|Thai Salad // Personal Picture|
Today, I'd like to introduce a new post idea: the Health Files. As I chose the path of simplicity, I also started paying more attention to my health, researching various topics, and shifting my daily habits. Although I am not a health professional, and my notes are only the result of personal reads and experiments, I thought it may be interesting to share my findings with you.
First, let me reiterate that I am not a health professional, and these points below are a result of reads, research, my education, and various experiments and habits I have implemented as a regular human being. Also, I selected ideas and tips that I found across different sources and applicable to most diet types, as a basis for healthy eating.
Eat Natural, Whole FoodsIf there is one thing my own mother and all my reads from various dietary trends have in common, it is this one: focus on real ingredients and raw foods. As George Carlin would say, "natural" doesn't really have a meaning as everything, including chemicals, comes from nature originally, but the idea is to eat fresh, unprocessed food.
As Mireille Guiliano says in her book French Women Don't Get Fat, you should avoid anything which ingredient list sounds like a chemical weapon. I like this simple and clear recommendation.
Among the reasons developed across various sources, there is the fact that processing food can remove essential nutrients from the final product, chemicals never taste the same as the real thing, and some additives can have unknown, or adverse effects on the body.
You can watch that video as an example, with detailed explanations on why processed fructose, from high fructose corn syrup for example, is much worse for health than the natual fructose consumed in fruits.
In short, fresh ingredients are tastier, provide more nutrients to the body, and, something I've quickly learned in my student years, seasonal fresh products are much cheaper to buy and cook than any prepared food.
On the Idea of a "Balanced" DietAll health professionals recommend us to eat a "balanced" diet, a bit of all, in short. But from various governments' recommendations to each nutritionist's rules, the idea of balance can be different. Basically, there are three main "macronutrients", sources of energy for our body: protein, fat and carbohydrates.
That's where the various diet trends diverge: from low fat diets to high protein, low carb "paleo" movements, nobody seems to agree on which is good and bad for the body.
A bit of research and a lot of common sense tend to prove that a balanced diet is one that contain all three energy sources. However, within each, not all types are good for health. I believe the important is not to go on a hunt against fat or carbs as a whole (I still haven't found any "low protein" diet), but to choose high quality sources of energy - an idea I can develop in other posts if you are interested.
Although I tend to err on the low carb side, my basic rule is to eat a bit of all - vegetables, meat and fish, legumes, grains, diary, fruit... Apparently, vegetarians and vegans can find the needed proteins from a plant-based diet, but at the condition to consume complementary products, and not always the same ones (for example, rice and legumes seem to be a good combination).
Watch QuantitiesAs say the health professionals from the French association GROS (Reflexion Group around Obesity and Overweight issues), eating a balanced diet can still be harmful if we eat more than we need. You can eat a very fresh and balanced diet, if you consume 5000 calories per day, you will still gain weight and other adverse health effects.
So, another of my basic nutrition rules is to eat roughly the amount of energy I need to sustain my body and physical activity. There are several calorie intake calculators out there, this one was suggested within a nutrition MOOC I'm taking these days. As a reference, it calculated a daily intake of 2000 calories for my small but quite active self.
Of course, this only gives a rough idea of what your needs may be, the point being to pay attention to the overall quantity of food consumed, no matter how "healthy". In other words, yes, vegetables can make us fat, if we eat too much of it.
Listen to Your BodyHere is my final "nutrition basic": learn to listen and respect you body's needs. One of the first things nutritionists teach to overweight patients is to pay attention to the sensations of hunger and satiety, then learn to wait until they are hungry to eat and stop when they are full.
In our modern society, where we have plenty of food, and a lot of rules (you should eat this, avoid that, make 3 meals a day...), a lot of us are disconnected from our own body sensations. We eat according to our "plan", and not according to our body's needs.
But the truth is, when we have specific cravings, it is sometimes the body saying it is missing a nutrient which is found in this thing. The most well-known example of that is the sudden cravings of pregnant women.
I'm not saying we should be eating whatever we want, whenever we want, but in my own food habits, I've learned to listen to my own sensations of hunger and satiety, and adapt accordingly. And when I feel like eating a particular type of food for a while, I go for it.
That's it for the first Health Files post. I hope you liked it. Since I'm no professional, I'm not sure how useful that is, so please don't hesitate to let me know if that's of any interest for you. This first post is an overview, you can read more on my philosophy around food here, and I can develop some of the items in future posts if you are interested.