My favourite quote about nutrition comes via Michael Pollan:
“Eat food, not too much, mostly plants.”
This breaks down to buying food that isn’t overly processed, only eating as much as you need, and making plants a far greater part of your diet. It doesn’t have to be more complicated than that. So rather than provide you with a minor degree in biochemistry and nutritional physiology, I would like to break down a few simple guidelines to improve your diet.
1. Stop buying rubbish: if you can’t find it out in a field, it’s processed. And processed foods often have reduced nutritional value (vitamins, etc – even if they try fortify it after processing) while being designed to make you overeat (added salt, sugar, flavourants, etc). BUT processing is not the devil - processing is a part of life. Cooking is processing. CHEWing is processing. It’s what we do to make calories and nutrients more available and that’s not in and of itself a bad thing. However, as explained in point 5, that can be a problem when it comes to overeating.
2. Eat more vegetables: the rule we all know yet people do not take seriously enough. How much is enough? You should be eating AT LEAST 2-3 cups of vegetables daily. That’s 500-750ml’s as a MINIMUM. So those two florets of broccoli and some haphazard carrot sticks with dinner don’t really cut it. Just because you eat SOME vegetables doesn’t make it ENOUGH. Vegetarians have it right in this regard – making vegetables the main part of the meal is a great way to make sure you eat enough as well as force you to get better at preparing them. Make vegetables the star of the show sometimes. Give them a little pomp and circumstance to let their natural deliciousness stand out - roast those carrots with thyme, dress that broccoli in a little yoghurt with ground cumin, braise that cabbage in stock… For goodness sake - show just a LITTLE interest and effort.
3. Eat more fish (especially the oily ones): it is the protein source on which the human race grew smarter. No matter how you slice it, seafood is an excellent source of protein and essential fats. Choosing fish as a primary source of protein has supported some of the longest-living cultures in the world e.g. Japanese, Inuit. In terms of food safety, as long as you TRY to choose wild-caught over farmed and TRY to stick to smaller, oilier fish, you shouldn’t have any problems with heavy metals (e.g. mercury) or parasites. But also take into account the impact on our planet - only buy fish that are sustainably caught or farmed. Leave something for your grandkids.
4. Eat some natural fats: they are ESSENTIAL and very healthy. When it comes to nutrient groups, fats are very important as our bodies use them in every single process we have. A completely fat-free diet (if such a things exists) would probably kill you. But also realise that a very high fat diet can increase your chance of a number of diseases e.g. heart attacks, so, if you decide to eat more fat, make sure you are monitoring your health measures (cholesterol, weight, triglycerides, etc). That out the way, try to make your fat choices as natural as possible. Example: nuts, seeds, avocadoes are natural and groovy; very processed and oxidised like vegetable oils, margarine are not very natural (and gross – YouTube the process that is used to make these things).
5. Don’t overdue the starches and limit the sugars: these foods aren’t really essential (unless you engage in vigorous exercise regularly) and they can be easy to overeat e.g. try to eat 1000kC worth of potato chips or carrots to see the difference. But if you are good at controlling your calorie intake, these foods are not to be feared – they can easily form part of a healthy diet. Just keep an eye on your health measures (blood glucose, triglycerides, weight, etc) to make sure that they’re not putting you at risk of disease.
So there you have it – 5 nutritional rules that will improve your health. So why aren’t you doing them? Go! Go now! But come back next time for our installment on exercise!
Thank you for reading.
Article by Dr Murray McDonald from