In my practice, I often work with people and their nutrition. Health education is a big part of what I do. I find this to be an increasingly important, and popular, part of patient visits because people are looking to decipher the truth when it comes to the health information they are gathering from the internet and television.
I give individualized guidance about balanced nutrition that can be integrated into a person’s lifestyle. What’s great about nutrition advice from a Naturopathic Doctor is that people find they can get health advice that is tailored to them. This is a contrast to getting general nutrition advice that is presented by the media.
Through the years, I have worked with all types of nutrition strategies for so many people, each unique from the next. However, there have been some surprising health food revelations that I’ve discovered over my years of nutrition research, that I share with patients seeking nutrition advice. I also have many people ask me “Is ____ a healthy food to eat?” I am always happy to answer these questions, because these discussions about food are so important. People find that there are very few professional health care providers that have the time to concisely go through this type of nutrition information with them.
So… on that note…
Today’s post is all about the “Health Foods” to avoid and include in our diets!
#1 Health Food To Avoid: YOGURT
Oh yes I did!
Ahhh… Yogurt. It is the “health food darling” in the media. Add some to your smoothie. Eat it for breakfast. Have it as a snack. It’s a great source of probiotics.
Well… I have to say… not so much.
I have seen many people feel much better when they cut the yogurt out of their diet. The trouble with most yogurt available at the grocery store… especially those ones that are heavily marketed as a nutritious and healthy snack (Aaagggchoo-aaActivia!) are often laden with sugar. On average, just under 1/2 cup of sweetened yogurt contains 3 teaspoons of sugar! That’s a lot of sugar in a very little bit of food.
In addition, many people see chronic gas, bloating and irregular bowel movements improve when they stop eating yogurt everyday. I realize that yogurt companies are saying that the probiotics in their product can help digestion, yet if we eat something we can’t digest very well (dairy) on an ongoing basis, this can still be irritating to the gut, no matter how much probiotic we might be getting.
#2 Health Food To Avoid: SOY
North American soy products are much different the traditional soy found in Asia. Traditional soy, which in Asia is eaten in very small amounts, is typically a fermented food, like tempeh, miso and natto; not unfermented soy foods like veggie burgers, tofu or soy milk.
The majority of soy is genetically modified and is one of the most pesticide contaminated foods. Routinely eating soy in our diets, in place of animal protein, may lead to other health issues down the road. This is because it is so high in chemicals, it is a very processed food in North America, and it can become an allergenic food if eaten too often.
Soy sauce made from fermented soy beans (like Bragg’s soy sauce), tempeh and miso are all available at health food stores, and an increasing number of grocery stores. These are healthier soy foods that can be added occasionally to the diet. Also, try and buy these foods as organic, since organic foods are not genetically modified.
#3 Health Food To Avoid: GRANOLA BARS
I used to love Nature Valley Bars. They seemed so healthy… they were made from oats and other crunchy stuff. They tasted so good! As good as the chewy granola bars I swapped them for!
But alas… so many granola bars are high in sugar, high fructose corn syrup and hydrogenated oils. Also, the fiber content may not be as good as the company endorses.
It’s better to make our own bars when possible. There are many easy recipes out there that taste great. This way we know exactly what’s gone into them.
When thinking of true “Health Foods”, it’s all about getting back to basics.
#1 Health Food To Eat: LIGNANS (from Flax Seed or Chia Seeds)
Lignans are special plant fibers that are the highest in seeds like flax and chia. They have been shown to protective against breast cancer, act as food to feed the good bacteria in the gut and help to regulate digestion. Two tablespoons a day of ground flax seed or whole chia seed is the recommended daily amount. These seeds can be added to smoothies, mixed into applesauce, stirred into salad dressings or sprinkled over cooked whole grains or vegetables.
#2 Health Food To Drink: GREEN TEA
Green tea is a powerful liver detoxifier and it is a rich source of antioxidants. Drinking green tea also helps to hydrate the body. Drinking one to two cups a day as part of our daily hydration is a great way to get this healthy drink in.
#3 Health Food To Eat: ESSENTIAL FATTY ACIDS (EFAs)
I can’t say enough about getting good fats in our diets on a daily basis. Most people get enough omega 6 and omega 9 in their diet through olive oil, nuts, seeds, avocado, fish and other sources of good fats. So, a really important thing to keep in mind is adding OMEGA 3 EFAs on a daily basis. Omega 3s come from either a supplemented fish oil, like cod liver oil, or flax seed oil. Walnuts are also a good source of omega 3s.
The more good fats we have in the diet, the better. This is why…Omega 3 EFAs:
1) Reduces inflammation
2) Protects the brain, helps memory and focus
3) Protects the gut cells
4) Protects the cell membrane of every cell in our bodies (cell membranes are made of a fatty layer, and the stronger this outer fatty cell membrane is, the less likely a cell is damaged, the less likely it can turn into a cancer cell.)
5) Helps skin health
6) Reduces allergic tendencies (because of anti-inflammatory effect)
7) Keeps blood vessels flexible and healthy
8) Improves the quality of blood and protects the heart
9) Improves lipid profiles
10) Balances blood sugar
And there you have it! Read, eat and be healthy!