Beautiful view of the paved road

There is a lot of confusion regarding health and nutrition. Low carb, Paleo, vegan, raw food, macrobiotic, gluten free, hypoallergenic…… The list goes on! However despite the obvious contradictions between these divergent food plans, there are a lot of similarities. These are what I refer to as the Universal Laws.

The Universal Laws are those elements that benefit all of us. If you are looking to getting started on optimizing your health – start here. See how you feel. You may need to dive a little deeper, or require a more personalized plan. But start with the basics.

1. Eat Real Food

Real food is the kind of food that has been around since the beginning of time. It is food that you can recognize as coming from the garden, tree, forest etc. Before you eat, stop and ask yourself if this were the kind of food that your great great great grandparents would have eaten? If not, then it’s probably not something you should eat on a very regular basis. Real food generally isn’t packaged and doesn’t have a label. But in general read your labels and if there is something on that label that is difficult to pronounce, your not sure what it means, or has more than three syllables DON’T EAT IT!

2. Eat Vegetables and Fruit Daily

Packed with fiber, vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals such as antioxidants – they are natures health food. Aim for variety, and a for a half plate at each meal. They are also an integral part of maintaining a healthy weight and preventing chronic illness.

3. Minimize Your Intake of Added Sugars

Excess sugar consumption is linked to many disease processes. A sugar laden diet increases your risk of dying prematurely from; heart disease (even if your not overweight!), diabetes, cancer, and contributes to obesity. It promotes belly fat and can effect the liver like alcohol does. It can also effect our brain health. The World Health Organization recommends less than 10% of out calories should come from sugar. But they say further health benefits are seen if we can limit it to no more than 5%. That is equivalent to 6 teaspoons of added sugar. Sugar added to beverages is particularly detrimental because it is really easy to consume a lot of sugar without even noticing. A single can of soda can contain 40 grams of sugar (10 tsp of sugar). Sugar is also added to things that we don’t even consider sweet – for example pasta sauce. However, it all adds up. Another reason why it is so important to read your labels.

4. Reduce Your Consumption of Refined Carbohydrates

A refined carbohydrate is one that has been highly processed and has had most of the fiber removed. It includes most things made with added sugar and flour. A refined carbohydrate has a higher glycemic index than whole food carbohydrates. That means it converts into a sugar more quickly and can cause too much insulin to be released. This in turn promotes inflammation, diabetes and obesity.

5. Choose Healthy Fats

Fats help us feels satisfied and play an important role in maintaining our blood sugar.
The fats found in nuts, seeds, avocado, extra virgin olive oil, fish and flax are particularly healthy. I also recommend butter (organic is best) in moderation – I feel most comfortable with traditional foods that have been around for a long time! Stay away from hydrogenated foods, fried foods and vegetable oils in general. Oils should be cold and or expeller pressed.

6. Get Enough Protein

Protein is essential for maintaining our health. Most of us need a minimum of .8g per kg of body weight daily. Protein is important for a healthy immune system. It helps to lower blood sugar and can help with weight loss. Determining the best type of protein we should consume (animal or vegetable) is something that should be personalized. It varies based on genetic makeup, religious and cultural background and the type of health condition we may have. But in general – if you rely on vegetable proteins focus on a variety of sources. For the meat eaters – grass fed, organic is considered best.

7. Moderation is Best

Last but not least, we generally eat too much. And yes, you can have too much of a good thing! Watch your portions. These are the universal laws of healthy eating. We can all benefit from adhering to them. They provide the foundations of good health. Whether you need to eliminate gluten or adopt a vegan or paleo diet….. Well that where nutrition needs to get personalized. There is no one plan fits all. Get started with the basics and then if you need try out a particular approach, see how you feel, listen to your body. Your bodies infinite wisdom will guide you. Just pay attention.

by Doctor Alana Barmby, ND