Dr. Gleixner’s Top 5 nutritional guidelines

Dr. Gleixner's Top 5 nutritional guidelines

By Dr. Martin Gleixner, MSc, ND

 

Developing a framework that can help Canadians make better dietary choices is important. For many, the Canadian Food Guide is the most accessible and well-known guide.

 

But is this nutritional information enough to improve our health?

 

Such a food guide and other similar guides focus mainly on food groups and their recommended daily servings.

 

Does such a simplified model omit key guidelines about nutrition?

 

Eating doesn’t have to be complicated. Adopting simple eating guidelines is one way to improve your dietary choices. This way, decisions about what to eat will become easier and lead to improved health.

 

Here are Dr. Gleixner’s top 5 nutritional guidelines:

 

Eat whole foods

Whole foods are those that are the least processed. To eat more of them follow these following suggestions:

  1. Shop at your local markets or buy mostly from the outside aisles at your grocery store. There you will find fruits, veggies, meats, fish, and eggs.
  2. For certain processed foods such as breads, yogurt, and staples such as mustard, soya sauce, etc… buy the best quality possible. Processed foods generally have a longer list of ingredients (often ones you don’t understand). Therefore, always review the list of ingredients to check for their purity.
  3. Avoid food claims. If it says ‘low in calories’, it is usually low in fat (& often protein), but higher in sugar; if it’s ‘heartsmart’ it usually includes fiber or sterols (which are good things), but may contain other refined or processed ingredients. You will note that whole foods (such as an apple) do not have any food claims associated with them.
  4. Cook as often as you can. Learn to cook and invest in a good cookbook. A home cooked meal using whole foods is the number one way to avoiding processed foods. Cooking as a family can be fun, and a great way to spend time together.

 

Eat quality foods

Quality foods are those with increased taste, purity, vitamins, minerals and micronutrients (such as antioxidants, omega-3, etc…).  Following these guidelines will help you to eat more quality foods:

  1. Buy organic. New studies in 2007 and 2008 have shown that buying organic foods may be worth the extra costs. After analyzing 100 peer-reviewed studies and articles, Dr. Charles Benbrook and colleagues at the Organic Center, concluded that in general, organically grown foods contain 25% higher levels of nutrients than conventional produce.
  2. Buying organic is especially important in foods with a high fat content. The reason is simple: many toxins and man-made chemicals bio-concentrate and accumulate in fatty tissue. Buying organic dairy products, eggs, and meat is a great way of avoiding many toxins.
  3. Buying organic is also important for fruits and veggies that are listed on the Environmental Working Group's "Dirty Dozen" 2010 list. The following foods are most likely to have high pesticide residues: celery, peaches, strawberries, apples, blueberries, nectarines, bell peppers, spinach, kale, cherries, potatoes, and grapes.
  4. When it comes to meats: eat lean, and eat grass-fed meats when possible. For example, grass-fed beef contains 4% omega-3 fats versus near 0% in commercial corn-fed beef.  The omega-3 in grass-fed red meat can help off-set their negative effects related to the presence of arachadonic acid (a fat that promotes inflammation in the body). Look for meats from animals raised without hormones and antibiotics and ideally from organic feed (pesticide and herbicide free).
  5. Be smart about your seafood choices. Eating quality fish and seafood is becoming harder and harder as our oceans become more polluted and wild stocks become depleted. First, buy small. Eat smaller fish such as haddock, sardines, mackerel, etc…as they contain less contaminants. Second, buy wild versus farmed. Third, always check the packaging to find out where the wild fish was caught. For example, our local shrimp and scallops are known to be lower in contaminants compared to those caught elsewhere. Wild salmon should come from the Northwest Pacific or Alaskan waters.
  6. Use your taste buds to seek out foods with more micronutrients. For example, taste the difference between an organic versus non-organic banana. You will note that the organic banana taste significantly better. A four-year European project coordinated by Professor Carlo Leifert indicated that organic fruits and vegetables contained as much as 40% more antioxidants. Such micronutrients provide flavour to the foods we eat.

 

Avoid food additives

Avoid food additives as much as you can. Check labels when grocery shopping and check your kitchen and pantry for the following: artificial flavours, natural flavours, monosodium glutamate (MSG), soy protein isolate, hydrolyzed vegetable protein, nitrate/nitrites, olestra, potassium bromide, sulfites, ‘spices’, FD&C colors, hydrogenated vegetable oil, animal or vegetable shortening, aspartame, acesulfame-K, and other artificial sweeteners.

 

If you can, always ask what is included in “spices”. As an examples, I inquired about the ‘spices’ ingredients in sausages sold at one of our local markets only to find out that it contained MSG. Suffice to say, following my inquiry, the producers changed their spice mix to pure herbs, salt, pepper and other ‘real’ spices such as cumin, turmeric, etc...

 

Eat fermented foods

Fermented foods provide small doses of ‘good’ bacteria to our digestive tract. Eating fermented foods daily (or at last weekly) is a great way to maintain gut health over the long-term. This can help reduce inflammation and allergic reactions in the digestive tract and can even support our immune system.

 

Please note that the amounts of probiotics found in foods are not in medicinal doses. Therefore, certain conditions may require probiotic supplements in addition to the daily intake of fermented foods. Examples include health conditions such as Crohn’s or ulcerative colitis, or to replenish our ‘good bacteria’ populations post-antibiotic therapy.

 

Eat more of the following fermented foods: miso, tamari soya sauce, unsweetened organic plain yogurt, kefir, and ‘real’ sauerkraut. Also aim to eat sourdough breads. Although sourdough does not contain live bacteria, it is made with lactobacilli bacteria and can breakdown and modify the gluten proteins in flour rendering the protein less harmful to those with gluten intolerances.

 

Know your food allergies or intolerances (and avoid them as best you can)

Food allergies or intolerances can cause digestive disturbances such as constipation, diarrhea, bloating, gas and decreased nutrient absorption.

 

Determining and avoiding foods that cause digestive distress is a good first start. Talk to your naturopathic doctor about different options to determine your food allergies. An elimination/challenge assessment or a blood test for IgG antibodies against many common foods are some of the methods that can be used.

 

Eating the right food is different for everyone. Something considered healthy (eg yogurt) can be health promoting for some, but should be avoid by others who are allergic to casein (a dairy protein).

 

Follow these 5 nutritional guidelines as best as you can.  Do your best choosing healthy foods but avoid obsessing about it. Once you make a dietary change try to stick with it for 2-3 weeks, the time it takes for a new habit to take hold.  Avoid flip-flopping back and forth, as this can be quite stressful.

 

Most importantly, start somewhere, feel better and the rest will come.

 

Published by Dr. Gleixner on Wednesday June 13th, 2011 in Times & Transcript.

 

Back to Dr. Gleixner’s full list of articles.

Interested in learning more about other unique concepts?

See Dr. Gleixner’s bio.

Ready to book an appointment?

Leave a Reply