If the saying “you are what you eat” is in any way true, then many of us should think long and hard about our current diet.
It’s upsetting to think that four slices of cheese pizza paired with a pint of craft beer has minimal nutritional benefits. But if you’re mindful of what goes in your belly 90 per cent of the time, treating yourself to a carb-heavy cheat meal is perfectly acceptable.
Family physician Dr. Vaneet Rai shares the five foods that she advises her patients to incorporate into their diets. All five of the foods promote good health, prevent diseases and avert nutrient deficiencies.
(Dr. Rai is available for an e-consultation through the Tia Health website for medical services.)
Toss some berries in your smoothie, bake a healthy mixed-berry pie, or make fruit skewers – the options are endless. “Berries are high in dietary fibre, which can reduce cholesterol levels and regulate blood sugar,” says Dr. Rai. “Berries can also help prevent diabetes and heart disease and will also keep you full for longer.”
After eating a bowl of berries, you’re less likely to make multiple trips to the kitchen in search of sugary snacks.
Dark leafy greens
The trick to consuming enough dark leafy greens like kale, spinach and broccoli is to hide them in meals that you already eat. “Dark leafy greens contain a lot of vitamin A and C, iron, and are packed with fibre,” says Dr. Rai.
Iron is especially important for women or individuals with anemia as iron deficiency can result in fatigue, dizziness, headaches and other unpleasant symptoms.
Try making a kale caesar salad or adding a handful of spinach to your smoothies or wraps.
“Many people try to steer clear of oil but olive oil is chock full of vitamin E and monounsaturated fatty acids,” says Dr. Rai. “These acids help reduce the risk of heart disease and will nourish your skin.”
So don’t feel bad about using one or two tablespoons of olive oil next time you heat up the frying pan. You can also drizzle olive oil over salads, warm bread, hummus and tzatziki.
For those who have an emotional attachment to white pasta, try swapping noodles for whole grains like quinoa, spelt, brown rice, buckwheat, corn and barley. “Whole grains contain plenty of fibre and B vitamins,” she says. “Similar to berries, whole grains can protect against heart disease and diabetes.”
Porridge lovers can rest easy as oats are also considered a whole grain.
Chickpeas, lentils, beans, soybeans and peas are not only superb sources of protein but they also contain fibre and folate. “Eating legumes on a daily basis can significantly lower your chances of developing heart disease,” says Dr. Rai.
Vegans and vegetarians are often well-acquainted with legumes since they rely on vegetable sources of protein instead of meat. Dr. Rai encourages those sticking to a meat-free diet to take vitamin B12 and iron supplements as these deficiencies can be common in people eating plant-based diets.
Canadians can arrange an e-consultation with Dr. Vaneet Rai by scheduling an online or phone appointment through the telehealth platform Tia Health.