The best way to boost your health is through the food you put into your body. Studies show that diet makes the greatest difference when it comes to preventing diseases and chronic conditions like obesity, diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, cancer, and stroke.
Start small with a single change
Making a major change to your diet can be hard to manage. So, start with small steps – you’ll get great results if you stick to them.
Begin by cutting out one unhealthy eating habit. If you’re snacking in front of the TV late at night, stop! Commit to keeping out of the kitchen after 8 pm.
Next, see what harmful foods you’re eating too much of. If it’s sugary snacks, commit to cutting back on sugar. Remember, so many salty foods are loaded with hidden sugars. So, when it comes to shopping, become a label reader.
Learn a lot from labels
Supermarket foods are loaded with preservatives and other chemicals to keep the food on the shelf for longer and improve the taste. If you can’t make sense of the label – too many E423s or strange names – don’t eat what’s inside. Those chemicals can do a whole lot of harm to your health.
Slow down on sugars
Any ingredient listed on the label that ends with -ol, -in or -ose is likely to be a hidden sugar. Some of these are artificial sweeteners made in a laboratory. Examples are mannitol, sorbitol, maltitol, saccharin, and sucralose. They have fewer calories than natural sugars, but they can be up to 600 times sweeter!
The problem is our need for sweetness. Sugar is super addictive, but it takes only 3-4 weeks to conquer that addiction and wean yourself off the sweetness. The trick is to cure those sugar cravings by staying away from all sugars.
Try to cut out fruit juices as a start. Eat your fruit, don’t drink it. Fruit juice is usually boiled and made into concentrate. This means more sugar and fewer nutrients than if you ate the fruit whole. And in juice form, you’re eating 3 – 5 fruits rather than just one.
And, while you’re at it, stop sipping on those sodas – even the sugar-free ones are no good for you. Drink more water – still or sparkling water with a squeeze of fresh lemon and a sprig of mint - and you won’t want those sodas and juices anymore.
Steer clear of fast food
It’s convenient, but it’s part of the problem. It’s high in sugar, salt and trans fat, none of which are healthy. Make your own fast food at home – veggie burgers with salad on a whole wheat bun, and your own oven-baked chips can be just as tasty.
Spend more time in the kitchen and less time in the drive-through.
Boost your diet with browns
Refined foods are often stripped of important nutrients. So, when in doubt, opt for the less processed choice – brown or wholewheat bread instead of white bread, brown rice, brown pasta, and courser pap.
You’ll get more fibre too, which is good for your gut.
Make more meat-free meals
Meat is a great source of protein, but most supermarket meat, unless it’s certified free-range and hormone-free, is full of leftover antibiotics and hormones.
If you’re worried about losing out on the protein, substitute a meat meal with a rice and lentil combo – this packs as much protein as meat, but without the harmful additives.
Shopping should be mindful
Never shop when you’re hungry or your energy is low. You’ll end up buying fast food and quick fixes.
Make a list and stick to it. Plan meals ahead and only get the ingredients you need – no cheat treats. Shop at a local market, support an urban garden, or start your own herb and veggie patch.
Keep an eye out for chemicals
Non-nutritive sweeteners offer fewer calories and are diabetic-friendly, but they bring you none of the nutrients you might get from natural sugars like unrefined cane sugar, raw honey, or maple syrup.
And some sweeteners have been linked to harmful side effects.
And then there are preservatives like sodium nitrite, found in processed meats like polony, hot dogs, and cured bacon. And BHA and BHT, found in cereals, baked goods, snacks, and other foods to help the fats found in these foods stay fresh for longer.
They’ve been linked to cancer, so, as far as possible, stick to food that’s chemical-free.
Keep close to nature
Our bodies haven’t changed in over 20 000 years. Back then, we lived off fresh fish and wildfowl, free-range eggs, lots of berries, root vegetables and greens. Meat was rare and fruits were more sour than sweet.
Our bodies are built for that diet, but today’s food is full of bad fats, chemicals, and sweeteners. So, stick as closely as you can to what nature offers us.
Take a careful approach to trendy diets
Don’t give in to fad diets and trends. Many are untested, and can also be harmful if you have a chronic disease or you’re taking chronic meds. There’s a new diet trend every year. Be guided by common sense – and your doctor. Use your Unu chats to check in on your diet with your doctor. They’ll give you professional advice on what foods will work best for you.