Health and Nutrition I: Introduction

We all have thought once or twice “I should start to eat healthier and more active”. Specially at the beginning of the year, after the festivities. Most of the time incorporating health and nutrition tips and knowledge to our daily lives isn’t easy. Each health website or magazine has its own rules, dietitians only give broad recommendations or make too restrictive diets.

Unfortunately there’s a reality few people want to admit. Recommending and selling food supplements is a business, even preparing a diet for a client. If someone solves all food related issues of a client in one visit that would not be profitable. On top of that it is a business plagued with myths and false beliefs and it is blooming because of the progressive degradation of our eating habits.

In Health and Nutrition II: Healthy Foods to Eat we will list common foods that are somewhat ignored in our diets and, if we include them in it more often, our health could improve. We’ll list some exotic foods too, they have so many healthy properties that we couldn’t miss them on the list.

In Health and Nutrition III: Healthy Diet Foods still we cover healthy food but with special properties for overweight, high cholesterol and/or diabetic people. Finally we cover proven supplements that help in those cases and warn against others where research concluded that do not to work.

For readers of parts II and III we recommend using our List of Vitamins and Supplements as a reference, to see what effects readers should expect from the vitamin content of the foods listed. If food has a content over 50% of the daily recommended value for a vitamin, the reader should start to notice some if not all the positive health effects listed for it.

We eat much different foods and diets to what our grandparents ate. We have less time and are generally lazier so we rely on processed foods much more. Some general rules of thumb to follow for overall good health and nutrition are:

  • Keep it simple and start small and slow.
    • Introduce small and simple changes bit by bit. This way it is easier to adapt to the changes. Don’t try to achieve too much in one go: when there’s too many changes to make the temptation to give up is higher.
    • For example start planning and cooking a healthy meal with new ingredients just one day of the week as a fun hobby. Also it will help if you have a family that has to adapt as well.
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Better small and frequent shopping carts with a majority of fresh products
  • Start going to the supermarket once or twice a week instead of doing one big shopping cart once a month.
    • Since you’re going to buy more fresh products and less processed foods the former will not stay fresh as long as the processed products. It is more work but you’ll be eliminating a lot of toxic additives from your diet.
    • If you have to buy processed foods take your time and read the ingredient label. You may have a surprise if you learn about the toxicity and harmful side effects many have before watching how commonly they appear in labels.
    • How to discern between a processed and unprocessed food you may ask? If the product in question has an ingredient label that has more than three ingredients, it is processed. That may include pickles, preserves, etc. (Is not the same to ferment, sprout or preserve a food yourself than what you find in supermarkets, it will depend on the type of ingredients added).
  • Plan your shopping list with the dishes you will prepare the next days in mind.
    • It will help you cook your food when freshest and more nutrient packed. You’ll have less food getting stale because you forgot it was deep in the fridge behind other products.
    • It is best when you have the main dishes planned for all week and buy ingredients as you need them instead of improvise and prepare meals based on what you find in the fridge.
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These products cost ten times more and have ten times less nutrients than natural unprocessed, whole foods
  • Run away from processed and “functional” foods or “nutraceuticals”.
    • A functional food is one that companies enrich with vitamins, minerals or some kind of amino-acid that promises a plethora of health benefits.
    • What food companies don’t tell you is that just some parsley leaves have thrice more vitamin C than their antioxidant juice. Or how a single sardine has ten times more phosphorus and is thirty times cheaper than their memory enhancement cereal bars.
    • The business of functional food has become the wild west of health claims. It’s better to stick to traditional and affordable healthy foods. Food companies want to make health and nutrition more complicated than it actually is because it is a very profitable business.
  • Stay on focus, don’t be an “impulse buyer”.
    • Supermarkets study human psychology thoroughly. They put their impulse buys near the cash register. That way when people are waiting, they buy those delicious salty peanuts or crackers they never really need that, although being bad for health are addictive.
    • Did you know a good chunk of a supermarket’s income comes from these products. They inflate their price so there are better margin on them while they attract customers with good deals on staple foods.
  • If adapting and preparing a different menu is hard choose a good time during the day when you are most relaxed and prepare your dishes for the next.
    • For example you can prepare dinner and next day’s lunch together so next day you only have to warm it in a pan or cooking pot. I do not recommend using the microwave. Its heating process is unhealthy and destroys the flavor and texture of food not to mention its vitamins and minerals.
  • Be careful of what you eat fruit with.
    • Many biochemists warn about how we shouldn’t mix fruits with other type of foods, even other fruits. This is because fruits and other foods need different enzymes so we can digest them and most often these enzymes interfere with each other. Specially they interfere and impair the activity of enzymes required to digest proteins or fats.
    • This incompatibility may lead to long-term damage of the liver or gallbladder in the case of different citrus and fatty meals. Short-term it produces a slower digestion with more fermentation, constipation and bloating.
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Almonds, peanuts, nuts, seeds… only in moderation
  • Try not to mix fats and sugars often.
    • Sugars here include refined starch like in potatoes, pasta or flour. Sugars transform into glucose which increases insulin levels and therefore tells our liver to store all the energy intake stopping the burning of fats.
    • Every kind of nut is a lipidic-glucidic food by itself (food containing both sugars and fats). Although many are healthy we recommend not to eat them in excess, specially when fried or salted because of the increased hunger and addiction they induce.
  • Incorporate leafy vegetables to your dishes.
    • Helps you feel full sooner and introduces more healthy nutrients and good flavor to your meals. It helps to re-educate your sense of taste so you don’t need as much salt or sugary drinks to enjoy a meal.
  • Use more ground herbs to lower the salt you season your dishes with.
    • Same as before, it helps your sense of taste and it contains many nutrients.
    • Also try to use unrefined salt, sea or rock salt since it has many more minerals than table salt which is pure sodium chloride and damages your health long-term.
  • A fifteen minute walk after meals is good for digestion.
    • It stimulates bowel movements and gastric-bile secretions and helps to fight against the lethargy many people feel after a big meal.
  • My advice here, which is a simple one but yet we often forget to follow is: “take time to eat, take small bites and chew thoroughly”.
    • Digestion starts in the mouth and eating slowly gives the body time to assimilate the food and send to the brain the feeling of satiety It will help us to eat less and keep a healthy weight.

In parts; Health and Nutrition II: Healthy Foods to Eat and Health and Nutrition III: Healthy Diet Foods we will list a series of nutrient packed foods that have different properties and help with many diseases and health issues.

Some of these foods are very common but people generally don’t know about their many beneficial health properties so they tend to eat these foods too rarely to have a noticeable effect.

Others are more exotic but with such good properties that worth the effort of incorporating them in our diets. Part III focus more on foods and supplements that promotes healthy weight loss and healthy insulin and cholesterol levels.