Personally, I found that focusing on foods that were free of gluten, sugar and soy made a huge difference for my body because I had less inflammation. I also discovered that processed and refined foods not only made me feel heavy but played a role in weight gain. Educating my mind and listening to my body gave me a new perspective on diets - I understood them on a different level. To me, the key to dieting is not to be too strict or live by the label, instead use it as a guideline and customize it to your lifestyle.
Take the low carb diet as an example - those it seems extremely limiting and not very nutritionally balanced, there are some pros to it. For example, The Atkins Diet centers around the idea that Western people eat too many refined carbohydrates (particularly sugar, flour, and high-fructose corn syrup), which is something most of us can agree with. It also may be part of the reason many companies stopped using trans fats like hydrogenated oils. However, Atkins recommend a diet centered around meat and dairy for nutrition, which is certainly not something I, nor the doctors and nutrition experts I follow, recommend. Then there's the South Beach Diet, which aims to prevent heart disease by teaching people about good/bad carbs and good/bad fat. This diet is similar to Atkins in that it focuses on unprocessed foods (especially white starches) yet emphasizes more vegetables, beans, and whole grains in addition to lean meats, nuts, and oily fish. To me, this diet is a lot more balanced because the goal is to learn to choose healthy food and does not involve too much measuring and elimination. However, it was widely criticized because most of it's claims were not supported by solid research.
Through my nutrition research I have found that not all carbs are created equally, so I don't advise avoiding them entirely or classifying all carbs together. Same goes for fat - not all fat is bad for you. Both carbohydrates and fat are necessary for a healthy, balanced body - what's important is that you understand how much to have of each and in what form.
Here are some simple facts and tips:
- "Good (complex) carbs" - such as fruits, vegetables, beans and whole grains - are broken down into glucose, which slowly raises your blood sugar while providing ample energy. They usually have a high nutrition value and fiber, the latter of which is key in the digestion process.
- "Bad (refined) carbs" - namely products made from white flours - often contain added sugar and are low in nutrients, which can strip the body of energy and result in poor digestion. Researchers believe that refined carbs provoke food cravings, leading to over-eating.
- Simple carbohydrates are not necessarily "bad carbs". Fruit, for example, is naturally high in sugar but is loaded with nutrients and is completed unprocessed. Enjoy sweet whole foods instead of treats with artificial and/or refined sweeter.
- When you see foods marked as "low carb" be sure to read the full ingredient list - many of these products are overly processed. Remember
- If you have trouble finding high quality low carb foods in grocers near you, check out The Low Carb Grocery Store for a great selection of products, many of which are vegan, gluten-free, sugar-free and organic. I'm impressed with their snack, beverage and baking options!
My overall advice? Strive for a high value, unprocessed diet with simple ingredients and avoid low value, processed foods with a long list of scientific ingredients. This will help you absorb the most amount of nutrients, get full from a healthy portion size, be energized to power through the day and feel consistently light and happy.
Disclore: though this article was sponsored by Low Carb Grocery Store, my opinions are my own and are not influenced by this partnership. Financial compensation makes it possible for fresh content to be posted regularly on Eco-Vegan Gal. I'm thankful for the opportunity to write about this topic and I hope you found it inspiring and educational!