There is always much debate surrounding the issue of diet and among the experts, there is still quite a bit of disagreement. Are starchy carbohydrates like potatoes and corn okay to eat or should we limit them? Should we follow high-protein or low-to-moderate protein eating plans? Is it wise to eat foods of animal origin like meat, fish and dairy products or stick to plant-based foods like beans and lentils? How much fat should we eat and what types? What’s the best source of Omega-3’s, plant or animal? Is it really worth the extra money to buy all organic produce or is conventionally grown okay? What role does exercise play in terms of weight loss and general health? And should we be concerned with counting calories or should we focus on how particular foods affect our biochemistry?
Even though it seems like there’s constant warring and no common ground among the diet gurus, there are, in fact, quite a few things the experts actually agree on. So before you throw up your hands in frustration and decide to eat anything and everything for lack of solid guidance, let me share with you a list of basics that everyone, from the raw foodists and vegans to the South Beachists and Paleos can agree on.
1. Eat more fiber in the form of vegetables, especially dark green leafy vegetables like broccoli, spinach, kale, chard, collards and mustard greens. Vegetables are a good source of fiber and are packed with nutrients such as beta-carotene, vitamin C, riboflavin, calcium and iron. They are a great source of antioxidants and phytochemicals and aid in moving things like toxins and excess estrogen out of the body. Aim to eat a certain portion of your veggies raw.
2. If you eat starchy carbohydrates like beans, potatoes and grains (I’m a big fan of including these foods in our diets), eat them in their unprocessed, whole-food form. Reach for oat groats and quinoa rather than Raisin Bran or Corn Flake cereals. Choose brown rice over white rice. Opt for potatoes rather than french fries or potato chips. You get the idea.
3. If you eat meat, make sure it’s grass fed. It won’t have hormones, steroids or antibiotics and will be higher in omega 3’s. My personal bias, as many of you know, is to reduce or eliminate your intake of meat, poultry and seafood (and dairy products and eggs)–foods of animal origin have no fiber, are full of cholesterol and tend to be higher in saturated fat. By limiting your intake of animal foods, you’ll improve your health, protect Mother Earth and save the lives of many sentient creatures. All win-win!
4. Include nuts and berries in your diet. While not all diet gurus see the benefits of including all fruits, most are cool with berries and nuts, in limited quantities. With respect to nuts, dry roasted is okay but raw is always better. A handful of nuts four to five times per week has been shown to have significant health benefits.
5. Reduce or eliminate your intake of sugar and high-fructose corn syrup–both are known to be inflammatory and aging on the body. Be sure to read labels; you’d be surprised how many foods (from soup to nuts!) contain one or both of these ingredients.
6. Drink lots of fresh water. Our bodies were meant to be well-hydrated–aim for 8 glasses per day, especially if you’re active. Most diet gurus also give the green light for Green tea.
7. Check your Vitamin D levels and supplement if they are low. Also consider adding a multivitamin, B12, probiotics (for good gut health) and magnesium.
The disagreements among the health professionals will probably go on for years to come. In the meantime, your health, vitality and well-being will still be your best guide as to the right eating plan for your body. Food is fuel and if you follow the above guidelines and eat foods that support your health, you’ll feel more vibrant, energetic and youthful and have less inflammation and illness. You’ll feel less compelled to overeat unprocessed wholesome foods since they cause less body imbalance, which translates into fewer compulsive cravings. Your body will let you know if you’re on the right track.
Posted by Julie M. Simon, MA, MBA, MFT., psychotherapist, life coach, certified personal trainer, author of The Emotional Eater’s Repair Manual, speaker and founder of The 12 Week Emotional Eating Recovery Coaching Program. If you have a question or topic you would like to see addressed in this blog, go to http: //www.overeatingrecovery.com.
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