The Best Eating Advice & Why

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eat food_ukWhen someone explains something so simply and perfectly, I borrow it. So thank you Michael Pollan for these nuggets of wisdom on eating.

In his book, In Defence of Food, Pollan summarizes his eating manifesto with 3 simple statements:

I would suggest that by simply following these three concise recommendations, one could obtain and maintain a healthy body weight, improve their overall health and reduce their risk of chronic disease.

EAT FOOD 

What is “food” in this context? Pollan uses the analogy of food that your grandmother or great grandmother would know and recognize. She would know raspberries, chicken, carrots, and homemade apple pie. But could she guess the key ingredients in: dino foodLunchables, yogurt tubes, Fruit Loops, turkey dinosaurs, slushies, fried potato products shaped into happy faces?

“Food” in this context is intended to denote natural, unmanufactured, unrefined, recognizable food. Some foods need minimal processing in order to save us oodles of time and effort. For example, steaming and rolling whole oat kernels so that we can cook our oatmeal in less than 2 hours is an example of minimally processed. The entire oat grain is still intact and is clearly recognizable by Grandma. It would still fall under “food” and contains only one ingredient: oats.

Real FoodAnother method to determine if your food would pass the “real food test” is to ask yourself: what was this item when it was picked caught or killed? Is the answer blatantly obvious? It should be. Examples:

Salmon = salmon caught from river or ocean
Pear = pear picked from tree
Almond = almond fruit picked from tree and shelled

What about the Flaming Hot Cheeto?cheetos-flamin-hot

If you asked your great grandmother to guess the key ingredients in a Cheeto, what would she say? Who knows.  It is impossible to tell. The Cheeto is so far removed from its natural state it is completely unrecognizable. We may know, or could look at the ingredients list, that the main ingredient is corn. So let’s ask:

Does This: Look Like This?
hot_cheetos cob of corn

No.

Cheetos are highly refined, processed and manufactured food. They have an incredibly long list of ingredients, some of which sounds lovely, but really aren’t, for example “Red 40 Lake and Yellow 6 Lake”.  This is not food and has no business being in our food supply.Eating food as close to its natural state will ensure you are receiving all its fibre and nutrients which work synergistically together to provide us with a host of health benefits. 

NOT TOO MUCH

The “how much” of eating is just as important as the “what” of eating. It is imperative to be in tune with your internal cues of hunger and satiety. If we only ate when we were hungry and stopped when we were satisfied, no matter how good that double chocolate cake tastes, it would be much easier to obtain and ultimately maintain a healthy body weight throughout the years.

Hunger & Satiety Scale_HB

 

Aim to eat when you hit a 3 on the Hunger Scale, that is, your stomach is empty and you are truly hungry. Eat slowly and enjoy your food.

Stop eating when you reach 7, that is, you are satisfied. You are no longer hungry, but you are not filled up to the rim with food. This takes a lot of practice but is worth doing. Becoming an intuitive eater is key to maintaining a healthy body weight and having a positive relationship with food.

MOSTLY PLANTSCrate of mixed vegetables

“Mostly plants” doesn’t mean a strictly vegetarian diet. But it does mean that the bulk of the food you consume did originate from a plant source, like vegetables, fruits, tubers, legumes, nuts and grains.

Study after study shows that eating a plant-based diet can reduce your risk of chronic disease. An easy guide is simply to follow the portion plate. Fill half your plate with veggies or salad. Fill a quarter with a lean protein and the other quarter with an unrefined carbohydrate like quinoa, wild rice, or butternut squash. Cooking with olive oil, snacking on nuts or choosing oily fish are all great ways to add healthy fats into the mix.

Eating well doesn’t have to be complicated. It shouldn’t involve removing entire food groups from your diet or substituting food-like substances for the real thing.  See how your health improves and how to bring back the joy of eating by following 3 simple rules:

Eat Food Pollan

References:

Mourouti N1, et al. Nutr Cancer. 2014 May 21:1-8. Adherence to the Mediterranean Diet is Associated With Lower Likelihood of Breast Cancer: A Case-Control Study.

Hartley L1, Igbinedion E, Holmes J, Flowers N, Thorogood M, Clarke A, Stranges S, Hooper L, Rees K. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2013 Jun 4;6:CD009874. Increased consumption of fruit and vegetables for the primary prevention of cardiovascular diseases.

Zanini S1, Marzotto M, Giovinazzo F, Bassi C, Bellavite P. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2014 May 19. Effects of Dietary Components on Cancer of the Digestive System.

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