THE WELLBEING DIET
A good diet is crucial for our health and wellbeing. By maintaining a balanced diet, full of natural foods, and by avoiding those which are highly processed and/or crammed with sugar, we can prevent some of the most common and dangerous toxins from entering our systems.
There’s also a deep sense of ritual in food, something that’s been embedded throughout the ages and across cultures, much of it centered around community. When we begin to eat healthily and embrace food as ritual, adopting practices that allow us to eat mindfully, then we move from simply being fed, to being nourished.
Here are 10 diet tips we can all benefit from if we want to keep our bodies healthy and free of toxic substances.
- Shop around the periphery of the supermarket, where most of the natural and organic products can be found. Avoid the aisles whenever possible, as they are stacked with processed foods full of the types of sugars, fats and oils you want to avoid.
- Eat organic when you can. Organic foods will be free of the synthetic pesticides and herbicides that are used to help produce so many of the foods we eat. At the same time, eating organic can be expensive, so choose carefully if you’re on a budget. Any foods where we eat the skin (like cherry tomatoes, berries, and celery) are best eaten from an organic source, whilst the skin of other fruits and vegetables (avocados, lemons) will at least provide some protection from pesticide residue.
- Drink lots of water. As much as 2 liters a day is recommended to help your body flush toxins. Note though that drinking from plastic bottles should be avoided as compounds in the plastic can taint the water, whilst the water we get straight from our taps is also full of toxic substances. Filtering your water, using something like a reverse osmosis system, is a good way to go.
- Avoid sugar where you can. We probably all know this by now, but sugar is a highly addictive substance and very hard to avoid. Take note of how much sugar is contained in the products you buy and make a conscious effort to cut back. Your body will thank you for it!
- Avoid diet foods and drinks. These are no good for you. In fact, research says they’re more likely to make you put on weight as well as have an adverse effect on your health.1 A lot of diet meals, for example, take out natural fats (which help supply taste) and replace them with sugar and dangerous hydrogenated fats.
- Limit your intake of refined grains. There’s an increasing body of evidence that says that highly processed, refined grains are no good for us. They can not only raise cholesterol, but they have a high glycemic index, putting us on the blood sugar roller coaster that leads us to crave another snack, even after we’ve finished eating.2 When we eat bread then, it’s a much better, healthier option to source and eat unrefined grain breads, which can have positive benefits for our gut health.
- Know which oils are good for you. Try to use oils which have monounsaturated fats, like olive oil, avocado oil and coconut oil. These oils not only have a healthy ratio of Omega 3 and Omega 6, but can help the body detox by lubricating the intestinal walls and thereby absorbing toxins which are later eliminated. In contrast, polyunsaturated oils like soyabean oil, corn oil and sunflower oil are to be avoided. They are sensitive to oxidation and can lead to systemic inflammation, heart disease, and even cancer.3
- Eat lots of vegetables, as well as seeds and nuts. These foods are easily digestible and full of fibre and enriching vitamins and minerals. Many of them are also high in naturally occurring sulphur, which can help your liver purge toxins (note – garlic is also very good for this!).
- Green tea for me! Green tea will not only help wash toxins from your system, it is full of healthgiving antioxidants, including catechins, which will help increase liver function.
- Watch your calories… and don’t drink all of them! If we want to manage our weight (and our waist) then it’s a simple fact of life that we can only consume as many calories as we expend. This means not only keeping a careful eye on what we eat and portion sizes, but also what we drink. Doubtless, most of us are aware that there a lot of calories in a can of soft drink. But did you know that there’s a similar amount in a glass of unsweetened orange juice and likely even more in a glass of whole milk? By way of comparison, a can of soft drink will contain up to 150 calories, a glass of orange juice 170 calories, a glass of whole milk 200 calories (and don’t make the mistake of thinking low fat milk is a whole lot better!), a glass of wine 125 calories, a glass of beer 155 calories, and a can of energy drink 110 calories. In the end, it makes sense to hydrate with filtered water, when you can. The number of calories in a glass of water? Exactly zero.
There’s a very good reason why we should incorporate simple rituals into our eating. They improve our health and make everything taste better! Such is the clear finding of recent experiments carried out in a joint study by Harvard University and the University of Minneapolis.4 In the study, the idea that simple, ritualized gestures could improve our enjoyment of food was tested, with surprising results. No matter whether the test subjects ate a chocolate bar or a carrot, or whether the ritual they were asked to perform was associated with the food being eaten or not (the gesture required of students before eating a carrot involved nothing more than knocking on a table twice!), those who performed some sort of ritual prior to eating reported much greater satisfaction than those who did nothing specific.
In the end, we shouldn’t be surprised by these findings. Rituals, no matter how simple, create intention and engagement. They make us mindful of the act we’re about to perform (like eating a carrot) and help us connect with the experience. Suddenly, because we’re engaged with it, our food becomes more flavourful and satisfying.
And – as a small trial conducted by the University of Texas suggests5 – there’s likely an added bonus to incorporating ritual as part of our eating habits. Namely, when we engage in ritual, and eat mindfully, there’s a good chance we’ll eat less, as we’re more aware of portion size. This means that ritual can not only help us enjoy our food more, it can help in weight management as well!
Let’s take a look at some of the rituals we can set up around our eating, to help us better connect with our food and with each other.
– We all know this first tip, but it’s still well worth mentioning. Eat at the table, and in the company of friends and family, at least a few times each week! Shared food is not only food enjoyed, it also offers a way to take time out from the stresses of work or the distractions of our phones and television, helping us to digest our food better, relax, and increase our overall levels of wellbeing.
– And speaking of our dining table, if we can keep it clear of clutter and even take the time to set it properly (hey, why not throw some candles and some background music into the mix?), then the pleasure we get from eating will only be enhanced.
– As noted above, it’s also worth starting each meal with a ritual of some kind. In the past, this regularly took the form of saying grace, but it can be any kind of repeated action, from taking a moment to be thankful for your food, to inhaling a deep breath, or even something as random as knocking on the table prior to eating! Any gesture like this (really, any gesture at all!) helps to positively set up your experience of your meal.
– Eat slowly! Taking the time to savour your food will not only increase your enjoyment of it, but assist with digestion and help you control portion size.
– Take note of what’s happening around you and within you. By being open to our environment and our own bodies, we’re not only quicker to realize when we’ve eaten enough, we’re also able to take joy from those small things – like conversation and connectedness – which add something extra special to our meals.
2‘The Real Problem With Grains; Wellness Mama.com; http://wellnessmama.com/575/problem-with-grains/
36 Reasons Why Vegetable Oils Are Toxic; Kris Gunnars BSc; Academia; http://www.academia.edu/8309414/6_Reasons_Why_Vegetable_Oils_Are_Toxic_By_Kris_Gunnars_59_721_views
4Rituals Enhance Consumption; Kathleen D Vohs, Yajin Wang, Francesca Gino, Michael I Norton; Sage Journals; https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0956797613478949?journalCode=pssa
5The effect of a mindful restaurant eating intervention on weight management in women; G M Timmerman, A Brown; PubMed.gov; https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22243980