When trying to improve your diet for long-term health it’s all too easy to focus on the things that you need to remove from your diet. We tell ourselves that we need to eats less sugar, caffeine, fat, dairy, gluten etc etc…
So let’s focus for once on adding things in! Just a few minor additions to the diet can make a big difference!
#1 Add in Brazil nuts.
Brazil nuts are one of the best dietary sources of selenium; a nutrient important for healthy skin, hair, nails and thyroid function. The great news is that you only need around 3-4 Brazil nuts daily to get the recommended nutrient intake. Avoid having more than this as Brazil nuts can contain trace amounts of a heavy metal called barium, which accumulates in the body. This is thought to be non-harmful at very low levels. If you are intolerant or allergic to nut then skip this recommendation!
#2 Add in flaxseeds/ linseeds.
These are tiny seeds that need to be ground or milled to release their full potential. Flaxseeds contain insoluble fibre that helps to regulate digestion and prevent constipation. They’re also fantastic for balancing hormones. The used hormones are excreted into the digestive tract and the fibre in flaxseeds binds to them and prevents them from being reabsorbed and causing hormonal imbalances like PMS and PCOS. You can buy the flaxseeds pre-ground and all you need to do is add two tablespoons to your cereal or smoothie. Keep your flaxseeds in the fridge as they also contain beneficial omega 3 fatty acids, which are prone to going rancid.
#3 Add in coconut water.
This is a great option for when you’ve been a bit hot a sweaty, like after the gym. This is because when you sweat you lose electrolytes, which are nutrients that play an important role in hydration. If you’ve done a lot of sweating (or had vomiting and/ or diarrhoea) then you can lose a lot of electrolytes that can’t be replenished with water alone. You can get electrolytes drinks or rehydration sachets but why not use the natural alternative; coconut water. For this very reason, coconut water makes a great hangover cure!
#4 Add in magnesium powder.
Magnesium is a mineral that is found in many foods, but only in very low levels. Even the best possible diet can be low in magnesium as the soil is very depleted. Also, us humans aren’t very good at absorbing it from our food. Supplementing magnesium citrate powder is recommended for most people. The citrate powder form is most easily absorbed (some forms of magnesium have a strong laxative effect so choose your magnesium carefully!). Magnesium deficiency can cause dry skin, dandruff, cramping, aching muscles, restless leg syndrome, poor stress tolerance, poor exercise recovery time and more. We have an increased need for magnesium after exercise as it’s used up when muscles contract, therefore, adding in the tasteless magnesium powder into your water bottle or protein shake will aid your performance and recovery. There are also magnesium oils and moisturisers available that are also a great option as magnesium is well absorbed through the skin.
#5 Add in protein powder.
It is very rare that I look at a client’s food diary and see that they are having enough protein. It is the most common deficiency that I see and one of the most problematic. Protein is needed to balance blood sugar levels, create satiety, prevent cravings, make hormones and neurotransmitters, repair muscle and more. Increasing protein in the diet is one of the first things I get my clients to do. This doesn’t mean that you need to a eat lots of meat by the way! Obviously dietary sources of protein are ideal, like chickpeas, beans, lentils, nuts, seeds and organic animal protein, and vegetable sources of protein should make up around 40% of each meal OR animal protein 25%. Sometimes people struggle to get enough protein however, and a protein shake is a good option. I don’t mean the protein shakes that are aimed at body builders as these contain additional carbohydrates, sugars and sweeteners. A pure protein powder like whey, hemp, pea or brown rice protein are great options, and can be mixed up, almond milk, with berries, added to smoothies, soups and sauces or even made into protein bars. Those with kidney dysfunction should consult a healthcare professional before increasing their protein intake.
And there you have it. Five really simple things to add to your diet!