Healthy New Year 2 – Nutrition – Back to Basics
Having come to the conclusion in the last post that it is not what we eat but how much we eat over Christmas that is more of the problem, I felt that a quick look at an overall back to basics approach to nutrition would help to kick-start the healthy new year.
Back to basics background
It has been shown that sugar can be more addictive than coacine (in lab rats)! Which just goes to show us how easy it is to get addicted to the sweet stuff and how excusable it is to binge on it over Christmas. Also, fats within foods tend to hold the flavour, so we love a slug of cream in a soup or some clotted cream in scrambled eggs or to dip the bread in the bacon dripping or pastry mad with real goose/beef suet.
These are the things that switch on all the reward / joy sensors in our brains, we get big endorphine surges with these types of foods. No wonder we love them, use them as rewards and often overindulge a bit.
In a fascinating programme in 2014, Horizon brought together twin doctors Chris and Xand Van Tulleken to self-experiment with high-fat and high-sugar diets and see what their effect that had on their bodies, with them – as twins being the ‘perfect control’. It was available on youtube but seems not to be any longer but it was a really good exploration and well worth finding to watch.
Briefly, their conclusion was that weighting the diet too heavily in either direction was unhealthy and caused the body to slide towards dysfunction but that worse than either was the 50/50 combination of fat & sugar. Imagine eating a spoon-full of sugar (only to help the medicine go down I hear you say) or a spoon full of cream. Generally most people can’t tolerate that level of intense sugar or fatty ‘hit’ but if you mix a spoon of sugar and a spoon of cream… now you’re talking (cheesecake / sponge cake / chocolate brownie / Krispy-Kreme donut, bar of Dairy Milk etc.) we can’t get enough of it.
It seems we are almost genetically drawn towards the foods that have 50/50 proportion perhaps more than the high-fat content foods that pick up on our cave-man ancestors desire to have the energy to survive without central heating, running hot water and 25 tog duvets.
Long term, though, we all know it’s not good for us to be loading on those foods and we need to get back towards something that actually makes our bodies run smoothly and supports our immunity and keeps us all-round healthy.
Back to basics guidelines
I think it is probably best to focus on some simple ‘rules’ that can easily be remembered, especially in a tight spot, supermarket or ‘temptation moment’.
- Fresh & Raw where possible
- Make the body work for it’s nutrition
- Cut out junk & cheap foods
They are really simple things to remember and if that’s all you get from this series, you’ll automatically eat better, live more healthily. They kind of feed one into the other and overlap a bit, but try to remember all three.
Fresh & Raw where possible
Back to basics = raw and fresh. Raw food actually triggers different reactions from the body when you eat it. I’ve been unable to find specific studies that relate to immune response or blood leukocyte levels, but enough claims are made about it to give us a pretty good idea that cooking food (not all foods) can cause the nutritional content to diminish. Most importantly, vegetables eaten raw and fresh are a greater challenge to the digestion, make us use more energy actually braking them down and contain the peak amount of naturally occurring vitamins and minerals.
If you have to cook vegetables (because its cold or they aren’t great to eat raw like broccoli or cauliflower for example) lightly steaming them is best as there is less leaching of the nutrients into the water than if you boil them.
Make the body work for it’s nutrition
Making the body work for it’s nutrition is accentuated by eating foods with a low glycaemic index, the more energy the body has to expend on breaking down the food and the slower the release of glucose into the blood stream, the better it is for us long-term. We have much less of the highs and lows associated with insulin spikes after foods that release glucose rapidly into the body, therefore there is less stress on the hormonal systems of the body.
Replacing pasta or potatoes with something like quinoa is a brilliant start, as is going for brown, red or wild rice rather than white rice.
Cut out junk & cheap foods
Anything pre-processed is ‘cheap’. If some mechanical aid or cooking process has done half of the work for you, your body is not going to be putting in the same effort, therefore it is a lot easier to consume more calories with less actual volume – making you less full so desire to eat more.
Cut out the fast-food, microwave dinners, packets of crisps or biscuits etc. Avoid the foods that are a ‘quick-fix’, the chocolate bars, snack bars, pasties, even the ones marked ‘healthy’ or weight-watchers are a cheat to the body and will not provide good quality nutrition.
Whilst I realise that may sound like a boring list of ‘don’ts’, if you want your body to work properly, you need to give it good fuel. Can you imagine trying to run your petrol car on diesel? You just wouldn’t do it. So why try to run the finely-tuned, intricate machine that is your body on anything less than the best?
I’m sure there will be more another time on good nutrition, there is so much to write and some stories to tell, but for now, there’s some simple back to basics tips on nutrition to boost your ‘healthy new year’.