Even with your best intentions, it is incredibly easy for refined sugar, bad fats, and processed grains to takeover your diet. These foods are hidden in most food from the grocery store and are major energy thieves that leave you feeling like a zombie. But this does not have to be the case IF you are armed with whole food swaps that are nutrient dense and yes, full of flavour.
1. Swap margarine for organic butter or coconut oil
Margarine has hydrogenated trans fats, hexane, bleach, and synthetic nutrients. There are very few “foods” I suggest you never eat but margarine is one of them. This is a man-manipulated substance that should not enter your precious body.
A theory was proposed in 1955 (with a study that followed in 1970) that saturated fat and cholesterol are to blame for heart disease. This made us fear butter and essentially all fat while turning to margarine. However many studies have subsequently failed to back this theory up. Other studies1,2 have shown that healthy sources of saturated fats are anti-inflammatory and may even help cholesterol numbers.
It’s important to choose organic butter over conventional butter to avoid concentrated toxins. Organic butter is grassfed when grass is available and fed non-GMO, organic grain when grass is unavailable in the winter. Grassfed butter is rich in vitamins A, D, E, and K2, lecithin (metabolizes cholesterol), iodine, selenium, and other antioxidants.
You may also use coconut oil as a nourishing saturated fat. Like butter, it has a high smoke point so it can tolerate high temperatures without damaging the integrity of the fat or your cells. Use coconut oil anywhere you would use butter.
2. Swap table salt for sea salt or pink salt
Now that you know to stop fearing fat and butter, I want you to stop fearing salt as well. Our bodies need salt, just not as much as you get from processed foods. The recommended intake of salt is 2300mg but the average Canadian consumes 3400mg. But the main takeaway is not only to decrease intake but switch sources.
Table salt is highly refined leaving sodium chloride as the only mineral and usually synthetic iodine is added along with some anticaking agents. Pink salt or Himalayan salt contains all 84 trace minerals including natural forms of iodine.
Himalayan or Pink Salt:
- Regulates proper water balance
- Promotes pH balance
- Helps you absorb nutrients more effectively
- Promotes bone strength
Sea Salt or Celtic Salt is grayish in colour and comparable to pink salt:
- Also helps alkalize the body
- Prevents muscle cramps
- Promotes good sleep
- Helps to balance blood sugars
3. Swap store bought salad dressing for homemade versions
Store bought contains vegetable oils, sugar, preservatives as well as artificial colours, flavours and sweeteners. This chemical concoction is not doing you any favours no matter how many greens your drench it in.
This is one of the swaps I include in my 5 “Healthy” Foods To Ditch Immediately guide because I really want you to know about deceptive swaps. These are the kind of foods that are eaten with good intentions – salad is healthy because it’s vegetables (true) but dressing is unhealthy because it’s fat (false) so I’ll take it on the side because a small amount isn’t unhealthy (somewhat true).
The salad dressing with your salad is unhealthy because of the chemical ingredients listed previously and not because it is a fat. And consuming a small amount of chemicals may not be considered unhealthy but I’ll let you decide how many chemicals you deem safe for your own body.
When you use quality ingredients and quality sources of fat, like when you make it yourself, you have free reign to drench your salad in that dressing if you’d like. Fat nourishes your brain and every cell in your body. It may seem like a chore to make your own dressing but I promise you it is so easy to make yourself. Try these varieties, toss all ingredients in a jar and shake. Store in your fridge.
- Extra-virgin olive oil (EVOO) and balsamic vinegar
- EVOO, apple cider vinegar (ACV), lemon, garlic
- Add herbs, spices, pink salt, pepper, Dijon, maple syrup
4. Swap white sugar for coconut sugar or xylitol
White sugar should go by the name “nutrient robber” because it offers no nutrition and steals vitamins and minerals from you just to digest it. How rude! But I know you (because you’re just like me) and you need a little sweetness in your life.
Coconut sugar also goes by the name coconut palm sugar but is not palm sugar, which is a different plant. Coconut Sugar contains minerals and a bit of fiber. Coconut sugar is similar in taste to brown sugar but with a much lower Glycemic Index level so it won’t send your energy crashing later.
Along with coconut sugar, xylitol is low on the Glycemic Index so it won’t cause a blood sugar spike. Xylitol sounds artificial but it is a natural sugar alcohol that’s an excellent choice for diabetics and anyone with blood sugar instability, which is extremely common.
Make sure your xylitol is hardwood derived so as to avoid corn (where it is commonly sourced) as corn is almost always genetically modified. Also corn is a common hidden food sensitivity.
Overall these are better sweetener choices but it is easy to think that because they are natural you can go buckwild and have them every single day. I suggest you use them sparingly as a treat since they are still sugar. Look to fruit for your daily sweet fix.
*Note: dogs cannot digest xylitol so please keep it away from your furry friend as it is potentially life threatening to them.
4. Swap vegetable oils for fruit oils
Vegetable oils give the vibe that they are healthy purely because they include the word vegetable, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. These oils are heavily refined and often genetically modified, which makes them incredibly inflammatory taxing the body’s normal functionality.
Vegetable oils are unstable and especially damaging to your health when heated. Hydrogenated oils are the food industry’s answer to prolonging shelf life and putting more money in their pockets but you now know wiser with the saturated fat options of coconut oil and grassfed butter.
Swap these vegetable oils – soybean, canola, sunflower, corn, cottonseed, rapeseed, safflower, grapeseed for these fruit oils – avocado or olive oil. Yes, avocadoes and olives are fruits! These fruit oils are a much wiser choice because they are anti-inflammatory and support the health of your brain, heart and cells thanks to their rich content of monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs). The Flat Belly Diet popularized MUFAs and while they can support healthy weight loss, I am more interested in the fact they can reduce the risk for certain cancers3 and cardiovascular disease.4
Avocado oil can be used cold or hot as it has a high smoke point, while it is best to save EVOO for cold uses such as salad dressings because of its lower smoke point.
EVOO is rich in polyphenols: a plant-based molecule that has antioxidant properties where flavonoids are one of the four groups of polyphenols. They have an anti-inflammatory effect, reducing rates of digestive tract cancers and can even inhibit the growth of H. pylori which is the bacterium that causes stomach ulcers
I have shared with you the simplest swaps that will have the biggest positive impact on your health. They are not drastic changes requiring entirely different meal plans or recipes. Focus on adding these foods on and catch yourself making it through your afternoon without that dreaded energy slump. Which swap will you start with?