A Quick Guide to Healthy Food Choices
Nowadays we have access to everything. In fact, we can eat almost anything at any time, but does this mean we are eating better? Let´s look at some facts. In the United States:
– Nearly 38% of adults are obese (1)
– 9,3% of the population has diabetes (2)
– About 29% of adults have high blood pressure (3)
– The No. 1 cause of death for both men and women is heart disease (4)
– 1 in every 20 deaths is caused by stroke (5)
This data reflects not only the way people eat, of course, but also other factors such as lifestyle. However, food plays a very important role. Besides being part of our daily life, we need to eat in order to survive.
If we want to eat healthier options, going to the supermarket can be quite a challenging experience. Why? Because everything that is not good for us seems to be more appealing either by the way it looks or how the package looks (this is marketing at its best). As the saying goes, “don´t judge a book by its cover.” So what can you do?
1. Choose Local
If you are looking for fresh fruits and vegetables, then buy local products. By doing this you will be also helping the farmers in your area as well as the environment! Besides this, instead of going to the freezer section to find meat or fish, try to go more often to the fish market or to the butcher shop.
2. Choose Organic
Do you really want to pay for food that was grown using chemical fertilizers and pesticides or for GMO food? Or would you rather pay for quality? This is what happens when you choose organic: it is an investment in your health and well-being. Organic produce might not be so appealing because of its size and shape, but after you taste it you will not want anything else!
3. Choose Seasonal
Nature is so wise. It gives us what our body needs according to the season. For example, have you ever noticed that there is always more fruit available during summer time? Fruit hydrates us and has also a cooling effect on our body, perfect for that time of the year!
4. Choose Whole
Whole grains are slow-absorption carbohydrates and nutritionally more complete (6). Most people, however, eat refined carbohydrates. But did you know that white flour acidifies the body, taking away minerals (7)? Furthermore, food with a high glycemic value (e.g., refined flour products and also sugar), can act as opium does in our brains, which is why for some people it can be addictive, according to research conducted by Dr. Kathleen DesMaisons, specialist in nutrition and addiction (8).
5. Choose without Sugar
When I use the term “sugar” I mean sucrose that enters very quickly in the bloodstream, disturbing the sugar levels in the blood. In the long term, refined sugar increases fatigue and steals from the body minerals and B complex vitamins (7). But, of course, everybody loves eating a sweet thing! Fruit can be one of the best options available, but if you are looking for a sugar substitute you have, for example, honey and coconut sugar.
6. Choose Unprocessed
I know packaged food offers convenience, but next time you buy it please read the label. Do you understand the ingredients or are they too hard to spell? Rule of thumb: if you can´t spell them, then put the package back on the supermarket shelf. Besides this, keep in mind that the less ingredients a product has, the better.
7. Choose Diversity
Eating a bit of everything is probably the best option if you want to have a balanced diet. However, it is important to take into account certain factors such as the season we are in, as I have written above, and our personal characteristics like age, sex, lifestyle and what our organism reacts to certain foods, so listen to your body!
Next time you go to the supermarket think about the options available. You have the power to decide the best for you, so choose wisely.
(1) Flegal K.M., Kruszon-Moran D., Carroll M.D., et al. Trends in obesity among adults in the United States, 2005 to 2014. JAMA, 315(21): 284-2291, 2016 (accessed October 2016).
(2) American Diabetes Association. Statistics about Diabetes. In American Diabetes Association, 2016 (accessed October 2016).
(3) Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. High Blood Pressure Facts. In Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2015 (accessed October 2016).
(4) Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Heart Disease Facts. In Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2015 (accessed October 2016).
(5) Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Stroke Facts. In Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2015 (accessed October 2016).
(6) Varatojo, Francisco. Foods also Cure. Lisboa: A Esfera dos Livros, 2015.
(7) Pope, Alexandra. The Wild Genie: The healing power of menstruation. Bedfordshire: Authors OnLine, 2001, ed. 2014.
(8) Northrup, Christiane. Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom: Creating physical and emotional health and healing. Rio de Mouro: Círculo de Leitores, 1994, ed. 2009, transl.