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5 healthy-eating buzzwords explained

The nation’s fascination with health and food is on the rise – and so is the amount of new information and fad diets, with conflicting opinions emerging every day.

In such a saturated sector, it’s little wonder that healthy eating has developed into a confusing minefield of jargon.

To give you some guidance, we worked with health coach and author Lawrence Mitchell to dispel some of the myths and provide factual information about how important some popular healthy-eating buzzwords can be for you.

Healthy eating: 5 buzzwords explained

Whole foods

One of the most frequent forms of advice surrounding clean and healthy eating is to eat ‘whole foods’, also commonly referred to as ‘clean foods’. Knowing exactly which foods fit into this category remains a mystery to most. Lawrence explains, “Whole foods are those which haven’t been highly processed with added chemicals and unrecognisable ingredients. They contain all of the vitamins and nutrients that your brain and body need to function.”

Looking to introduce some whole foods into your diet? You’re probably already doing so. Foods including eggs, vegetables, fruit, fish, nuts and pulses are all classic examples of the unadulterated goodness.

Superfood

With copious amounts of advice and references to so-called superfoods, it’s no wonder you could be feeling a little baffled. So let’s get to grips with what superfood really is. “Superfoods are vegetables and fruits that nature has provided,” Lawrence says.

“They’re packed full of macro nutrients that feed and fuel all of the cells in your body.” Now, what are examples of these hero foods, and what can we eat to get more of them?

“There are so many to choose from but, as a tip, try to include dark, leafy greens such as kale, collards, spinach, rocket or mustard greens on a daily basis. Also, try including sea vegetables in your diet – ingredients such as seaweed are packed with minerals that are difficult to obtain elsewhere in the diet.”

Healthy eating: 5 buzzwords explained

Antioxidants

You may be questioning the significance of adding antioxidants to your diet to maintain good health. Let us explain further.

Antioxidants help our bodies fight against bacteria, while also neutralising and protecting us from free radicals – a term given to unstable oxygen molecules that damage healthy cells and our DNA, causing diseases. Although the human body produces its own antioxidants, it simply doesn’t produce enough to remain stable and healthy.

You can boost your body’s defence by increasing your daily consumption of antioxidant-rich foods into your diets, which can be found in fruit and vegetables. Walnuts, strawberries, prunes and kidney beans are some examples that you can include in your daily diet. Why not opt to snack on some fruit or vegetables as a healthy alternative to a packet of crisps?

Healthy eating: 5 buzzwords explained

Fermented foods

Lawrence and many other health food specialists alike find themselves fighting the corner of fermented foods, wanting people to understand the importance of good bacteria. Having a mixture of helpful and harmful bacteria in our gut, it is important that we have the right balance of each to remain healthy – as when the ratio is skewed the wrong way, our health can seriously suffer. Luckily, fermented foods – which contain probiotics with ‘good’ live bacteria – can help to maintain a healthy balance.

“Feeding your gut with beneficial micro-organisms is an important habit to develop and there’s plenty you can do to encourage their growth,” says Lawrence. By introducing foods filled with probiotics to your diet, you’ll be doing more to sustain healthy insides and improve your overall well-being. Lawrence suggests fermented foods such as sauerkraut, kombucha tea or kefir (a fermented milk drink popular in Russia). If these are a little too exotic for your shopping list, start with adding pickled radish in your next salad or try snacking on pickled cucumbers.

Macro nutrients

Although you may already be familiar with the term ‘macro nutrient’, it’s still not widely understood. In short, macro nutrients are the three main food groups that give your body the calories it converts to energy.

Your body can flourish by eating adequate amounts of fat, carbohydrates and protein – if eaten in the right ratios. Macro nutrients are essential for processes such as growth and metabolism. But what volume should be consumed?

Lawrence says: “There isn’t a simple answer to this question as we are all very different, with different lifestyles, body shapes, ages and genetic blueprints. However, as a guideline, the Food and Nutrition Board (a subgroup of the Institute of Medicine) recommends that your daily calorie intake is made up from 45-65% healthy carbohydrates, 20-30% calories from fat and 10-35% from protein.”

And which foods contain these macro nutrients?

“Healthy carbohydrates include vegetables and whole grains such as brown rice, quinoa and millet, and healthy sources of protein include fish, as well as eggs. All fat is not equal, but there are sources of good fats such as oily fish like salmon, mackerel, herring, sardines and anchovies that can make up your recommended intake in a healthy way.”

Now that you’re armed with an understanding of commonly used health food terms, healthy eating articles should be easier to digest – and that long awaited health kick may come with ease…

Five ways to make eating better a little easier

Shop healthy to eat healthy – Keeping comfort foods out of your cupboards in the first place is half the battle to avoiding eating them.

Brighten your plate with colours – Look for bright reds (such as tomatoes and peppers), dark greens (green beans and kale) and deep blues (blueberries) for benefits that include help in protecting against cancer and heart disease.

Make your main meal half veg – Make sure vegetables or salad account for half your plate.

Switch ingredients smartly – Go easy on the mayonnaise – try avocado as a substitute; swap ketchup for natural herbs and spices; try almond milk instead of cow's milk.

Be realistic – Taking small steps and setting realistic goals will help build and maintain momentum for the long haul.

We hope you’ve found this article useful. At M&S Bank, we want to help you #Make2017Count. Why not have a look at our other articles? And don’t forget to share your plans for 2017 with us on Twitter and Facebook and make it your best year yet.

First published 05/01/2016, updated 05/01/2017