The principles of healthy eating

What we eat has such a big impact on our health and wellbeing, and eating well is one of the easiest forms of preventative health care that we ourselves have control over.

Modern supermarket shopping has changed our eating patterns hugely over the last few decades. If you think back to what you ate as a child it was simple unprocessed foods with fruit and vegetables that were in season, and problems such as obesity and constipation were seldom an issue. Nowadays the nutritional value of our food is compromised by convenience foods, and supermarkets supply cheap produce in high volumes, but at what cost to the quality of the growing and processing methods?

Healthy eating is all about good nutrition, and changing bad habits for good ones. A well balanced diet is a big factor in ageing healthily and looking good as you age. As you pass through the menopause it is particularly important to overhaul your eating habits. That isn’t to say that you have to become obsessive about it – if you ban all alcohol and eat boring food you will never stick to a new regime. But it is worth taking a cool look at what and how you eat, and the benefits of clearer skin, more energy, better concentration and easier sleep may well make you a convert.

The key issues are to removing temptation, breaking bad habits and focusing on making some positive changes to your eating regime. Just be realistic about what you are hoping to achieve – too much too soon is a recipe for giving up!

Here are a few suggestions.

Your digestive system is the means by which your body gets the nutrients for all its functions, so it has a huge influence on your well being generally. Yet compared to your hair, face and skin it gets minimal, if any attention. As a result the gut is often overworked, overstressed and overlooked.

Your digestive system needs to be in good health to be able to digest and absorb your food and ensure your body benefits from all the nutrients. For example, you can slap masses of expensive creams onto the outside of your body, but its what goes into your body that gives your skin a healthy glow and suppleness in the long term.

The body’s pH should be slightly alkaline, so an imbalanced diet high in acidic-producing foods such as animal protein, sugar, caffeine, and processed foods puts pressure on the body’s regulating systems to maintain pH neutrality. The extra buffering required then depletes the body of alkaline minerals such as sodium, potassium, magnesium, and calcium, making the person more prone to disease. Minerals then have to be borrowed from vital organs and bones to neutralize the acid and safely remove it from the body, and so it goes on.

Your body pH affects everything. So no matter what you do to take care of your health, it won’t have maximum effect until the pH level is balanced. If your body’s pH is not balanced you cannot effectively assimilate minerals and other nutrients. Energy production in cells decreases, as does your ability to repair damaged cells. And you become more susceptible to fatigue and illness.

The typical diet is acidic, most people have incredibly acid lifestyles, and acid is also produced in your body when you are stressed and emotional. So what happens to your body with all this acid? Your body will store excess acid in your fat cells (which is why so many people have such trouble losing weight). Over time, your body will leach calcium and alkaline stores from your bones in a desperate attempt to retain the pH balance in your body, which is also partly why some people “shrink” as they get older.

So it really is important to eat a balanced diet – for more reasons than you probably imagined.

A food’s acid or alkaline-forming tendency in the body has little to do with the actual pH of the food itself. For example, lemons are very acidic, however the end-products they produce after digestion and assimilation are alkaline – so lemons are alkaline-forming in the body. Likewise, meat will test alkaline before digestion but it leaves acidic residue in the body so, like nearly all animal products, meat is classified as acid-forming.

Click here for details of foods in high and low alkaline categories.

To maintain health it’s important that your daily dietary intake of food naturally acts to balance your body pH. The dietSuperfoods in open palms should consist of at least 60% alkaline forming foods and at most 40% acid forming foods. To restore health, the balance should be more towards 80% alkaline forming foods and 20% acid forming foods, so if you feel in need of a health boost aim for that for a couple of weeks.

But remember… don’t cut out all acid-forming foods – typically 40% are necessary, – otherwise you wouldn’t get enough protein and variety of nutrients, and meals will get rather boring. But ideally you do want to shift the overall balance of your diet over toward the alkaline.

The principles are simple and, given all that is written in the media about healthy eating, well known: eat plenty of vegetables, eat some fruit daily, and don’t eat too many dairy products, grain products, and direct protein from eggs, meat and fish. If you can bear it a glass of warm boiled water first thing in the morning will help cleanse and hydrate you, but if that is just a step too far then a glass of tap water is the next best thing. Eating raw fruit or vegetables from the high alkaline category before a meal will help prime your digestive system.