Read this post for how to simplify your diet and erase confusion about healthy eating. Whether you’re interested in optimal health, have gut health issues or you just happened to stumble across this page, I hope I can enlighten you in some way.
There are more diets and labels today than ever before. The easiest way to picture this is to think about how one’s coffee order has changed over the last 3 years
2016: “Hey, can I have a white coffee please?”
2019: “Hey, can I have a long black with a dash of almond milk please but not too much… actually no, please can I have oat milk? And could I also have it extra hot. Could you put the milk on the side please?”
Disclaimer: I am not shaming anyone who’s coffee order resonates with the above. I myself am guilty.
Food trends are making it extremely complicated for modern society to iron out what is regarded as a healthy diet and what is not. What is more complicating is that often, what is trendy isn’t usually real, and what is real, isn’t usually trendy. There is no one-size-fits-all diet out there, that if everyone followed it, we would all lead happy healthy, disease free lives and obesity would be eradicated. As nice as that sounds. I cannot stress enough, the importance of listening to your own body and finding your own groove with your eating habits. This blog post is simply here to try and help you separate the fads from the truth. Furthermore, if you do suffer from an upset stomach regularly, I hope that I can help you limit the foods that do not aid digestion in any way.
“What do you know?” I hear you asking…
Well my friends, not enough. However, I have done endless research and experimented every fad and label out there: low carb, vegan, vegetarian, pescetarian, paleo, keto, the list goes on. It has taken me until now, to realise that life really does not have to be that complicated, and by following these 10 steps, you can create a positive relationship with food.
If we don’t look after our own health, how are we meant to look after others?
Your thoughts manifest themselves, hence why I believe it is so important to maintain a positive mindset. Positive thoughts equal positive results. After the numerous fads I have participated in, as per the above, I have finally got to a place where I don’t feel the need to be a sheep in society and label myself with the latest fad. Labels equate directly to restriction. Restriction equates to mental strain which is going to cause an unhappy environment in your gut. What is the point in labelling yourself in an attempt to improve your health, when in turn, the pressure of restriction results in more stress?
Saying that, I have suffered, for want of a better word, with bad gut health for several years now. After discovering minimalism, I started to apply this concept to my way of eating and I instantly felt amazing results in the way I felt. I have minimalised bloating, reflux, constipation (TMI) and more, just by following these 10 simple steps. Therefore, by sharing, I hope I can also help you.
My point is that, you should aim to get to a point where you know the foods that make you feel good, and the foods that don’t and live to these foods 80% of the time. But don’t label it, just have an awareness. One day if you feel like having a meal that totally doesn’t agree with you, then by ALL means go for it and don’t feel guilt or failure. Sometimes in life, these meals are going to be more important to your mental health than not allowing yourself to have them.
Wow, now I’ve got that off my chest, let’s dive deep into how to simplify your diet for optimal gut health.
Part 1: Think Whole Foods
The easy peasy way to a healthy diet is planning your meals around whole foods. Whole foods are obvious. Anything that you could pick up on a desert island and not have to tamper with it on order to eat it, is a whole food. Our bodies are designed to process these foods, and so they shouldn’t cause any strain on your digestive system. The more our foods are tampered/ processed, the more foreign it is to our body and the more stress it causes in attempting to break it down,
1. Plan your meals around a protein source, a fat source and then your micro nutrition a.k.a fruit and vegetables.
Tuna salad: Tuna (protein), avocado (fat), lettuce, cucumber, pepper (micro nutrition)
“English Breakfast”: Eggs (protein and fat), avocado (fat), mushrooms, spinach (micro nutrition)
Tofu Stir Fry: Tofu (protein), Satay Sauce (Fat), mixed vegetables (micro nutrition)
2. Limit your intake of refined sugar.
I know that sugar is the absolute devil to my gut health and causes instant discomfort and acid reflux. Sugar has links to almost every disease possible, affects our moods, causes acne, causes weight gain, and causes addictive behavior. Added sugar can be found in most processed foods, and so the simplest way to limit our intake is to eat whole foods.
Let me know in the comments below if you’d like a separate blog post on the impact of sugar on our health.
3. Limit your intake of grains
This is a controversial one, however has had a huge impact on my personal digestive issues. Prior to the agricultural revolution, grains were certainly not a part of our diet. Again, they are not entirely pure, and need to be tampered with in order for us to be able to consume them. There are so many health claims out there that believe whole grains are integral to a healthy diet, however I believe that the more sensitive our digestion is, the harder it will be to process grains. I believe this point needs an article to itself but for now, this article gives a great counter argument to the popular belief that grains are important for our diet: https://www.marksdailyapple.com/definitive-guide-grains/
One reason whole grains are perceived as so healthy is their high fiber content. But wait… did we forget about vegetables for a moment? The fiber in whole grains is an indigestible carbohydrate and can cause gas, bloating, and constipation. Carbohydrates are converted into fat storage, so unless you are extremely athletic and are likely to use up the reserve quickly, this fat conversion taxes the adrenal system, the pancreas, the immune system, and results in inflammation.
4. Limit Vinegar
Some vinegars, such as apple cider vinegar’s are crazing at the moment for their positive benefits to our diets, however they do have their draw backs, especially for those who suffer from acid reflux. Vinegar = acid = acid reflux. Too much acidity in our diet can cause a PH imbalance in our gut environment and therefore lead to discomfort.
I really struggle to limit vinegar out of my diet as my body finds every way to try and creep it back in but every time my body succeeds, I notice how much it affects my digestion. On another note, since limiting the vinegar that I add to my meals e.g. balsamic dressing, tomato sauce, chutneys, I have started to really enjoy tasting foods in their most natural form.
5. Think about the purpose of each ingredient
I am a foodie. I am a culprit of trying to add every ingredient under the sun onto my plate to make it as tasty as possible. Whilst adding a variation of foods to our diet is important for optimal nutrition, it can be taxing on our bodies to have to break down so many different types of foods at once.
To help simplify your meals, try to think about the value and purpose that each ingredient brings to the nutrition of your meal. I am all about eating food for pleasure, but sometimes, it is important to remind yourself that food is fuel, and not all ingredients may be adding benefit to the nutrition of your meal.
Part 2: Think Gratitude:
6. Ask your body what it needs
As much as it is important to try and balance your plate with protein, fats and veggies, your body will always know what it needs, and if you listen to it, you can adapt accordingly. Listen to your body, and if you are craving more fat, eat more fat. If you’ve just smashed your workout and your craving protein, eat more protein. Sometimes, all you want is carbs, and that’s OK too. To play devils advocate here, it is really important to train your mind to differentiate what it needs, from addictions.
7. Does is clog me or cleanse me?
I am lucky to have had my mother drill quote into me from a young age. Back then, all it did was annoy me. Now, I see this question as the easiest possible way to decipher whether a food is healthy or not. Imagine yourself eating it, and ask your body, does it clog me, or cleanse me?
8. Chew Slowly, without distractions
Ever caught yourself eating your meal, whilst checking your emails, whilst talking to the person next to you, whilst thinking about what’s left on your to do list that you’ll probably not get round to completing?
Take the time to eat. Multi tasking will not lead to efficiency. Chew slowly, allow your body to know it needs to digest and allow time for this process to happen.
“But I’m just SO busy”. Yes, however if we don’t look after our health, our health won’t look after us, our to do list, or anyone else.
If we multi – task whilst we eat, your body can’t properly register that it needs to digest and this will lead to discomfort. It can also be a problem for weight gain, as if your body hasn’t acknowledged that you’ve just had a meal, it will send hunger signals to your brain for more.
9. Don’t drink huge amounts whilst consuming food
There are theories out there that drinking water whilst eating dilutes the acid your stomach requires to break down your food. Whilst I don’t believe this, I do believe that if I’m full from a meal, downing a load of water just leads to bloating and discomfort and may complicate the digestive process.
On the contrary, water is so important for digestion and allows for softer stools, just don’t go crazy on top of a full meal.
10. Hehe, tricked you, I don’t exist.
I mean, I probably do, but I’m going to end this post here as there is a lot of information to take in.
I hope these 10 steps help you find your own groove in your eating habits and result in a happy belly.
Please leave me a comment if you have any questions or would like me to elaborate on any of my points in a separate article. Also, if you think you’d benefit from hearing this in greater depth by the way of a Youtube video, please let me know!