fbpx Skip to main content

What if you knew there was a way to eliminate 80% of all premature death and the preceding associated chronic disease, would you be interested to find out more?

What if you knew this way was inexpensive, freely available and readily achievable in your lifestyle if you were to fully commit to it. Would you be willing to give it a go?

Sometimes the solution to a big problem, such as the burden of chronic medical disease, the pandemic of obesity and type two diabetes can seem insurmountable. We delve into complicated algorithms and trials and look to develop fancy expensive medications when the answer is sitting quietly in front of us.

When the solution appears too easy we often don’t believe it.

The key to better health is our lifestyle choices.

Dr David Katz, President of the American College of Lifestyle medicine is on a mission to improve health using the seven facets of what he calls “feet, fork and fingers, sleep, stress, love and fun.”

These are the same pillars I talk about when creating a fitter healthier brain, so we can think smarter, stay sharper and live life to the fullest.

And because it’s National Nutrition Week 15-21st October and World Food Day 16th October let’s take a look at the “forks” component because there’s a bit of room for improvement here.

It’s estimated that 99% of Australian kids don’t eat the recommended amount of fruit and vegetables each day. Not only that many adults fail to eat the recommended 2+5 serves each day. This matters because of the link between poor diet and the risk of depression and neurodegenerative disease. What a mother chooses to eat in her pregnancy influences her child’s future risk of obesity, diabetes and other health problems through the epigenetic effect.

Lucinda Hancock, Nutrition Australia Vic Division CEO advises vegetables are our most UNDERCONSUMED food group. It’s time to eat our greens.

Part of the problem with our diet is the mass of misinformation and hype. We get bombarded with messages of “Eat this super food,”  “Avoid this food at any cost,” and with the plethora of diets each touting their reason for being the only one worthy of your attention, no wonder we end up confused as to where the truth lies.

If you put yourself on a diet to lose weight, there’s a reasonable level of expectation that will work, whether it’s low carb or high carb, high fat or low fat, high protein or low protein. What counts is eating a balanced diet that doesn’t exclude a major food group described by Michael Pollan author of Food Rules as “Eating real food, mostly plant based and not too much.”

What is real food?

It’s food that’s instantly recognisable as something that has been grown in the ground or on a tree or comes from an animal.

While we are encouraged to read the labelling on packages especially those products suspected of being high in added refined sugar, salt or fat, simply picking those items that are fresh and unprocessed automatically provides you with food more likely to be the healthy option.

Let’s debunk some myths too.

1. Fresh food is too expensive

Not necessarily if you’re choosing foods that are in season. This justification is frequently used to disguise the reality we prefer the less healthy alternatives that have “mouth” feel, are tasty and cheap. Poor dietary choices end up costing us dearly in the long run.

2. The kids won’t eat the healthy options

Excuse me who is in charge here? Fussy eaters or not, pandering to the whims of our kids doesn’t teach them healthy eating habits. Instead of providing one meal for the kids and one for the adults – why not make it a family meal and encourage them to eat what’s on their plate? Mealtimes don’t have to be a battle ground. If they choose not to eat their meal, that’s OK but don’t provide sweets and snacks for in between. When they’re hungry they’ll come back to the table.

2. Eating fat makes us fat

Did anyone notice how despite a generation following low-fat diets we’ve been getting fatter and fatter? One gram of fat has 9 calories, while one gram of protein or carbohydrate has four. We need fats to absorb our fat-soluble vitamins and they make us feel fuller quicker, so we’re not tempted to eat as much. Good fats as found in avocadoes, oily fish, seeds and nuts are beneficial to our general health, brain health and muscles.

Fat isn’t the problem it’s the overconsumption of calorie dense low nutritional value foods i.e. fast foods that’s the problem.

4. Honey is better than sugar

Honey is still a sugar as is molasses and treacle. If you’re looking to cut down on how much refined added sugar you’re consuming, (and typically most of this is found in our drinks) then sticking to good old-fashioned water and non- sweetened beverage is the way to go. Avoid artificial sweeteners as these activate insulin release the same way sugar does while bypassing the body’s natural indicator hormones that tell us we’ve had enough to eat, so you can stop now.

(BTW Stevia is the one natural sugar substitute that doesn’t mess with your blood sugar).

5. Gluten free is more healthy

If you have coeliac disease (this affects 1% of Australians) or have been diagnosed with gluten intolerance or allergy this is true. But cutting out gluten for gluten’s sake isn’t necessary or helpful. Indeed, one recent study published in the British Medical Journal has shown that going gluten free when unnecessary, was associated with a shorter lifespan! Plus, many of the gluten free products now available are expensive costing up to 17% more than the gluten containing alternatives.

Contributing to a healthier lifestyle begins with eating more good food, eating as wide variety as possible, avoiding the processed stuff and reconnecting to the joy of eating great and tasty fresh produce as much as possible.

It’s time we take the lifestyle initiative. Do you agree?

Dr Jenny Brockis

Jenny is a Board-Certified Lifestyle Medicine Physician, author, coach, and workplace health and wellbeing specialist. Her latest book 'Thriving Mind: How to Cultivate a Good Life' (Wiley) is available online and at all good bookstores.

Leave a Reply