Changing how you eat is not easy. Trust me, I know. Many of you know my story and you know I changed my diet after my diagnosis with MS in 1998 (I was 22 years old.) However, I’m STILL learning about nutrition on a daily basis and I’m still making changes to what I eat. The changes I make these days are not nearly as big (or maybe they just don’t seem like as big of a deal?) as the changes I made over twelve years ago, but I’m still making changes!
Before I made complete dietary changes for eating clean, pretty much everything I ate came from a package of some sort. I quickly grasped the concept and benefits of eating “whole foods” and started to eat real food in its whole and natural form way back in 1998. I also knew eating a lot of animal-based saturated fat was pro-inflammatory and not good for anyone with MS (or any other inflammatory condition!) so I cut down on animal foods substantially. But these days I’m eating less animal foods than ever. I’m also eating more and more plant-based foods. I do green smoothies on a daily basis and I take whole foods supplements rather than isolated vitamins. I make salad dressings with hemp seeds (a great substitute for mayo), I eat very little dairy, I make an effort to eat something raw with every meal, etc.
I’ll be honest, at one point healthy eating seemed like a full time job. I felt like my entire day revolved around food! But these days it really has become second nature. The video clip below of my interview with Dr. Manny on Fox News outlines six easy steps for how you can clean up your diet and improve your health…in baby steps. And these dietary changes aren’t just for people with MS. I can’t think of one person who wouldn’t benefit from eating clean!
And by the way, the older I get the more I realize nobody can get away with eating crap forever.
Eat Clean to Improve Your Health…One Bite at a Time
Diet Tips for Healthy Eating and Weight Loss
These simple dietary changes will not only improve your health but help you lose weight and look better too.
1. Become a Flexitarian. This is basically a part-time vegetarian. I’m not so focused on strict rules about this, but I just try to eat less animal foods and more plant-based foods. I eat strictly vegan probably one or two days a week. The animal foods I do eat are high quality and the “cleanest” forms (such as grass-fed beef over grain fed).
2. Got Phytochemicals? Phytochemicals are only found in plant-based foods….but not just fruits and vegetables. You’ll find phytochemicals in nuts, seeds, whole grains, beans, legumes, whole soy, etc. Phyochemicals act as antioxidants and also help decrease inflammation. The best way to get more phytochemicals is to eat more plant-based food in it’s whole and natural form. You can also do the green smoothie thing once a day too.
3. Spice It Up! Spices such as turmeric, cinnamon, cumin and cardamom not only taste amazing but they are loaded with phytochemicals. Cumin has detoxifying properties, cinnamon lowers blood sugar, and turmeric is good for just about everything. The list of health promoting properties intrinsic to spices is endless. And it’s not just spices, herbs are also ultra healthy.
4. Balance Your Omega-6 / Omega-3 Ratio. The ideal ratio is about 2 or 4 times more omega-6 than omega-3. The average person eating the SAD (Standard American Diet) eats approximately 20 times more omega-6 than omega-3 fat. This increases inflammation and decreases sensitivity to insulin (thus increasing risk of obesity, type 2 diabetes and heart disease). These simple steps will help optimize your ratio:
- Eat Fish (2-3 times per week)
- Supplement with a Pharmaceutical Grade Fish Oil (2 grams per day is a good start)
- Eat vegan sources of omega-3 fats (such as ground flaxseeds or a high-quality flax oil such as Barleans)
- Eliminate processed omega-6 rich vegetable oils and packaged foods containing these oils (such as cottonseed oil, pure vegetable oil, soybean oil, corn oil, sunflower oil, etc.)
- Eat omega-6 rich foods in their whole and unprocessed form (such as “whole soy” like edamame beans or tempeh, nuts, seeds, nut butters, etc.)
5. Eat “Whole Carbs” You should completely eliminate any foods made with refined flour of any sort (a key word to look for on ingredients is “enriched flour”—if it’s “enriched” it’s processed). Avoid any food with high fructose corn syrup and eat sugar only in moderation (as part of a once daily sweet treat.) Good “whole carbs” to eat include fruits, vegetables, beans, legumes, potatoes, corn, whole grains and sprouted whole grain breads and sprouted whole grain pastas.
6. Avoid Trans Fats. I can’t think of anything worse than trans fats. The U.S. National Academy of Science’s Institute of Medicine (the organization responsible for advising the U.S. government on health policy and responsible for determining the RDI for vitamins) concluded there is no safe level of intake for trans fats. Trans fats increase inflammation, decrease sensitivity to insulin, increase your bad LDL cholesterol, decrease your good HDL cholesterol, impair artery dilation, and increase your triglyceride level.
Making these six changes will help clean up your diet and dramatically improve your health!