Here is some information taken from my studies in nutritional medicine over the years..
1. Change the fats you consume – use unrefined oils like extra virgin olive oil (for dressing, steam-frying) or groundnut/ coconut oil (for stir-frying). never re-use old oil, keep out of the light and away from heat (decant into coloured glass bottles and store out of light). Use butter or olive oil spread rather than margarine (and don't be fooled by those ads claiming this new polyunsaturated, butter-like margarine is better for you). Absolute hogwash. Organic butter is a natural product full of Vitamin D and A - animals are grass fed and the nutrients get concentrated into the milk. Avoid anything with trans-fats in (sometimes disguised on labels as ‘hydrogenated’ vegetable oil). But you won't always know. Most processed food has it unless is specifically states otherwise.
2. Buy fresh (preferably organic) food in season – or grow your own. Find out where you nearest farm shop is or subscribe to one of the many vegetable box schemes which deliver. Many offer recipes on their website to help you use the vegetables you are unfamiliar with. Including one or two raw ingredients into your diet per day will make a huge difference e.g. raw carrot sticks with oatcakes and humous for a snack, seeds sprinkled onto your salad or soup. I make my own muesli now to avoid processed cereals (which are not health foods despite the advertising hype!). Use organic oats as the base.
3. Avoid poor quality processed ‘foodstuffs’ - anything with more than 5 ingredients. These are not foods they are chemical foodstuffs designed for long shelf life/palatability rather than human nutrition. Avoid cheap carbohydrates - (especially fizzy drinks) and anything with health claims. 'Low fat' products are often high in sugar which is stored as fat anyhow. Sugarfree drinks are full of nasty chemicals which actually make you fatter. Drink water, natural fruit juices (not too much) or juice your own vegetables.
4. Drink more water. Most of us are chronically dehydrated as we turn to sugary drinks, tea or coffee to quench our thirst. This causes more dehydration from the caffeine and will destroy our blood sugar control. Use filtered water to reduce the toxins (nitrates, organochlorines) in tapwater. It tastes nicer! Carry a water bottle around with you so you always have some to hand. Check your feet for a good indication of your levels of hydration - if the skin is dry and cracked it's a pretty good indicator.
5. Supplement - most people are deficient in vitamins and minerals as our food no longer contains them in sufficient amounts due to intensive farming. Most importantly Vitamin D3 which most people are deficient in (it is now known that it is a pre-hormone that is involved in a vast array of processes from immunity, cardiac and bone health and needed in higher amounts than previously thought). Also supplement omega-3 fatty acid EPA - modern diets are so imbalanced in this that even eating more fish might not be enough to redress the balance. A high dose purified fish oil with at least 500mg EPA is best. you will have probably heard the various stories in the press that supplements are a waste of time as they just go through your body and get flushed away - they do if you have enough already - but if you are deficient they are needed. I am not encouraging high levels of supplement-popping as a panacea for a deficient diet. Diet should come first. But please understand that certain vitamins and minerals are commonly deficient - the two highlighted here are the most common but also Magnesium (chronically low in women - causing PMT, restless leg syndrome, etc), iron and the trace minerals. That's why a good quality mult-vit helps redress the balance. But I am also of the opinion that we should use whole-food supplementation more than pills - things like Maca root, raw chocolate, chlorella, etc are storehouses of good things without the chemical fillers in pills.
6. Aim to cook/prepare at least one meal from raw ingredients every day (even if it’s only you own home prepared muesli!) Try and share meals with friends and family as it makes you more likely to enjoy the social aspect of eating and may encourage you to try new recipes. Sit down to eat and remember to chew properly – this really helps your digestion. I call it ‘conscious eating’. Shovelling down something infront of the TV is counterproductive. As is dieting.. Anything that encourages an unhealthy relationship to food (and restriction and reward is a common pattern for most of us) needs to be broken. Learning to cook, using more natural ingredients takes us out of the passive, processed food consumerist fantasy and into natural relation to the food that we eat.
7. Start Juicing - blending combinations of fruits and vegetables is an easy and nutritious way of enhancing your diet. With a blender you can consume far more vegetables than you would be able to physically eat and because they are already liquidised they are easily digested. My favourite combination is spinach and orange juice. You can't taste the spinach but you get all the benefit as Vitamin C aids Iron absorbtion. You can experiment with your own combinations or buy a book to encourage you. Juicers are also good though they reduce the fibre, but this may be good/bad depending on your digestive capabilities. The latest bullet-type juicers seem to combine the benefits of both.
8. Add superfoods to your diet. These are foods that have particularly powerful effects on the body. Examples are; garlic, ginger, broccoli, green tea, blueberries, turmeric, cinammon, raw cacao, chilli, seaweeds (tulse, etc), spirulina and barleygrass. Some of these are protective against cancer, others help balance hormones or blood sugar. You can buy them from health food shops or online and sprinkle them in your juices, cooking, and salads. Add cinnamon to your (natural, organic) coffee in the morning. you don't need to restrict to enhance your diet. It's all about adding better choices.
9. Combat stress. Ongoing chronic stress is the modern disease. We are not even aware how stressed we are till we take a break. This lowers the body's natural immunity (highly implicated in more serious diseases like cancer too). Learn mindfulness techniques or practice meditation - just 10 minutes a day devoted to something relaxing can make all the difference. Do something that you love that stops your incessant thinking. Deal with your emotional issues that lead to stress. See a therapist if you feel you need help. Mindfulness, Meditation, Hypnotherapy and EFT are all powerful tools which help us to understand and deal with our subconscious influences that cause us to have addictions (smoking, drinking,etc) and to live lives to less than our full potential. Contac me if you would like to know more.
10. Take responsibility for your own health. Learn everything you can about health and wellbeing – via books, the web and courses. Encourage your friends and family (especially children) to understand why it is important. Maintain your health actively with help from diet, exercise and therapies. Prevention is much more powerful than cure and is our responsibility. Begin now as I have done. Small changes have big results. Don't wait til you get ill to act!