Thursday, 4 February 2016

Eating for health

Eating for Health By Sharon and Lorraine Pitman of Holistichem.




Good nutrition and eating well has many positive health benefits from boosting our immune system and protecting us from disease to maintaining a healthy weight and improving energy levels.
Healthy eating is also of added importance for those with a chronic illness. When we have health issues nutrition can help us to cope better with our symptoms and can help us manage chronic conditions. Eating a diet rich in nutritious food helps us to naturally detoxify and ensures a good intake of vitamins and minerals. Nutrition doesn’t necessarily offer a cure but it can help us to function at the best level possible and has the power to assist with healing. However it can be difficult to know which foods are acceptable as part of a healthy diet. Thanks to constant media information proclaiming what we should and shouldn’t be eating it can get a little confusing.

The best approach is to follow a balanced healthy eating plan aiming for a varied diet comprising clean and unprocessed foods. As individuals we all react differently to food and each of us have varying needs so there really isn’t a definitive “one size fits all” diet. A sensible approach including the following guidelines provides the foundation to better health. 
Try to choose wholefoods and avoid highly refined foods. Eat wholegrains instead of foods made from white wheat flour. Refined wheat is processed and has been stripped of most nutrients. Wholegrains are unrefined and as a result retain their valuable nutrient content. Wholegrains are rich in fibre and provide slow releasing carbohydrates which help us feel full for longer. Wholegrains, especially those that are free from or low in gluten tend to also be easier to digest. Instead of filling up on white bread, crackers, cakes and biscuits etc it is better to opt for wholegrain foods made from wholewheat, oats,  barley, spelt and rye etc. Reducing refined wheat intake and reducing gluten can help to reduce inflammation and digestive problems such as bloating and other bowel related symptoms. Some people have problems digesting grains and you may find that avoiding or eating small quantities suit you best. Those with coeliac disease and gluten sensitivity should eat gluten free grains such as rice, quinoa and gluten free oats. 
Food intolerances are increasingly common particularly in those with chronic illnesses. You can easily swap refined foods for healthy alternatives such as wholemeal pasta, brown rice, rye bread and oatcakes and gluten free flours, pasta and bread. Try experimenting with healthy grains in place of unrefined grains.  
You might also consider reducing your sugar consumption. Sugar is pretty toxic stuff and can cause inflammation and weight gain as well as worsening existing health conditions. You can benefit greatly by cutting down on the amount of sugar in your diet. Avoiding sugar laden sweet foods and fizzy drinks is advisable. Sugar is in a lot of food so always check the ingredients label on all foods. There are lots of natural sugar alternatives available such as honey, xylitol, stevia, agave nectar, coconut sugar and maple syrup which you can use to sweeten food and drink and bake with these also. If you do eat sugar try to do so only in moderation and opt for unrefined sugar as this has trace minerals and nutrients present. As you begin to eat less sugar you will find that you crave sugary food less and enjoy naturally sweet foods more.


Reducing and varying your dairy intake is also helpful. Cow’s milk can cause problems for a lot of people and can contribute to congestion and once again, inflammation.  There are many dairy alternatives available such as rice, oat, soya and almond milk that you can include in your diet. You can also try goat’s and sheep’s milk products for variety and also as these tend to be more easily digested. Unless you have an allergy or are vegan most people can tolerate lower lactose cow’s milk produce such as cottage cheese, yoghurt and butter.

Healthy eating isn’t all about avoiding specific food types. You don’t have to starve yourself nor feel deprived. You can eat lots of enjoyable foods and still be healthy. You should eat lots of fruit and vegetables aiming to consume five pieces per day. Fruit and vegetables are loaded with vitamins and minerals that are essential for good health. Don’t overcook vegetables as you can lose a lot of the nutrients this way. Include steamed vegetables in your diet as they retain more vitamins and minerals when cooked this way. Raw fruit and vegetables are especially good as their nutrient content hasn’t been destroyed by heat. You can get your daily dose of raw fruit and vegetables by eating salad and drinking freshly squeezed juice and smoothies.
Diets rich in plant foods are best for health and whilst it is fine to eat meat we would recommend that you reduce your consumption and eat more vegetarian based meals.
You don’t need to avoid meat completely just try to eat more plant based foods.  Pulses such as chickpeas and lentils are a useful addition to your diet as they are rich in fibre and energy giving carbohydrates. They count toward your “5 a day” however some people have problems digesting them as they can cause bloating and other digestive problems. Soaking pulses before cooking can help make digestion easier. A healthy diet should also include fats. Not all fat is bad. There is lots of healthy fats you can eat such as olive oil and rapeseed oil. Good fats are also found in avocado, walnuts and pumpkin and sunflower seeds. Beneficial fats are naturally present in oily fish such as salmon, mackerel, tuna and sardines. These healthy fats including essential fatty acids and omega oils are beneficial to health boosting the immune system and reducing inflammation.
Remember to include healthy drinks in your diet. We all know that it is important to drink plenty of water. Making sure that you drink enough water, approximately eight glasses per day can help detoxify and flush out toxins from our bodies. Try to avoid or at least limit caffeinated and alcoholic drinks as these are stimulants that have no nutrient value. As well as water you can drink caffeine free herbal teas and coffee substitutes.

Whilst it isn’t compulsory you might like to try including more organic produce in your diet. Organic foods are grown without pesticides and avoiding these can lessen our toxic load. Non-organic animal produce such as meat, milk and cheese often contain hormones and opting for organic varieties can help us to avoid these toxins. Organic food can be expensive so buy what you can comfortably afford.
Most importantly, ensure that you eat a wide variety of healthy unprocessed foods. A healthy diet should also be enjoyable. Don’t give yourself a hard time trying to follow strict calorie counting regimes. Eat lots of unrefined foods and you will give your body the best chance of optimum health. If you are battling a chronic illness a healthy eating plan can make a massive difference to your overall health.

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If you would like more advice you may wish to visit our website at www.holistichem.com where you can find out more about the services we provide. We offer nutrition and wellbeing support with 7 days unlimited email contact having developed it from our personal experience of chronic illness. We are two fully qualified and insured complementary therapists (and also sisters!) and one of us, our holistic nutritionist, has ME, Fibromyalgia and other hormone, digestive and immune related conditions. It was these health issues that prompted us to develop the Holistichem Wellbeing Method that we have used to help ourselves and now share this knowledge and experience with others.