A diet rich in vegetables and fruits can help regulate blood pressure, reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke, prevent colon cancer, lower risk of eye and digestive problems, regulate diabetes and can help keep appetite in check, suggests Dr Eileen Canday.
1. Include high quality protein in your diet
Protein is often referred to as the king of nutrients as it helps repair and build your body's tissues, allows metabolic reactions to take place and coordinates bodily functions.
Animal proteins are better absorbed in the body as they contain a broad spectrum of essential amino acids which help to improve immune function and preserve lean body mass.
Good sources of animal protein include: Lean meat, poultry, fish, eggs and dairy products.
You can try some protein rich dishes: shredded chicken salad, grilled fish filets, eggs rolls, lettuce tuna wraps, keema matar sandwich and shrimp curry.
2. Choose whole grains over refined products
Whole grains offer a 'complete package' of health benefits without being stripped of valuable nutrients in the refining process.
Whole grains house health-promoting nutrients like B vitamins, iron, copper, zinc, magnesium, antioxidants, and phytochemicals, aiding in blood sugar control, regulating cholesterol, and having cardio protective as well as anti-cancerous properties.
Whole grains such as bajra, jowar, nachni, oats, quinoa, rye, barley, wheat and other millets contain a fiber-rich outer layer which helps reduce constipation by adding bulk to stools.
It's often considered as the most satiating macronutrient due to its ability to manage your satiety hormone and hunger.
Adding a good source of protein to each meal helps in weight management as it helps you feel fuller for longer, curbs cravings and makes you less likely to overeat in prevention of obesity.
3. Choose healthy oils
Oils like mustard oil, rice bran oil and groundnut oil are good alternatives as they have an appropriate fat composition and ratios.
Extra virgin oils like olive oil or avocado oil can be used in salad dressings or for making dips as they are not ideal to be heated.
Oryzanol found in rice bran oil is known to have cholesterol lowering effects and is anti-inflammatory.
However, it is also important to consider the formation of trans-fats in the oils that have been reheated multiple times.
Foods high in trans-fats can lead to inflammation and have been linked to chronic conditions, such as heart disease, cancer, osteoporosis, and autoimmune disorders.
Most people use regular cooking oils to prepare all sorts of cuisines, however it is recommended to use a variety of oils depending on the cuisine like groundnut oil for Indian dishes, olive oil for Italian cuisine, and sesame oil for Asian dishes.
It is advisable to rotate oils frequently to ensure you are getting a variety of nutrients from each of them.
4. Include a variety of fruits and vegetables
A diet rich in vegetables and fruits can help regulate blood pressure, reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke, prevent colon cancer, lower risk of eye and digestive problems, regulate diabetes and can help keep appetite in check.
We get different nutrients from each different type of fruit and vegetable.
By eating different colours of fruits and vegetables, you enhance your ability to eat all the vitamins and phytochemicals that your body needs.
5. Include Omega 3 rich foods
Omega-3 fatty acids include EPA and DHA which provide health benefits such as improving heart and brain health, reducing inflammation, regulating blood triglycerides, and even reduce the risk of dementia.
You can obtain an adequate amount of omega-3 fats from foods like fatty fish such as mackerel, salmon, herrings and sardines, oysters, and COD liver oil in your diet.
Omega-3 fatty acids are also found in algae like Seaweed, Spirulina, Nori and chlorella.
6. Consume foods rich in B12
Vitamin B12 is an essential vitamin for the cells. It is important for keeping your nerves, blood cells, and DNA healthy.
A lack of vitamin B12 can lead to serious health consequences, such as pernicious anemia.
Vitamin B12 is naturally present in foods of animal origin, including fish, meat, poultry, eggs, and dairy products.
7. Include probiotics in your diet
Processed red meats have been classified as a carcinogen and its consumption leads to increased risk of bowel and stomach cancer as well as increased gut problems like hyperacidity, indigestion, and bloating.
Probiotics are good bacteria that help maintain a healthy balance in your gut by improving digestion of food, promoting absorption of nutrients, supporting your immune function, and controlling inflammation.
You can achieve a healthy gut microbiome through foods like yogurt, buttermilk, sourdough breads, tempeh, sauerkraut, kimchi, miso soup, kombucha or Kefir.
You can also include low salt and water based pickles that can introduce some extra probiotics and flavour into your diet.
8. Keep yourself hydrated
The fact that more than 60% of our body is made up of water, calls for the need of good hydration status throughout the day.
The body needs water for maintaining the core body temperature and homeostasis. Having less water is linked to weight gain as the mind tends to confuse thirst and hunger cues.
It is important to prevent dehydration by including liquids such as flavoured infused water, buttermilk, chicken broths, lassi, fresh fruit smoothies, lemon water, coconut water, herbal teas and soups throughout the day.
Drinking water also helps cut down on empty calories that may come from sodas and other sweet beverages, aerated drinks, alcohol which can lead to increased fat deposition, dehydration, tooth decay, raised blood sugar levels, kidney and may also cause unclear thinking and result in mood changes.
9. Choose correct method of cooking
The way you prepare your food can drastically change its effects on your health.
Deep-frying, charcoal grilling, and barbeque are all popular methods of cooking non-vegetarian foods. However, during these types of cooking methods, several potentially toxic compounds are formed that have been linked to health conditions including cancer and heart diseases.
Steaming has been one of the oldest and most conservative cooking methods since it retains all the nutrients in a food.
Use cooking methods such as baking, broiling, poaching, pressure cooking, simmering, slow cooking, stewing which helps preserving the nutrients, improving digestibility and enhancing flavors to quite an extent, making it delicious as well as healthy.
You can also give a healthy twist to your favorite potato wedges or chips by air-frying them instead of deep oil frying to make a tasty as well as nutritious snack.
10. Practice Mindful eating and pre-plan your meals
The intention of eating mindfully is to help individuals savor the moment and the food and encourage their full presence for the eating experience.
It encourages them to trust in their own decisions rather than being restricted by rules about what and when to eat.
Eating mindfully is also linked to more thorough chewing, improved digestion and lesser gut issues.
Pre-planning of meals helps to make healthier food choices, prevent hunger peaks and overeating, Meal planning is associated with a healthier diet and less instances of obesity.
Try planning healthy snacks like dry roasted chana, peanuts, khakra, makhana, a fresh fruit, bowl of yogurt with dry fruits, nuts in between your main meals to avoid cravings and unusual hunger pangs.
Dr Eileen Canday is the head of department of nutrition and dietetics at the Sir HN Reliance Foundation Hospital and Research Centre, Mumbai.
Dr Canday holds a PhD in nutrition and specialises in critical care, oncology, renal nutrition, bariatric nutrition, weight loss and nutrigenetic.
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Feature Presentation: Ashish Narsale/Rediff.com