Food shopping – making good choices
Try to eat as much freshly cooked or raw food as possible – at least a little each day. Processed foods have been altered from their natural state for reasons of convenience. They often contain many additives, and the nutrients in whatever good ingredients they contain are often destroyed as the foods are processed. Eating these ‘empty calories’ means you are not eating the beneficial foods that you need.
Oily fish (such as sardines, salmon, mackerel and herring) are really useful in your diet, as they are high in Omega 3, an essential fatty acid that acts as a natural anti-inflammatory. Research suggests that many of us are short of Omega 3.
Foods that are deep fried or prepared with hydrogenated vegetable oils, monosodium glutamate and large amounts of salt and sugar are particularly harmful:
- Keep fried food as low as possible, because heating oils to high temperatures damages the fats, increasing the levels of free radicals and unhealthy ‘trans fats’. If you are going to fry, use olive oil, butter or coconut oil, which are least susceptible to damage.
- Hydrogenated vegetable oils contain harmful ‘trans fats’ that block the absorption and use of essential fatty acids, which are essential for joint health. They are found in many processed foods and most makes of margarine. (Generally, butter is better!)
- Monosodium glutamate (M.S.G.) is found in many processed foods (e.g. in most makes of crisps). This artificial flavouring upsets the body’s blood sugar levels by increasing the amount of insulin produced by our bodies. This can cause imbalances of the whole hormone (endocrine) system and can increase any predisposition to diabetes. It also tends to make us feel hungry, and hence to over-eat.
- Processed sugar (which is different from the natural sugar that we find in fruit) is often called an ‘anti-nutrient’ because it actually leaches nutrients from your body. Have as little as possible.
- Salt, used in excess (as is common in Western countries) upsets the balance of important minerals within us. This affects the functions of every cell in the body. Use only sea salt or herb salt, and keep your salt intake low. Make a habit of tasting your food before adding salt.
Some foods that can be easily swapped for a healthier alternative include white breads and pastas made with refined white flour. These are not as healthy as those made with whole grains. Equally, sugary breakfast cereals can be swapped for plain cereals and sweetened with fruit instead. Some methods of processing are less harmful than others – for example freezing vegetables preserves more of the nutrients than many other methods of preserving food.
We really do need to maximise the level of nutrients we take in, by eating fresh foods, especially lots of fresh vegetables.
Compiled by Miriam Elkan