Over the last weeks I have been featuring the nutrients that the body needs to be healthy, recover from illness and prevent disease.. Also to help your body survive the challenges it faces and give you a long and active life.
Variety is the spice of life and so giving your body a wide variety of foods, gives it the best chance of extracting the nutrients it needs. Over the years that the body has been evolving it has become an expert at this and all you have to do is supply the ingredients.
I advise everybody to keep a food diary for a week and then make a list of the foods already being eaten. It tends to illustrate that most of us tend to narrow our choices down to habitual foods that we buy every week.
These lists are not a complete directory of all the wide range of foods available across the groups, but give you a good idea of the variety you should be eating. And, if as a child you decided you didn’t like a vegetable or fruit, perhaps now you are an adult you might value its nutritional content enough to give it another go.
Recipes today are much more creative and I find that any food that I don’t like to eat can be hidden successfully in a hearty soup!
Anyway… here is my list. Adapt for where you live, to include your seasonal produce, as that is the best form of nutrients, as is local produce that is homegrown in soil close to you. Buy fresh from the grower when possible, never buy pre-cut in plastic (has lost up to 75% of its nutrients) and cook from scratch.
Vegetables – carrots, red peppers, broccoli, spinach, cauliflower, corn on the cob- any dark cabbage or Brussel sprouts, onions, mushrooms, tomatoes, watercress, dark lettuce leaves, cucumbers, celery, avocados and potatoes. (any other fresh seasonal produce you enjoy) At least five or six portions a day – use a cupped handful as an estimated portion size.
Lower Fructose Fruit – Bananas, kiwi, strawberries and any dark berries that are reasonably priced – try frozen. Enjoy all fruit in season at least three portions a day.
Hot lemon and water first thing in the morning will not only give you a Vitamin C hit, start your digestive process off but will also help with sugar cravings.
Wholegrains – brown rice- wholegrain bread – whole wheat pasta – weetabix – shredded wheat – porridge oats. Please do not buy sugar or chocolate covered cereals – more sugar than goodness. Carbohydrates are an important food group. However, as we get older and less active you really only need a large spoonful of rice or potatoes on a daily basis. if you suffer from a Candida overgrowth be aware that it may not be the yeast in bread that causes a problem but the sugar or its substitute.
Fish – Salmon fresh and tinned- cod – haddock (again frozen can be a good option) any white fish on offer – shellfish once a week such as mussels. Tinned sardines, Tuna and herrings – great for lighter meals. (any fish that is available fresh not from farmed sources)
Meat and poultry – chicken or turkey – lamb, beef and pork. Lean ham for sandwiches, (processed meats should be used sparingly) Venison if you enjoy it. Liver provides a wonderful array of nutrients served with onions and vegetables is delicious. Tofu for vegetarians has become more accessible and can be used by non vegetarians once a week to provide the other benefits of soya it offers. Bacon once a week is fine but do bear in mind that most processed meats contain a lot of salt. (any unprocessed meat or poultry is good but be aware of the sauces you put on them and your cooking method – grill or roast and drain off excess fats)
Dairy and Eggs– Milk, butter and cheese (better to have the real stuff than whipped margarine) – yoghurt. Free Range Eggs – have at least three or four a week.
Oils – Extra virgin Olive Oil (least processed) – great drizzled on vegetables with some seasoning and also eaten the Spanish way with balsamic vinegar on salads and also drizzled over toasted fresh bread. Recent research has identified that you can cook with olive oil to a higher temperature than previously thought, but you should never burn any fat.
If you do not like the taste of Olive Oil then use Sunflower oil – do not use the light version of any oil as it has been processed heavily – use the good stuff. It is better to use pure butter on your bread and in cooking than any pre-packaged light products.. A scrape of the good stuff is better for you.
Honey and extras –You really do need to avoid sugars refined and in cakes, sweets and biscuits but honey is a sweetener that the body has been utilising since the first time we found a bee hive and a teaspoon in your porridge is okay. Try and find a local honey to you. Dark chocolate – over 70% a one or two squares per day particularly with a lovely cup of Americano coffee is a delicious way to get your antioxidants.
Sauces – If you buy your sauces in jars and packets they will have a great many more ingredients than you bargained for. One of the worst is sugar or its substitutes. The greatest cooking skill you can develop is to be able to make a wide variety of sauces from scratch. If you do this you will be not only using fresh produce with its nutritional punch but also taking hundreds of pounds of sugar out of your diet over a lifetime.
Fluids– Green Tea and other herbal teas, tap and mineral water, coffee (not instant but ground coffee) Good quality alcohol in moderation Black tea also has antioxidants so drink a couple of cups a day. Try with sliced lemon and get some Vitamin C. (depending on the climate and altitude at which you live you will need to experiment to find out how much fluid you need. If you have very low humidity you will need considerably more. Average is around the 2 litres per day of combined fluids).
I hope that this will give you a few ideas on how to expand your shopping list to include foods that will provide you with the ingredients for health.
If it is not listed here then research your favourite foods and find out what the nutritional content is.. It does help you value and respect the food that you buy, cook and eat.