I spent 12 weeks participating in a nutritional study this year. It was a great opportunity to speak directly to a registered dietician and ask her questions about superfoods, fad diets, eating habits, physical activity and healthy living.
There is so much (mis)information available online for the average person to try to make sense out of. How do we lead a healthful life when there is no clear consensus? Where do we go for good standards? I like the Dieticians of Canada and Eat Right Ontario as a good source of information. The Canada Food Guide is also a great place to look for ways to improve your eating habits, as well as the Canadian Diabetes Association.
Here are a few things that I learned through the study that I’ll particularly take with me.
- There is no recommended daily value of sugar but that doesn’t mean that sugar is a bad thing. My knee jerk reaction earlier this year to finding out how much sugar I consume was to stop eating it all together, but I knew that wasn’t a sustainable practice. Through this study I learned that sugar doesn’t have to be a bad thing, but we need to be conscious about how much added sugar is in our foods, especially the processed stuff.
- Nutrition facts on the side of the boxes/containers of foods are really important! But it’s also important to remember the context in which you’re going to be consuming food. So if you’re looking at a starch for example a good one should have a higher Daily Value percentage of fibre, for instance, cause fibre is good for your body. The higher processed the food the less fibre it has. But, we learned some surprising facts, like the fact that brown rice only has about 1g more of fibre than regular rice. Talk about marketing, right? Makes me feel better about eating just plain rice instead of going for the brown stuff.
- Also, a good rule for your daily value percentage: 15% and above can be good or bad, depending on what it’s a value of (fibre vs fat, for instance.)
- Saturated and trans fats are the ones to avoid. Generally speaking we should stick to plant-based fats. Coconut oil, however, is a saturated fat. When I look at oil now I think of it as little Lego blocks of hydrogen that stick to my insides.
- When creating a meal, you stick to one-third protein, one-third starch and half a plate full of greens/veggies. This was the first thing we learned in the study and it’s stuck with me the whole way through. Eating this way makes me full! It doesn’t matter what those three components are, as long as you stick to them you just end up feeling full at the end of the meal and I don’t get weird cravings afterwards. (Usually for sugar.)
- Your body doesn’t recognize liquid calories you consume so you may ingest lots through a protein shake or something but you’ll still feel hungry soon after because it’s not a solid. I don’t drink protein shakes at all so I can’t really confirm this. I can confirm it with something simpler like OJ or a can of pop cause I know it happens with that. Can anyone tell me what it’s like drinking a protein shake and why they do it? I’m curious to know!
- Your body is a detox machine. You don’t need to go on a detox diet to cleanse your system. This is why we have a liver and two kidneys.
- Understanding and being mindful of nutrition is one of the best components of keeping a healthy mind. When you don’t eat properly your body begins to react to stress and anxiety in a different way than it would if you had eaten properly. You know, like that Mars bar commercial where your friend turns into Joe Pesci because he’s hangry? Yeah, that’s it exactly. Except don’t reach for a Mars bar, for heaven’s sake. Fruit is awesome and more filling and good for you than processed sugar bars. It also has more fibre. (Fibre’s good. Real good.)
- Our brains love carbohydrates! Food for thought, huh? So if you remove all carbs from your diet and you find yourself feeling sluggish, guess what? It’s because your brain is not getting enough food. Feed it! Alternatively, too many carbs or simple sugars can crash your brain too cause your brain can’t handle too much at once. So be careful about doing that as well. I’m eating a red velvet muffin from Tim Hortons as I write this and I can already feel my brain starting to slow down cause there’s too much sugar going up in there. Maybe I’ll save the rest of that muffin for later…
- Cholesterol. There is good cholesterol and bad cholesterol. Bad cholesterol (HDL) creates plaque in your blood stream that can lead to heart attack or stroke. Good cholesterol (LDL) finds the bad cholesterol and removes it from your blood stream, sends it back to the liver to get cleaned out. Smoking causes a build up of both HDL and triglyceride cholesterol, another bad form of it, that can lead to bad heart health.
I know healthy eating is a constant work-in-progress. (I’m looking at your red velvet muffin.) There’s always ways to improve on what’s been done before and different people have different requirements. The most important thing to note is to listen to your body because you’re the only one who can tell what it’s saying.