Eating clean doesn’t have to be complicated. These simple tweaks to your food habits will make a big difference to your well-being.
BUY SMALLER VEGETABLES
We tend to buy the biggest looking produce but, according to US group The Organic Center, smaller produce contains higher levels of nutrients. Other studies have found the more a tomato weighs the lower its concentration of the antioxidant lycopene, while larger broccoli heads have a lower proportion of minerals like magnesium.
CUT YOUR SNACKS IN HALF
According to Professor Brian Wansink and a team at the US’s Cornell University, most of us are satisfied by about half (or less) the size of the snack portions we actually serve ourselves. So the next time you’re giving in to a 3 pm sugar craving, try cutting the item in two, or even four, eating one serving, then putting the rest out of sight. Wait 15 minutes and chances are you’ll be happy and won’t register that you didn’t eat it all. “All you’ll remember is that you had a tasty snack,” says Professor Wansink.
FOCUS ON FULLNESS, NOT CALORIES
When Dr Sean Lucan from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York gave a group of volunteers potato chips and another group cheese, he found the cheese group consumed less food and calories than the chips group because they found the food more satisfying. “The calories in any individual item is not what matters – what matters is how many calories people consume overall. And some foods promote a sense of fullness, reducing this, while others promote hunger and food cravings,” Dr Lucan says. He suggests adding more nuts, avocados and full-fat dairy and avoiding refined starches like white rice, white bread or low-fat foods with added sugars.
DELAY YOUR FIRST COFFEE
It might be the first thing you reach for in the morning, but Steven Miler from the Uniformed Services University of the Healthy Sciences in the US says this can increase the amount you need to drink to get that morning java jolt. The reason is that levels of the alertness hormone costisol are high between 8 am and 9 am and, according to Steven, drinking coffee when cortisol is at its highest counteracts some of the effects, meaning you need a larger dose to get results. “One key principle of pharmacology is to use a drug when it’s needed – otherwise we can develop tolerance to the dose administered,” adds Steven. So the best time to enjoy a cup is between 9.30 am and 11.30 am, when your cortisol levels are lowered.
ADD WATER WHEN YOU FRY
Everyone knows that water and oil don’t mix, but the exception should be when stir-frying. This technique often used in Chinese cooking helps slightly lower the oil temperature in the pan. “And this reduces the oxidative damage that occurs to oil if you fry at high temperatures,” says Dr Laurence Booth, who co-authored Know What to Eat with Professor Rodney Bilton. This is important as when oil is damaged it changes structure in ways that may be harmful to our DNA .
Every day we throw away parts of fruits and vegetables that have added benefits – just because they aren’t the parts we normally eat. “Take broccoli – the florets might look more appealing but the stalks contain more calcium and vitamin C,” says Brisbane-based nutritionist Casey-Lee Lyons. “Simply remove any tough outer edges and thinly slice the stalks to cook – you can add them to stir-fries, fried rice and soups – or try them raw and shredded in salads.” You can also eat broccoli leaves. Other items to consider are kiwi fruit skins (high in antioxidants and good in juices), the white pith on citrus fruit, and the watery part of yoghurt (stir it in to boost the protein content) and chicken bones (boil these with vegetables, then strain, to make a calcium-packed broth).
REHEAT YOUR PASTA
According to Dr Denise Robertson from the UK’s University of Surrey, eating pasta that’s been cooked, cooled and then reheated decreases the rise in blood sugar, and therefore insulin, that occurs when you eat high levels of carbohydrates, by more than 50 per cent. Controlling this more successfully lowers the risk of insulin resistance, a condition linked to weight gain and type 2 diabetes. The reason is that cooking then cooling food increases its levels of a substance called resistant starch – and resistant starch slows down the way we digest food.
ONLY EVER EAT DESSERT WITH A TEASPOON
“Research published in the journal Flavour showed that using a teaspoon or parfait spoon actually increases the perception of sweetness in a food – possibly because we associate them with dispensing sugar into things like tea,” says dietician Trudy Williams. “Eat with a teaspoon and either add less sugar to a recipe or be satisfied with a smaller portion.” Conversely though, she recommends not tasting savoury dishes with a small spoon while cooking.
The distorted sweetness perception can make you think you need more salt. Use a fork or larger spoon like a tablespoon instead.
NEVER MASH POTATO
Anything you do to a carbohydraterich food, like mashing, grinding, or pressing into flakes, alters the structure in ways that releases sugar into the bloodstream at a faster rate. “25 per cent more sugar is released from a potato that’s boiled and then mashed compared to one made into chips,” says Dr Booth. For the same reason, avoid breakfast flakes or finelymilled versions of foods like porridge.
ADD SOME CHILLI
If you have a fondness for spicy foods, relax, it’s doing you good. Eating chili just once or twice weekly can reduce your risk of premature death by 10 per cent, compared to eating it less than once a week, a recent study shows. Add fresh chili, dried chili flakes, chili oil or sauce to your food and it may lower your risk of cancer, cardiovascular diseases and being overweight. To increase the benefits, skip the alcoholic beverage with your spicy meal. W
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