It affects everything from your weight and your energy levels to the appearance of your skin and hair. Food. Because food is vital to good health, but it’s just so difficult to decode the sea of info out there, let’s break it down to the bare basics.
Here are ten tips to a new body from registered dietician Andrea du Plessis:
1. Snackify your meals
Snacking is starting to redefine our mealtimes, mostly in response to changes in our busy lifestyles, but also because we just love snacks. Look out for rice crisps as healthy alternatives to chips, and nut and seed bars as healthier options to chocolate bars.
2. Functional flavour
Select foods and drinks with functional flavours. The latest research into the health properties of food ingredients, herbs and spices have put foods such as cocoa, almonds, coconut, ginger, turmeric and cinnamon on the map.
Did you know?
- Cocoa is packed with an intense flavour that satisfies an overactive appetite; it packs a powerful antioxidant punch from the cocoa bean polyphenols. (Add a heaped teaspoon to a cup of plain full-cream yoghurt with a dash of honey for a delicious chocolate treat.)
- Almonds are ideal to snack on as they are a valuable source of protein and fibre. (Ideal snack for slimmers: 10 almonds provide less than 300 kilojoules.)
- Cinnamon, as a spice, provides an intense flavour, which supports appetite control. (Cinnamon sprinkled over yogurt with a sliced apple turns a healthy breakfast into a yummy treat.)
Where previous health guidelines indicated five portions of fruit and/or veg per day for optimum nutrition, the guidelines from the “Health Survey for England” now indicate seven to ten portions of fruit and/or vegetables per day.
However, for many people, it is not realistic to consume such a vast amount of fresh fruit and vegetables daily.
That’s where a daily multivitamin can make a valuable contribution to the daily nutritional intake.
4. Eat more veggies
The staggering recommendation of eating seven to ten portions of fresh fruit and vegetables is nothing but overwhelming, until you start juicing your vegetables.
Juicing extracts the clear juice of veggies such as beetroot, celery, cabbage and carrots, giving your juices and smoothies an antioxidant and vitamin punch.
There is nothing wrong with adding these veggie juices into your salad dressing. How is that for pimping your salad with extra vitamins!
5. Eat more immune-boosting foods
Chillies are rich in a component called capsaicin, which is responsible for the burning sensation when you eat them, as well as helping in the management of colds and flu. Eating chillies can cause a runny nose, which thins mucous secretions, potentially helping to relieve mucous congestion.
Ginger is known to have expectorant properties, helping to expel mucus from the respiratory system. Despite its hot taste, ginger has anti-inflammatory properties, which combat the pain-causing inflammation of sore throats, colds and sinus congestion.
Garlic is probably the most well-known of all flu-fighting foods. Taking a garlic supplement can help prevent and also shorten the duration of a cold through its antiviral properties.
6. Fatigue-fighting foods
First find out why you feel tired. If you feel tired despite a healthy diet, regular exercise and sufficient sleep, visit your doctor and have your blood pressure and iron levels tested. Both low blood pressure and low iron levels are known to cause fatigue.
In the case of low blood pressure, take a multivitamin enriched with ginseng. For low iron levels, take an iron supplement. Dietary sources of iron include red meat and dark green leafy vegetables such as spinach.
B-vitamins also play a vital role in energy management, especially if you lead an active lifestyle. B-vitamins can be taken in supplement form and dietary sources include dairy products, fish, eggs, meat and wholegrain cereals.
7. Brain-boosting nutrients
Pack in these foods with brain-boosting nutrients to support your focus and memory to perform under pressure.
- Omega 3: Walnuts, flaxseeds, oily fish such as salmon and sardines.
- B-vitamins: Whole-grain cereals, poultry, meat, wholegrain cereals.
- Phospholipids: Eggs, soybeans.
8. Beauty foods
Beauty nutrition is a major health trend. No wonder, if you consider the vast amounts of research showing us which nutrients and foods are best to nourish our hair, skin and nails. Look out for these nutrients:
- Vitamin E: supports healing of skin and may help prevent scarring.
- Zinc: this nutrient is important for the repair of skin damaged by acne, as well as helping to prevent bacterial infections.
9. Tame your appetite
Research has established the strong role of snacking in appetite control. It is far better to eat smaller meals and snack meals throughout the day, instead of eating one or two large meals per day. It’s therefore best to time-plan your protein snacks.
The smart snacks to have are the ones with higher protein, fat or fibre content:
- ½ diced apple with 100 ml plain yoghurt, spiced with cinnamon and a seed sprinkle.
- 175 ml full-fat Greek yoghurt
- 45 g lean biltong
- 40 g protein bar
10. Plan to succeed
Planning is still one of the key factors to success in following a healthy diet. They say, “failing to plan is planning to fail”. This leaves us with the challenge of making sense of the overwhelming amount of diet information, which is often conflicting and confusing.
That is why it is always best to consult a registered dietician for expert advice on the best nutrition plan to suit your needs. Another option is to look out for an online health or nutrition coach. A registered health professional would provide you with the best advice.