March is National Nutrition Month, as presented by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (www.eatright.org). Their site, and registered dieticians in general, are great sources of valid, evidence-based information on how what we eat contributes to our general well being.
Another great source of information is the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, a study and group of recommendations from the US Department of Health and Human Services in coordination with the US Department of Agriculture.
In brief, the Dietary Guidelines recommend that you:
- Eat a wide variety of vegetables, fruits, whole grains and low-fat or fat-free milk and milk products.
- Eat from a variety of protein sources, including lean meats, poultry, fish, beans, eggs, and nuts.
- Limit saturated fats, trans fats, salt (sodium) and added sugars.
That’s it. The complete document is long and full of solid data, studies, and more precise recommendations but it all rolls up to what my mother used to tell us, “a colorful plate, is a nutritious plate.”
While the idea of good nutrition can get tied up with ideas of deprivation, eating foods you don’t like, or even more fundamentally, the idea of being good or bad; thinking that way isn’t ultimately helpful.
If you see the recommendations as an all or nothing proposition, if following them or not makes you a good person or a bad person, you’ll likely fail. And more to the point, you’ll probably feel like crap. Eating well is about feeling well, about being well so anything, especially a thought, that make you feel less than well is counter-productive.
If good nutrition is your goal, it’s a matter of figuring out where you are and determining what small steps you can take to get there. For example, if your current diet is high in added sugars and you consume a lot of soda, a small step is to drink sparkling water with flavoring instead. If your diet is high in saturated fats, substitute olive oil for butter. Small changes, over time, provide huge results.
With that in mind, I’ve compiled a number of tips based on our staff’s fabulous #WellnessWednesday posts on Facebook. These are great ways to make small changes while providing big flavor and colorful plates.
- To moderate the unhealthy fats in your diet, replace your butter or margarine with extra virgin olive oil. Drizzle our Petit Beurre EVOO on popcorn, use the Tuscan Garden EVOO on grilled cheese, marinate your steak with our Truffle infused EVOO or scramble your eggs with Tunisian Harissa EVOO. Simply changing the lipids in your diet will help with weight loss, cardiac health, and skin radiance.
- Turmeric is one of the most beautiful and flavorful spices in the world and has a myriad of medicinal uses. Simply incorporate turmeric into some of your favorite dishes to help with intestinal inflammation, arthritis pain, cholesterol regulation and so much more.
- Balsamic vinegar is a great natural remedy for acid reflux and indigestion. It contains important antioxidants that trigger the release of pepsins, which are imperative for breaking proteins down into amino acids; speeding up your metabolism and aiding in digestion. Additionally, balsamic vinegar is comprised of a large amount of acetic acid, which helps balance the pH in your stomach and keeps it from overproducing hydrochloric acid, the main perpetrator of the symptoms of acid reflux.
- Extra virgin olive oil has wonderful anti-inflammatory benefits. Researchers estimate that the oleocanthal in extra virgin olive oil has an effect similar to ibuprofen for pain relief.
- Balsamic vinegar stabilizes blood glucose levels. As balsamic vinegar is low on the glycemic index, it only raises your glucose levels slightly, going down over a long period of time. High glycemic foods, like processed treats, cause a sudden spike in your blood sugar. Once it spikes, glucose drops sharply to below its original level. Low glycemic foods, such as balsamic vinegar, keep you feeling satisfied for a longer period of time.
- Balsamic vinegar supports your immune system. The grapes that are used to make balsamic vinegar contain antioxidants that fight against cell damage, improve the body’s immune system and make blood platelets more flexible.