It's not something you really consider. At least, I hadn't until recently.
Everything you eat or drink becomes you.
Literally. The food we nourish our bodies with is what goes into making our skin, bones and blood. It fires up our digestion. It keeps our hearts beating. It keeps our hormones balanced, or not, as the case may be.
I grew up on the early 90's diet of 'low fat', snack-packs and ready-in-10. So I know how hard it is to unlearn what you've been told since you were a kid and to take a long hard look at what we're putting in our mouths.
1. Greens, Glorious, Gorgeous Greens
Gone are the days that greens mean boiled-to-death, unidentifiable-vegetable-substance. Sorry Mum. Nor is it an immediate association of a crisp, whole head of iceberg lettuce. The kale train is well and truly in town, we even put spinach in our smoothies now!
What's So Great About Greens?
First off, they are turbocharged with calcium, magnesium (helps you sleep and recover), truck loads of tryptophan making you smarter*, iron, potassium, phosphorous, zinc, and vitamins A, C, E and K. All of which need fat to be absorbed into the body, so don't skip on the oil dressing. They are also are great sources of protein, fibre and water.
If that wasn't enough to convince you to add more to your diet, they help with blood purification (thanks chlorophyll), have an alkalising affect on the body, improve circulation, and are immune strengthening!
*Well, they help with brain function so that is sort of the same thing!
What Are Dark Leafy Greens?
We tend to lump them altogether under the 'dark leafy green' heading however, they have their own families:
Lettuces: cos/romaine and iceberg
Cruciferous: kale, collard greens, cabbage, brussels sprouts and broccoli.
Aramanthacea: the fancy name for spinach and swiss chard.
Edible Green Leaves: dandelion leaves, watercress and other weedy-looking superheroes in disguise
Cruciferous vegetables are heralded as veggie royalty. Here's why. Cruciferous veg contains glucosinolates, which is the good guy in cancer fighting. They also have the most amount of all the nutrients listed above than any other group. Certainly ruling the school in my book.
Top 12 Cruciferous Vegetables
- Brussels Sprouts
- Collard Greens
- Mustard Greens
- Radish (and Horse Radish)
- Bok Choi
How Do I Eat My Greens?
We are lucky enough to be exposed to a whole host of dark leafy greens, so challenge yourself and try one you've never had this weekend. Don't know your bok choy from your broccoli? Never mind! Both will be bursting with greenie goodness so have an experiment and try them raw, steamed, boiled or sauteed.
As you know, we love a smoothie or a juice. No easier, or tastier, way to consume three or four cups of green goodness in one meal.
For smoothie ideas, start here.
For the strongest green juice, go here.
It makes up 70% of the world. And 70% of our bodies. Coincidence? I think not.
Why Drink Water?
Being properly hydrated can improve brain function, help with headaches and alleviate cravings. Dehydration is commonly confused with hunger and drinking enough water can help your body regulate metabolism, as well as keeping your internal workings regular too - if you catch my drift. You'd also be amazed to see how great your skin starts to look, how much brighter you feel in the mornings and the sunnier disposition you gain on life when you are properly hydrated.
How Much Water Should I Drink?
As a general rule of thumb you should drink around 1 litre of water per 22kgs (48 pounds) of body weight. See how you feel though. Always base it on what you feel is right for you and don't forget to take into consideration other lifestyle factors such as your climate and the water content in your diet. If you smash fruits and vegetables then you'll need less.
Which Foods Contain Water?
Some high water content fruits and veg are: cucumber, celery, watermelon, spinach, iceberg lettuce, cauliflower (seriously it has a water content of 91%!) and strawberries...perfect for those hot summer nights (or not if you live in Melbourne/the Northern Hemisphere)
How Can I Track My Water?
If life gets in the way, as it tends to do, and you realise you've gone all day without so much as a sip, why not download an app to give you reminders? Or simply set alarms on your phone at intervals to prompt you to drink a glass of H2O.
Alternatively, you could go old school and use a trick to remember things that are easily forgotten. Find yourself a colourful elastic band or hair tie, the brighter the better. Every time you see it, use it as a prompt to have some water. You'd be surprised at how well it works.
As with other beverages, don't drink too excess. Drinking too much water (in excess of 2litres at once) can seriously mess with your mineral balances. Aiming for around 500ml every other hour should see you right and not have you running to the bathroom all day!
Tap vs Filtered vs Bottled
Personally, filtered water is my preference. Just to make sure there are no nasty extras from the water purification plant. Bottled water is excess plastic that we and the world simply don't need. Of course being light and easy means that if the only thing available isn't a personal preference, waiting until you have a mouth as dry as the Gobi Desert is quite frankly ridiculous. Being fluid and flexible is all part of this game of life, something water manages to do pretty well.
This is the third article in a 5 part series. Check out the first article here
FAT. I know it's a word that causes a reaction in most people, but I'm here to tell you that fat is really your misunderstood friend. Let's invite him in for a cuppa and a chat.
Isn't Fat Going To Make Me Fat?
Simply put, no. We've grown up believing that fat is bad. It causes us to gain weight. It raises cholesterol. It's the villain of the health world. The fact is, fat is one of the most important elements to any diet.
Many fats are vital, we need them for immune health, digestion and metabolism. They act as antioxidants and also help get rid of heavy metals and toxins in our systems. They help turn on the hormone that makes you feel full and also keeps you full up along with old mate protein, these two are a formidable pairing on the nutrition punch packing front. If you don't believe me, try eating 100g of nuts vs 100g of sweets and see how you feel after 20 mins...putting to bed that not all calories are created equal.
What Does Fat Do?
Fat is what keeps you feeling satisfied. It's also a food source that your body recognises, unlike stripped back processed, low or no-fat foods. This means that your body also knows what to do with it and when it's had enough.
As long as you're eating slowly and actually chewing, rather than inhaling your food, your body will let you know if you need more or if you should stop (this does not apply to raw vegan cheesecake!).
Fat is also a key ingredient in keeping joints nice and healthy. And as anyone older than 30 knows, we have to look after our joints.
What Are Healthy Fats?
Try making dressings with flaxseed, walnut or olive oil. All of which are high in omega 3's. Give coconut oil a crack. I use it as a moisturiser, make up remover, roasting oil, spread on toast, straight from the jar (desperate times people but delicious none the less). Up the avocados - as if we ever need an excuse to do that! If you're a meat eater, then don't trim the skin off your chicken.
Dietary fibre is a type of carbohydrate that's indigestible and found in whole-grains, fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts and seeds. It comes in two different types, soluble and insoluble.
Soluble fibre absorbs water, turning into a sort of jelly and acts as an intestinal broom (!) whereas insoluble fibre helps bulk up what is passing through.
They act in tandem with each other. Soluble fibre slowing everything down to help with digestion and absorption of nutrients, and insoluble fibre speeding the process up and getting all the crap (literally!) out of the body. Too much and too little fibre are both common issues today, so make sure you are getting just the right amount. Water is also crucial to ensure the passage through smooth sailing and no blocks or 'plugs' are formed. Increase your fibre intake gradually to keep aches and escaping gases to a minimum while your body adjusts, your family and fellow train passengers will thank you for it!
How Can I Get More Fibre In My Diet?
Chia seeds can hold up to 16 times its weight in water turning it into a jelly like substance. Other fibre dense friends are psyllium husk, flaxseeds and slippery elm bark. On the fruit and veggies side the following list are your fibre friends, beetroot, broccoli, cabbage, berries, leafy greens (these guys are just all round winners huh?!), celery, squash, beans, mushrooms and oranges.
Juices can get a bad rap for not using the full fruit which contains a majority of fibre, however the juice will still contain soluble fibre and is a sure fire way of hitting you up with the maximum nutrition hit at once. Fibre slows down absorption you see, so with no barriers, nutrients hit your blood stream quicker than your tastebuds can say thank you!
What Does Fibre Do?
Eating enough fibre helps you stay regular, feel fuller for longer, helps reduce inflammation (think IBS, constipation or any other fun bowel related issue) and promotes good gut health because it provides fuel for the good bacteria (probiotics) in the small intestine. And that my friends is a very good thing considering your gut health is the corner stone to your overall health and wellbeing.
Fibre also helps to keep your blood sugar stable which stops the rolller-coaster ride of highs and crashing lows when eating; post lunch carb coma or 3pm sweet treat anyone?! Fibre is your friend in helping slow that ride right down. Try an fibre-filled afternoon smoothie to keep your hunger at bay until dinner and for a healthy sweet treat fix.
Protein is the building block for humans. It forms our muscles, skin and hair, is vital for hormone production and ensures all the vitamins and minerals you eat get to where they need to be. AMAZING.
Why Do I Need More Protein In My Diet?
Protein takes longer for us to digest, so it is THE perfect thing to eat post-workout (or even a little pre-training session). It may also be the missing ingredient from breakfast that will keep your rumbling tummy quiet until lunchtime rolls around.
What Foods Have Protein In Them?
Protein comes in so many different forms. Commonly, we assume that it only comes from animal products. But what about the veggos and the vegans? The all-too-familiar question for vegetarians is ‘but where do you get your protein from?'
Well, veggies, beans, legumes, nuts and seeds also contain heaps of protein. Let's just say gorillas and elephants seem to do just fine on a herbivore diet and size is well and truly on their side.
How Can I Get More Protein?
Given that the World Health Organization says that red meat is a probable cause of cancer, we recommend vegetarian sources. Beans, nuts and seeds are seriously protein dense, and possess so many nutrients and minerals too. Add chickpeas to your salad, add nuts to your smoothies. Enjoy overnight oats and try hemp seed protein powder. And how good is a breakfast burrito with black beans and organic eggs? You can knock out 40-50g of protein in your first meal, helping you feel full all morning.
How we think about food continues to evolve. Which is good. We've never been one to count calories or carbs. Our recommendation is to become educated and interested in basic foods like these five elements. You'll be hard pressed to find someone who is sick or overweight if their diet is dominated by greens, fats, water, fibre and protein.