Embarking on a journey to a healthier lifestyle, I realized that the key lies not in drastic changes but in making minor changes that have a huge impact. Here, I share the first three steps I took to transform my diet. At the core of these three steps is understanding the ingredients we put into our bodies and the immense benefits of reading labels at the grocery store.
1. Choosing Healthier Oils: Olive Oil and Avocado Oil Over Vegetable Oils
The first significant change I made was swapping out standard vegetable oils for olive oil and avocado oil. Vegetable oils, often heavily processed, can contain trans fats and be high in omega-6 fatty acids. If you watch the video on how canola oil is made, you’ll be disgusted and never want to consume canola oil again!
Why should I care about the fatty acid profile? Most vegetable oils are polyunsaturated fats. These types of fats oxidize very easily. When you heat them up, they form toxins. And if you watch that video, you’ll see that canola oil is heated to extremely high temperatures throughout their production process. By the time we’re consuming these oils, they’re poisoning our body and making us sick.
Vegetable oils are extremely common because they’re so cheap to make. It’s tough to avoid them completely (especially when you’re eating out). One tool I’ve implemented recently is “Seed Oil Scout” which is an app that shows you restaurants nearby and what type of oil they use for cooking. You’d be amazed by how many restaurants are using vegetable oils!
On the other hand, olive oil, particularly extra virgin olive oil, is rich in monounsaturated fats and antioxidants. It also has a much higher Omega-3 to Omega-6 fatty acid profile than these vegetable oils which is what we’re looking for. Experts recommend a 1:1 ratio between Omega 6 and Omega 3 fatty acids. Similarly, avocado oil is high in monounsaturated fats and has a high smoke point, making it ideal for cooking at higher temperatures.
Why It Matters
Understanding the types of fats and their impact on our health is crucial. By choosing oils like olive and avocado, we’re not just enhancing the flavor of our food but also investing in our long-term health.
2. Sweetening the Natural Way: Raw Honey and Maple Syrup Instead of Refined Sugar
The second switch I made was replacing refined cane sugar with natural sweeteners like raw honey and maple syrup. Refined sugar is stripped of all its natural nutrients and can cause spikes in blood sugar levels.
Raw honey (unpasteurized), besides being a natural sweetener, is packed with antioxidants and has antibacterial properties. Maple syrup, on the other hand, contains minerals like zinc and manganese and is lower on the glycemic index compared to cane sugar.
There are two areas where I’ve added raw honey to my diet:
- Before a workout – eating a spoonful of honey before I workout boosts my energy and serves as a natural way to increase my glucose levels
- Sore Throat – whenever I start to feel a sore throat incoming, I start taking a daily spoonful of honey. The vitamins in the honey are a natural way for my body to fight back against the dreaded cough.
There are a LOT of different sweeteners. That’s why I made a full guide that breaks the most common sweeteners down into a “Bad, Better, Best” category. Check out the free guide here!
Why It Matters
Opting for natural sweeteners isn’t just about reducing sugar intake; it’s about embracing wholesome sweetness that also provides nutritional benefits.
3. Embracing Wholesomeness: Whole Grains Over Refined Grains
Lastly, I replaced refined grains with whole grains. Refined grains are stripped of the bran and germ, removing essential nutrients and fiber. Whole grains, in contrast, provide more fiber, vitamins, and minerals.
If you look at the bread in your pantry, I can almost guarantee you the first ingredient is either wheat flower or enriched wheat flower. Enriched wheat flower sounds good, right? Wrong! As part of the manufacturing process, bread producers are stripping out all of the valuable vitamins and minerals and so they have to somehow add those vitamins back to the wheat and so they “enrich” it. Unfortunately, the vitamins they add back in are not as bioavailable so our bodies cannot easily absorb them.
Incorporating whole grains into my diet not only improved my digestion but also helped in maintaining a feeling of fullness for longer periods.
Why It Matters
Whole grains are not just about avoiding the negatives of refined grains; they’re about adding nutritional value to every meal and supporting overall digestive health.
These three changes — opting for healthier oils, natural sweeteners, and whole grains — marked the beginning of my journey towards a healthier lifestyle. It taught me the importance of reading food labels and understanding what goes into my body. Small, informed decisions can lead to significant health benefits. Join me in making these simple swaps and feel the difference in your health and well-being!