things i have done to improve my nutrition - part two
Hello! I hope you've all had a great week. I'm a little late posting this as I had a long weekend away in Miami with a girlfriend which threw me off slightly, timing wise. Anyway, I had such a nice time shopping and catching up with my friend and I spent some time away from my laptop and my phone which really helped me to decompress. It was actually quite timely as I was also able to use the days away and out of my routine to test my resolve and ability to maintain my healthy eating habits whilst on the move, staying at a hotel and eating at restaurants. I can report that, although it wasn't always perfect, I managed pretty well! I was concerned that in the US it would be hard to find options that didn't involve cheese or other dairy since, even if restaurants have a vegetarian option, I do find that they think that they better make up for a lack of meat with plentiful cheese! *eyerolling emoji. As you know, I do eat fish and seafood so I did tend to steer towards these options when eating out, as well as making sure I filled up on veggies as much as possible. I did manage to stay away from processed foodstuffs by taking snacks with me - bananas, protein bars and nuts - these kept the wolf from the door until I was able to find a (fairly) nutritious meal on the go. Anyway, I think I might do a separate blogpost on eating and travelling so I will get on with what I am supposed to be writing about - the second part of my two parter on "things I have done to improve my nutrition."
Eating the rainbow
Vegetables come in different colours for a reason - the phytonutrients that create these colours indicate which beneficial nutrients they contain. Isn't Mother Nature clever? Lycopene, for example, is found in reddish produce such as tomatoes, bell peppers and carrots and is known to have strong anti-cancer benefits and protects against heart disease, whilst the anthocyanins found in purple vegetables such as beets help prevent blood clots and delay cell aging. These kaleidoscope nutrients also contain a vast array of antioxidants which protect us from the damage caused by free radicals which contribute to chronic disease and certain compounds are known to have anti-inflammatory effects. Curcumin, found in turmeric (the vibrant yellow spice), is one example that I try to incorporate in lots of the dishes I make - the science on the benefits of turmeric seems pretty solid.
Other than the plentiful health benefits of eating an assortment of coloured produce, it all just looks so damn pretty on your plate! Those with eagle eyes will have seen a few shots on my Instagram feed of my favourite colourful lunch platter which will often consist of curried chickpeas (yay for turmeric!), beet and red cabbage sauerkraut (let's hear it for purple power!), sauteed greens (fibre and calcium packed greens for the win!) and sweet local tomatoes. Not only is this plate a feast for the eyes, it also tastes delicious, energises me and fills me up so I can continue to power through my day. There's something very satisfying about eating a colourful meal. These days a plate of white food such as pasta or potatoes is just plain boring when there are so many options for a bit more plate pizazz!
Of course, we mustn't forget about fruit. The jewel like red and purple hues of blackberries, raspberries, strawberries and blueberries are not only gorgeous, they also provide more antioxidants per calorie than any other fruit. I definitely want some of that! Since buying a lot of these fruits fresh can be expensive, I find the easiest way to make sure I'm consuming these as much as possible is by buying frozen organic berries. The berries can then be whizzed up in a smoothie, defrosted and chucked on top of overnight oats or hot oatmeal porridge or eaten straight out of the freezer as a frosty little snackette.
Embracing fermented foods
Unless you have been living under a rock, or have no interest in nutrition at all, you will have heard some of the recent buzz on the importance of gut health. My understanding is that each individual's unique microbiome, which starts with the delicate balance of bacteria in the mouth and inhabits the intestinal tract, is essentially made of millions of tiny organisms which are either nurtured or made unbalanced by what we eat, how much stress we are under and the lifestyles that we lead. This is a huge area of research and our understanding of the microbiome seems to increase everyday. It is said that the microbiome affects mood, your immune system, hormones, digestive health and even brain health. I won't presume to understand the complexities much beyond this but, suffice to say, it is a huge and growing area of importance in wellness. It is said that our microbiomes are even affected according to whether we were born by cesarean section or naturally, and research has shown that the microbiomes of populations will differ according to their geographical location. This blows my mind people!
Anyway, you probably know that fermented foods are good for the gut as they strengthen your inner defences and improve digestion and elimination. Examples are kimchi (the spicy Korean version of sauerkraut), sauerkraut, miso, kefir and kombucha as well as fermented pickled vegetables. The flavour can take a bit of getting used to (it's a slightly odd sour/tart flavour) but this has truly grown on me to the extent that I crave it. My personal go-tos are kombucha and sauerkraut. Kombucha comes in a whole variety of flavours and I find is particularly delicious with ginger. I'm actually quite keen on pickling my own veggies as it's apparently pretty straightforward. Perhaps that's a project for next week!