Healthy Eating and Moderation
“Everything in your life is a reflection of a choice you have made. If you want different results, start making different choices.”
So we’ve talked about what you should eat—basically nutrient-rich whole foods like plants (produce like fruits and vegetables), lean proteins, whole grains and legumes, and lean dairy—and now we will discuss the food groups to approach with caution.
As mentioned earlier, naturally-occurring sugars like those found in fruit (fructose) and milk (lactose) are carbohydrates that provide fuel for the body, as well as healthy vitamins, minerals and in the case of fruit, fiber. The sugar that should be eaten in moderation is “added” sugar, that is, sugar added to or during preparation (like adding sugar to coffee or home-baked goods) or processing (white or brown sugar or a chemically-manufactured sweetener like high fructose corn syrup added to foods made in a factory, like bread, crackers, yogurt, frozen pizza, sauces, etc.). The World Health Organization recommends sugar intake of no more than 6 teaspoons per day for adults.
Some fat is necessary in the diet as it is important to brain development, vitamin absorption and for healthy skin and hair. But too much fat can be harmful because it can raise LDL cholesterol, the “bad” cholesterol, which increases risk for heart attack, stroke and other diseases. This is why it is important to limit or avoid foods high in saturated fats, like butter and fatty meats. Seek out healthy sources, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats like those found in avocados, nuts, olive and coconut oil.
Refined carbohydrates are plant-based foods that have the whole grain extracted during processing.The process of refining not only removes beneficial fiber, but also much nutritional value including B-complex vitamins, healthy oils and fat-soluble vitamins. Examples include white rice, most dry cereals, pasta, white bread and chips. It is important to choose good carbs by selecting those that are full of fiber because they are absorbed slowly into our systems, which helps keep blood sugar regulated.
The complete opposite of whole foods, processed foods are typically produced in a factory and noted for their long shelf life. Think chips, crackers, canned soups, frozen dinners and fast food. Their food labels typically contain a long list of hard to read ingredients. They typically contain added sugar, refined carbs, and preservatives, and can be loaded with fat and sodium.
Both coffee and alcohol have been around for ages. Not only does coffee keep you alert, coffee drinkers are less likely to have type 2 diabetes, Parkinson’s disease and dementia and have few cases of cancers, heart rhythm problems and strokes. Coffee has antioxidants which help prevent tissue damage by molecules called oxygen-radicals. Of course, coffee contains caffeine that can raise blood pressure and too much caffeine has been known to make people jittery, so moderate coffee consumption is recommended.
While alcohol can be a part of a healthy lifestyle when consumed socially in moderation, it is certainly not critical to living. Its calories are devoid of nutritional value. There are health benefits linked to red wine, but that doesn’t mean drink it to excess. Wine contains the antioxidant resveratrol. Some research suggests that resveratrol may have a role in preventing heart disease by raising good cholesterol and lowering risk of artery damage.
Why Are You Eating?
Correct answer: because you are hungry. Check your habits—are you eating out of boredom, stress or because you are upset about something? In this article in Psychology Today, Jennifer Kronberg suggests eating with awareness and finding other sources of pleasure at the end of the day, like maybe a bubble bath. She also recommends not allowing yourself to get hungry and allowing yourself to feel difficult emotions.
Tip: As the American Dietetic Association suggests, don’t think good or bad, think about eating the most nutrient-dense foods, those packed with vitamins, minerals, fiber, healthy fats, and calcium.
Tomorrow: Fad diets come and go. Tomorrow we’ll discuss a couple of lifestyle-worthy diets and strategies to stay healthy.
TED Radio Hour podcast episode, The Food We Eat
Share with friends