Increase your energy, vitality and longevity with these simple rules says Kristin Kirkpatrick
1. Eliminate most white foods
Tofu, cauliflower, onions, white beans, and hearts of palm can stay. But white bread, pasta, rice and crackers, as well as white potatoes and other starchy or sugary foods, need to go because they cause your insulin and blood sugar to embark on a major roller-coaster ride, which over time increases your chances of developing insulin resistance and suffering liver damage. Note: Bean-based pastas, such as those made from black beans, red lentils and edamame are trendy because they’re loaded with protein and fibre and have less carbs than traditional pasta, so they won’t take your insulin or blood sugar levels on a wild ride.
2. Get breakfast right
I recommend starting the day with a protein source, such as eggs, and a vegetable several days a week, because the protein helps prevent cravings later and having a veggie helps set the tone of healthy eating for the day (plus, it gives you a leg up on your daily produce intake). On other days, start with a healthy source of whole grains or probiotics to fuel your body. Add coffee or green tea, and you’ve got an energising morning meal!
3. View trans fats as poisons
Found in many packaged baked foods and fried foods, they are essentially toxins because they’re harmful to your blood vessels and damaging to your liver. Get in the habit of reading labels on packaged foods and avoid anything that has the words ‘partially hydrogenated oils’ on it. Also, steer clear of fried foods, which often rely on hydrogenated oils to make French fries, onion rings, mozzarella sticks, and other fried fare.
4. Upgrade your macronutrients
Any grain that has had its fibre removed is essentially devoid of nutrients and will elicit dramatic spikes in blood sugar. Trade in simple carbs for complex ones (such as whole grains and veggies), high-fat sources of protein for lean ones (fish, tofu, eggs, legumes and skinless poultry), and unhealthy fats for healthy monounsaturated and polyunsaturated ones (such as organic, cold-pressed olive oil, avocados, nuts and seeds). While healthy carbs, protein and fats will make your liver happy, starchy carbs, fat-filled protein, trans fats and saturated fats will make it downright angry (and perhaps inflamed too!).
5. Include five different coloured foods in your daily diet
Brightly coloured fruits and vegetables are loaded with antioxidants and healthpromoting plant compounds called phytochemicals. Foods with different hues (blueberries, oranges, red tomatoes, yellow bell peppers, spinach, aubergines and so on) typically contain different types of phytochemicals. The more colours of produce there are in your diet, the merrier your health will be. So, choose a sweet potato instead of a white potato, and kale or even Romaine over iceberg lettuce.
6. Eat till you’re no longer hungry
Contrary to what many people believe, the goal really isn’t to become full (that’s a sign that you’ve eaten too much). The goal is to be satisfied, as in pleasantly sated. A concept in the Okinawan culture, where people often live to be one hundred, is known as hara hachi but it instructs people to eat until they’re 80 percent full. If you haven’t done so already, I suggest you try this approach by eating slowly and mindfully, chewing your food well, and paying attention to your body’s signals.
7. Choose foods with fewer than six ingredients
This strategy will help you curb your intake of highly processed foods that have additives, preservatives, fillers and other artificial ingredients. If an ingredients list contains items you can’t pronounce or can’t identify, think twice about putting it in your body. As a general rule, foods that have relatively short ingredients lists tend to be more wholesome and nutritious.
8. Opt for organic foods whenever possible
Yes, they’re often more expensive but not always by much, and often they’re worth the added cost. After all, you’ll be doing your body, especially your liver, a favour if you minimise your intake of pesticides. One of the best ways to do this is to rely on the Environmental Working Group’s testing data for pesticide residue. The 10 worst offenders are: apples, peaches, nectarines, strawberries, grapes, celery, spinach, sweet bell peppers, cucumbers and cherry tomatoes; these items are worth splurging on with the organic variety. The cleanest forms of produce are: avocados, sweetcorn, pineapple, cabbage, frozen sweet peas, onions, asparagus, mangoes, papayas and kiwis – so, if you’re looking to save a bit, these conventionally grown items are okay to buy. (Check out ewg.org for more information.)
9. Get busy in the kitchen
When you eat out, it’s easy to consume massive amounts of calories, carbs and fats – an overload that’s hard on your liver, your weight, and the rest of your body. Plan to eat at home at least six nights a week. Besides allowing you to prepare healthy meals, cooking allows you to add liver-friendly herbs and spices, such as turmeric (found in curry powder), cinnamon and ginger, ingredients often included in the recipes that follow. In working with patients and clients, I have found that people are more likely to stick to a healthy eating regimen if they use herbs, spices, and roots that they love.
10. Embrace water as your new best friend
Consuming more water means you’ll consume less soda, juice or specialty drinks – a welcome improvement for your wallet and your calorie budget. My personal policy is to avoid drinking calories as much as possible because your body won’t compensate for liquid calories by consuming fewer calories from food. Fluid calories can quickly add up to excess amounts, contributing to weight gain. Plus, water helps keep the entire body functioning optimally, helping to regulate fluid and electrolyte balances, promoting good digestion, and more.
Extracted from Skinny Liver by Kristin Kirkpatrick and Dr Ibrahim Hanouneh (£14.99, Vermilion)
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