I know dozens of people who want to become healthier, but for most people leaping into a vegan, gluten-free, almost-raw diet is simply too intense. It feels impossible.
Luckily, becoming healthier need not be such a shock to the system. The transition can occur gradually, over time. Here are five easy ways to improve your diet and your health without going ‘extreme.’
- Eat Less Meat: Cut down on your meat intake, especially red meat. Insist on eating only organic, free-range meats which are hormone free and ethically raised (ie, not factory farmed). As a general rule, the less meat you eat, the healthier you will become.
- Eat Less Processed Sugar: The 800lb elephant in the room! A doctor once told me that he doesn’t even bother recommending lower sugar consumption for his diabetic patients because he knows they won’t be able to do it! Nevertheless, you must eat less sugar if you want to become healthier. Most North Americans eat far too much processed sugar. Sugar is incredibly damaging to the body, causing diabetes, syndrome X, obesity and accelerating the aging process. It is best to avoid processed sugars entirely, which means foregoing the Coca Cola, sugary pastries and common breakfast cereals. For most people, reducing sugar intake is the hardest part of becoming healthier. You can often find snacks or desserts with sugar substitutes like Xylitol, Erythritol, and stevia – all of which are zero glycemic. Note that the common sugar substitute ‘Agave’ is NOT low glycemic, and is hardly any better than pure cane sugar, despite the marketing hype.
- Avoid Gluten: Gluten is a protein composite found in grains like wheat, rye and barley. Spelt and kamut are often marketed as ‘supergrains,’ but they too contain gluten. Gluten is what gives elasticity to dough and bread, responsible for that delicious chewy texture. Gluten is found in baked goods like pizza crusts, bread, bagels, breakfast cereals, etc. Some people (Celiacs) are more sensitive to gluten than others, but the immune system always treats gluten as a toxic invader, launching an immune response. Regardless of how sensitive we are to gluten, none of us should ever consume it, especially in large quantities. Luckily, it is easy to find gluten-free foods, as awareness of gluten protein toxicity has increased dramatically in the past few years. Rice, amaranth, quinoa, sorghum, buckwheat (NOT related to wheat) and oats are all gluten free (oats may be cross-contaminated by being processed in a facility that also processes wheat, but oats themselves do NOT contain any gluten.) As a general rule, try to avoid gluten by using gluten-free substitutes, which are very common and easy to find. If you must eat foods containing gluten, stick to spelt and kamut, which contain less gluten than wheat.
- Eat Fewer Baked Goods: Cooking foods above 112 degree Fahrenheit produces a chemical reaction known as the Maillard Effect, which creates carcinogenic molecules – called acrylamide – in the food. Therefore, all baked foods contain carcinogens; the more carbohydrates in the baked food, the more carcinogenic it is. Bread, pasta, muffins and french fries are the worst offenders. It is hard for most people to completely eliminate baked foods from their diet, but reducing your consumption of these carcinogenic foods will make you live longer and feel healthier.
- Eat More Vegetables: Most people have no trouble with this one; simply eat more veggies. Aim to increase your consumption of leafy greens and cruciferous vegetables like broccoli. Veggies are nutrient dense, low calorie, and jam-packed with cancer-fighting molecules.
- Avoid Dairy: Milk does NOT do a body good. Countless studies have linked dairy consumption to increased risk of cancer, heart disease, diabetes and many other serious ailments. It is best to avoid dairy as much as possible, supplementing cow’s milk with almond milk or hemp milk (not soy). Note that ‘nut mylk’ tends to be loaded with sugar, so look for the sugar-free variety.