Diet

10 ways to improve your diet

Limit food additives

Food additives are used in order to prolong the shelf life of food products, enhance their flavor or preserve their color. Some additives are natural while others are obtained after modifying natural ingredients, synthetic reproductions of natural ingredients or completely artificial.

In Canada, more than 500 food additives are currently authorized for use, many of which are considered harmful to our health and get conflicting results in studies by researchers. For a complete list of authorized food additives and their regulations in Canada, visit the dictionary of food additives by Health Canada. Therefore, it is advisable to limit our consumption of food additives and to favor fresh ingredients to help reduce the risk of developing health problems associated with these additives.

Avoid artificial colors

As their name suggests, artificial colors are used to give vibrant colors to food products. These artificial colors, which are often used in food products for children because of the bright colors that attract them, are, in fact, derived from coal tar, which can have detrimental effects on our health in the long term. Previous studies already established a link between artificial colors and cancer, making some of them banned from consumption. However, new research is now focusing on the effects of artificial colors on children, and the studies reveal a potential link between artificial colors and disruptive behavior disorders, attention deficit disorder with hyperactivity and even learning disabilities. If you can, avoid buying foods that contain artificial colors and try to substitute them in your recipes by using natural color, like beets, to obtain a nice red.

Limit mercury consumption

Mercury can be found in many forms and too much exposure to mercury can affect the nervous system, cardiovascular system, immune system, and the kidneys. A baby or a child who consumes mercury in excessive quantities can even develop neurological problems in the long run.

For this reason, it’s better to limit the consumption of mercury to avoid mercury poisoning. This means that you must limit the consumption of certain types of fish that contain high levels of mercury due to the contamination of your environment.

Fish with higher levels of mercury

  • Tuna, fresh or frozen
  • Shark
  • Swordfish
  • Marlin
  • Orange Roughy
  • Escolier/Snake mackerel

Health Canada recommends limiting our consumption of these fish to a maximum of 150 g per week for the general population, 150 g per month for pregnant women, 125 g per month for children aged 5 to 11 and 75 g a month for children aged 1 to 4.

Eat more foods rich in Iron

Iron is a significant component of our diet since it helps our body produce energy and perform its essential metabolic functions. As anemia is one of the most common nutritional deficiencies in North America, it’s important to make sure that your diet contains enough iron to help your body function properly and to avoid the unpleasant symptoms of anemia such as energy loss, fatigue, and poor concentration.

Foods rich in iron

  • Red meats
  • Grains and whole or enriched breads
  • Vegetables (especially the leafy greens) and fruits
  • Legumes
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Molasses
Limit sodium

Sodium is often cited as the main culprit behind hypertension, but did you know that studies have now established a link between the consumption of large amounts of foods preserved in salt or marinades and an increased risk of developing stomach cancers? According to Health Canada, we should reduce our sodium intake to less than 2300 mg per day. It goes without saying that prepared meals, snacks, commercial canned foods and meats, which all contain large amounts of sodium, should be avoided as much as possible.

Eating in the evening

According to the latest discoveries, eating in the evening actually does not affect our weight, it’s rather the quality and quantity of food we chose to eat that can tip the balance. In fact, if you haven't exceeded your recommended daily calorie intake and chose healthy foods throughout the day, it’s better to have a small snack in the evening if you are feeling real hunger signs, as opposed to waking up in the middle of the night with an unbearable hunger. However, we suggest you avoid eating right before bed because your digestion could disturb your sleep.

Breakfast

It’s often said that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and it’s true! When we eat in the morning, we are giving our body the energy it lost during the night back, and we are in better mental and physical shape during the day. So tomorrow morning, gather the family for breakfast to start the day off right!

Limit sugars

Most of us have trouble resisting sugar in all its forms, even though we know that it often contributes to our health problems. Indeed, added sugars are « empty calories » and offer us no nutritional benefits. In addition, if we eat too much of it, it brings a lot of unpleasant symptoms and several risks to our health, including the potential to develop blood sugar, weight gain, and even dental problems.

One might think wrongly that we only need to replace white sugar with honey or brown sugar, often seen as healthier alternatives, but these sugars are really no better for our health and are digested by our body in the same way as white sugar. It’s always best to choose fresh foods that naturally contain sugar like fruits when you’re craving something sweet!

Consume fibers

We know fibers are good for us, but why? Fibers are carbohydrates that aren’t digested and absorbed by our body. When they arrive intact in our intestine, they ferment with our intestinal bacteria, which offer us a multitude of benefits like good digestive health, a reduction in the risk of developing heart disease, slower absorption of carbohydrates that helps control the level of blood glucose in people with diabetes and feeling full longer, which helps control our weight. The best way to increase your fiber intake is to consume whole grains at every meal and a minimum of five servings of vegetables and fruits a day.

Reduce deli meat consumption

Deli meats are a popular choice for busy parents from sliced ham in the sandwiches to pepperoni on the pizzas. The problem is that those deli meats often contain a huge amount of salt in order to preserve and enhance their taste. Not to mention the amount of fat, which can reach up to 40 % of the total ingredients. In addition, the Global Fund against Cancer Research recommends not giving deli meats to children because of the presence of nitrites, which can increase the risk of developing cancers of the colon and stomach. Bacon is the principal culprit, causing an increased risk of developing cancer by 37 %. It goes without saying that it would be preferable to limit our consumption of deli meats and find healthier alternatives whenever possible.

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