Updated: Mar 2
Do you find yourself confused to what you ‘should’ and ‘shouldn't’ eat and Googling the solutions make you feel like throwing in the towel?
If you're health- conscious, you are probably aware of all the newest superfoods, new health approaches and new diets (raw, keto, paleo, clean-eating) taking the world up by a storm. There is a bunch of new trends that hit the headlines every single year.
Perhaps you try the new ’Health Foods’ that claim to have the most benefits, but still don't feel like a superhuman?
After studying, living and breathing nutrition for years, I know that foods are never as straightforward as ‘good’, ‘bad’, ‘healthy’ and ‘unhealthy’. Even the ‘healthiest’ of foods, might NOT be the best foods for your unique body.
So how do you know, what’s the right thing for you?
Your body is constantly sending you signals, doesn't matter how big or small, about it's wellbeing. Imbalances in the body will always have accompanying symptoms.
It is your choice: either you put it down to ‘something’ and ‘ it's just the way I am’ or you become a student of your own body and carefully listen at all times. Try and detect which foods, drinks lifestyle activities or even emotions the sensations trigger unwanted and unusual symptoms.
These are the most common signs and symptoms your body will send you if foods don't agree with it:
Stomach pains and cramps
Rashes and skin problems
Fatigue and low energy
Here are some of the main foods I see people react to, although they are considered highly beneficial and have tons of health benefits.
There is no denying that fermented foods, such as kombucha, kefir and sauerkraut have huge benefits for microbiome, as they nourish your gut flora. However, there are several cases in which fermented foods might not be the best choice for you: if you react to histamine foods or currently experience candida overgrowth.
How do you know that you react to foods that are high in histamine? Perhaps you suffer with hayfever or eczema and perhaps you sneeze, experience rashes or itches right after you eat foods like smoked and aged meat and cheese, chocolate and red wine.
Fermented foods often contain a large amount of bacteria and some different yeasts. If your body is already fighting candida overgrowth (even if you're not aware of it), you may be experiencing worsening of your symptoms: more bloating, fatigue, change in body odour and thrush. No fun at all.
You might think that eating a ‘raw food diet’ is the ultimate health goal, but remember that there is no 'one size that fits all' solution.
It’s a great idea to include more raw foods in your regular diet, such as fruit and veg, nuts and seeds and sprouts if your food choices are looking a little beige. But some people simply cannot digest high amounts of raw fibre, which means that bloating becomes just a daily part of life and it may even feel like there's a beehive residing in your stomach.
If that's the case for you, swap half of your raw foods (especially veg) to cooked foods and notice if there is an improvement in the way you feel. Swap half your salad to a vegetable curry or make a delicious soup.
Beans and nuts
There's an old joke linking a diet high in beans and lentils and breaking wind, which isn't that far from truth.
Legumes and nuts are staple foods in most vegetarian and vegan diets and are incredibly beneficial to our health, as they are packed with nutrients, vitamins and minerals.
And although these Health Foods in isolation are great for our health, they also contain phytates or phytic acid, which helps the seed or plant store nutrients for later. For humans, these can often cause bloating, indigestion, flatulence and stomach. In addition, they impair absorption for crucial nutrients, including zinc, calcium and iron.
So if you notice uncomfortable digestive symptoms after eating beans, lentils and nuts and you break wind like crazy, there is good news! Soaking, sprouting or fermenting these foods before consumption will help to break down phytic acid and make it more digestible, meaning a happy tummy and better absorption.
Green juices (or freshly squeezed juice)
If good health is a priority to you, you make smart food and drink choices. You opt out from having juices from concentrate or any other process juices, as you know they are packed with sugar.
However, green juice or freshly squeezed juice is another story. The past 10 years have seen a huge hype in green juices and juice fasting, but even though they are delicious and packed with nutrients, majority of fibre in these juices is removed.
And no fibre means that the body absorbs this energy almost instantly, creating a spike and crash in your blood sugar levels and leaving you drained or craving sugar for the rest of the day.
I would avoid having just a green juice (or any type of juice) first thing in the morning and aim to have it with a little snack instead later in the day. That especially applies if you tend to have energy dips and overeat easily through the day.
If you want to know more about the spikes and crashes of blood sugar, check out my ‘Beat the 4pm Slump’ cheat sheet.
Health food bars
Swapping digestive biscuits for a ‘healthy’ cereal or nut and seed bar? Be cautious, as these often disguise themselves as 'Health Foods', although are packed with processed sugars,syrups or even artificial additives and flavourings.
Another contender to spike and crash your blood sugar through the day, leaving you confused by where the cravings came from and why you can't stop eating sugar all day long.
The bigger picture
If only it was as simple as saying that foods are simply ‘healthy’ and ‘unhealthy’!
I hope that these insights have given you a better understanding, that it's never as black and white when it comes to food and nutrition.
In conclusion, the best advice I can give you when it comes to food is to focus on having foods in moderation and LISTEN, LISTEN and LISTEN to your body. Forget dr. Google, your body is the only one that truly knows the answer and it cannot wait to share it with you.