Food is a medicine. It can greatly affect your health, for better or worse. I’ve had patients with such a limited supply of food come to my office saying, ‘I can only eat meat, white rice, broccoli or steamed cauliflower, rice cakes, and a few nuts.’ This is a person who most likely has a condition called a permeable bowel. It is a process to get rid of health problems such as permeable bowel. The goal is prevention, and the right food can help.
In addition, regardless of your digestive status, eating the right foods can help you look good sense younger. Here’s how.
Put a rainbow on the plate
I can’t stress this enough: you need color in your plate every day at every meal and try for every color!
The most important thing to know about color consumption is that whole foods such as vegetables and fruits have MVP (mining, vitaminsand plant nutrients, known as phytonutrients). These phytonutrients and polyphenols (micronutrients) can positively affect your DNA, creating an antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and anti-aging response.
Tip: Here’s a great list of polyphenol-rich foods.
Where to add color?
I realize that eating a variety of colors is not a new concept, but it can be overwhelming. You can add a ton of color to a simple salad:
- Green: mixed greens, bell peppers, chives, basil, parsley, coriander, cucumbers
- Red: radishes, tomatoes, red onions, red peppers
- Oranges: carrots, orange peppers
- Yellow: yellow peppers, golden beets, yellow tomatoes
- Violet: chopped cabbage, purple carrots
- White / Brown: mushrooms, onions, cauliflower
Add a little protein of your choice - think organic, unhealthy chicken, wild-caught salmon or some chickpeas (a great vegan option) plus crispy nuts. Finish with olive oil and / or balsamic vinegar.
Focus on how you feel
Pay close attention to how food makes you feel after eating it. Foods that are highly processed and rich in simple carbohydrates will make you tired. For example, in some people, dairy products can give them bloating and gas immediately (within 20 minutes of eating), while others may experience a migraine the next day.
The best way to keep track of this is to register your food. Logging in will allow you to see if the dairy is bothering you the next day; that if you eat gluten your joints will ache the next day; or that when you eat sugar, like a cinnamon roll at breakfast, a few hours later, you experience fog on your brain.
Learning how food affects your body requires a few things. Here’s how to get started …
1. Keep a diary of food and symptoms
This may sound boring, but in the long run, it might help you figure out why your body is reacting this way.
2. Cultivate self-awareness
When your body tells you something, stop and think about what you ate and how you felt. Don’t ignore those feelings and make no assumptions. Your “migraine” may be related to what you ate. This is an opportunity to return to your journal. You may recognize the last four times when you had a migraine, for example, you ate dairy.
3. Pay attention to the volume
The volume of food must also be taken into account. For example, a little dairy may not cause a problem, but a huge sundae of ice cream can trigger a migraine the next day.
I try to eat a salad every day. Recently, I took my daughter to college at home in California. We decided to stop in Zion National Park and go hiking in the Narrows, then hike the Fiery Furnace in Arches National Park.
The biggest problem when traveling is bringing all those colors when you don’t have many options in the middle of nowhere. In fact, we set ourselves the goal of eating one salad a day and decided to go to grocery stores to buy fresh supplies. We had absolutely no room for a cooler, because we were moving all her things, so we had to do this every day. But the idea is that we intended to set a goal, develop a plan, and execute it.
My 20-year-old daughter grew up in a home with parents who are doctors and have an incredible self-awareness. Eating daily salads was her idea because “I feel better!” And who wants to feel blah on a trip?
Smart choice: variety
You want to make sure you have variety in your diet. Try not to eat exactly the same things, prepared in exactly the same way every day. I certainly don’t suggest trying six different recipes each week. You can start with one new recipe. This is a great way to introduce new foods into your diet.
An easy way to add variety, color and nutrition is with smoothies. Below is my recipe for a brain smoothie.
Brain Smoothie Recipe
- 1 cup milk substitute (ie hemp milk)
- 1 teaspoon olive oil
- 1 tablespoon berry powder (i.e., blueberries, blackberries, goji seed powder - easy to find at Whole Foods, Walmart, some local or online grocery stores)
- 1 cup dark green leafy greens (any of the following: spinach, arugula, kale)
- 1 teaspoon of hemp seeds
- 1 teaspoon chia seeds
- 1/4 teaspoon turmeric powder
- 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 tablespoon vegan protein powder Fit
- 4 frozen strawberries or a fourth cup of blueberries
- Ice to taste
Add the wet ingredients first. Mix well and enjoy.
Eat in season
Another important thing to remember is to eat fruits and vegetables that are seasonal in your area. Seasonal products usually taste better, are more readily available, and are less expensive. Farmers’ markets are another great way to find good, quality produce. Fresh products also have a higher nutrient content.
Tip: The USDA also has a comprehensive list of products when it is in season. You can see the full list here.
I know that: Foods can be anti-aging or pre-aging at the cellular level. Eat color and lots of whole foods and try to stay away from anything in a box or bag (or that is processed) as much as possible. That doesn’t mean you can’t go ice cream with your grandchildren, but that doesn’t mean you can’t eat ice cream every night just because it tastes good!
Are you on your way? Don’t miss these 9 delicious snacks for road trips that are approved by dietitians.