You’ve heard it before: ”You are what you eat.” It’s a catchy phrase, like “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food” by Hippocrates or “eat the rainbow” or the “dirty dozen”. Basically these short sayings are reminders, like mental sticky notes, that help you focus on a specific goal—like your health.
I confess. I like a reminder or two. Who wouldn’t want life to be simplified into small, pithy statements or declarations dotting your computer screen or refrigerator door? Thus the popularity of pinning, posting, tweeting whatever gem inspires.
However, the power of simplified messages is not the part reminding you to do something but the action that brings results. When it comes to your health and your body, numerous books, articles and TV shows are devoted to getting you pointed in the right direction, so it doesn’t hurt to have a simple plan to keep you on track.
According to Julie E of Julie E Health in Redondo Beach, “processed, high-caloric, nutrient-depleted food eventually destroys our bodies. The human body needs fuel just like an automobile. The quality of what goes in will make a difference on performance and proper functioning.”
So with that premise in mind, we have come up with eight great food choices for a better body in 2015.
1 :: Hydrating Foods
Experts say to drink eight glasses of water a day. Water is great for the body and so are nourishing foods with high water content that help flush out toxins.
Natural whole foods have the highest water content. Juicy fruits like peaches, grapefruit, strawberries and melon are great as a midday snack. Radishes, carrots, zucchini, tomatoes, broccoli, celery and cucumber will provide a nice crunch while delivering needed water and nutrients to your cells.
2 :: High-Quality Proteins
Your body uses amino acids in protein to build lean muscle. High-quality or complete proteins contain all essential amino acids.
Organic chicken and turkey, non-fatty white fish such as cod or occasionally trout, or wild salmon are all good choices. Eggs are
considered the perfect protein and have all nine essential amino acids. The grain quinoa is also a complete protein. Plant-based protein found in legumes are easy for the body to process and digest and provide the needed amino acids when combined with a balanced diet including grains.
3 :: Healthy Carbohydrates
Add complex carbohydrates from real whole, unprocessed or minimally processed foods to your diet that metabolize slowly. Skip white bread, pastries and sodas in exchange for whole grains, vegetables, fruits and beans that deliver minerals, fiber, vitamins and important phytonutrients. Add pureed vegetables and beans to sauces as a thickening and flavoring agent.
Consider baking or grilling fruits for a sweet treat. Private chef and certified nutritionist Ariane Resnick states, “Thick slices of roasted sweet potato can be used to house everything from burgers to a light sandwich, and they hold up as you eat them.”
4 :: Nutrient-Dense “Superfoods”
Technically there is no such thing as a “superfood.” The term is mostly a marketing tool. However, foods that are nutrient-dense score high in micronutrients, vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals and antioxidant capacities, which make them super for you.
Think low-calorie in relation to beneficial nutrients. They can be everyday foods or exotic items recently on the market. Kale is top on the list, but also try Swiss chard to wrap sandwich ingredients. Include potent herbs and greens such as mustard, watercress and basil in salads and sauces.
Grab a copy of the ANDI (Aggregate Nutrient Density Index) guide before your next trip to the grocery store.
5 :: Fiber-Rich Foods
Soluble and insoluble fiber help with weight loss by creating a full sensation and pushing waste and toxins through the digestive system. Artichokes, split peas and beans are good sources of fiber that can be blended for a sauce base, dip or sandwich spread. Liquid-absorbing chia seeds provide a healthy dose of fiber and create a thick, pudding-like texture. Skip artificial products and opt for fiber-rich whole foods.
6 :: “Good” Fats
These foods offer healthy, essential fatty acids along with other nutrients to help sustain energy and help metabolize fat. Nuts, seeds and avocados, whole or blended, make great spreads. The creamy texture of avocados can also be used as a base for sauces, desserts or salad dressings. Use light coconut or seed “milks” without any additives for your coffee or in sauces or soups. See healthy food swaps below.
7 :: Healthy Food Swaps
While cutting out processed sugar and oil is desirable, most people struggle to find delicious, satisfying alternatives. Wildcrafted goldenberries are like nature’s SweeTARTS without any processed sugar. They offer a concentrated boost of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory bioflavonoids while also curbing sugar cravings.
Try adding sea salt to seeded, dried dates or drizzle date syrup over roasted fruit for a sweet treat. Use pureed fruit and vegetables to add moisture to baked goods instead of oil. Get creative and experiment with unprocessed whole food options.
8 :: Enzyme-Rich Raw
Foods that are organic, unprocessed, living plant foods—vegetables, nuts, seeds, legumes and seaweeds that have not been heated or cooked above 104º—are considered raw, retain their natural enzymes and have high nutrient values. Raw food enzymes such as amylases, proteases and lipases aid digestion. Proponents of raw food claim that nails get stronger, skin gets smoother, your thinking clears and you sleep better.
Start slowly introducing more raw foods into your diet. Give green vegetable drinks a try, soak some raw oat groats overnight for a “better-than-cooked” version of oatmeal, make your own nut or seed “milks” without added oils, artificial flavorings and sugars. Practice sprouting your own seeds and focus on quality ingredients verses quantity.