The German Philosopher Arthur Schopenheur said that “every man takes the limits of his own field of vision for the limits of the world”. While this concept is applicable in almost every facet of life, it also rings true when we consider the constraints of western diet. What many of us would consider to be a healthy diet is at best, only a partial picture. Consider the amount of ‘low fat’ products which are actually chock full of sugar to compensate. Or consider the food pyramid of the 20th century which had bread and carbohydrates as the base level of your diet. The reality is most of the foods you buy and consume are loaded with sugar, trans fats or salt. It tastes good, so you will buy it again. Ultimately, the bottom line of the company is more important than your health and well-being. But there is a strong correlation between the rise of different kinds of cancers and the intake of nutritionally empty foods.
So what is the solution? Are we to roll over, concede defeat and fill ourselves with artery clogging grease with all the nutritional value of a dishcloth? By no means! We just need to be a little bit deliberate with our food choices, or to offset the difference with vitamins and supplements. The easiest option is not always the best option. The term ‘superfood’ is actually a bit of a gimmick. There is no such thing technically, but the label becomes helpful if you understand it for what it is, and what it is not. It is a loose grouping of foods that are better for you than the things you might notice on the supermarket shelves. Today, we will track through a few products which are stacked with goodness so that you will live longer and happier lives.
Dark Leafy Greens
These are the kinds of vegetables that you probably didn’t like as a child: kale, spinach, turnips etc. But though they might not have been childhood favourites, they are incredibly good for you, containing calcium, magnesium, fibre, zinc, iron and vitamin C. These all combine to reduce your risk of heart disease and diabetes. These types of vegetables contain a compound known as carotenoids which have powerful anti-inflammatory properties. Preliminary studies have shown that this can reduce your risk of developing certain kinds of cancers.
This one isn’t so hard of a sell. Strawberries, raspberries, blueberries and blackberries. All of them are a party bag of different vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants which can reduce your risk of heart disease, cancers, and other inflammatory conditions as well as improving your digestion. Though they are sweet, they actually contain less sugar than grapes or bananas which are often viewed as ‘healthier’ options.
The humble egg has a chequered past in the discussion of healthy food, as they contain a lot of cholesterol. Yet, they have emerged unscathed as an incredibly healthy option, and studies have shown that consuming 6 to 12 eggs a week had no measurable impact on the development of heart disease or diabtes, two of the usual players with regards to high cholesterol. Instead, they are rich in B vitamins, iron, phosphorus, protein, selenium and vitamin A. What does this veritable cocktail do for your general health and wellbeing? They help support good eye health, reduce your risk of heart disease.
Known technically as legumes, these combine the holy trinity of cheap, healthy and tasty. They are a rich source of the B vitamins, protein and fibre. That translates into some serious health benefits for you such as reduced blood pressure and cholesterol management. They also make you feel more full for longer so you are more likely to maintain a healthy weight.
Nuts and Seeds
Nuts and seeds are incredibly rich in fibre, antioxidants, healthy fats and protein. A nut rich diet will help you avoid heart disease, and like beans, they tend to make you feel fuller for longer, so you are more likely to maintain a healthy weight. Be on the lookout for moments that you can include almonds, peanuts or sunflower seeds to your meals. It won’t cost you much, will improve the taste, and won’t cost you an arm or a leg. In fact, they could end up saving you one.
Where to begin? The gut has been described by some researchers as your second brain due to the profound impact it has on your physical and mental health. Foods that are fermented end up contributing probiotics to your microbiome which staves off a host of nasty conditions: heart disease, cancers, diabetes, all the way to stress, anxiety and depression. If you haven’t yet got on the fermentation train, be on the lookout for kimchi, yoghurt, kombucha or sauerkraut.
Aside from making any meal instantly 40% more delicious, and your breath 40% more diabolical, garlic actually does a lot behind the scenes as well. It can reduce your cholesterol and blood pressure, and can also help your immune system to function more effectively. Some studies have even drawn a link between garlic and the prevention of certain kinds of cancers. Most importantly, you are highly unlikely to be attacked by a vampire if you’ve got garlic in your diet, so it is a win win all around!
Now, oil is a tricky one. Certain types of oils can be really bad for you. Most restaurants will use a cheap vegetable oil which is incredibly high in trans fats. These are the kind of artery clogging, skin ruining oils that don’t do anyone any good. Olive oil, on the other hand, doesn’t contain anywhere near the same level of trans fats, and can help reduce inflammation, as well as working to prevent heart disease and diabetes.
This list can be overwhelming. How can I even begin to work these into my diet, you may ask? The best advice is to take baby steps. WHatever you aren’t getting, you can top up with vitamins and supplements. Maybe you stay on vitamins and supplements forever, and you’ve found a balance you are happy with. Or perhaps you become the unicorn of a person who genuinely eats a balanced diet.