Is keto the ‘right’ diet for me? Am I consuming too many grams of carbohydrates? What does ‘macros’ even mean? Do I need to bring a kitchen scale to the restaurant?
With so much content on the internet and social media about the food choices you must make, it can be overwhelming. We prefer to look at general pillars of health initiatives that are optimal for health - no labels or caloric diaries needed! Anything overly complicated or difficult to execute won’t be sustainable for the long-term.
Here’s 6 ways you can amp up the nutritional density of the foods you choose:
You don’t have to follow a strict vegan diet to benefit from the bountiful nutrition that fruits and vegetables provide for our bodies. Incorporate as many vegetables onto your plate as you can.
This could mean putting carrots, peas or edamame in your rice dishes. Cooking up an ordinary pasta dish? Adding roasted zucchini, red onion, or colourful peppers complements any pasta dish beautifully. You can also experiment with eating a plant-based dinner once or twice a week by using beans, chickpeas or tofu as meat substitutes.
Research continues to show us the importance of maintaining a thriving gut microbiome. It not only has positive effects on our digestive processes but contributes to a well-functioning immune system and prevents chronic disease.
Fermented foods such as kimchi, miso, kombucha and sauerkraut contain bacteria, or probiotics, that are integral to a diverse gut microbiome (1). With the prevalent use of antibiotics and the increased lack of fiber in our modern diets, it’s important to incorporate fermented foods wherever you can. A spoonful of miso in a stir fry or salad dressing, or a side of kimchi in your rice bowl can be an easy way to add in that healthy, much-needed bacteria.
Nuts and Seeds
Nuts and seeds are a powerhouse in your fridge (yes, storing them in the fridge maintains their freshness!) and such a simple way to add more protein, fiber and healthy fats to your diet.
Be mindful that the health benefits won’t quite be the same if you’re enjoying handfuls of sugary chocolate-covered almonds, praline pecans, or honey-roasted peanuts. Natural is best!
Look for nut and seed butters with no added sugars or emulsifiers or if you’re feeling adventurous, make your own custom nut butter if you have a food processor at home. Try adding raw nuts to your next smoothie bowl, salad or even boost up your ice cream sundae treat with a crunchy topping.
We’ve all seen ‘whole-grain’ on the packaging of bread at the supermarket, but what does it actually mean?
Whole grain is when the natural unrefined structure of the grain is intact, just as it was when it was growing in the field. A whole grain is composed of three parts: the bran, germ and endosperm. If any of these three parts of the grain have been removed or altered, the food product is no longer considered whole grain.
“White ﬂour and white rice are reﬁned grains, for instance, because both have had their bran and germ removed, leaving only the endosperm”(2).
But why does this matter? Our bodies need the fiber and bran contained within whole-grain foods to slow the breakdown of glucose and prevent harmful spikes in our blood sugar, move waste along our digestive tract, and the phytochemicals and minerals like magnesium, and selenium (3).
If you only ever eat refined grains, all of this goodness is stripped away and your body is missing out. It’s best practice to choose as much unaltered, unprocessed food as you can, and whole grain is a great step in that direction. Making the switch to brown rice can be made more appealing by cooking your rice with flavorful bone broth instead of water, and adding seasoning such as turmeric, ginger, or saffron.
There’s literally no downside to this healthy food trend. From supporting immune function, bone and brain health to balancing blood sugar and reducing inflammation … leafy greens do it all! (4)
If you’re not familiar with the wide varieties of greens available at your local grocer beyond the typical spinach, romaine and iceberg lettuce, make an effort to try something new and consider it an adventure. The versatility of arugula can add a peppery bite to a salad, omelette or pasta dish. Swiss chard can be added to a stir-fry or used as a healthy burrito wrapper. Even the sometimes off-putting texture of kale can be hidden in a smoothie or lasagne.
Spices and Herbs
Most of us think of spices and herbs as tools for enhancing the flavor of our most favorite dishes: sprinkling cinnamon on your morning latte or oatmeal, and adding basil to that cheesy margherita pizza. But they have the potential to impact our health in a myriad of ways.
“Spices and herbs possess antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antitumorigenic, anticarcinogenic, and glucose- and cholesterol-lowering activities as well as properties that affect cognition and mood” (5).
That’s quite an impressive list of benefits packed in powders that are cost effective and easily accessible.
Two things to keep in mind when maximizing the effectiveness of your spices and herbs: purchase them in smaller amounts so they can be used promptly and avoid being stored (or forgotten!) for years in your pantry - fresher is always better.
When possible, use whole versions of spices such as cinnamon, clove, nutmeg and cardamom instead of the powders. Use a rasp to grind them, steep them in your cooking liquids or pound them in a pestle and mortar - this allows you to benefit from the active compounds in the ingredients. Even investing in a pepper grinder to enjoy freshly ground pepper is a step-up compared to the ground pepper available in stores.
That’s it! You’re now equipped to boost your health with these 6 healthy food trends. Remember that eating healthy doesn’t have to be complicated or time-consuming. Will you be incorporating miso into your next marinade, adding kale to your lasagne or spicing up your smoothie with nutmeg? Let us know what tip was most helpful in the comments.
Healthline. 8 Fermented Foods and Drinks to Boost Digestion and Health. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/8-fermented-foods#:~:text=Not%20only%20does%20fermentation%20enhance,1%20%2C%202%20%2C%203%20).
2. Whole Grains Council. What’s A Whole Grain? A Refined Grain? https://wholegrainscouncil.org/whole-grains-101/whats-whole-grain-refined-grain
3. Harvard: The Nutrition Source. Whole Grains: Choose Whole Grains Instead of Refined Grains. https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/what-should-you-eat/whole-grains/#:~:text=Eating%20whole%20instead%20of%20refined,%2C%20triglycerides%2C%20and%20insulin%20levels.&text=Replacing%20refined%20grains%20with%20whole,reduce%20type%202%20diabetes%20risk.
4. Healthline. The 13 Healthiest Leafy Green Vegetables. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/leafy-green-vegetables
5. National Library of Medicine. Health Benefits of Culinary Herbs and Spices. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30651162/#:~:text=Spices%20and%20herbs%20have%20been,from%20acute%20and%20chronic%20diseases.