They may be trendy—and healthy in certain portions—but that doesn’t mean these foods should take over your whole diet.
Sure quinoa, coconut oil and avocado are healthy, and, yes, you should eat them. But having a well-rounded diet means moderation, even when it comes to healthy foods. In fact, it’s silly to embrace only one or two “superfoods” as holy grails and expect that they’ll change your life. “It’s all about having nutrition in your life instead of thinking that one superfood is going to make the difference,” says L.A. nutritionist Haylie Pomroy, who recently launched the book Metabolism Revolution, which explores how to use food to heal the metabolism. “You want food to stimulate the body, not flood the body.”
Here are some of the foods we’ve all become obsessed with and how you can add more diversity into your diet (while also making the most of the foods you’re already eating).
A portion of avocado is much smaller than you’d think: Only 1/4 to 1/2 of an avocado. That means cool it on all the avocado toast and guacamole! Pomroy recommends mixing avocado with digestive aids such as cilantro or red onion to allow you to eat a little more. However, to ensure that your diet has a diverse range of fats and you aren’t eating way too much throughout the week, Pomroy suggests eating avocado for only one meal per day, then eating raw nuts and seeds at another meal and a healthy oil or dressing at your remaining meal.
“Quinoa is a great complex carbohydrate with high protein content,” says Pomroy, plus it’s packed with fibre and iron. But that doesn’t mean you should eat it every single day when sweet potatoes, sprouted wild rice, beans, lentils and oatmeal are also complex carbs with excellent nutritional value. Quinoa can also pose a problem for some people because it can be difficult to digest. Pomroy suggests blending spices such as turmeric, curcumin and dill with quinoa, and adding colourful bell peppers, red onion and parsley, which all act as digestive aids to help the body break down protein more efficiently.
Raw, unsalted nuts are good for you. They’re packed with protein, and most varieties contain fibre and unsaturated fats (both of which work to lower cholesterol), plus other heart-healthy ingredients like omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin E and l-arginine. The downside? They’re high in calories, so you could gain weight if you’re eating multiple fistfuls each day. Pomroy recommends sticking to 1/4 to 1/2 cup per serving and rotating between pistachios, pecans, almonds, cashews and walnuts. Also, “soak your nuts in water overnight,” she says. “It helps to activate the enzymes in the nuts so your body can break down the fats more efficiently. Sometimes you can double the amount you can consume if they’re soaked.”
Juices and Smoothies
Like most nutritionists, Pomroy is a huge fan of smoothies but doesn’t like juices because they eliminate a lot of fibre (a component of fruit that “helps stretch the rate of sugar delivery”) and micronutrients through the juice extraction process. If you’re running a marathon and that “natural fruit sugar burst is a benefit,” then drink it, she says. Otherwise, blend whole fruits and vegetables into a smoothie and drink immediately because the trauma of blending releases enzymes from the fruit that make the nutrients more available to the body. When it comes to choosing fruit, Pomroy loves mango and pineapple and says that stone fruits such as peaches, nectarines, cherries and plums are good for the metabolism.
Processed “health” foods (think kale chips, quinoa bars and more)
Beware trendy packaging that uses trendy ingredients to reel you in. Just because something contains kale and quinoa, or is labelled “gluten-free,” doesn’t necessarily mean it’s healthy. If the first ingredient on the label in “quinoa chips” is corn or potato, they’re not really quinoa chips. If your kale is buried in milk chocolate, you’re no longer getting the same value. “People think they’re making an effort to get a superfood into their diets [by choosing packaged foods with sexy ingredients],” says Pomroy, “But make sure that the superfood doesn’t allow in tons of other unhealthy food on its coattails.”
“Everyone’s gone a little excessive with coconut oil,” says Pomroy. “Yes, I love medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) because they’re phenomenal for the brain, but maintaining diversity in oils is really important.” She suggests using coconut oil no more than three days per week and subbing in other oils such as olive, almond or grapeseed on the other days. Stick with two to four tablespoons per meal.
Your main takeaway for eating healthy foods? Don’t eat quinoa erry damn day. Forget using avocado as your only healthy fat. Variety is the spice of life, and it’s also the only way for your body to get all the nutrients it needs to function at peak level. Embrace diversity and your gut, your mood and your waistline will be better off for it.