Naturopathic Medicine uses various natural therapies to help prevent illness and treat disease. For me, the most basic natural therapy that can be used, the most important of them all, is nutrition. Our diet is the very foundation of our health. The food we eat and the nutrients found within are the building blocks for our body. Our cells are constantly regenerating, so we need to give our body the best raw materials possible. We need these nutrients for everything from muscle contraction, to nerve conduction, to energy production.
At a most basic level we need to consume 3 types of macronutrients; these are carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. All of these are necessary for health, but we have healthy and not-so-healthy options within these categories. For example, good fats are things like flax seed oil, extra virgin olive oil, and fish oils which are high in omega 3 fatty acids. Unhealthy fats are things like trans fats (found in packaged foods) or saturated animal fats like lard. The most important thing I want to emphasize here is that we need not fear fats in moderation, especially good fats. There is also another “nutrient” that we must consume not just to be healthy but to survive, and that’s water. It doesn’t provide nutrition but it is essential to health, and in my experience most of us just don’t drink enough.
So now that you know the big picture of what nutrients we need, let’s talk specifics. What exactly should we eat? There is a very easy way to help guide our food choices for healthy eating called the plate method. I often use it with my patients. This method has been adopted by the Diabetes Association in the US and the USDA Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion (CNPP). Essentially when sitting down to eat your food; you can easily look at your plate to determine if it’s a healthy meal.
Half the plate should be filled with vegetables. Here I include all kinds of colourful varieties, including leafy greens, which are nutrition powerhouses high in iron, Vitamin C, Vitamin K, and calcium. One fourth of the plate should be composed of protein; this can be from animal or vegetable origin. Good vegan sources of protein include beans, peas, tofu, lentils, and nuts. The last fourth of the plate should be filled with a healthy carbohydrate. This should ideally be from a whole grain food like, brown rice or whole wheat pasta. Another option for healthy carbohydrates is starchy vegetables like sweet potato, pumpkin, and corn.
This way of healthy eating is beneficial for all members of the family, but they are guidelines, so there is still flexibility. For example, for children we can be more relaxed in terms of fats and carbohydrates. It’s okay if half their plates are filled with pasta. I also haven’t specified fruit in the plate, because I often recommend fruit as snacks. The most important point to note is that eating more fruits and vegetables is the key to health.
This article originally appeared on page 15 of the August 2016 Issue of beijingkids magazine. Click here for your free online copy. To find out how you can obtain a hard copy, contact email@example.com.