The reigning theme of minimalism is the belief that less is more. Our culture has done a pretty good job of selling the idea of maximalism and that more is always better. This is why many who want to reframe their approach to this excessive lifestyle have transitioned to minimalism. While minimalism mainly focuses on “things” or “possessions” you can also extend this minimalist approach to your health and nutrition. Focusing on what the majority of your diet is comprised of and questioning how that is working out for you health-wise. I believe experimenting with a minimalist approach to your diet can improve the aging process, decrease the risk of chronic disease and improve quality of life. Here’s why.
What’s Wrong with the Traditional American Diet.
The typical American diet is not the ideal diet to follow when it comes to anti-aging and preventative health. Due to lack of time to properly create well-balanced meals, this has led to alternative options when it comes to eating meals. From fast food to restaurants, and pre-packaged foods. These options provide easy solutions for families and busy professionals on the go. They lack the nutrients that are needed for optimal health and body composition. These options contain high amounts of saturated fats, trans fats, excessive amounts of sodium, and high amounts of sugar. All in the effort to increase the flavor and desire to consume more of these types of foods.
This influx of processed foods has contributed to an increase in chronic health issues such as obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and chronic inflammation. Processed foods have also been linked to gut imbalance, cellular aging, and cancer. Yet, many still turn to these options when creating, and building their daily diets. Following a diet high in processed foods can prevent you from getting adequate servings of fruits, vegetables, fiber, and healthy fats. All which supply you with the antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and anti-inflammatory benefits you need to decrease the risk of chronic health and improve the aging process.
Let’s Talk Whole, Minimally Processed Food.
If you’re following the standard American diet making modifications can aid in decreasing your risk of developing chronic health conditions, that is commonly associated with a poor diet. Making key nutritional changes to your diet can improve the overall aging process, decrease cognitive decline, and improve some external aging factors. Increasing the number of whole minimally processed foods you consume can decrease your blood pressure, lower cholesterol, and decrease inflammation within the body. This is especially true when combined with a balanced exercise regimen.
So, what does it mean to follow a diet that is comprised of mostly whole, minimally processed foods? This dietary style contains a high number of foods that are as close to their natural state as possible. You seek to choose foods that contain minimal, or few ingredients and require more effort when it comes to preparing them. Basically, you want to make sure you consume the recommended amount of fruits, vegetables, quality grains, healthy fats, and lean protein. The goal is to decrease the number of processed, packaged foods and fast food that you consume on a regular basis.
Foods to Decrease.
To improve your health you should examine the number of processed foods you consume. There is no need to “demonize” all processed foods. You also don’t have to over-restrict yourself and eliminate processed foods altogether. The key is finding a healthy balance where these types of foods do not make up the majority of your diet. Knowing what types of processed foods you can have in moderation and what types you should limit to special occasions.
Having a sugar-laden cupcake every single day would not be ideal nutrition wise. This is especially true if you are concerned with maintaining your health and well-being throughout the aging process. Consuming cupcakes regularly would put you over your daily sugar limit as well as increase the number of refined carbs you’re getting. Finding healthier alternatives is better in the long run when it comes to your health. Let’s talk about some of the biggest offenders when it comes to unhealthy ingredients in processed foods.
Partially Hydrogenated Fats
Partially hydrogenated fats are fats that have undergone a process that transforms them from a liquid to a solid. This process was essential to increase the shelf life and stability of processed foods. These fats were known as trans fatty acids. They were linked to many chronic health issues such as high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, and obesity.
In 2015, the FDA declared a ban on the use of trans fats due to scientific data that linked trans fats to increased instances of heart disease and high cholesterol. As of June 18, 2018 food makers have removed traditional hydrogenated fat options for alternatives such as palm oil. While trans fats are banned there are foods that may still contain small amounts of trans fats. Especially foods that contain partially hydrogenated oils listed as one of their ingredients. When a food company has 0.5 grams or less of trans fats they are allowed to list that they contain 0g of trans fats on the food label. So, it’always a good idea to take a peek at the ingredient list as well as the nutrition label.
Popular alternatives for artificial trans fats include oils such as coconut oil, palm oil, and palm kernel oil. These oils are high in saturated fat which can also cause a spike in your cholesterol levels. Decrease how much of these foods that contain these ingredients or eliminate them altogether.
Refined Carbs & Added Sugar
When it comes to refined carbs and added sugar these two ingredients pose considerable health risks as well as aging-related complications. Consuming high amounts of products that contain these ingredients on a regular basis can contribute to chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and high blood pressure. They also affect the health and integrity of the skin during the aging process. Thus causing, the appearance of wrinkles and sagging skin due to the rapid breakdown of collagen and elastin.
You can decrease foods that contain these ingredients by cutting back or eliminating foods that have added sugar or use refined carbs. You can find these ingredients in breakfast cereals, yogurt, granola bars, sodas, condiments, and pastries. Check labels and choosing products that contain 4 grams of sugar or less. You may find that some products will advertise that they have no added sugar, be cautious of this and check the ingredients. Become aware of added sugar in processed and packaged foods. You may discover that ingredients such as honey, agave, sucrose, sucralose, fructose, high fructose corn syrup, and brown sugar are hiding on the labels of your food items.
Foods to Increase.
Now that you have a better idea of what foods to decrease from your diet, let’s talk about what foods you should increase. Finding healthier alternatives and replacements that provide nutritional value and support healthy aging should be the priority. Make colorful fruits and vegetables the bulk of your diet while making sure to include a healthy amount of whole grains, beans, and legumes. This will encourage your body to perform and function at it’s best.
Antioxidant-Rich Fruits & Veggies
Foods that are rich in antioxidants provide protection from cellular damage. Free radicals are molecules that we come in contact with from smoking, pollution in the environment, overconsumption of alcohol and consuming a diet that is high in fried, fatty foods. Free radicals play a major role in the aging process since they damage and impair cells within the body. This leads to oxidative stress and can cause aging-related changes to appearance, and chronic inflammation.
Antioxidants have the ability to decrease the damage that free radicals have on the body. Consuming foods that are high in antioxidants can help to decrease oxidative stress within the body. Examples of antioxidant-rich foods are strawberries, blueberries, spinach, oranges, tomatoes, kale, spinach, plums, grapefruits, goji berries, and broccoli.
Whole grain foods contain essential nutrients that are beneficial for anti-aging nutrition. Nutrients such as fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. This food group is heart healthy and can decrease the risk of high blood pressure and heart disease. They can also decrease the risk of type 2 diabetes. The fiber found in whole grain also helps to improve digestion and can help decrease inflammation within the body. Examples of whole grain foods are oatmeal, quinoa, brown rice, buckwheat, whole rye, barley, and sorghum.
A diet rich in saturated fats and trans fats is not beneficial for healthy aging. You should aim for a diet rich in healthy fats. This can aid in improving cognitive function, and decrease inflammation within the body. Omega-3 fatty acids are healthy fats that decrease inflammation, improve cardiovascular health, and increase brain function. Foods that are rich in healthy fats are avocados, salmon, tuna, extra virgin olive oil, flaxseeds, and walnuts. A well-balanced diet means consuming a moderate amount of saturated fat. Healthy forms of saturated fat are coconut oil, butter, ghee, and MCT oil.
Beans & Legumes
This is an important plant protein that contains beneficial amounts of fiber, b-vitamins, iron, and other minerals. They are helpful in improving digestion for those with a sluggish digestive system. They are also beneficial in aiding to decrease high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease. For those that want to focus on more plant-based diet beans and legumes are a great alternative to meat. Black beans, blackeyed peas, lima beans, lentils, soybeans, chickpeas, and kidney beans are examples of beans and legumes.
Choosing What Diet is Best for You.
The main priority you should focus on when building and creating your healthy diet is the quality of the food that you’re consuming. This usually increases the more that you implement whole, and minimally processed sources of food into your healthy diet. Take the time to evaluate what you are eating. You should look for opportunities where you can be a little bit better than yesterday. This can be as simple as swapping sodas for sparkling water or replacing instant oatmeal with rolled oats. Eating plain yogurt that you sweeten with honey. Opt to include more high protein meatless meals. Create balanced meals full of colorful fruits and vegetables such as a Buddha bowl.
Also, set aside time to plan out your meals in advance. Your week should contain well-balanced meals and snacks. This gives you the chance to find alternative recipes to some of your favorite dishes. Keeping in mind that there is no one diet that is superior to any other diet. Diets come and go. Sticking with the basics and minimizing the number of processed foods you consume is a healthy principle. This can be shared across any particular dietary style or eating philosophy.
About the Author
Hi, my name is Kathleen but you can call me Kat. I am an Esthetician, Lifestyle Wellness Coach, and Content Creator. My intention is to provide you with education and awareness about women’s health, nutrition, fitness, beauty, wellness, and lifestyle. I primarily help women that are seeking holistic and natural solutions to health, wellness, and anti-aging concerns. I offer coaching programs and courses that are designed to help you redefine your health and defy aging. You can find my content on a variety of social media platforms such as YouTube, Facebook, and Instagram. If you take the opportunity to visit me on my other platforms don’t hesitate to leave a message, I would love to hear from you!