4 Simple Nutrition Changes to Make Today to Improve Health
Simple and nutrition are two words that a lot of people might not put in the same sentence. And I get it...nutrition often doesn't feel simple. However, I'm a big believer (and living proof) that it can be. As humans we can often complicate almost anything, especially when it comes to our health. There are a lot of things that are complicated about health, but there are also a lot of things about health and nutrition that aren't complicated. As a personal trainer and health coach I see all too often someone wanting to make changes to their fitness or nutrition, but don't. Why? Because they are over-complicating it. Rather then making small changes consistently over time, they get into this all-or-nothing mindset. And this leads to feeling overwhelmed, which leads to feelings of failure, which leads to giving up, which leads to making no lasting change at all. I'm a perfectionist, so all-or-nothing thinking is basically my life. I understand the want to do something perfectly and giving up when something inevitably goes wrong (as something always does). So many things in life are like this, but nutrition doesn't have to be one of them. Making some simple changes can have a big impact on our health. This is a topic I could write a lot about. But let's keep it simple. Let's just focus on 4 simple changes (and you are going to be surprised by how simple) you can make now...yes, right now today, that will have a positive impact on your health.
1. Add a Fat Source to Your Salads and Veggies
I can remember a time when I would eat salad with no salad dressing. Truth be told it wasn't that long ago. I would feel so proud of the fact that I ate salad with no dressing. Almost like it was a badge of honor that I didn't. Little did I know then, but not eating salad dressing on my salad meant that I wasn't making the most out of eating salads. Salad dressing, chosen carefully, can be a good source of fat and having fat with your veggies is important, but why? Because adding fat to your salad will enable your body to absorb more nutrients from all those veggies. Vitamins A, D, E & K are fat-soluble, meaning they need fat to be absorbed by our bodies. So here I was all proud of myself for making the "healthy choice" to not eat salad dressing, but ironically I also wasn't absorbing all the important nutrients in those veggies. However, before you get too excited, I haven't just given you a free pass to load your salad with processed ranch (or any other overly processed dressing). What I have given you a pass to do is add healthy fat to not only your salads, but also any other veggies you eat. Add a drizzle of olive or avocado oil to veggies, a healthy homemade dressing to salads or even avocado, nuts or seeds. Adding a healthy fat source to your vegetables will ensure you are getting all of the nutrients that you body needs and wants.
2. Eat Whole Eggs Instead of Egg Whites
If you have been health-conscious for any length of time, you probably have at one time or another eaten egg whites instead of whole eggs because of the cholesterol in egg yolks. For a long time we were told that dietary cholesterol would raise our blood cholesterol, but it turns out that just isn't true. Good news as far as I'm concerned because I really enjoy an egg cooked to over-easy perfection! But why bother with the yolk? Egg yolks have vitamins, minerals, protein and fat that can help build muscle among other health benefits. Eggs are small but mighty when it comes to the health benefits they can provide. Choline in the yolk can aid in reducing chronic inflammation, they contain all the fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E & K), they are packed with essential fatty acids and are a great source of many micronutrients. If you think about the price of eggs, they give you a big healthy bang for your buck! It's important, however, to consider the quality of your eggs. Buying organic, pastured eggs is best. Yes, they are more expensive then non-organic, but it's worth it. And if you break it down to cost per egg, organic eggs (at least where I buy them) are about $0.35/egg. Not bad for all the health benefits they provide.
3. Ditch the Vegetable Oils (corn, soybean, sunflower, canola, and safflower oils)
I bet if we looked in the average person's pantry we would find at least one of these vegetable oils. For a long time it was believed that these oils lowered total and LDL cholesterol which presumably reduced heart disease risk. The truth, according to Dr. Mark Hyman, is these oils are omega 6-rich, inflammatory polyunsaturated fats. Consuming too many omega 6 fats and too little omega 3 fats can increase risk of many diseases like heart disease, type II diabetes, IBS, rheumatoid arthritis and more. The better choice would be oils like extra-virgin olive oil, extra-virgin coconut oil and avocado oil. Another good choice is grass-fed butter. Use these oils or butter when cooking, baking, making salad dressings or adding fat to your vegetables. If you're a nutrition nerd like me and you would like to learn more about vegetable oils and why they aren't a good choice, read this article by Dr. Mark Hyman.
4. Buy Organic
I eat vegetables and fruits because I want to be healthy, and non-organic food can contain harmful hormones and pesticides. Not something I want to consume in my healthy foods. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), consuming pesticides in our food can have adverse health effects like cancer and effects on the reproduction, immune and nervous system. I often hear complaints about the cost and freshness of organic fruits and veggies, and I understand. They do cost more and don't stay fresh as long, but I'm not sure that is a bad thing. If a vegetable stays "fresh" too long, it makes me wonder what chemicals are keeping it from going bad as nature intended. I understand that buying all organic all the time may not be possible, but there are certain fruits and vegetables that you should buy organic. Check out the list below of the dirty dozen and the clean fifteen. Purchase organic fruits and vegetables from the dirty dozen list to reduce your risk of consuming harmful hormones and pesticides as these are the biggest offenders. As for the fruits and vegetables on the clean fifteen, maybe going with the non-organic version is okay.
Well, that's it...4 simple nutrition changes you can make today to improve your health. Are they simpler then you expected? Remember...don't over-complicate things. Make simple changes consistently over time and you might just be surprised at the big changes to your health.