The question of what exactly constitutes a ‘Healthy Diet’ is one which occupies a great deal of our time, and I wish I could say I had the simple answer.
Undoubtedly we have to move away from processed and chemically loaded foodstuffs and realised that the less that has been done to a food before we eat it, the better. So for example, apple puree is better than apple juice, but a whole apple is best of all.
My slant on diet obviously requires me to look at the effect that various food groups have on health in general, but on the bowel in particular.
All living things are dependant on water, and the human body is 70% H20, so most of us need to drink more.
– It is needed to soften waste matter in the bowel for elimination, to flush out toxins and to regulate the metabolism.
– It is vital in the production of our body secretions such as digestive enzymes, saliva, tears, urine and sweat.
– It is also important for lubricating joints and efficient functioning of the lungs.
With our hectic lifestyles many of us cannot differentiate between feeling hungry or merely thirsty. By the time we feel real thirst our body may be seriously dehydrated, the less you drink the less you notice thirst.
Consequences of chronic dehydration may be constipation, headaches, excess body weight, dry skin and joint problems.
The body loses about 1.5 litres of water a day and to work towards optimal hydration we should…
– Increase intake of pure water or herbal teas
– Increase intake of essential fatty acids to improve cell membrane permeability
– Increase intake of fruits and vegetables (in their whole state) which can be up to 90% water
– Avoid diuretics such as tea, coffee and alcohol.
Avoid drinking too much water just before or during meals as this can dilute digestive juices and hinder digestion.
Carbohydrate is our main source of energy…but there are good carbs and bad carbs!
Many people these days try to limit their carbohydrate intake in attempt to control or lose weight.
We should all consume several portions of whole grain carbohydrate each day…oats, rye, brown and wild rice, pearl barley, quinoa. I find wheat to be one of the less useful grains in this group as I find it has a binding effect in the bowel for most people.
In addition we need good quantities of whole fruits and vegetables as these carbohydrates are rich in vitamins, minerals and fibre. This fibre is vital for prevention of constipation by adding bulk to the stool, aiding elimination of toxins, feeding friendly bacteria and reducing cholesterol levels.
Bad carbs are found in white and refined products and can really be seen as empty calories which will have a disruptive effect on blood sugars and may contribute to weight gain, bloating and diabetes.
Dietary proteins perform many important functions in our body. They are vital for the maintenance, repair and growth of tissues, collagen and bone as well as production of digestive enzymes and hormones. We need sufficient protein to maintain the integrity of the digestive tract.
Animal proteins are a good source because they contain all 8 essential amino acids, these are not made in the body so have to be provided by food sources. The down side of these proteins is that they are quite acidic and hard to digest, they will tend to slow bowel function.
Red meats and especially processed meats can contain high levels of saturated fats which are not good for us. High intake of animal protein is associated with an increased intake of degenerative disease such as heart disease and cancer so we should limit these foods to once or twice a week and balance them out with plenty of fibre. Poultry is a better option, and fish is even better so we should increase consumption.
Vegetable protein is the best of all and can be found in beans, pulses, sprouted seeds and soya products. These protein sources are also high in fibre and contain phytoestrogens which can help regulate hormones.
If you are a ‘ chips and chocolate’ vegetarian, or rely mainly on pasta and starch, then you need to start including more of these protein rich foods in the diet. The only downside of these vegetable proteins is that they lack some essential amino acids, eat them in combination with brown rice to provide these, or make sure you add soy beans, spirulina or chlorella to the diet to supplement.
Not all fats are created equal!
The modern diet can contain large amounts of seriously damaging and toxic fats called hydrogenated fats and trans fats. These are commonly found in processed foods and ready meals, vegetable margarines, refined oils and most commercially baked products such as biscuits cakes and pastries.
On the contrary many more natural foods such as nuts, seeds, fish and avocado contain fats which are positively beneficial because of the essential fatty acids. These fats will help us maintain a healthy metabolism and can be of great benefit in improving bowel function.
Omega 3 and 6 oils are found in flaxseed, sunflower seed, pumpkin seed and hempseed oil. These ‘good’ fats are very delicate and are sensitive to heat light and air, they will turn into bad fats once heated to high temperatures so are best used cold/raw.
Even olive oil, which is beneficial in many ways, will oxidise at high temperatures.
Coconut oil is probably the most stable oil at high temperatures and can be used in savoury dishes as well as sweet.
"I booked in to see Claire for Colonic hydrotherapy to help with my indigestion and constipation. I found the treatment helped to reduce the toxins I had built up over time and the advice she gave me about diet and introducing fruit and veg juices into my diet has helped me lose a few pounds and feel a lot better after my second visit."