Food is an essential part of life. The choices we make about what we eat can have lasting impacts on our health. Many chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, and obesity can be caused by unhealthy dietary habits (1). For many people, preventing these diseases can be as easy as engaging in healthy eating habits. These healthy eating habits include not just what food is eaten, but also when and how to eat. In this article, I will discuss very general healthy diet recommendations (what to eat). In part 2, I will discuss how and when to eat.
What to Eat
There is no perfect diet that can be applied to everyone. However, in general, the best thing is to focus on is the quality of food (2). High quality food includes are those that are closest to their whole forms found in nature. Foods like whole grains, whole fruits and vegetables, healthy fats, and healthy proteins are all high quality foods. Low-quality foods are those that are highly processed such as white bread, white rice, fried food, processed meats, sugary beverages, refined sugar, and foods high in trans fats. These low-quality foods are minimized or eliminated in a healthy diet.
Healthy fats are needed for our bodies to absorb fat-soluble vitamins and for use as energy. Omega-3 fatty acids in particular can be helpful in preventing heart disease and reducing inflammation. It’s important to have a wild caught, fatty fish 1-2 servings a week as a dietary source of healthy omega-3 fats. The Monterey bay aquarium has a great seafood watch list to guide your seafood choices so that you can make the best environmentally friendly and sustainable choice. Nuts, seeds, avocado, and olive oil are other examples of foods that have healthy fats. To help absorb fat-soluble vitamins and increase your healthy fat intake, try a light drizzle of olive oil and balsamic vinegar over a salad or cooking vegetables with grass fed butter or ghee.
Protein breaks down into essential amino acids that your body uses as building blocks to make its own proteins. General recommendations for protein intake is 0.8 grams of protein per kg of body weight. Incorporating vegetarian protein sources such as beans, lentils, chickpeas, tofu, and nuts/seeds can be a great way to get additional protein in your diet. I recommend buying grass-fed, free range meat when possible. I also recommend limiting red meat and processed meat.
As a reminder, there is never a universal recommendation when it comes to diet. If you have a condition, please seek the advice of a medical practitioner prior to initiating any dietary changes.