Its the time of new years resolutions. Resolutions that are notoriously hard to stick to, especially when they are diet and workout related. In this post I want to offer some potential new years resolutions with a light note that should not be that hard to stick with. Resolutions though that at first may seem like a real bad idea until you realize the truth that underlies them. So here we go:
1: Have a piece of chocolate instead of an apple.
Sounds good, right? But before you go stuff yourself with large amounts random chocolate, that isn’t what I meant. If you have been following dietary guidelines, chances are you are consuming multiple servings of fruit a day without hiving to much thought about what fruits you are eating. Apples and grapes are two popular fruits that have a relatively low micro nutrient to sugar ratio when compared to for example berries. Cut down your fruit intake by one serving and make the other serving(s) count by picking the most nutrient rich fruits you can find. Instead of that apple or those grapes that you are cutting, consume a single square of dark chocolate. This should be chocolate with a purity of at least 90%, not the crap that is mostly sugar. There are valuable micro nutrients in dark chocolate that you can’t get anywhere else.
2: Quit drinking ‘healthy’ fruit-juices and smoothies
While fruit can be healthy if you don’t overdo it, a single glass of orange juice contains the sugar of more oranges than you should consume ll day. Next to that, without the fibrous containers supplied by many fruits that help with a delayed release, that sugar will hit your system like a flash, resulting is a massive hormonal imbalance that can set of an avalanche of cravings that will have you wanting to eat everything in sight. If you want to consume fruit, consume fruit and don’t juice it. If you want to consume juice, use a variety of veggies instead. Less sugar, more micro nutrients.
3: Stop eating ‘heart-healthy’ full-grain foods.
Basically, there is no such thing. full-grain is just a marketing name for unhealthy highly processed and quickly absorbed carbohydrates. Processed carbohydrates are almost as bad for your health as sugar. They offer inferior proteins and relatively low fibre counts. Replace all grain products with legumes. You get all of the promises from hearth-healthy full-grain that full-grain does not deliver on.
4: Eat foods that are high in calories.
Many food bloggers today seem to be advocating foods that are low in caloric count without looking at micro nutrients. Not all micro nutrients can be consumed in unlimited numbers without risk to your health. Next to that, the data from epidemiological studies shows no link between life expectancy and caloric intake, yet it does show a clear correlation between eating more grams of food and for example not reaching the ripe old age of 80. As such, there are clear signs that consuming energy dense foods is actually good for you. Note that choosing high caloric foods doesn’t imply consuming more calories. You just eat smaller portions. It is healthier to eat 200 calories worth of nuts than 200 calories worth of pickles. The pickles option will give you a substantially bigger portion, but the pickles will have you consuming a whopping 14.5 grams of sodium against half a m-gram for the almonds.
5: Eat saturated and animal fats instead of vegetable oils
Saturated and animal fats have had a bad rep for decades, but as it turns out, that bad rep is largely undeserved. Sure, many sources of animal and saturated fat are linked to negative health effects, but for the most part, these negative health effects can be traced back to other factors such as adding salt to butter, the processing of meat using industrial processes and chemicals, or the use of antibiotics and the feeding of grain and soy to animals that are supposed to eat grass. Saturated fat may not be as healthy as mono-saturated fats, they are a hell of a lot healthier than vegetable oils and margarine. Vegetable oil and margarine are often produced from GMO crops, are produced using processes originating from the petrochemical industry that result in what is referred to as trans-fats. Nasty little molecules that even in minute percentages should be considered as toxins. Apart from that, many vegetable oils have high levels of omega-6 fatty acid. Omega-6 isn’t bad when part of a balanced diet that also contains comparable amounts of omega-3. If however the omega-6 levels end up one or two orders of magnitude higher than omega-3 levels, as will often be the case when using substantial amounts of vegetable oils, these omega-6 fatty acids become highly inflammatory. Something that is linked to a multitude of health issues including heart disease. Yes that is right. After years of being tolled swapping saturated fats for polysats to prevent hert disease, with veggie oils it turns out these healthy polysats actually have the reverse effect. So if the choice is between saturated fat in the form of coconut oil, fatty unprocessed meat from grass-fed cattle or unsalted butter, or for vegetable oil that is either high in omega-6, is made from GMO crop or contains trans-fats, saturated and animal fats are actually the healthy option.
6: Stop eating/drinking low-fat dairy
If you are not eating dairy at all, good for you. There are multiple reasons why dairy products may be a bad dietary choice. Lactose is a sugar basically and not a very nice sugar at that. Dairy at its core however can be healthy. There are multiple valuable micro-nutrients in dairy that can contribute to your health. When however you think choosing a low-fat option is healthy, think again. There are two reasons why you should probably be picking the full-fat variants of your favourite dairy products. The first reason is macro-nutrient balance. We all know by now sugars are bad for you, and if you are consuming the lactose but not the fat, the percentage of calories from sugar in your diet will go up. That is a bad thing. The second reason to opt for full-fat dairy products is related to vitamins. The vitamins in dairy for the largest part are so called fat-solvable vitamins. Take away the fat, you take away the vitamins. End result, more sugar, less vitamins, worse macro-nutrients balance. Opt for full-at dairy but watch the portion size again. High-density foods, remember. Same calories; lower volume.
7: Throw away your scale
This is probably the best new years resolution you can go for. A healthy diet is one thing, a healthy lifestyle is just as important and a healthy lifestyle includes hitting the gym at least every other day. After decades of getting indoctrinated on the idea that our BMI is a useful measure of obesity and thus a useful control for progress, the trip to the gym can become disappointing pretty quick. Problem is, with a healthy lifestyle comes a healthy body composition. That means less fat and more muscle mass. Muscle mass is relatively heavy when compared to fat mass, so the desired ‘improvement’ to your BMI might not happen as fast as you thought it would. In fact, you may actually gain a little. Basically the idea of BMI and the very existence of your scale will undermine your motivation to continue what may actually be great progress. Throw away your scale and use a measuring tape to trace your progress. Measure your waist/hip ratio instead. If that number goes down, even if your weight is going up, you are making great progress. That scale is probably your worst enemy. It is lying to you about your progress, trying to make you quit. Throw it out.
8: Raise your cholesterol levels
For years we have been tolled that serum-cholesterol levels are a health risk. After that it turned out only LDL levels were relevant. Still later we find out that LDL particle size is actually the thing that matters for as far as cholesterol matters. Loads of people, including MD’s haven’t gotten the news yet on the latest one. Anyone struggling with cholesterol levels, read up on diatary changes that can help you raise your HDL levels and LDL particle-size and after making the proper dietary changes, try to convince your MD you want a particle-size test. If the results come out OK, than your LDL levels are hardly relevant, and if your MD wants you to take cholesterol lowering drugs despite of your particle size test results, or if your MD tries to tell you particle size tests aren’t relevant than seriously you need to find a different MD. Cholesterol lowering drugs aren’t harmless, they are linked to many severe side effects. You truly don’t want to be taking these drugs without a real need for them. Unfortunately however they are probably the most oversubscribed drug at this moment and the drug with the highest rate of misdiagnosed side-effects (many Statin side effects such as muscle pains and loss of memory are routinely ascribed to ageing). As said, the only cholesterol metric that counts is LDL particle size and for a great part getting the particle size up can be achieved with diet and harmless supplements. Get those numbers up and get yourself away from Statins and other cholesterol lowering disciplines.
9: Eat more meat
You know dietary guidelines telling you to eat less meat, especially less red meat? Well guess what, if we look at epidemiological data that includes all-cause mortality and if we than calculate the probability of living to be 80 years old, turns out eating more meat and other sources of animal fat and protein is actually correlated with a higher probability. It isn’t all that simple though. for young people there is a significant correlation between red meat and mortality rates. For seniors however this correlation is negative in a dramatic way. Problem: due to the epidemiological nature of the data it is impossible to conclude if old people dying due to eating red meat is the result of a lifetime of meat eating or is the result of continuing to eat large amounts of meat at an old age. There is definitely more study required to figure out what exactly is going on, but the idea that consuming less meat will reduce life expectancy is contradicted by the data. So sorry to my vegan friends out there, you are doing an amazing thing from an ethical and ecological standpoint, but is may result in a lower life expectancy. When we are at the ethical side of things though, an other angle taht requires more research is the consumption of insects. If replacing meat, dairy, fish and eggs with insects could yield the same life expectancy results as meat and other commonly used sources of animal protein and fat, than an ecological footprint approaching that of our vegan friends could be achieved without reducing our life expectancy.
10: Eat less fresh foods
Well, fresh foods are important of-cause, but next to fresh food, you should consider looking into foods that are , well, not that fresh. That is: you may want to look into the health effects of so called fermented foods. The data on fermented foods, while limited is quite interesting. Enough so to warrant adding at least some fermented food sources to your diet.
Well that was it. Ten hopefully thought provoking nutritional candidates for a new years resolution. Hope you give aech of these candidates serious considerations for the new year. Have a great and healthy 2016 everyone.