When it comes to healthy eating, there’s a lot of conflicting advice out there. We’re told to eat our 5 a day, but not all fruit and vegetables are included in the 5 a day guidelines. We’re told that processed meat is bad for us and that we should try to avoid cured food or anything high in salt or sugar. We all have our little indulgences and for the most part many of us think that we have a fairly healthy diet. But if you’re looking to lose weight or kick start a new healthy eating regime in time for 2014, how do you separate the fads from the facts when it comes to your knowledge of what actually constitutes ‘healthy eating’?
Crash diets are most definitely a fad, although it’s a fad which has been around for too long! Contrary to popular belief, crash diets are not a ‘quick fix’ solution for anyone looking for long-term, sustained weight loss. In fact, starving the body of nutrients can actually lead you to put the weight back on just as quickly as it has come off. Crash diets are harmful for health and can actually slow your metabolism down, making it harder for you to lose weight in the future. Whilst a detox program such as a raw juice fast is great for your health, it should never be done solely to lose weight, as most of the weight you lose will be water. A raw juice fast or other detox program is designed to do just that – detoxify your system. Crash diets such as The Cabbage Soup Diet or any diet that restricts your calorie intake to less than 1,200 calories a day not only rob your body of vital nutrients, vitamins and minerals, they also weaken your immune system and place undue stress on your heart.
Antioxidants and enzymes
There’s no denying that raw food is better for you than cooked food and the enzymes which are found in raw fruit, vegetables and juices play an important role in aiding digestion and boosting your immune system. When food is cooked, these enzymes die – so your doctor isn’t lying when he says it’s good for your health to eat more salads and raw fruit and vegetables! It’s important not to exclude any food groups from your diet, unless you have an intolerance. By incorporating more brightly colored fruits and vegetables into your diet, you’ll ensure you are eating more antioxidants, which can help fight free radicals and help you to stay looking younger for longer (just don’t spend all your time munching carrot sticks).
Vegetarians are a much maligned lot – somehow, there’s just something a bit suspicious about anyone who can resist the smell of freshly cooked bacon in the morning! Yet, vegetarians who eat widely do have an incredibly healthy diet. Ensuring that you include plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables and including non-dairy protein sources such as beans, peas and lentils is vital if you’re going to have a balanced diet, and this is why nut roasts and bean stews are such healthy options for vegetarians. Of course you could always supplement your diet with tofu, textured vegetable protein and tempeh if you’re cooking dishes such as lasagna or stir fry and looking for a meat substitute. Many vegetarians eat an incredibly varied diet and don’t miss meat at all, and those who are not vegan can still enjoy eggs, milk and cheese in their cooking.
It’s important to take a balanced yet skeptical approach to your health and the information you glean from various sources such as newspaper and magazine articles, health advice from the government and stories you read online. At the end of the day, provided you eat a wide variety of foods and focus your diet on lean protein, fresh fruit and vegetables (with the occasional treat), you should be receiving all the nutrients you need to stay healthy. There’s no point in taking hundreds of multi-vitamins either, as you should receive everything you need from your diet. If you want to supplement your diet with Vitamin E (great for your skin) or Vitamin B12 (which boosts your energy levels), these are both good choices which will help you to look and feel great! However, you can eat foods which are naturally rich in both these vitamins as an alternative to taking supplements.
Lena Lewis is a full-time freelance health and fitness writer and has written widely for a variety of blogs and online publications on the topic of healthy eating. Although she allows herself the occasional weekend treat, Lena tries to stick to as healthy a diet as possible and believes that this is the reason why she still has so much energy at the age of 45!