When you want to get healthy and feel better, one of the biggest changes you will have to make is how you are eating. The standard American diet that so many people eat daily, is full of chemical additives, synthetic colors, refined sugar, unhealthy oils and artificial flavorings. Much of this type of food has been so highly processed that any natural nutrients have been processed right out!
Highly processed foods actually move you away from wellness and not toward it! The body needs nutrient rich foods to heal and restore balance. It also needs a break from all of the toxins that it is inundated with when you eat chemical laden foods. It will be next to impossible for you to get back to a place of optimal health until the body has the tools it needs to heal and thrive.
Here are the foods you will want to include to help your body thrive!
Fresh fruits and vegetables
Fresh fruits and vegetables are a great part of a healthy diet. They provide plenty of vitamins and minerals as well as fiber. Organic is best, if you can afford it. It helps you to avoid pesticides that are abundantly sprayed on many fruits and vegetables. If you can’t afford all organic but you can include some, be sure to check out EWG.org’s clean 15 and dirty dozen produce list to help you know which produce would be best to buy organic.
If your budget doesn’t allow for organic produce, that’s okay! Eating conventional produce is far better than packaged and processed food any day! Just make sure you thoroughly wash all of your conventional produce before you eat it to reduce pesticides. Also be sure to check out the great local produce at your neighborhood farmer’s market.
Grass fed, pasture raised meats and eggs
If you have a little extra money in your budget, this is one food category that it pays to spend a little extra on! These animals have been allowed to graze and also spend more time outdoors. The nutrient content of pasture raised meats is better than that of feed lot, grain fed meat. Grass fed beef is leaner and much higher in Omega 3 fatty acids, as is free range poultry.
You can expect to get greater nutritional benefits with the eggs from free range hens as well. The great news is that higher quality grass fed and pasture raised meats and eggs are much easier to find now than even a few years ago. It can also be found for more reasonable prices at many supermarkets. If your budget does not allow for the purchase of grass fed and pasture raised meat and eggs, then conventional is the next best option! Once again, it is better to eat whole foods rather than highly packaged and processed foods!
If your body tolerates dairy and you aren’t currently doing an elimination diet when you have to avoid it, then it may be okay for you to include some dairy in your diet. If you have access to raw milk, cheese and butter, that is the best type to purchase. Raw milk is rich in vitamin A, C, E, K and B complex. It is also a great source for vital food enzymes and beneficial bacteria. Don’t have access to raw dairy? Organic is the next best option. Typically, organic milk comes from cows that have never been given antibotics, growth hormones or GMO feed.
Organic dairy is higher in Omega 3 fatty acids as well as being rich in antioxidants. If conventional dairy is purchased, be sure that it is free from antibiotics and growth hormones (rBGH is the most common). No matter what type of dairy you purchase, be sure to purchase whole milk. Full fat milk helps to provide you with the fat that the brain needs for healthy function and that the body needs for proper hormone production.
Fermented foods and beverages
Most people have heard about the benefits of probiotics. But the best source of probiotics is not in supplement form. Fermented foods and beverages have been a staple in many diets around the globe for thousands of years. The popularity of these foods is increasing due to the digestive benefits that are so important for the millions of people struggling with digestive disorders. Using fermented foods to help restore balance in the gut flora can help you to better absorb the nutrients in food. And consuming them regularly can help improve overall digestion. Homemade fermented foods are also budget friendly….far less expensive than high quality probiotic supplements! Try adding some Kimchee, sauerkraut, kombucha or kefir to help your digestion.
Beans and legumes
Not everyone tolerates beans and legumes well. Those who are eating a Paleo or low carb diet, and those trying to balance blood sugar issues or reduce weight will want to skip beans. But if you tolerate beans well, it is perfectly fine to add them as part of your diet in moderation. Beans and legumes are high in fiber and protein and can easily be added to many recipes. If you are going to use beans, it is vital that you soak them before you cook them.
This helps to remove anti-nutrients that contribute to digestive distress. Those anti-nutrients are the main reason why beans make people “gassy”. Soaking beans makes them easier for the body to digest. To soak, place the beans in a bowl. Add a pinch of baking soda and cover the beans with water. Allow the beans to soak for at least 8 hours, drain and rinse. Then cook them.
Nuts and Seeds
Nuts and seeds make a great addition to a diet because they are rich in high quality fat and protein. Eat them whole or as a nut or seed butter. Just like beans, nuts and seeds are better soaked and dried. This process takes a little while to do, but the soaking removes anti-nutrients that prevent the body from absorbing other vital vitamins and minerals. Want to know how to soak nuts and seeds? Here is a post with all of the instructions!
High Quality Fats
The body needs good, high quality fat in order to function properly. The brain is comprised mostly of saturated fat and cholesterol. Without adequate fat in your diet, your brain will not have what it needs to function optimally. The body also requires plenty of fat in order to build hormones. If a diet is too low in saturated fat from animal and plant sources, they it is not uncommon for hormone imbalance to occur. Cultured butter, virgin coconut oil, extra virgin olive oil, avocado oil, leaf lard and tallow are all great fats to include as part of a healthy diet.
As you work to change your diet, either on your own or with an FDN health coach, it is important to listen to your body so that you can choose the foods that fuel it well. Your body will thank you with improved health and vitality!