I’d like to share with you some helpful tips on how to get optimum nutrition for your body, on a budget and for the whole family.
As this is something I am looking in to for myself and my family, some of the tips are more relevant to New Zealand, but will hopefully be helpful nonetheless.
There are SO many recipes, blogs, ideas, theories, facts, advertisements, fads and diets out there, that trying to work out the best approach can be overwhelming, quite frankly!
The following seven tips are what I have drawn up as markers for myself in the interest of getting the right nutrition from food for my family and me, without feeling I should be spending a fortune on multivitamins and exotic ‘superfoods’.
1. Eat fibrous foods
Why? Fibre, fibre, fibre. Sounds so boring doesn’t it, yet it is really crucial to overall nutrition. It helps get digestion going, allowing your system to cleanse itself of toxins and excess hormones and waste; this in turn allows your body to absorb nutrients better; keeps you feeling full longer (so you’re eating fewer calories); plus there are lots of vitamins and minerals in most fibre rich foods.
What? Forget the Metamucil that’s been lingering in the pantry for 5 years, you can get most of your daily fibre needs from everyday garden goodies such as beans, carrots, leafy greens (kale, spinach, silver beet), broccoli, brussel sprouts, potatoes and kumara (sweet potatoes); also all fruit, especially apples, pears, berries, stone and citrus fruits; get the rest of your fibre requirements from wholegrains such as brown rice, brown bread and pasta, chickpeas, kidney beans and lentils, to name a few.
2. Eat more vitamin C rich foods
Vitamin C is required to produce collagen, a protein that plays a critical role in the structure of our bodies. Collagen is like a glue for the cells in our skin and our bones, so it really helps to keep us stuck together.
Eating more Vitamin C rich foods can also help to protect your skin from sun damage. I’m not saying ditch the sunscreen, but here in New Zealand we have a very good reason to protect our skin as much as we possibly can from harmful UV rays which can cause cancer.
Vitamin C is also necessary to make certain neurotransmitters. These neurotransmitters are the signals that carry thoughts, feelings, and commands around our brains and throughout our nervous system. Healthy nervous systems and healthy digestive systems go hand in hand.
All citrus fruits, e.g. oranges, mandarins, lemons, grapefruit, and feijoas which are also high in minerals. Basically, all those things that grow in abundance in our backyards here in the North Island of NZ! Funny, you can’t seem to give them away during season, they lie strewn, unwanted, all over suburban front gardens, yet eating them daily may be able to help lower skin cancer rates, and depression rates!
Also high in Vitamin C are tomatoes, broccoli, leafy greens, carrots, all berries, papaya, kiwifruit, pineapple, watermelon. Eat an orange a day for 100% of your daily Vitamin C requirement. Parsley is also a wonder-food, as one serving (about a handful) will provide over half your daily requirements. Sprinkle it on everything or add to juices, stews and soups.
3. Eat fresh plant foods with breakfast
Getting one of your five-plus in before morning tea makes it much easier to achieve it throughout the day. Follow with a smoothie for morning tea and you’re quids in, nutritionally speaking.
Easy peasy – berries, bananas, kiwifruit, grated apple etc on oats or cereal; smoothies; eggs with a big handful of wilted spinach or kale, or a handful of fresh parsley (Italian is best, and easy to grow); grilled mushrooms and tomatoes; bagels with cream cheese, tomato and parsley…
4. Eat superfoods that grow in your garden
You know where it’s come from and that it hasn’t been sprayed, it’s a fresh as fresh can be, there are no air-miles involved, it’s cheap and gardening is good for well-being.
Parsley, kumara (sweet potato), carrots, kale, spinach, beetroots, and citrus fruits are all really easy to grow, are all very rich in vitamins and minerals and help to ward off illness and disease. Tomatoes contain lycopine, an anti-oxidant that protects against cancer (as does watermelon but that’s not quite so easy to grow!). Also, Rosemary is currently being touted as the latest secret to longevity – just go for a walk around the block and you’ll be sure to find some growing somewhere!
5. Eat sea vegetables and fermented foods
This is an area of nutrition that I am working on, as I have not been a big fan in the past of sea vegetables unless it is just few pieces of sushi. Sea vegetables have many essential minerals including iodine; As for fermented foods, these are the key to healthy gut bacteria (and healthy gut bacteria, research suggests, is the key to good health and happiness!)
Spirulina powder to mix in to juice or smoothies is a very easy way to boost intake of sea vegetables. Sprinkle kelp flakes or salt on salads and vege dishes. Make sure you buy good quality items that have been tested for heavy metals. On the fermented side of things, you’ve got your sauerkraut, kimchi, probiotic yoghurt, kefir, kombucha. It’s also very easy to make pickled fermentations of cabbage, turnips, eggplant, cucumbers, onions, squash, and carrots. Just throw them chopped in a jar with the right amount of salt and water (I have yet to do this myself but it’s on the agenda!). See recipe here.
6. Nuts and seeds to meet your needs
Nuts and seeds are brilliant for getting our mineral needs. Soaking nuts makes them easier to digest and removes ‘enzyme inhibitors’ thus making them more tummy-friendly. Selenium is one important mineral that is lacking in New Zealand soil and therefore we need to make sure we are getting our daily requirement through diet. Just 1-3 brazil nuts a day will cover an adult’s RDI, so there is no need to buy fancy selenium supplements.
Calcium is another important mineral that it is now recommended we don’t take in supplement form. As for Vitamin D, get in the sun for 10-15 minutes in the middle of the day without any cover (but without burning!). We also get Vitamin D from leafy green veges. Vitamin D and Calcium work together as Calcium needs Vitamin D to help it to be absorbed. Magnesium is important for many functions in the body including settling the nervous system and in muscle tissue recovery.
Most nuts and seeds (however some research suggests peanuts are often rancid and contain dangerous moulds but I haven’t researched that extensively). Soak for best nutrient absorption. Sesame seeds are very high in calcium – eat Tahini on toast under your poached eggs or on crackers, in hummous or to make salad dressings. Sprinkle sesame seeds on stir-fry dishes, salads, or on eggs (really tasty!).
Raw broccoli is very high in calcium, good for dipping with carrot sticks. Almonds are a great source of magnesium and can be used taken in the form of almond meal in baking, almond milk or eaten whole as a snack. Soak nuts and seeds overnight to increase the bio-availablity (releases the good stuff to make it easier for your body to absorb, and easier to digest. Soaking makes things more economical too because you don't have to buy and eat so many to get the same benefit!).
7. Eat slowly, and at the table with loved ones
I was going to put in another nutrition based tip here but something made me want to put this one in, as I really think this is very important to overall well-being of the whole family.
It’s all very well consuming tonnes of exotic superfoods, but it will be pointless if we are just throwing them down our necks while running out of the house or chomping absent-mindedly while checking facebook on our phones! (guilty).
One of the best ways to absorb nutrients is to make them actually available to our bodies – simply by chewing our food properly! So, enjoying any meal at the table with family and or friends is definitely one of my top tips. Happy chewing!
Post by Belinda