous system, hormones, skin and brain function. These fats are especially important in pregnancy for both the mother and developing baby. Essential fats come in two groups called omega 3 and omega 6 and are found in oily fish and nuts and seeds and their oils. These fats can actually aid weight loss and are the kind of fat that your brain rather than your bottom is made of! Polyunsaturated fats such as sunflower and sesame oil should not be heated but should be eaten cold as dressings or added at the end of cooking.
Monounsaturated fats lie between saturated and polyunsaturated fats in the health scale. They include healthy fats such as olive oil which are ideal for cooking.
· Fats should make up around15% of your diet. Limit the saturated fats, avoid the trans fats and maximise the good and essential fats.
- Breakfast like a king
In order to keep your blood sugar, and so energy levels consistent you need to have regular meals and snacks that include some protein. Instead of skipping breakfast and having a large evening meal, start the day with a good breakfast and finish with a lighter meal to prevent your body fat-storing overnight. Breakfast like a King, lunch like a Queen and dine like a pauper, with a couple of healthy snacks in between.
- Positive balance
Get your ratio’s right, ditch the scales and keep the balance. If you are trying to lose weight or maintain your ideal weight it is worth knowing that calorie controlled diets don’t work long-term. Instead use the above ratios of carbs, protein and fat to make up your ideal plate, have regular meals and a wide variety of healthy, whole, unprocessed foods. Be positive about all the foods you can include rather than think negatively about what you shouldn’t have.
- Put a rainbow in your life 5 times a day
Ensure you not only have your ‘5 a day’ but also that this is made up of a wide variety of colourful fruits and vegetables. Many fruits and vegetables are appealing bright colours for a reason - to attract you to them and their myriad of phytonutrients, vitamins and minerals. Try to buy organic where possible and always wash them well. Your dinner plate should be at least half full with a mixture of colourful vegetables (not including potatoes). Having vegetables raw or lightly steamed is the best way to maintain the nutrient content.
- Variety is the spice of life
Different foods are sources of different nutrients so to ensure you maximise your nutrient intake don’t stick to the same old dishes, try new foods and keep your diet varied.
Do however avoid processed foods and artificial additives. Read food labels and find out what is in your food, if an ingredient doesn’t sound like a food it probably shouldn’t be.
- Six of salt
Government recommendations are that we consume no more than 6g of salt (or 2.4g of sodium) a day. This is primarily because sodium contributes to high blood pressure increasing the risk of heart disease. Try using different herbs and spices to flavour food and avoid processed foods which are often high in salt.
10. Have a drink!
Water is needed to support most body processes. It is also needed to flush wastes and toxins out of the body. Drink one to two litres of water a day between meals, and more if the weather is hot or you are exercising.
Lifestyle is also important. Nutrients are quickly used up if you smoke, live in a polluted environment or are stressed. Minimise negative lifestyle factors and if this is out of your control ensure your diet is giving you an extra supply of vitamins and minerals. Sufficient sleep, exercise and daily time outside are also fundamental to good health.