People often ask me “What kinds of food should I be buying and which foods should I not?” I could rattle off a long list of both healthy and not so healthy foods but instead I’ve narrowed it down to just 3 foods to always buy and 3 foods to seldom buy. This makes it simple, easy to remember and saves you time and money from buying foods to keep out of your grocery cart.
And there’s never been a better time to talk about this. A recent 2016 cross-sectional study uncovered that we as Americans, are relying too heavily on ultra-processed foods - 57.9% of our calorie intake comes from ultra-processed foods and they contributed 89.7% of the calorie intake from added sugars.
It’s time to get back to basics in regards to our food choices.
Criteria for foods best and worst for us
Foods best for us:
· They should be natural like Mother Nature made them with minimal to no processing
· They should be available whether you shop at a supermarket or a farmer’s market
· They should be affordable for you to purchase
· They should have fewer than five ingredients
· They should have ingredients you can pronounce and know what they are
· They should be versatile and easy-to-use in your meals
Foods worst for us:
· They are associated with being part of the reason for the development of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, cancer, hypertension and other chronic diseases
· They are a far cry from their natural state or they are man-made
· They have a high percentage of their calories coming from sugar and/or fat
· They tend to be loaded with preservatives, additives, and other chemicals that may be questionable for our health
3 foods to always buy
The best thing about nuts is the variety to choose from – walnuts, almonds, pistachios, cashews, hazelnuts, Brazil nuts, pecans, macademia – if you don’t like one, there is usually another you do. Every day make these super healthy foods a part of your diet. Nuts are naturally high in vitamins, minerals, fiber, protein and brimming with healthy fat. They’ve been linked with lowering cholesterol, aiding in weight control and possibly lowering cancer risk. Some people avoid nuts believing they are too high in fat and calories. But just a small handful each day will lead you down the path to better health. They can be stored at room temperature for a short period of time but will keep better in the fridge to prevent rancidity.
One of the cheapest, most versatile foods around are beans. A highly nutritious source of protein, beans can be a great substitute for animal protein ranging from about 6 grams of protein in a half cup of lima beans up to 11 grams in one half cup of soybeans. Beans have little to no fat compared to animal proteins. Their fiber content is outstanding with one cup of cooked beans containing about 12 grams of fiber making them the perfect choice for upping fiber intake. Beans are digested slowly, keeping us feeling fuller longer, low in carbohydrates preventing blood sugar spikes, they are high in antioxidants and can help with weight control. People who eat beans regularly, weigh about 7 pounds less with slimmer waist sizes than people who avoid beans.
Vegetables are quite the powerhouse of valuable nutrients necessary to maintain our health and vitality. Canned, frozen and definitely fresh, all vegetables are naturally low in calories and fat with no cholesterol providing important sources of key nutrients such as vitamin A, folate, vitamin C, potassium, and fiber. Obtaining these nutrients can result in lowered blood pressure, reductions in cholesterol, better bowel function, healthier eyes, skin, teeth and gums, greater absorption of iron and faster healing of cuts and wounds. Fill up your grocery cart with a wide variety of vegetables and watch your health take a turn for the better.
3 foods to seldom buy
1. Processed meats
The fall of 2015 shined a spotlight on processed meats and it wasn’t flattering. The World Health Organization International Agency for Research on Cancer had heralded the consumption of processed meat as “carcinogenic to human” and listed them in group 1. Processed meats are any meats having been transformed through salting, curing, fermentation, smoking, or other processes to enhance flavor or improve preservation. They include sausage, salami, bacon, lunch meats and hot dogs. Studies have shown frequent consumption of processed meats may increases the risk of colorectal cancer along with heart disease and stroke. The high fat and sodium content in addition to nitrates used for preservation will do your health no favors and are best consumed only very occasionally.
2. Sugar sweetened beverages
Sugary beverages – soda, energy and sports drinks, boxed juices – should rarely be seen in your grocery cart. Why would you routinely buy something having the potential to increase weight gain, cause blood sugar spikes in type 2 diabetes, increases nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, causes higher biomarkers of cholesterol, triglycerides, blood pressure and heart disease and let’s not forget can cause tooth decay? Enough said.
3. Salty snacks
The food market is saturated with all kinds of salty snack foods from chips to crackers to highly processed bread products. We need sodium but too much of a good thing can lead to health problems causing issues such as water retention, placing an extra burden on the heart and blood vessels, increasing blood pressure and the risk of a heart attack or stroke. Some of the main food sources of sodium are pizza, breads and rolls, soup, cold cuts and cured meats, cheese, frozen dinners, pickles, and sauces such as barbeque, soy, steak, and Worcestershire. Check the nutrition facts panel and choose foods with 140 mg or less of sodium per serving and use more herbs and spices to flavor foods.
Each time you go to the grocery store, look at it as an investment in your future health. Making smart food choices as much as you can, will more likely result in a more productive, healthy long life.