Nutrition can be a complex subject with many factors and variables influencing health and disease. Despite consumer trends moving towards a more balanced approach to nutrition, rates of obesity and type 2 diabetes are still on the rise in Canada and the United States. To decrease your chances of developing chronic lifestyle diseases, let's explore my top three diet tips that will help you stay on track with your healthy living strategy.
Eat more Fruits and Vegetables
Encouraging people to eat more fruit is simple; however convincing them to add more vegetables daily is a different story! Statistics Canada reported that in 2011 only 40.4% of Canadians aged 12 and older consumed fruit and vegetables five or more times per day. Consumption rose gradually from 2001 to 2009, where it peaked at 45.6%, but has been on the decline ever since. Getting the recommended six to 10 servings of fruits and vegetables per day can be straightforward and delicious. Simply fill half your plate with a variety of nature's colourful bounty.
Go for different coloured fruits and veggies. Eat vegetables raw, baked, mashed and sautéed. Always make sure to eat the peel of apples and pears, plus the skins of the potato as they contain valuable nutrients and fibre to promote immune, heart and digestive health. And for easy hacks to add more veggies to your diet check out my May Huffington Post column.
Consider Quality and Quantity of Carbohydrates
The positive and negative health effects of dietary carbohydrates are of interest to both health professionals and consumers. One of the major dietary changes we see in the modern world has been the increased consumption of fibre-depleted processed carbohydrate foods. The quality and quantity of food consumed plays an important role in regulating blood sugar levels, weight gain and overall health.
Dr Thomas Wolever MD, PhD a Nutritional Sciences professor at the University of Toronto explains, "It's important to consider dietary patterns that include foods that have lower glycemic indexes, are high in fibre and have a variety of micronutrients. We know that there is not one universal diet that is a fit for everyone, however there are common elements of these diets that help reduce the risk of chronic diseases. Recent research suggests healthy diets containing low glycemic index foods were relevant to the prevention and management of diabetes and coronary heart disease and probably obesity."
Now, does this mean you can overdo it on these smart carbs? Absolutely not. It's important to practice portion control at every eating occasion, especially if you have or are at risk of diabetes. Recently, EarthFresh Farms launched the Carisma potatoes, which are grown in Ontario. A medium sized Carisma has 70 calories, 15 grams of carbohydrates, 3 grams of fibre and elicits a lower glycemic response, which gives consumers who are monitoring their carbohydrate intake another choice in the produce aisle. This is one more delicious example of the various smart carb options available in your grocery store.
Chances are your dietitian or doctor is recommending you eat a fibre-rich diet. This is because consuming daily dietary fibre is inversely associated with risk of chronic diseases, including coronary heart disease, diabetes and obesity. Plus, dietary fibre helps keep your gut transit time humming along! Happy gut, happy you!
Digestive health is a concern for people of all ages. The digestive system is dynamic and interacts closely with many other systems in the body. When fibre, as well as resistant starch in the diet, avoid digestion in the small intestine and reach the colon, they become available for use by the microbiota to promote good bacteria and suppress the growth of bad bacteria. This combination of factors, including prebiotics in our dietary pattern, has a cumulative effect on the microbiota in the colon to enhance a healthy digestive ecosystem.
Adults should aim for 25 to 38 grams of fibre per day. One way to ensure you meet this guideline is to eat fibre-rich foods daily including fruits, vegetables, smart carbohydrates, nuts, seeds and pulses.
Stay on Track
Also keep in mind that as fall approaches and the temperatures cool down, it is important to stay hydrated. And don't forget to eat quality proteins daily, including plant-based options. Incorporating these practices with my top three diet tips will keep your healthy eating on track. Along with exercise, adequate sleep and stress management, this healthy living strategy can aid in the prevention of lifestyle diseases, including type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
Jane Dummer is a registered dietitian and expert in food and nutrition. Jane serves as a consultant to the food and beverage industry, including EarthFresh Farms.
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