Chaga Mushrooms

What is chaga mushroom?

Chaga mushroom (Inonotus obliquus) is a type of fungus that grows in colder climates in the Northern hemisphere on birch trees. The exterior of chaga looks like burnt charcoal, however, the inside reveals a soft core with an orange colour. 

Eastern-European folk medicine has seemingly known about and used chaga since the 1500s. Chaga possesses a strong antibacterial, antifungal and anti-inflammatory effect.

These mushrooms can not be eaten raw. Before they’re suitable for human consumption, their tough exteriors must be broken down with alcohol and hot water. Chaga mushroom teas and coffees have become popular in recent years and were used during World Wars I and II as an alternative to coffee.

5 benefits of chaga mushrooms

Boosts Your Immune System

Chaga mushrooms are powerful immune boosters. This is because they contain beta-glucans, naturally occurring polysaccharides that “increase host immune defence by activating complement system, enhancing macrophages and natural killer cell function.”

Fights Inflammation

Chaga’s anti-inflammatory effect is thought to be linked to the presence of ergosterol, ergosterol peroxide, and trametenolic acid.

Prevents and Fights Cancer

Folk medicine has used chaga for years to treat non-operable breast cancer, oral cancer, cancer of the digestive tract, thyroid cancer, skin cancer, and Hodgkin disease.

The ability to suppress cancerous growths and mutation-causing factors is linked to the presence of melanin in chaga. Melanin participates in repairing DNA defects, is an electron acceptor in the respiratory chain, and a radiation protector.

Chaga also stimulates macrophage and, in tumours, promotes cell death. A large role in this is attributed to endo-polysaccharides in chaga.

Lowers Blood Sugar

Chaga also helps to regulate blood sugar levels, thanks to inotodiols and terpenoids.

Improves skin and hair health

“Chaga contains more antioxidant superoxide dismutase (SOD), zinc, and melanin than any other single natural source. You probably know that melanin is responsible for your skin pigmentation, but it’s also important for your overall skin health and is a factor in maintaining healthy eyes and hair.” (Healing Mushrooms)

Are there any side effects?

Chaga mushrooms don’t have any known side effects. However, you should consult with your doctor before taking chaga if:

  • You are on blood thinners. Chaga contains a protein that can prevent blood clotting. Therefore, if you are on blood-thinning medications, have a bleeding disorder or are preparing for surgery, consult with your doctor before taking chaga.
  • You are taking blood sugar-lowering medications. Because chaga lowers blood sugar, it can be dangerous for people taking insulin and other blood sugar-lowering medications.
  • You have kidney disease. Chaga is high in oxalates and may cause kidney problems in some individuals.

What does chaga taste like?

Chaga mushrooms do not taste like button mushrooms or portobello mushrooms. They are usually consumed in a drink. You can drink chaga mushroom straight just like any other herb but, because they have a bitter and earthy taste, it might be a good idea to try blending changa with other herbs or to add something sweet to the mix when drinking it. 

Keep in mind when buying chaga

Chaga is a parasite of the birch tree, so when the tree dies, so does the chaga mushroom. This means that chaga must always be harvested from living trees. It should also be harvested from trees that are found in forests far away from urban areas, sources of pollution and roads. This prevents Chaga accumulating environmental toxins that could be passed onto the end-user. So when buying chaga make sure to ask where it has been harvested from!

Once harvested, chaga is then dried and broken into chunks or ground into powder. While you can find chaga mushrooms in many forms, my favorite way to get the benefits of chaga mushrooms is with Magic Mushroom mix.

Why is Iron Important in Our Diet?

Iron is an essential mineral that helps our bodies to make hemoglobin, a substance in red blood cells that makes it possible for them to carry oxygen to the body’s tissues. Iron is also important for DNA synthesis, breathing, immune function and energy production. When our bodies lack of iron, we may feel weak, tired, dizzy, cold and irritable. Low iron levels can also cause headaches.

Iron is also essential for the developing brain. Iron deficiency with and without anemia in infancy can have long term negative impacts on brain function and behavior, and even when levels are corrected, those effects may not be completely reversed.

Iron Deficiency Anemia

There are many different types of anemia, but the most common type is caused by a shortage of iron. Iron Deficiency Anaemia is defined as a decrease in the number of red blood cells or the amount of hemoglobin in the blood. It can be caused by blood loss, insufficient dietary intake, or poor absorption of iron from food. 

Low iron levels can be caused by blood loss, for example during an operation. Girls and women who have heavy periods are more at risk of low iron levels because of their monthly blood loss. Pregnancy can also cause women to have low iron levels. If you’re pregnant, severe iron deficiency may increase your baby’s risk of being born too early, or smaller than normal.

Iron deficiency anemia can be prevented by eating a diet containing sufficient amounts of iron or by iron supplementation.

You can find iron in both animal and plant foods. 

Animal sources are called “heme iron” and include meat, fish and poultry. Our bodies can easily absorb this type of iron. 

Plant sources are called “non-heme iron” and include dried beans, peas, lentils and some fruits and vegetables. 

Vegetarians need almost twice the daily recommended amount of iron compared with non-vegetarians that is because iron from plant-based foods is not absorbed as well by our bodies as iron from animal food sources.

How much iron do we need?

The amount of iron we need each day depends on our age, gender, and overall health.

Iron rich foods

Lean red meat
Turkey and chicken
Liver is rich in iron, but it is NOT recommended for pregnant women
Fish, particularly oily fish
Vegetables: Dark-green leafy greens like watercress, curly kale, broccoli, spinach, turnip greens, and collards, potatoes with the skin, lima beans, green peas, and all other beans (e.g. kidney, black, navy, etc.), and tomato sauce.
Fruits: Dried apricots, dried figs, raisins, prunes, and prune juice.
Breads, Cereals Rice & Pasta: Iron-fortified whole-grain breads, pastas, rice, and cereals. Read food labels and look for breads and cereals that have 20% or more of the Daily Value for iron.
Nuts/Seeds: Nuts and seeds such as peanuts, cashews, sunflower seeds, walnuts, almonds, etc.

Things to keep in mind when trying to increase your iron intake

There are some foods and beverages that increase and some that decrease iron absorption. So, when eating iron-rich foods or taking iron supplements try leaving at least an hour between the foods and beverages that decrease iron absorption.

Foods that are high in calcium will decrease iron absorption. So, do not take an iron supplement or eat high iron foods with milk.

Also coffee, tea, and cola will decrease iron absorption.

On the other hand, foods and beverages that are high in vitamin C will increase iron absorption. So, orange juice (without calcium) is a good beverage to use when taking an iron supplement or eating foods that are high in iron.

Very high fiber cereals, such as All Bran or Raisin Bran will decrease iron absorption. So, do not take your iron supplement at the same time as eating these high fiber cereals.

Iron supplements can often upset stomach and cause constipation so when choosing an iron supplement look for Slow Release form of iron. These often cause less stomach upset and constipation than standard iron supplements.

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Oven Baked Pancake

Oven baked pancakes are a perfect way to start your mornings. They are easy to make, light, fluffy and delicious. All you have to do is create a pancake batter, pour it onto a baking tray and bake the cakes until it´s golden.

INGREDIENTS

2 tablespoon butter
4 dl milk
4 eggs
4 tablespoon sugar
3 dl all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon vanilla sugar

INSTRUCTIONS

Spread the oven tray properly with 2 tablespoons of butter. Turn the oven to 180 degrees and put the baking tray in.
Add all the other ingredients to a medium-size bowl or blender. Mix until you get an even batter.
Carefully remove the baking tray from oven and pour the batter onto it. Bake in the oven for about 20-30 min or until the pancake is golden brown.
Remove the pancake from the oven and let it cool for few minutes.
Serve with ice-cream, fresh berries or maple syrup.
Enjoy!

Did you make the recipe? Leave a comment and let me know how it turned out for you!

Health benefits of eating a plant-based diet

Plant-based or plant-forward eating patterns focus on foods primarily from plants. This includes not only fruits and vegetables, but also nuts, seeds, oils, whole grains, legumes, and beans. Switching to a plant-based diet doesn’t mean that you have to become vegetarian or vegan and never eat meat or dairy. Rather, that you should proportionately choose to eat more of your foods from plant sources.

Fruits and vegetables are rich in vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fibre. Fibre is a nutrient that most of us don’t get enough of, and it has tons of healthy perks–it’s good for your waistline, your heart, your gut and your blood sugar.

Health benefits

Weight loss

A plant-based diet is more likely to result in weight loss than a vegan diet. There’s plenty of research suggesting vegetarians tend to consume fewer calories, and thus weigh less and have lower body mass indexes than non-vegetarians.

Healthier heart

Eating a vegetarian diet may lower your risk of cardiovascular disease, and may improve other risk factors for heart disease by lowering your blood pressure and cholesterol, and improving your blood sugar control.

Lower diabetes risk

Roughly 387 million people are living with diabetes, and according to the International Diabetes Federation, that number is expected to soar to nearly 600 million by 2035. Type 2 diabetes is entirely preventable, and research suggests a plant-based diet can help ward off this disease.

Lower blood pressure

Research suggests that a diet loaded with fruits and vegetables can lower blood pressure.

Healthier looking skin

Cutting back on animal products also means skipping much of their saturated fats, which are notorious for clogging pores. Plus, many of the vitamins, pigments and phytochemicals in fruits and veggies contribute to healthy skin.

Lower cancer risk

Saturated fat and trans fat—found in dairy products, meat, and fried foods—can increase the risk for Alzheimer’s disease and other cognitive conditions. A plant-based diet avoids these foods and is rich in antioxidants, folate, and vitamin E, which may offer a protective effect.

Plus as an added bonus eating less meat and dairy products and more fruits and vegetables also means smaller environmental footprint.

With meat and dairy being the leading contributor to greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, reducing animal-based foods and choosing a wide range of plant foods can be beneficial to the planet and our health.

If you want to make the switch to a plant-based diet, you can start by gradually reducing their meat and dairy intake.

Eating an entirely plant-based meal once a week, or swapping out one animal product for a plant-based one, can be an excellent place to start.

What you decide to eat or not eat on a plant-based diet is entirely up to you. For the most part, people on plant-based diets eat less of the following:

  • Fast food
  • Desserts and sweetened beverages
  • Refined grains: white rice, white bread, refined pasta, etc.
  • Packaged foods: cookies, chips, sugary cereals, etc.
  • Processed meats: bacon, sausage, etc.

Changing your nutrition is a powerful way to live longer, help the environment, and reduce your risk of getting sick. A diet high in fruits and vegetables can help to protect you against cancer, diabetes and heart disease.

There are many varieties of fruit and vegetables available and many ways to prepare, cook and serve them. When buying and serving fruit and vegetables, aim for variety to get the most nutrients and appeal.

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White fish with olive and sundried tomato crust

INGREDIENTS

120g sundried tomatoes
80g of black olives
200g of breadcrumbs
2 tbsp of chopped parsley
salt and black pepper
white fish
4 tbsp of olive oil
2 tbsp of white wine

INSTRUCTIONS

Preheat the oven to 150 degrees.
Put the sundried tomatoes, olives, breadcrumbs and parsley into a food processor and process until everything is evenly crushed and resembles breadcrumbs. Season with salt and pepper as needed and set aside.

Sprinkle some salt on the fish and put it on a baking tray. Drizzle some olive oil and white wine on the fishes and bake in the oven for 5 minutes. Take the fish out of the oven and cover it with the breadcrumb mixture you made before. Put the fish back into the oven and bake for another 10 minutes or until the breadcrumbs are slightly golden and the fish is cooked through.

Enjoy!

Did you make the recipe? Leave a comment and let me know how it turned out for you!

No Bake Frozen Lime Cheesecake with Chilli Sauce

INGREDIENTS

115 g digestive cookies
50 g coconut shavings
175 g of melted, chilled butter

Cream
250 ml whipped cream
400 g of cream cheese
100 g of sugar
2 large limes, rind grated and juice squeezed

Syrup
60 g of sugar
juice from 3 limes
2 red chilli pods, well chopped and seeds removed

INSTRUCTIONS

Crush the cookies and mix them with coconut shavings and mix melted butter. Take a fold-out cake tray (approx. 24 cm) and cover the bottom with baking paper. Squeeze the biscuit mixture into the baking tray. Put in the refrigerator.

Mix the double cream with sugar, add lime juice and rind (don´t stop mixing while adding the ingredients). Add cream cheese (don´t whisk, just stir). Pour the mixture on the cake. Then place the cake in the freezer.

Put the sugar and lime juice in a saucepan and bring to a boil, add the chopped chillies. Boil for about 5 minutes. Leave to cool down. Pour the syrup over the cake before serving.

Enjoy!

Did you make the recipe? Leave a comment and let me know how it turned out for you!

Lentil salad with tomatoes, herbs and mustard sauce

INGREDIENTS

200 g black lentils

200g black lentils                                                                             

1 L water                   

10 g coriander leaves                                                                       

10g parsley leaves, chopped

5g mint, chopped

15g roasted nuts

1 green onion, finely chopped          

For tomatoes:

240 g plum tomatoes

1 tbsp olive oil

1 garlic clove, crushed

1 thyme brunch

1 pinch of icing sugar

Salt and pepper

For mustard sauce:

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1 tablespoon olive oil

INSTRUCTIONS

Pre heat the oven to 140 degrees.

Rinse the lenses in cold water and place them in a large saucepan with water and a pinch of salt. Bring the mixture to a boil, cover, lower the heat and leave to gently simmer for about 15-20 minutes. Lenses are ready when they have doubled their size. Leave to cool down.

Cut the tomatoes into 6 sectors, remove the seeds and set them aside (you will need them later). Put the tomatoes in a small bowl and add the olive oil, garlic, thyme, sugar, salt and pepper. Stir well and place them on to a baking tray. Bake in the oven for 30-40 minutes or until the tomatoes have slightly shrunk in size. Remove the tomatoes from tray and leave to cool down.

Lightly chop the mint and parsley leaves and set aside.

Place the pre-ignited tomato seeds in a blender with mustard, olive oil and a pinch of salt. Blend until the mixture is nice and smooth.

When all ingredients have cooled, combine lentils, fresh herbs and salad dressing. Finally, sprinkle with roasted nuts, green onions and place the roasted tomatoes on top.

Enjoy!

Did you make the recipe? Leave a comment and let me know how it turned out for you!

How Processed Foods Affect Our Health

Multiple concerns have been recently raised about processed foods, including the profusion of processed foods and the threats they pose. Recent research has demonstrated that more than 60% of the food purchased annually in the US is highly processed.

Processed foods are the items that dominate the centre aisles of any typical grocery store including:

  • Sausages
  • Hot dogs
  • Bacon
  • Ready-made meals
  • Cereal
  • Canned goods
  • Chips
  • Soda
  • Candy and other packaged items
  • Cookies

The majority of processed foods are high in sugar content and other harmful ingredients that might trigger lots of health problems. Here are 5 ways overconsumption of processed food could be affecting your health:

Obesity

Highly processed meals are often packed with extra sugar, and we all know that sugar contributes to obesity, which can then lead to chronic diseases as consequences. Frequently, the word “sugar” lurks behind these words corn syrup, fructose, glucose, malt or maltose, honey, molasses, nectar, etc. However, any type of sugar, including those hidden, has no nutritional value, and contrary to what is believed, they even make your body more avid to consume even more calories.

Sugars are a type of carbohydrates, which the body fuels to get its energy. However, when you overconsume these types of carbohydrates, they are stored in the body—typically as fat that leads to obesity.

That’s because the eating sugary foods trigger a sense of pleasure and craving in your brain, like what is associated with drug addiction. That’s why you think highly processed meals are more delicious and experience subconscious cravings for them.

To keep your body healthy and avoiding obesity, you should moderate your sugar consumption. According to the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines, sugars should be limited to no more than 10 percent of daily calories equal to 12 tsp of sugar per day. But don’t let this amount fool you because an average can of soft drink contains about 10 teaspoons alone.

Metabolic Syndrome

Obesity might not sound a health issue for some people, but processed food consumption is also associated with metabolic syndrome, a set of risk factors that can trigger heart disease and type2 diabetes. Metabolic syndrome is diagnosed when you experience increased waistline with abdominal obesity, elevated triglycerides, low HDL (healthy) cholesterol levels, high blood pressure, or high fasting blood glucose.

The excess of sugars found in highly processed foods is the main culprit of several metabolic consequences.  Frequent spikes in blood glucose levels are one of metabolic syndrome that requires insulin to be stabilized. Over time, this can cause insulin resistance, as well as raising the levels of Triglycerides in the blood. The cumulative effects of these metabolic occurrences can increase the risk of developing heart disease and diabetes.

Autoimmune Diseases

Autoimmune diseases occur when our body’s immune system confuses healthy cells as unhealthy and prompts an attack against its own organs.

The most common autoimmune diseases are type1 diabetes, Systemic lupus erythematosus, Guillain-Barre syndrome, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn’s disease, Psoriasis, and Hashimoto’s thyroiditis.

Experts say that 70% of your immune system is found in your stomach. When the tight junctions between intestinal epithelial cells become compromised, they weaken the body’s defence line and can enable exposure of environmental toxins into the body, referring to a condition called leaky gut.

Scientists have shown that 7 common additives abundantly found in processed foods can destroy the tight junctions between intestinal epithelial cells and opens up the door for toxins to harm the body, which can raise the possibility of developing an autoimmune disease. These common additives foods are including glucose, salt, emulsifiers, organic solvents, gluten, microbial transglutaminase, and nanoparticles.

Colorectal Cancer

Processed foods can also raise the likelihood of developing colon cancer. This time, processed meats are the culprit, which include bacon, sausage, lunch meat, hot dogs, beef jerky or any meat product that has been chemically formed to stay preserved. The threat also includes eating red meat such as beef or pork.

Eating as few as 50 gr of processed or red meat per day can increase the risk of colorectal cancer by 18%. It is believed that the danger comes from either the chemicals used to preserve these meats or their cooking process, which both are associated with exposure to carcinogenic compounds.

Inflammatory Bowel Disease

Processed foods can also trigger inflammatory bowel disease, also called Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis. The culprit is a class of chemical additive known as emulsifiers, which are employed for extending shelf life. You can find them in nearly every processed food product, including bread, peanut butter, cake mixes, salad dressings, sauces, yoghurt, pudding, processed cheese, etc.

Emulsifiers even found in your household soaps or detergents because their primary function is allowing water and oil to stay mixed, either for removing grime or holding together food substances that usually would separate.

A recent study demonstrated that mice who were fed a diet simulating the emulsifiers found in our processed foods experienced changes in their gut bacteria that prompted several health conditions, including obesity, metabolic syndrome, and inflammatory bowel disease.

The reason for this connection is because the bad bacteria compromise the protective mucous layer that usually separates microbes from the intestinal wall, like how a detergent removes dirt, which triggers an inflammatory response and raised the incidence of these diseases.

Beetroot and goat cheese salad

Beetroot, also known as beet, has been gaining in popularity as a new superfood due to recent studies claiming that beets and beetroot juice can improve athletic performance, lower blood pressure, and increase blood flow.

That’s because beetroots are exceptional in nutritional value, especially the greens, which are rich in calcium, iron and vitamins A and C. Beetroots are an excellent source of folic acid and a very good source of fibre, manganese and potassium. The greens should not be overlooked– they can be cooked up and enjoyed in the same way as spinach.

One delicious way to enjoy beets is to make them into a salad. This healthy beetroot salad is easy to make and a delicious option to add some extra nutrients to your diet.

INGREDIENTS

Dressing:

30g walnuts

6 tbsp olive oil

2 tbsp white wine vinegar

Salad:

6 medium-size beetroots

0,5 red onion

250 g goat’s cheese, cut into cubes

6 mint leaves

salt, pepper

INSTRUCTIONS

Preheat the oven to 220 degrees.

Cut the walnuts into smaller pieces and roast them in the oven for about 4-6 minutes. Take the walnuts out of the oven and transfer them into a small bowl.

Take another bowl and mix vinegar, oil, salt and pepper together. Now add the walnuts to the mix.

Peel the beetroots and slice them into about 0,5 cm slices. Season with a little bit of salt and pepper. Roast the beetroots in the oven for about 15 minutes or until they are softened but still a bit crunchy. Meanwhile slice the onion thinly.

Put the beetroot on a serving plate. Then add the onions and cheese. Now pour over the dressing and add mint leaves and a bit more salt and pepper if needed.

Enjoy!

Tip:
If your hands become stained during preparation and cooking beetroot, rub some lemon juice over them to help remove the colour.

Did you make the recipe? Leave a comment and let me know how it turned out for you!

What is a healthy diet

A healthy diet is a balanced diet. The purpose of eating healthy is not to starve yourself or to keep yourself deprived of your favourite foods, but to make yourself look and feel better while improving your overall health. A healthy diet helps protect against malnutrition in all its forms, as well as noncommunicable diseases (NCDs), including but not limited to such diseases as diabetes, heart disease, stroke and cancer.

Learning to eat healthy isn’t just about consuming the right foods, but also knowing how much and when to eat. A healthy diet will not only help prevent illnesses, but it will help prevent mood swings, forgetfulness and boost your energy levels. Poor diet, on the other hand, can contribute to a bunch of health risks like:

  • Being overweight or obese
  • Heart disease and stroke
  • Diabetes
  • Depression
  • High blood pressure
  • Tooth decay
  • High cholesterol
  • Osteoporosis
  • And much more!

You are what you eat!

What you eat goes into your system and affects the “mechanism” by becoming a part of it. Changes can either be good or bad for your health, depending on what you eat. These changes can affect the way you think, the way you feel and the way you act. For example, by consuming a large amount of sugar you are likely to get mood swings as the sugar levels change in your body. After consuming fast food you are likely to feel tired as your digestion slows down and most of your energy goes to digesting the food. Also, fast and fried foods tend to be much lower levels of vitamins, minerals and other essential nutrients while being higher in calories due to the high amounts of added sugar or fat in them.

What should be included in a healthy diet?

Water

Drink plenty of water! Water doesn’t just help us to stay hydrated but it also helps our bodies flush our systems of waste products and toxins. Dehydration can cause tiredness, low energy, and headaches. Consuming plenty of water can also be good for our weight as it is common to mistake thirst for hunger, so staying well hydrated will also help you to make healthier food choices.

Fibre

We need fibre in our diets is to keep our digestive system in good working order. Fibre also helps us feel fuller for longer, it can improve our cholesterol and blood sugar levels and can also assist in preventing some diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and bowel cancer.(4)

Protein      

Protein is basically an important component of every cell in the body. It is an important building block of bones, muscles, cartilage, skin, and blood. Protein provides us with energy and supports our mood and cognitive functions.

Fat

While not all fat is good for us, healthy fats provide us with essential fatty acids (that we can’t make ourselves but need in small amounts) as well as energy. Fat is required for a range of bodily processes and to maintain the normal structure of cells in the body. Fat also carries essential fat-soluble vitamins and is important for their absorption.

Calcium

As well as being good for our bones, not getting enough calcium in your diet can also contribute to anxiety, depression, and sleep difficulties.

When putting together your diet plan keep in mind:

Mix up your diet

Eating a variety of different foods has a positive effect on our health. If you continue to eat the same food over and over again, you will miss out on important nutrients. So make sure to mix up your diet!

Eat Small Amounts of Fat and Oils

Since fat is an important part of a healthy diet, rather than adopting a low-fat diet, it’s more important to focus on eating more beneficial “good” fats and limiting harmful “bad” fats. Monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats are known as the “good fats” because they are good for your heart, your cholesterol and your overall health. These fats can help lower the risk of heart disease and stroke, lower blood pressure, prevent abnormal heart rhythms and so on. Good sources of these kinds of fats are olive oil, avocados, olives, nuts, pumpkin seeds, tofu, soy milk etc.

Eat Moderate Amounts of Animal-Based Foods

Animal-based foods, such as meat, fish, poultry, eggs, milk, yoghurt and cheese should all be eaten in moderation. These foods are rich in protein, iron, vitamin B12 and niacin. Red meat is a great source of iron and zinc. Sausages and processed meat should be avoided.

Milk, yoghurt and cheese are rich sources of calcium. They also contain protein, riboflavin and vitamin B12. These foods contain usually quite a high percentage of fat, so the key is to eat in moderation!

Eat Plenty of Plant-Based Foods

Nature provides everything from air and shelter to food. Everything that grows from the ground (fruits, grains and vegetables) and is edible is generally considered good for us. Lots of common foods like bread, pasta, cereals come from things like rice, oats, barley, millet and so on. While some of these products have higher nutritional values than the others, none of these products are bad for us. When making a choice which plant-based products to prefer, keep in mind that wholegrain foods are usually a better choice as they provide us with more fibre, vitamins and minerals. Also, be sure to read the labels as some products that advertise themselves as “healthy” can contain large amounts of hidden salt, sugar or fat in them.

Drink plenty of water!

Things to avoid or consume in moderation

Salt and sugar

In moderation, neither of those two is harmful for us. Unfortunately, most of us tend to over-consume them without realizing. The recommended salt intake per day should remain less than 5 g (1). Keeping it less than 5g per day can help prevent hypertension, and reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke in the adult population. Reducing salt intake to the recommended level could prevent 1.7 million deaths each year (2).

In both adults and children, the intake of sugars should be reduced to less than 10% of total energy intake. Consuming too much sugar increases the risk of tooth decay. Excess calories from foods and drinks high in sugars also contribute to unhealthy weight gain, which can lead to overweight and obesity. Recent evidence also shows that sugars influence blood pressure and serum lipids, and suggests that a reduction in sugars intake reduces risk factors for cardiovascular diseases (3).

Processed Foods

During the last century, more and more processed food has been entering the market. This has resulted in more and more illnesses and an obesity epidemic. Processed foods are made to enhance the taste of foods, and yes they do carry out their function, but they are not healthy for consumption in the long run.

So what is a processed food? A processed food is any food that has been altered in some way during preparation. Not all food processing is bad and some processed food can be good for us as well. Some foods need processing to make them safe, such as milk, which needs to be pasteurised to remove harmful bacteria. What makes the processed food less healthy is the fact that ingredients such as salt, sugar and fat are sometimes added to make the flavour more appealing and to extend their shelf life, or in some cases to contribute to the food’s structure, such as salt in bread or sugar in cakes.

Buying processed foods can lead to people eating more than the recommended amounts of sugar, salt and fat as they may not be aware of how much has been added to the food they are buying and eating. These foods can also be higher in calories due to the high amounts of added sugar or fat in them.

Alcohol

Alcohol is great every now and then, but if you’re having it on a regular basis you may want to reconsider. Drinking alcohol has a wide range of negative effects on a person’s health, both immediately and long-term. Red wine is commonly known to have some health benefits, however, this is purely in moderation! The key here is to ensure you are not drinking heavily or too regularly to have any lasting damage to your health.

So whether you want to lose a bit of weight or are just thinking about taking the first steps towards a healthier lifestyle, keep in mind that a healthy diet is a balanced diet.

References

1. Guideline: Sodium intake for adults and children. Geneva: World Health Organization; 2012.

2. Mozaffarian D, Fahimi S, Singh GM, Micha R, Khatibzadeh S, Engell RE et al. Global sodium consumption and death from cardiovascular causes. N Engl J Med. 2014; 371(7):624–34.

3. Te Morenga LA, Howatson A, Jones RM, Mann J. Dietary sugars and cardiometabolic risk: systematic review and meta-analyses of randomized controlled trials of the effects on blood pressure and lipids. AJCN. 2014; 100(1): 65–79.