Have you heard that weight loss diets don’t work, but only 95 % of the time? Its true- statistically, they actually pretty much all backfire long term. But because they all tend to work in the short term, dieting is a perfect way to make women feel inadequate and guilty for not being strong willed enough to continue. Dieting has also caused so many women to have eating disorders that these have become normalised. Do we even remember what it is like to eat ‘normally’, as we did as kids (if we were lucky)?
Something my clients hear me say a lot is to eat more vegetables, fruit and legumes because hardly anyone eats as much as is optimal. I don't advocate any one diet for clients (I am not vegetarian although some of my clients are and I support that), but hardly anyone eats even the government recommended 2 fruit and 5 veg servings a day. And I would say if you need to heal from chronic health issues, that would be an absolutely bare minimum.
One of the best things you can do for your gut health, heart health, cancer prevention, and to lower overall inflammation in the body, (which is an underlying condition for many chronic illnesses), is to eat more plant-based foods.
Many people fall back on bread or other grain-based products, as their staple- toast/cereal for breakfast, sandwiches for lunch, pasta for dinner- because they are so convenient, but they are a little acidic on the body, especially the white versions. Fruit and veg are alkalising and provide a much better foundation especially if one has chronic health issues or inflammation. Legumes are usually forgotten and I just want to remind people about them.
Not only do I recommend more vegetables, fruit and legumes as the basis for any diet, but also more VARIETIES of fruit, vegetables and legumes.
We live in an era and a place where we have such an abundance of variety! If you find yourself bored with apples and bananas, when was the last time you had black grapes, figs, persimmons, fresh raspberries, honeydew melon, mango or papaya? Or blood oranges, fuyu persimmons, or the many different varieties of plums available at the moment? They are not expensive compared to chronic illness, takeaway food, or a bottle of wine!
For vegetables, how about the different types of pumpkin now in season; fennel bulbs; orange or yellow capsicum; try a different type of onion than normal; okra; Chinese veg like pay choy; fresh asparagus, sweet potato; different cucumbers; or even a different type of potato than normal? These different colours and types all feed different beneficial gut bugs.
For legumes, which are particularly beneficial for our gut microbes with their fibre, there are chickpeas, black beans, brown or green lentils, butter beans, soy beans, cannelloni beans, kidney beans, and all the wonderful dhal lentils such as mung, urid , red or adzuki. There are even pastas now made purely from legumes.
I encourage you to try something new this week. Try and eat the rainbow every day! Recipes abound online- just google your ingredient! I am loving the Yum app on my iPad, which I keep in the kitchen when I am cooking. I can look up an ingredient I have in the fridge, and find dozens of recipes containing that ingredient.
I hope I have inspired you to have some fun with colourful plant foods and get healthy at the same time.
Are you addicted to sugar? Do you need that snack with sugar a couple of times a day- a chocolate bar, a "healthy" bliss ball, some icecream, a drink with sugar added? Its hardly a personal weakness....sugar is everywhere. It can seem very challenging to break the habit.
Years ago I got out of the sugar rut by going cold turkey. I just decided to stop when someone I loved encouraged me to. And in those days I was much more "paleo" and avoided much fruit and ate more meat. It worked. I haven't really eaten much sugar since then and I rarely crave it.
However it's not what I recommend nowadays, and I haven't found "just go cold turkey" particularly effective for most people. Addictions are tricky because we only have so much willpower, and with all the stress and things pulling on our quota of willpower, its pretty hard to use willpower to break an addiction. A stressful day, an upset, and our hand reaches for the sugar almost by itself and we watch it without being able to stop it. I have certainly been there.
What I realise nowadays is how valuable fruit is, and I eat lots of it- as in, a lot. So does Dave my husband. Fruit when eaten as part of a fairly lowish fat diet, does not raise blood sugar or act like table sugar in the body at all. It provides a whole food that feeds and nourishes the cells including the brain with the fuel they prefer, glucose.
Nowadays I recommend eating plenty of fruit to transition away from addiction to sugar.
Craving sugar? Have some grapes, a mango, or whatever takes your fancy. It is NOT the same as sugar, at all. Fruit is a food which feeds your cells in the way they love, directly. It is a whole food, with fibre and untold amazing nutrition, nourishing you in so many ways. It also assuages that craving for sugar.
I would suggest eating fruit freely, without fear, to move away from sugar addiction. But you might like to keep your fat intake moderated, as fruit and fat are not such a great combination.
I do eat fruit at the end of meals though. I often crave something sweet at the end of a meal and fruit does the trick. And yes, food combing rules tend to say that's not ok, but it works for me.
Do you love fruit but have been scared into thinking its just another form of sugar and therefore bad?
So here we are in the midst of summer in Perth, although some days you wouldn’t know that with the crazy weather. But overall, the weather is warm/hot and sunny and there is an abundance of wonderful foods at the markets and shops. I would like to inspire you to make the most of the season produce available, and to eat a wide variety of plant based foods.
Fruits and vegetables are the most nutrient-dense foods on the planet, and most people, even those who consider themselves healthy eaters, simply do not eat enough fruit and vegetables. The government recommends 5 serves of vegetables and 2 serves of fruit a day, and they are very conservative, so you can be sure that is the absolute bare minimum you need. My opinion is that for optimal health it needs to be more than that.
Many people do not find vegetables appealing, and they often grew up in an era where boiled vegetables was the norm, or they have trained their taste buds to eat highly flavoured take-away foods. So the crisp taste of asparagus or an Asian salad or stirfry broccolini, seems boring. To a large degree, it is a case of broadening your horizons, trying new foods, being open to learning to enjoy them, and being creative in trying new recipes. It may take some time, but it is worth it. The alternative is likely to be a descent into chronically poor health.
Legumes, nuts and seeds, and healthy fats like olive oil are also important plant-based foods to keep in mind, and include in your daily diet. Then there are specialty and superfoods such as seaweeds, chia and hemp seeds, and herbs and spices, which add important elements to a rounded diet. Although I am focusing on plant-foods, I am not saying that is all you should eat. For many people, meat and even dairy can feel important for them, and that is fine, but still, plant based foods should be the mainstay of the diet. That doesn’t however include the white flour or fried potato based plant foods most people eat too much of already.
The benefits of more whole, plant-based foods are more fibre so a healthier gut, less inflammation, and a lowering of diseases such as heart disease, obesity, some cancers. Also, reduced blood pressure, healthy cholesterol levels and improved control of type 2 diabetes. There are so many more benefits but these have plenty of solid science behind them.
So how to add more plant-based foods?
Baked veggies: you can bake a batch of vegetables such as potatoes, pumpkin, beetroot, carrots, sweet potato, caulifower….that can then be eaten hot or added cold to salads or reheated. Plain baked potatoes can also hold a lot of healthy filling. Here is a good guide.
Chia puddings; check out the many chia pudding recipes available….you may have found your new fast food super healthy and delicious breakfast.
Smoothies are another way to add fruit and superfoods like chia, or spirulina, and if you are brave add a decent handful of baby spinach or cos lettuce- you won’t even taste it, I promise! It is a great way to get a decent serve of nutiritous leafy greens, and helps balance the fruit with healthy minerals and more fibre.
Snacks: a piece of fresh fruit at this time of year is so easy…a nectarine, a mango, a handful of cherries. Another great snack high in protein and quite sustaining, is a small handful of nuts. Nuts are high in energy density- i.e calories- but a little goes a long way. Other snacks include hummous with carrot and celery sticks.
Its a great time to do some juicing as well, and I tend to only recommend vegetables juices such as celery and cucumber, with a little apple to sweeten. Here is a good green juice recipe. They are so hydrating and balancing for our bodies at this time of year. Fruit juices are ok occasionally but are too concentrated in fruit sugar without the balancing effects of the fibre, so I much prefer to recommend fruit whole. Green vegetable juices can be very beneficial though.
Asian greens. These are a great way to add more leafy greens to your diet, such as in stirfries and soups. Don’t be put off by how big a bunch of Asian greens is- it shrinks down to a fraction of its size when cooked, and they only need cooking for a couple of minutes. Also spinach and baby spinach are great, and you can add these to mashed potato or pumpkin as well.
Salads are of course perfect for this season, but often people run out of imagination and eat the same salad all the time. Here is one webpage with some awesome recipes you can make ahead. I make my salads for days ahead, and when I feel inspired in the kitchen I might make 3 types of salads and keep them in containers in the fridge for our lunches. This week I have made a version of carrot /date (or raisin) salad, a Mediterranean tomato salad and an Asian salad. I also made a batch of peanut sauce to go over veggies during the week.
I hope this has given you some ideas to widen your repertoire of plant-based foods, especially those suited to this time of year, when we often only want to eat raw or lightly cooked foods. Enjoy all the wonderful fruit, and enjoy nourishing your body with healthy, wholesome plant-based foods.
Here is a recipe I love and make frequently. I originally got it off the Medical Medium site as I love spinach. Don’t be scared- it is actually delicious and sweet and so easy and filling and a great way to increase your iron intake and absorption. :
Raw Spinach Soup.
1 bunch of spinach or 1 bag of baby spinach, well washed and drained.
1-2 tomatoes or punnet of baby tomatoes
1 stalk celery (optional)
1 orange, juiced, or just peeled and chopped (2 if you want to make sure you really like it the first time).
1 clove of garlic and 1 small piece of ginger (optional)
herbs such as cilantro or basil
Pinch of salt
Blend and enjoy at room temperature.
It can be a difficult time of year for many people who are learning to make better food choices, want to lose weight, (or just maintain weight), or who react to many foods. It can also be a challenging time for those of us who prefer healthier foods and eat really well most of the time, but when confronted with different choices and outside of the normal routine, find ourselves eating things we normally wouldn’t even be tempted by!
At this time of year many people are starting holidays and often that leads to drinking too much alcohol and snacking on unhealthy foods. It doesn’t have to be that way, and it can also be a time of rest, nourishment, sunshine and swimming, connection with family and friends, and looking after your health in ways you may not have had time for over the year.