The Ideal Food Plan
We’re delighted to share with you a healthy eating food plan developed by doctors at the Breakspear Medical Centre. It’s aptly named The Ideal Food Plan.
If you look in the health section of any good bookshop or online magazine, you will find no shortage of information which propose “the ideal food plan for life”. With such a plethora of opinions reportedly portraying the ideal diet, it’s no wonder that we might feel a little confused. We all know the basic principles of healthy eating in order to achieve optimum health through proper nutrition, but what if we want to up our focus and concentrate on our diets more closely during these times when health is at the forefront of many more of our choices?
The Ideal Food Plan for Life is a clear, easy to follow set of guidance developed by medics when treating a wide range of health issues.
The basic principles of the food plan are:
- Eat plain fresh food only, organic where possible, and locally sourced if feasible.
- Avoid all flavourings, colourings and additives.
- Avoid processed foods such as white flour and preserved, tinned, smoked, salted or pickled foods.
- Eat as varied a diet as possible.
- Avoid alcohol except for red wine in moderation. Red wine is known to have antioxidant properties.
- Drink green, white and black tea, all of which contain antioxidants, which are beneficial to health.
- Consume minimal amounts of coffee and avoid caffeinated soft drinks.
- Drink filtered or glass bottled water.
- Avoid instant drinks including hot chocolate and malt drinks, as these generally contain considerable amounts of added sugar.
- Use xylitol or Stevia as sweeteners, but only sparingly.
- Xylitol looks and tastes like sugar but has fewer calories and doesn’t raise blood sugar levels.
- Stevia is a plant based nonnutritive sweetener, meaning that it has almost no calories.
- Avoid smoking.
Is organic food more healthy than non-organic?
The organic food market is the fastest growing industry in the UK, partly because people are willing to pay more for foods that they believe to be healthier and more nutritious. Although little research has been published comparing the quality of organic versus conventionally grown food, an article published in the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry in 2007 reported on a 10-year study (1994-2004) of two different flavonoid compounds, quercetin and kaempferol, in tomatoes.
Quercetin is an antioxidant linked with inhibiting production and release of histamine and other allergic/inflammatory mediators. The study found that the levels of quercetin in organic tomatoes were 79% higher than those in conventionally grown tomatoes.
Kaempferol has been associated with reduced risk of heart disease. The study found the levels of kaempferol in organic tomatoes were 97% higher than in conventionally grown ones. Nutritional variations aside, eating organic food should significantly reduce one’s exposure to pesticides. If you were to swap one thing in your food basket, this would be a good one to start with.
A study published in Holland in 2019 by its food watchdog NVWA, found that almost one in five samples of fruit and vegetables tested showed remnants of hormone disrupting chemicals. The research found that half of nectarines, grapes and peaches imported from Spain contained the harmful chemicals.
Over 3000 vegetable and grain samples were also analysed with 21% affected. Similar levels were found in Dutch grown food, although the main culprits were food imported from outside the EU, the highest being food from the Dominion Republic.
So, it looks like organically grown fruit and vegetables broadly might not be much healthier than food produced using pesticides, but the evidence about the impact of chemicals entering our bodies via the food chain in growing. You can read more in our section about endocrine disrupting chemicals.
What are the real benefits of eating more fruit and vegetables?
There is much debate over the amount of fruit and vegetables one should eat each day. According to an article published in The Times in 2005, the “five-a-day” slogan originated in 1991 in a promotional campaign run by the fruit and vegetable producers and the Health Department in California.
In spite of this recommendation, which incidentally was not scientifically derived, the average intake of fruit and vegetables in Britain is a meagre 2.7 servings per day. The target in Denmark and Germany is 7.5 servings per day. The World Cancer Research Fund recommends 10 servings per day.
Five servings of fruit and vegetables per day should be considered the minimum and variety is equally important. Plants contain phytochemicals (plant- or fruit-derived chemical compounds), which perform numerous functions within the body and are important for health. The food plan specifically suggests including foods from each of these categories:
- white/yellow: onion, garlic, cauliflower
- orange/red: pepper, tomato, carrot, apricot, mango, sweet potato
- purple: aubergine, dark grapes, red cabbage, berries, plums
- green: spinach, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, kale, watercress, parsley
Is there a right type of carbohydrate to eat?
Carbohydrates form a large food group, which is composed of many different classes of compounds. Although carbohydrates are best known for providing the body with its main source of energy, they also perform numerous other vital functions.
Carbohydrates have traditionally been classified as ‘simple’ and ‘complex’. However, this definition fails to take into account the ‘intermediate’ carbohydrates, such as fructooligosaccharides (FOS), which are ‘prebiotic’ carbohydrates.
Prebiotic carbohydrates avoid being digested in the upper part of the intestinal tract and arrive in the large intestine where they are used by beneficial bacteria as a food source. Prebiotics are found in foods such as onion, garlic, Jerusalem artichoke and asparagus.
When carbohydrates are refined, such as when whole corn is processed to make high-fructose corn syrup (present in numerous soft drinks), many vitamins, minerals and fibres are lost. Other examples of refined carbohydrates are table sugar, cakes, biscuits and white flour.
Consuming refined carbohydrates generally has adverse effects on the body, and is linked to Type II diabetes. For this reason, most healthcare practitioners recommend eating foods which have not been refined or that have been minimally processed. Other carbohydrates may be used in the body as glyconutrients and include arabinose, mannose and the glyconutrients from mushrooms, which can be valuable.
Breakspear ‘Ideal food plan for life’
The ideal food plan for life is one in which refined carbohydrates are kept to an absolute minimum.
Research is accumulating which links the consumption of refined carbohydrates to obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease. The increasing rates of obesity are contributing to the frequency of Type II diabetes in adults, young people and children. While in Type I diabetes the body produces little or no insulin, in Type II diabetes the body does not make enough insulin, or cannot use insulin properly, which is called insulin resistance.
A simple explanation of how carbohydrates are metabolised starts with a carbohydrate meal.
As the carbohydrates are eaten, the body’s blood glucose (sugar) levels rise. The pancreas (a gland behind the stomach) then secretes insulin, which moves glucose out of the blood and into muscle and fat cells, where it is either broken down to produce energy or stored.
Insulin levels should be kept as stable as possible throughout the day. This is accomplished through the consumption of fibre-rich, fresh fruit and vegetables and unprocessed whole grains combined with some fat and protein at each meal. An example for breakfast could be cooked steel cut/pinhead oats (not instant oats), 1 chopped apple or banana or a handful of berries, milk of choice (e.g. rice, soya or cow’s), 2 tablespoons of pumpkin and/or sunflower seeds and a sprinkled 1⁄2 teaspoon of cinnamon.
The role of fats and proteins in a healthy diet
Fats should primarily be composed of polyunsaturated (e.g. fish, flax, hemp) and monounsaturated (e.g. olive and rapeseed oil, avocado), with saturated fat being kept to a minimum. This does not mean that saturated fat should be eliminated from the diet, as this type of fat plays important physiological roles within the body, one of which is to stabilise the outer membrane of all cells.
However, most people’s diets are already high in saturated fat through the consumption of red meat and full fat dairy products. Poultry (without skin) and fish have lower saturated fat and these foods are good sources of lean protein. Animal proteins are called ‘complete proteins’ because they contain all of the essential amino acids that humans require (‘essential’ meaning they must be acquired from the diet).
Another good way to add protein to the diet is by eating beans and grains. Soya protein contained in foods such as soybeans, tofu, and soya milk is also a ‘complete protein’ due to the fact that it contains appreciable amounts of the essential amino acids.
However, most plant foods contain ‘incomplete proteins’ because they are low in one or more of the essential human amino acids. For example, legumes have low levels of the essential amino acid, methionine; cereals and grains have low levels of a different essential amino acid, lysine.
By combining a bean with a grain, a ‘complete protein’ can be synthesised by the body.
The Ideal Food Plan for Life should also encompass the 4-R Programme, as follows:
- Remove – avoid allergens wherever possible and remove pollutants
- Replace – include fresh, unprocessed, pure whole foods.
- Reinoculate – refresh your gut health with prebiotics, e.g. garlic and onions.
- Repair – improve gut integrity with nutritional supplementation, such as L-glutamine, gamma oryzanol, vitamin D and aloe vera.
Eat well. Stay safe. Stay well.