Food & Nutrition: What comes next…?
We need to change our food selection so that what we consume is rich in ‘micro-nutrients’. This will mean we move away from a diet heavily emphasizing animal protein, processed carbohydrates and fat. No, you don’t need to become a vegetarian, but you do need to eat lots of foods that are nutritionally dense per calorie consumed. You often hear the expression “everything in moderation”. If that has any validity, it doesn’t apply to food. There are some foods that have no nutritional value whatever: French fries, potato chips, soda, to name just a few (see my post of June 27th “All Calories Are Not Alike…”). Conversely, you will discover some wonderful foods you may never have tried like quinoa, kale, tofu and all manner of beans. It also helps to begin your meal with a salad and have veggies rather than potatoes or pasta.
About now is a good time for a word about the “toxic trio”: most of us already know fat and sugar (including sugar substitutes like high fructose corn syrup) are “dangerous”; so is salt, but why? There is nothing inherently bad about their natural occurance in the fresh, unprocessed foods we eat. In fact, appropriate quantities of each are necessary for a healthy, well-balanced diet. For example, if we only ate foods with a high nutrient density score, our diet would be too low in fat. So we have to pick some foods with lower nutrient density scores (but preferably the ones with the healthier fats) to include in our high nutrient diet.
The problem with the “toxic trio” is that they are addictive. Remember that Lays Potato Chip commercial: “I bet you can't eat just one…”? Yeah, one bag – who can stop crunching and really close the bag after a just couple of chips? And it’s not because they’re just sooooo tasty as the ad would suggest; they’re addictive and the culprit is salt. And any idea why soda has so much sugar or other sweeteners? Again, to mask the huge amount of…salt. And, why all the salt in soda? To make you thirsty so you’ll drink (read as ‘purchase’) more. Don’t you just love the Processed Food Industry – they’re really concerned with our wellbeing!
In order to identify which foods give you the most bang for your calorie, Eat Right America created the ANDI scoring system. ANDI stands for ‘Aggregate Nutrient Density Index”. ANDI was developed so people can quickly view the total micronutrient content of a food. ANDI Scores are calculated by evaluating an extensive range of food factors, including vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals, and antioxidant capacities, based on an equal number of calories for each food. After completing the calculations, foods are ranked on a numerical scale of 1 to 1000, with the highest nutrient foods given a score of 1000. All other foods are then scored relative to them. Kale, a dark leafy green, scores 1000 while Coke scores 1. You can access ANDI tables for "VEGETABLES", "FRUITS" AND "BULK PRODUCTS" here or on my Healthy Cooking...with Howard page.
Making the transition takes time and practice. One size doesn’t fit all and you will need to discover what food substitutions work for you. There’s a gazillion “healthy’ food sites on line: some are awesome; others, not so much. Two of my favorite “go-to” resources are both on the New York Times: Mark Bittman, the The Times Magazine’s food columnist and an Opinion columnist, and author of “Food Matters,” which explores the crucial connections among food, health and the environment, and Martha Rose Shulman who’s Recipes for Health series offers recipes with an eye towards empowering you to cook healthy meals every day; another is Kerri Hawkins’ blog Dietitian Drive.
“Experimenting” is a crucial part of the journey to a healthier, fit lifestyle; embrace the process!