If you have downloaded our wellness guide, you will know that tip 1 is Eat Clean. I thought to elaborate a bit what we consider eating clean is. For years I thought I ate very clean, but now I can shake my head about all the bad food I’ve put in my mouth.
I want to first tell you if you are eating not so great, struggled with your weight for years and are maybe obese, it is not your fault! For years we’ve been told by doctors, nutritionists, media and the food industry that all calories are the same. They inform you, you know what to do, but you are just not following advice. You have to move more and eat less. It’s about moderation, you need more will power to control yourself better, get a grip and do better.
Calories from different foods are not the same. Processed foods affect the brain, body and metabolism differently than whole natural foods. Most foods that come in a package with an ingredient list are designed to be biologically addictive. Some experts work at taste institutes to create a bliss point of food to develop heavy users. In other words, the taste of processed food is formulated to get you hooked. It’s not an emotional addiction, it’s a biological addiction. They alter our brain chemistry and hormones in a way that affects our ability to control behaviour. On a brain scan, these foods light up the same brain areas as cocaine and heroin. No wonder you can’t say no to that doughnut, cupcake or chocolate when you walk past it in the shop. We live in a food system where it is super easy to make the wrong choice and super hard to make the right choice.
Let’s start with what not to eat.
Warning: Most of this is against everything you’ve been taught your whole life.
Marie Kondo said, “People cannot change their habits without first changing they their way of thinking.”
All kinds of sugar are bad for you, not just the white kind you buy in a 2.5kg packet. Your body doesn’t know if you are eating refined white sugar or coconut sugar. Sugar is highly addictive.
Everything made by the food industry has an ingredient list, and most foods with an ingredient list are really not up for eating, stay away. We call these processed foods. There are some things with a simple ingredient list like sardines and olive oil or tomatoes, water and salt. These are ok, but most packaged food is not ok. Read the labels. Please do not believe a label with a heart-healthy sign on it or proclaiming in a big coloured letter on the packaging that it is healthy. Sugar, additives, colourants and all sorts of things with E numbers hide in these foods. I could not find any pickles the other day without sugar, I ended up fermenting my own. I want to add foods like bread, cakes, doughnuts, pasta, white rice and couscous to this list. All are heavily processed.
This is almost as bad as sugar. Most conventional cooking oils such as canola and vegetable oil are extremely processed & oxidize at very low temperatures and are high in unhealthy Omega 6, which directly contributes to inflammation. It’s been preached that saturated fat is bad for heart health (recent studies shows it is not), but it now turns out that the very same thing the “bad” fat has been substituted with is the thing terrible for your heart health. Seed oils include sunflower oil, canola oil, grapeseed oil, rapeseed oil, soybean oil etc. All products containing these like margarine, mayonnaise and food that has been fried or stored in these oils should be avoided.
Anything Low fat and fat-free
The fat-free movement started when people started to believe fat gives you heart attacks and makes you fat. Fat is essential to create and regulate hormones. You also get vitamins A, E and K from healthy fats. The moment fat is removed from a product, some form of sugar has to be added for it to taste good. Go back to full cream milk, cream, full cream plain yoghurt and cream cheese.
Anything you drink that contains sugar. The obvious ones are carbonated drinks like cola, but fruit juice is just as harmful. Avoid flavoured waters, iced tea, diet cooldrinks, fancy coffees and teas. Also, get rid of that teaspoon of sugar in your tea and coffee.
I guess by now you are wondering what you can eat.
Make a move towards whole food, things you buy that do not need an ingredient list to tell you what exactly is in there.
We aim to prioritize quality protein, fuel with anti-inflammatory healthy fats and control carbohydrates.
If you can, it is always better to eat organic, grass-fed, pasture-raised or wild-caught meat.
I know it is not always possible to find or afford but aim to do the best you can.
Focus on grass-fed beef and lamb meat as well as their organs like liver and kidneys; wild-caught salmon, mackerel, haddock, and sardines; organic and pasture-raised chickens and their eggs and liver; and fresh shellfish, such as shrimp, calamari and lobster.
Our brain, hormones, and immune system need healthy fats from the foods we eat to thrive. The trillions of cells that our bodies are made of depending on healthy fats. Good, healthy fats include nuts and seeds as well as their fresh milk, butter, oils, and flours. Varieties include almond, Brazil, chia, flax, hazelnut, macadamia, pecan, pine nut, pistachio, pumpkin, sesame, sunflower, and walnut (notice no peanuts or cashews; these are technically legumes). Coconut products are lovely, including fresh and shredded coconut, coconut oil, coconut cream, coconut milk (canned and full fat), coconut flour, and coconut aminos. Other great oils are cold-pressed extra-virgin olive oil, avocado oil, sesame oil, walnut oil, macadamia oil, lard (from a clean source), and duck fat.
Organic, full-fat and fermented dairy products (if no allergies or sensitivities) are also right, including full-fat cheeses, butter, ghee, sour cream, cream cheese, ricotta cheese, plain full-fat yoghurt and whey protein powder. Olives and avocado are also excellent sources of healthy fat.
Once again if you can find organic, it will always be better.
The priority is to get as much of your carbohydrates from the most potent vegetables and herbs possible. These include phytonutrient-rich dark greens, fresh herbs, cruciferous vegetables (bok choy, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, kale and mustard greens) mushrooms, garlic, red bell pepper and onions. Try to consume as wide a variety of vegetables as possible, including fermented ones like sauerkraut, kimchi and pickles. If you are starting this journey, don’t be too fickle about which veggies are high in starch, be careful about the obvious ones like potato, beetroot and sweet potato.
What about something sweet?
Sugar is a poison to us and the elixir of life to cancer cells. We don’t need any sugar for our bodies to function, and most of us have a sugar addiction that we are not even aware of. The ultimate goal is to be 100% sugar-free, but sugar lurks in many places, so immediately limiting sugar consumption to natural sugars, such as those found in low-sugar fruit like berries, is a simple way to start. All sugar, artificial sweeteners and unfortunately even honey is not great.
I do understand that sometimes one needs some sweetness, the best to have on hand is raw honey, stevia, erythritol or xylitol. Do try to use it sparingly, it still can trigger sugar cravings.
If you find this overwhelming, break it up in smaller pieces and make one small change a week. Before you know it, you’ve changed a lot. The aim is to get your cells healthy and free of inflammation. Inflammation is the primary driver of chronic and autoimmune disease. If your cells are healthy, fantastic side effects are effortless weight loss, energy, vitality and health. Eat great quality food, and you will feel like a million bucks. Eat crappy, and you feel and probably look crappy. You are what you eat.