Step 2 Eat these Foods

Eat at least 3 portions of vegetables and 2 of fruit a day

 
How many portions of fruits and vegetables do you eat on average every single day? Be totally honest with yourself, is it 2? 5? 8? 1? Or even none? If you are not sure, why not record your consumption of fruits and vegetables for the next 7 days, and then work out your average consumption. A portion is about 80g of fruit or vegetables. This is roughly equal to, an apple, orange, banana, or similarly-sized fruit, two plums, nectarines or similarly-sized fruit, a handful or grapes or berries, a slice of melon, pineapple or large fruit, one tablespoon of raisins or other dried fruit, two serving spoons of cooked vegetables, e.g. broccoli or carrots, a dessert bowl of salad, two serving spoons of beans and pulses (only one portion per day) and a 150ml glass of fresh fruit juice or smoothie (only one portion per day)
 
If you are like most people in the UK the answer that you will come up with is probably between 2 and 3. In the UK, the Food Standards Agency survey tells us the average adult male is consuming just 2.7 portions of fruit and vegetables on average, while the average adult female consumes 2.9 portions. Even more worryingly the average under 19-year-old, is consuming only 1 or fewer portions. If that wasn’t bad enough, most authorities are telling us that 5 a day should be an absolute minimum. For example in Australia the government recommends seven a day, Greece nine, and in America the National Cancer Institute, says that the ideal minimum is five for children, seven for women, and nine for men! So why does the UK only recommend 5? Quite simply it’s down to the fact that as a nation we are so poor at eating fruits and vegetables, it was felt 5 was at realistic for most people – although this has not turned out to be the case unfortunately.
 
So why do we need fruit and vegetables?
 
We need to eat a minimum of 5 fruits and vegetables every day in order to provide our body-mind with the fibre, minerals, vitamins and trace elements it needs in order to prevent deficiency related diseases, such as scurvy, prevent health problems such as depression, heart disease and cancer and to enable our body and mind to function optimally. Vegetables and fruits also contain hundreds of chemicals called phyto-nutrients, whilst not essential to health, are known to promote health and prevent against disease. Common phytonutrients include carotenoids, coumarins, flavonoids, indoles, lignans, isoflavones (including genistein and daidzen) organosulfurs and phytosterols. They are most commonly found in colourful fruits and vegetables such as kale, broccoli, spinach, berries, apricots, peaches, melons, squashes, sweet potatoes, yams, carrots and pumpkin.
 
What’s more it’s important that we eat more vegetables than fruits. In theory you could eat a banana, a tin of peaches, a handful of dried apricots, a bunch of grapes and drink a glass of orange juice and say that you’ve had your five a day. The problem with this is that the scientific evidence points to plants and vegetables as being the most important source of healthy nutrients, not fruits. Plus if you had all of the above fruits in one day you would be consuming high quantities of sugar, missing out on all of the health promoting chemicals to be found within vegetables and probably experiencing swings in your blood-sugar and mood. Other countries provide much clearer guidelines. Australians are encouraged to eat two fruits and at least five servings of vegetables a day, the US Department of Agriculture recommend eating at least four vegetables a day.
Here are some tips to increase your intake of fruit and vegetables
 
  • If you haven’t done this already calculate what your average daily consumption of fruits and vegetables are. This is your starting point
  • Increase your intake slowly. I have had clients increase their fruit and vegetables intake from 2 a day to 6 a day almost overnight, but because this was a shock to their body, they often experienced quite a lot of abdominal discomfort. My advice to you is to increase your intake of fruit and vegetable by one portion each week to a minimum of five, three of which should be vegetables. Try and eat a variety of different fruits and vegetables in order to benefit from their different and unique nutritional content.
  • Take a whole food supplement. Whilst food is always the preferred source of vitamins and minerals, given that most people don’t and won’t eat their five a day, one way to supplement their diet is with a whole food supplement. Whole food supplements as their name suggests are made from concentrated whole foods, such as tomatoes, broccoli sprouts, berries and apples. These whole foods are dried, ground up, put into powders and then drank as a smoothie, added to food or put in water. The considerable advantage of using whole food supplements, versus the isolated nutrients found in most multivitamin-minerals, is that they contain everything that makes up the whole food – this includes enzymes, coenzymes, phytonutrients, antioxidants, trace elements, activators and many other unknown or undiscovered factors. Recommended product is Easy-3 from Higher Nature
  • Get creative. Here are a couple of suggestions as to how you can get fruits and vegetables into your diet. Eat a piece of fruit with a protein snack (such as cheese, nuts, seeds or yoghurt) mid-morning and mid-afternoon. Put chopped apples, pears and/or berries on your cereal/porridge. Buy a large bag of organic frozen vegetables and cook a bowlful with every main meal. Make a fruit salad most days. Drink your vegetables and/or juices – freshly prepared is best. Add vegetables to everything including omelettes, fish and chips, lasagne etc. Eat raw vegetables as a snack with guacamole or hummus. When eating out order salads, vegetable soups, or stir-fried vegetables
 

Carbohydrates

 
Carbohydrates provide the brain and body with glucose for fuel and energy. The key to mental health and emotional well-being is to eat low amounts of ‘refined’ carbohydrates (which tend to cause rapid swings in the blood-sugar level) and to eat regularly high quality ‘natural’ carbohydrates. The latter when broken down by the body cause a more gentle, sustained release of glucose into the blood stream, whilst also providing (unlike most refined carbs) the brain and body with other valuable nutrients, such as fibre, minerals and vitamins. Eating natural carbohydrates helps to prevent the fluctuating supply of glucose that is associated with tiredness, mood swings, irritability, poor concentration and a reduction in mental performance.
 
  •  ‘Natural’ carbohydrates exist, as their name suggests, in their natural whole state. They include vegetables, oatmeal, whole grain bread, beans, lentils, fruit, whole grain pasta and whole grain cereals.
  • The best wholegrains to eat are quinoa, cornmeal, oats, rye, barley, rice, millet and buckwheat and wholewheat (as long as you are not intolerant to them). Aim for between 3 and 6 servings a day
  • Swap white for brown foods for example eat wholegrain breads, brown rice, basmati rice, wholewheat pasta, wholewheat noodles and sweet potatoes, rather than refined or processed starches such as white bread, white rice, white pasta and white potatoes.
 

Protein / Amino Acids

 
Amino acids provide the building blocks for neuropeptides and neurotransmitters, the molecules of emotion, that allow the cells and systems of your body and brain to communicate.
 
The best and healthiest sources of protein are organic or grass-fed lean meat, fish, seafood, eggs, beans, nuts, seeds, lentils, chickpeas, peas, hummus, tahini, nut butters (almond, hazelnut and sugar-free peanut butter), quinoa, cheese, yoghurt and fermented soya products (see box). Because red meat and dairy (two good sources of protein) promote inflammation in the body, which is in itself associated with a variety of health problems such as heart disease, Alzheimers disease and cancer, red meat should be limited to twice a week and dairy either avoided or limited to once a day. If you choose dairy, my recommendation is to choose organic.
 
The amount of protein that you need really does depend on you, as there are a variety of factors, including genetic, physical and metabolic, that determine what quantity of protein we need for optimum health. As a general rule of thumb most of us need to eat protein with each meal and snack, as this helps to stabilise our blood-sugar as well as supply our body with amino acids, but the amount of protein needs to be worked out by you. If you have a strong appetite, would experience low energy levels after having just orange or apple juice for breakfast and if you would find it hard to go with out eating during the day, you probably need to have a quite high level of protein. Try experimenting with eating low levels, and then high and then medium levels of protein each day, also vary between animal and plant based sources, your body (through the way you feel and your energy levels will tell you what’s best.
 
 

Soya

 

If you are not allergic to soya, traditional forms of soya can be eaten in moderation most days of the week without any detriment to your health. This includes fermented forms of soya, such as miso, tempeh, tamari, natto and shoyu soy sauce, and some unfermented whole soya forms, such as organic non-genetically modified soya milk derived from whole soya, roasted soya nuts, edamame (soya beans) and organic tofu fermented with nigari (a curdling agent found in seawater). The forms of soya to avoid / limit are the processed forms processed forms of soya. I advise you to avoid any products containing any of the following: textured vegetable protein (TVP), soya protein isolate (SPI), soya oil, soya flour, hydrolysed vegetable protein or hydrolysed soya protein. I suspect that these adulterated and unnatural forms of soya, when eaten in significant quantities – as many people do – have a negative effect on our health, although this has yet to be proven conclusively. Until I see evidence to the contrary I cannot recommend them.

 

Fats

 
Whilst the word ‘fat’ gets a bad rap, because of the ‘low fat diet’ movement, eating the right kinds of fat and avoiding the wrong kinds is essential to emotional well-being. The wrong kinds of fat (which I talk about later) are processed oils (canola, sunflower, safflower or corn oil), trans-fatty acids and hydrogenated fat and the right kinds of fats are cholesterol and saturated fat (yes we do need some of these for optimum brain function!), omega 3 and omega 6 essential fatty acids, phospholipids and monounsaturated fats such as those found in olive oil, olives and avocadoes. Each of the right fats needs to be supplied to the body and brain in the right amounts so that they can function optimally. For example some saturated fat and cholesterol is required in order to keep help maintain the integrity of the membranes that surrounds cells. There is some emerging evidence for example that taking lowering cholesterol too much may be associated with memory problems, irritability, anger and possible depression. Whilst statins do have an important role to play in some people, its important not to reduce the cholesterol by too much – it’s all about balance.
 
Essential fatty acids (EFA’S) are fats that cannot be manufactured by the body, but are required by the body to maintain optimum health. The two main types omega 3 (alpha-linolenic) and omega 6 (linoleic) are required for almost every body function including  growth and repair, mood and memory, healthy cell membranes, immune function, hormonal balance, energy production, cardiovascular health and maintaining the health of skin, hair and nails, brain and nervous system. In addition to making up part of the myelin sheath – the fatty insulating layer that surrounds nerve cells, they are converted into biologically active hormone-like substances called prostaglandins, which are responsible for many of their effects in the body. Omega 3 and omega 6 work optimally together when taken in roughly equal amounts. The challenge faced by most people in the western world is that the ideal 1:1 ratio of omega 3 to omega 6 is nearer 1:6 and even 1:20 in some people. The excessive consumption of vegetable oils found in processed foods combined with a 34 per cent decline in vegetable consumption and a 59 per cent drop in fish intake in the last 60 years (both sources of omega-3) has led to this imbalance and that this is thought to be a critical factor in a variety of diseases. One study for example compared 264 adults over 60 years old with depressive symptoms (including just over 100 with depressive disorders), to 461 randomly selected reference subjects. They used blood samples to measure concentrations of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids in the blood. Omega-3 fatty acids were significantly lower, and ratios of omega-6 to omega-3s were higher, in subjects with depressive disorders than in control subjects. 8 It is thought that low levels of dietary omega-3 are associated with low levels of the neurotransmitter serotonin. A lack or imbalance of these EFA’s has also been associated with schizophrenia, depression, attention deficit disorder, learning difficulties and behavioural problems.
 
  • Good sources of omega 3 essential fatty acids include: oily fish such as wild Alaskan salmon, sardines, herring, kippers, anchovies, mackerel, trout and salmon (eat oily fish two to three times a week), green leafy vegetables, flax seeds and walnuts
  • Good sources of omega 6 essential fatty acids include: sunflower, sesame, hemp and pumpkin seeds, evening primrose oil, borage oil
 
Here are a couple of additional suggestions for getting more essential fatty acids and other healthy fats into your diet
 
  • Grind up a mixture of seeds such as flaxseed, hemp, sunflower, pumpkin and sesame and sprinkle over cereals, stir into porridge, add to smoothies, yogurts and use in baking. 
  • Use Omega 3-6-9 oil or Flaxseed oil in dressings
  • Switch to omega rich eggs (up to 8 a week) 
  • Snack on pumpkin seeds or low sugar seed bars
  • Try virgin coconut oil for cooking and use it as a spread on crackers and breads
  • Try pumpkin seed butter, nut butters and tahini (sesame seed paste) in dips, dressings, sauces or spread on crackers
    • Eat avocados, olives and nut butters (peanut, almond, hazelnut and so on)
    • Add butter or olive oil to your vegetables whenever you can.
 
The phospholipids phosphatidyl choline, phosphatidyl serine and DMAE are a group of intelligent fats that play a very important role in memory, as well as mood, clear thinking and mental performance. In addition to forming the bulk of the myelin sheath that insulates the body’s nerve cells (thus ensuring the smooth, quick flow of information around the brain and body), they allow the cells and systems of the body communicate efficiently. Deficiencies are associated with poor memory, slow learning, difficulty concentrating, forgetfulness and declining memory.

 

  • Good sources of phospholipids include: eggs (organic, free-range), sardines, organ meats and lecithin.

NOW GO TO STEP THREE



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