We all know that a good diet and exercise is important to optimal health, but good intentions often have adverse consequences when people unknowingly cut out key ingredients resulting in nutritional deficiencies. Filling these can be a tall order, but you can start by increasing fruits and vegetables and by adding high-quality plant-derived supplements.
Here are 10 more ways to make sure your body is getting plenty of what it really needs.
Add Fiber — Especially Soluble Fiber
Most of us are deficient in fiber — the essence of fruits, vegetables, nuts, and beans. Fiber can tame the insulin spike that results from excessive sugar consumption and lower your risk of developing type 2 diabetes. According to the Institute of Medicine, adult women need 25 grams of fiber a day and men need 38 grams. Two-thirds of that should be from soluble fiber from vegetables, fruits, beans, and nuts.
Get Adequate Vitamin D
Most of us are deficient in vitamin D, which can be serious because it compromises our immunity. Vitamin D comes in two forms, D2 and D3. D2 comes from plant foods; D3 comes from animal foods, such as fish, eggs, and liver, and your body also produces it when your skin is exposed to a big dose of sunshine. How well we absorb it from food varies a lot depending on our age, lifestyle, and health, so there is no one-size-fits-all prescription for getting up to healthy levels. The Vitamin D Council recommends we take 2,000 IU daily if we get little sun, but if you have a deficiency your wellness doctor may recommend 5,000 to 10,000 IU of D3 for a month or so until you get up to par.
Eat Omega-3s and Other Healthy Fats
Many of us are deceived into thinking that refined junk oils from genetically modified plants like corn and canola qualify as “healthy.” Nope. Get healthy omega-3 fats from fish, flax seed (or flax oil), olive oil, coconut oil, avocado, nuts, and seeds. Eating these foods daily lowers inflammation, depression, and heart-threatening triglycerides, and it will support brain health.
These healthy cell protectors and cancer-cell blockers come mostly from plants like brightly colored berries, legumes, dark greens (like kale), sweet potatoes, dark grapes (like the ones in wine), and a variety of other fruits and vegetables with deep color. Bonus: All of these are also packed with fiber.
Eat Lean and Plant-Based Protein
Most wellness docs and nutritionists say Americans consume too much protein. Remember that extra protein will not help you build more muscle or gain strength — what cannot be used for energy right away can be stored as fat. Check the USDA guidelines to see how much protein you need every day. And protein doesn’t need to be meat. Some of the best protein sources come from plants, such as legumes of all kinds, seeds, nuts, and whole grains. Also consider seafood like small-mouth, wild-caught fish and lean, protein-rich, animal-based proteins, such as eggs and Greek yogurt.
Choose Whole Grains
Whole grains have not been polished, stripped, or ground, so 100 percent of the original kernel (the bran, germ, and endosperm) is present. These are high in fiber and protein but are also nutrient-rich. Whole grains come in a variety of tastes and textures, including quinoa, wild rice, brown rice, oats, barley, cracked wheat, bulgur, and wheatberries.
Consume Magnesium-Rich Foods
Magnesium is a chemical element found in more than 300 different enzymes in your body. Turns out it’s a key player in removing toxins from your body — thereby helping you to prevent cell damage from dangerous environmental chemicals and heavy metals. Magnesium also plays a major role in reducing stress and managing weight. You’ll find it in dark leafy greens, nuts, seeds, fish, beans, avocados, and whole grains — and dark chocolate (especially the healthiest, good-for-you dark chocolate).
…and Calcium-Rich Foods
We always associate calcium with strong bones and teeth, and it does help prevent osteoporosis. Calcium also helps regulate muscle contractions and prevent heart disease and certain types of cancer. In addition to milk and yogurt, other foods rich in calcium include leafy greens (like kale and spinach), legumes, some fruits, and seafood (like sardines).
Eat Cruciferous Vegetables
Cruciferous vegetables have it all: fiber, phytochemicals, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Eat at least a cup a day of broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, kale, cabbage, or bok choy. They will enhance your liver’s ability to detox your body and help lower your risk of cancer, heart disease, and stroke.
Drink Healthy Beverages
Start with water, water, and more water. The Institute of Medicine’s general guidelines suggest 125 ounces (about 15 cups) for men and 91 ounces (about 11 cups) for women every day. If you like lemon water, limit it to mealtimes, because it can cause acid erosion of the enamel on your teeth. Drink tea and coffee in moderation, but cut back on fruit juices and milk — and totally cut out real or artificially sweetened beverages. Limit alcohol to one serving per day if you’re a woman, two if you’re a man.
Dr. Susan Maples is one of the top eight innovators in U.S. dentistry and is author of Blabber Mouth! 77 Secrets Only Your Mouth Can Tell You To Live a Healthier, Happier, Sexier Life. http://www.drsusanmaples.com/ and http://blabbermouthbooks.com/