The Importance of Knowing What to Eat

By Ben Benjamin(PhD), Lois Orth-Zitoli, January 8, 2013

The Importance of Knowing What to Eat

By Ben Benjamin(PhD), Lois Orth-Zitoli,
January 8, 2013

Now that you have a better handle on how to eat from our first article and when to eat to create more energy from the second article, let's talk about what to eat to optimize your energy. If we were only allowed three words with which to advise you on what to eat, they would have to be "EAT REAL FOOD!" This means eating foods that have been staples of the human diet for generations. Many of the foods that are available in supermarkets today are concocted by food scientists in factories. In Michael Pollan's book, Food Rules, he refers to these products as "edible food-like substances," not real food. The body wants nutrition, not calories. If you eat foods that are devoid of nutrition, like processed, chemically saturated foods from boxes, you will have a tendency to overeat. Your body will want to keep eating until its nutritional needs have been met. When you continually eat food of low quality, the brain will register a nutrition deficit and signal us to eat more.

You are not alone if you are overwhelmed by conflicting nutritional information about what comprises a healthy diet. One of the easiest ways to ensure that your diet contains a wide variety of vitamins and minerals is to eat foods from all colors of the rainbow. The different pigments in fruits and vegetables have different health benefits. For example, green foods improve circulation, purify the blood, and strengthen the immune system. White foods such as garlic, onions, and fennel represent nature's pharmacy. They contain anti-viral and anti-bacterial properties. Even if you don't know what the specific health benefits are for each fruit, vegetable or grain, you can still ensure health by eating a wide variety of foods of varying pigments. By avoiding foods that list enriched flour, high fructose corn syrup, hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oil, artificial sweeteners or sugar, you will eliminate a long list of pseudo-foods from your diet. This will leave more room for healthy, real food. Read on to learn how you can easily swap out unhealthy ingredients for healthier choices.

Nutritional habits to permanently improve your quality of life:

  • Less white sugar and high fructose corn syrup (HFCS); more naturally sweetened foods.
  • Less white flour; more whole grain flours like spelt, whole wheat, oat and barley.
  • Less processed grains (white, enriched flour); more whole grain (brown rice, quinoa, and millet).
  • Less hydrogenated oils; more unrefined oils such as extra virgin olive oil, sesame oil, flax seed oil and organic butter.
  • Less artificial colors and flavors; more naturally flavored and colored whole foods; homemade food.
  • Less conventional, factory farmed meats, poultry and dairy which contain hormones, steroids and antibiotics; more organic dairy, locally raised beef and poultry, preferably grass fed; other sources of protein such as beans.
  • Less canned foods; more fresh, frozen, and fermented.
  • Less MSG (monosodium glutamate); more natural spices.
  • Less artificial sweeteners and corn syrup; more natural sweeteners (agave nectar, maple syrup, raw honey, brown rice syrup, stevia).
  • Less soda, coffee; more water, green and herbal teas, 100% fruit juices, fresh vegetable juices.
  • Less boxed cereals; more whole grain cereals.
  • Less margarine; more organic butter.
  • Less lunch meat; more nitrate-free organic meats.
  • Less fast foods; more "slow" foods, home-cooked foods, fresh foods, quality restaurant food.