How to eat well for a healthy lifestyle
He that takes medicine and neglects diet wastes the skills of the physician (Chinese Proverb)
Simply put, food is medicine.
With so much conflicting information, it’s easy to become confused about healthy eating. Based on the latest scientific research there are few main principles of healthy eating recommended by Lifestyle medicine professionals:
no single food contains all the essential nutrition. For the body to stay healthy and work properly it is important that healthy diet should contain a variety of different foods.
A healthy diet should provide us with the right amount of energy to maintain energy balance and all necessary materials, minerals, vitamins for optimal functioning of every organ and tissue in the body.
Nutrition is the key to managing chronic disease
In the twentieth century, antibiotics revolutionised medicine and helped save millions of lives. The relationship between cause and consequences of infectious diseases is straightforward. Chronic conditions like cancer, cardiovascular diseases, autoimmune diseases, dementia and mental health became top issues for several decades worldwide. Nutrition is key for both managing and reducing the risk of all these chronic diseases.
We practice lifestyle medicine which is an evidence- based specialty. Large studies have shown that eating a plant based diet – meaning a diet rich in vegetables, fruits, beans or legumes, nuts, seeds and whole grains – can lower inflammation as well as the risk of many chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, stroke and cancer. For the treatment, reversal and prevention of lifestyle related chronic disease, the American College of Lifestyle Medicine (ACLM) recommend eating a plant-based diet, which is predominantly a variety of minimally processed vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds.
What is a plant-based diet?
A plant based or plant-forward eating diet focuses on food derived primarily from plants: not only fruits and vegetables but also nuts, seeds, oils, whole grains, legumes and beans. For many people it doesn’t mean that they should become vegetarian or vegan and never eat meat or dairy, but should proportionally choose more of their food from plant sources.
Plant based food provides all the necessary proteins, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals for optimal health. Plant based food is also higher in fibre and is the only source of phytonutrients.
The Chinese quote above is from thousands of years ago, but modern-day science agrees that food is medicine, and not just fuel. Food does not just provide calories and energy to the body via the nutrients it contains, but on top of this every incoming molecule triggers chemical messengers which affect the gut and the microbiome, triggering hormonal responses and affecting epigenetic and gene expression. For example, antioxidants affect inflammatory cascades in the body and can reduce the likelihood of cardiovascular disease and cancer. Nutrition is much more complex than just fuel for energy, it is integral to the entire functioning of the body.
How can I make my diet more healthy?
There are some simple rules to get started with a healthy whole grains plant-based diet.
Change the way you think about meat
have a smaller amount, or eat once a week
cook a vegetarian meal at least one night a week
Eat lots of vegetables
make sure you choose a variety of colours
start adding vegetables to every meal.
Include whole grains for breakfast
start with oatmeal, muesli, wholegrain croissants, wholegrain granola
add some nuts and fruit to your breakfast.
Go for dark greens
try a variety of green leafy vegetables such as kale, spinach, red leafy greens and add an assortment of other vegetables such as green peas, beans, fresh herbs or tofu
Build a meal around a salad
try once a week to have a bowl of salad with beans, seeds and nuts as a main course. By adding goat cheese and berries you can have a lovely healthy dinner plate
Eat fruits for dessert
try an assortment of sweet exotic fruits such as mangoes, guavas or papaya from an Asian food store f you have one nearby, or just choose nice ripe juicy seasonal fruits and berries from your local supermarket
Choose healthy fats
Examples of “good” fats include olive oil, olives, nuts, seeds and avocado