Humans are sadly not the rational creatures of self interest many would like to be. In fact lots of us show an alarming tendency to stick to our old patterns of behaviour or revert to them when our willpower fails. However, humans can be sneaky, try slipping some of these tricks past your routine and see if you can make them stick.
1. Go organic.
A recent analysis led by Newcastle University on the Nutritional Composition of Organic Crop Foods showed strong peer-reviewed evidence that organic foods contain more nutrition, less cadmium (a toxic heavy metal) and fewer pesticides than non-organic. If we were all to switch to consuming organic foods there would be anything from a 20% increase in people's antioxidant function to up to a 70% increase. This is all organic foods, not just crops, but includes wine, baby food, juices and other organic goods.
A diet rich in antioxidants has been shown to protect against chronic diseases. In fact, the additional antioxidants have been estimated to be the equivalent of adding one or 2 more portions of fruit and veg to your diet daily.
Real Foods are certified by the Soil Association, who have strict standards covering all aspects of organic food certification including production and packaging, wildlife conservation and banning unnecessary and harmful food additives in organic processed foods.
So if you're barely managing your five-a-day, don't panic, switch to organic and make those portions really count! Find fresh fruit and vegetables here.
2. Eat oats.
Studies have shown that oats can lower total and LDL cholesterol levels from their high beta-glucan content. LDL is low-density lipoprotein or ‘bad’ cholesterol. Oats can also help people lose weight from their waist or midsection. Carrying fat there (known as visceral fat) is worse for your health than carrying fat in other areas (usually subcutaneous fat).
Oats are high in both soluble and insoluble fibre helping to promote a healthy digestive system and lower cholesterol. In addition they are rich in potassium, have a fair bit of protein and provide a slow delivery of carbohydrates to your system. They also contain useful amounts of B vitamins helping to boost your immunity and vital for a healthy nervous system. For information on the different types of oats, how to use them and their nutrition, have a look at our article on oats here.
Porridge can be made with dairy milk, water, nut milks or other non-dairy alternatives. Some folk use crème fraiche or yoghurts. Traditionally it’s served with salt, but many people sweeten with honey, agave or alternative sweeteners. Fruit, both fresh and dried is popular as are nuts or seeds. Go tropical with coconut yoghurt and chunks of mango and pineapple, try slices of apple with cinnamon or banana, cacao nibs and a drizzle of agave. Get your oats! Find all our oats and oatmeal here.
3. Step up your seed consumption.
Seeds are powerhouses of nutrition. They’re tiny but they pack a punch of minerals, vitamins and enzymes. Some of the most amazing include Chia ( they contain calcium, omega 3s and high levels of fibre), Hemp (packed with digestible protein, omegas 3 and 6, vitamin E, B vitamins and folic acid), and Linseed (rich in fibre and omega 3 fatty acids).
Buy our premixed omega seed mix for ease or make your own super seed mix. Mix your favourites (try pumpkin, sunflower, amaranth or sesame seeds) and then sprinkle over pretty much everything! Try them on porridge, yoghurts and baked goods, add crunch and interest to salads and sandwiches or try making your own seeded flapjacks. Or try one of the raw or organic seed spreads we have here.
Adding seeds to your diet is simple, tasty and very, very good for your health! Our seeds can be found here.
4. It’s not just what you eat, it’s HOW you eat.
There are loads of studies showing eating a good breakfast is a good idea. It keeps your cravings lower and helps to let you make more sensible food choices through the day. A healthy breakfast can also help get your energy levels up and kickstart your metabolism, at the beginning of the day (which is when most people need energy!)
There’s also good evidence to suggest that taking your time with food means you eat less and are more satisfied. Savouring your food and enjoying flavours and textures means that you get more out of your food and won’t end up mindlessly over-eating in front of the telly. Sharing food with others at mealtimes has positive social and emotional benefits and helps younger folk model healthy eating habits.
Think about what food you love, what recipes you enjoy making, what people you appreciate eating with. Slowing down and truly appreciating the bounty you are about to consume, helps you make healthier choices, but it also helps you enjoy them!
5. Gut Health
Fermented foods and probiotics can help feed the millions of bacteria you need to properly process and digest your foods. Fermented foods are foods that have been through a process of lactofermentation in which natural bacteria feed on the sugar and starch in the food creating lactic acid. This process preserves the food, and creates beneficial enzymes, b-vitamins, Omega-3 fatty acids, and various strains of probiotics. Try eating fermented foods like kimchi, kombucha, kefir or sauerkraut. If you're in Edinburgh pop into our stores and check out the fridge section to find the kimchi starter cultures and you can make your own at home. Try pickling cabbage or ginger at home or make your own yoghurt with this yoghurt maker.
Or try taking a decent multi species probiotic. All of our digestive aids can be found here. Probiotics can be found here in our webshop.
This is especially important if you have digestive troubles or have recently had a course of antibiotics or severe illness as these tend to clear out all the healthy bacteria.
If you’re craving a specific flavour or taste. Go for the biggest hit of it. It’s much more likely to leave you satisfied and often means you eat less of it. For example if you love salty snacks, try adding an intensely flavoured crushed sea salt to a ripe tomato and get the hit you actually crave. Or try seeking out alternatives that will satisfy you as much. Try sprinkling Wild Seaweed Seasoning as an alternative to salt. For sugar alternatives, we've got a great range of stevia, erythritol and xylitol alternatives available here, or try agave or brown rice syrups or coconut nectar to keep your sweet tooth satisfied.
We've a brilliant range of raw snacks, excellent for nutrition and taste, and keeping a few flavoursome snacks handy often means you won't resort to dodgy food on-the-go. Carry fresh fruit, dried mixes or raw snackbars to keep you happy and healthy. These activated almonds are coated in wasabi to give a true umami sense sensation.
Have a look around our Raw Shop here, and get some highly flavoured but still nutritious choices.
7. Drink more water
The human body is composed of about 60% water. Drinking water helps maintain the balance of your bodily fluids, energise your muscles, helps your kidneys, aids in the maintenance of normal bowel function and keeps your skin looking good.
The European Food Safety Authority recommends that men should drink about 2 litres of fluid a day and women should drink roughly 1.6 litres. That's about eight 200ml glasses for a woman and ten 200ml glasses for a man. Obviously that amount increases if you are exercising a lot or out in hot sun.
If you are getting headaches, lacking in energy and feeling light-headed you may well be dehydrated. In particular if you’re active, sporty or older (our thirst receptors don’t shout at us as much as we age, meaning although you don’t feel thirsty, you actually are.)
Tap water is fine for drinking; although that’s easy for us to say as we’re in Scotland, home of some of the best water in the world. If you’re not so lucky, try one of these. Add slices of lemon or lime for a little zing, or try squishing a few berries in the water to give it a lift. Hot water with a slice of lemon is a popular cleansing drink in the morning.
Coconut water is also an amazing re-hydrator, if you’re exercising try it as your post-workout drink and reap the benefits of all those electrolytes being replenished, without added sugars.
By Kim Betney