Four Ways to Eat Yourself into Good Health
You are what you eat. This proverb is present for many of us throughout our lives — serving as both friend, and foe. Ultimately, the lesson is that food forms a large part of our overall health, helping balance our bodies, giving us energy, regulating our system and often preventing sickness. This universal culinary lesson also transcends cultures, and Thailand is no different. “คุณกินอะไรไป คุณก็เป็นอย่างนั้น” means, “if you eat well and healthily, it will impact your health.”
The issue is often we think of healthy food as bland and expensive – and equate healthy eating with drastic meal changes. And thus, we sit in a state of paralysis allowing ‘you are what you eat’ to remain an enemy. But it doesn’t need to stay this way.
How to make healthy eating easy
It’s important to think of healthier eating as small steps that lead to greater change. An effective starting point is the oils that we cook with. Based on my work as a Clinical Dietician/Nutritionist, Olive oil, the natural oil extracted from olives, is internationally considered one of the healthiest cooking oil options. What makes it great, is its health benefits allow us to continue enjoying our favourite menu items, without radical deviations to lifestyle, or taste. And here is why…
- Olive oil can help lower cholesterol
Olive oil is naturally cholesterol-free and contains no salt. It is also rich in monounsaturated fatty acids (77%), in particular oleic acid which health studies indicate can help maintain normal cholesterol levels by eating this in moderation. And thereby reduce the risk of developing diseases related to high cholesterol.
- Good source of Antioxidants
Antioxidants work by slowing or even preventing the harmful activity of ‘free radicals’ in our bodies, and olive oil is a great source of several. One tablespoon of olive oil provides 8% of the recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for Vitamin E, which is linked to lessening our cell’s ageing process. Likewise, olive oil contains polyphenol, another natural antioxidant not found in any other oil, that has beneficial properties to protect against cardiovascular disease and diabetes.
- Olive oil can guard against cardiovascular disease
Olive oil has a higher amount of monounsaturated fatty acid (MUFA) than other vegetable oils. MUFAs are considered a healthy plant-based fat, also found in nuts, avocados, and dark chocolate. Because of olive oil’s increased levels of monounsaturated fatty acids, they help maintain normal cholesterol levels when replacing saturated fats in the diet. This helpful ingredient can also help strengthen blood vessels, protect against Alzheimer’s, lower your risk of heart disease and provide nutrients to help maintain your body’s cells.
- Olive oil consumption can lower the risk of diabetes
Diabetes has become a large health issue in 2015. But olive oil’s abundance of antioxidants help reduce oxidative stress effects that diabetics suffer due to high levels of blood sugar. It therefore reduces the risk of diabetes complications, as well as nerve damage caused by diabetes (diabetic neuropathy) and retinal neuropathy. And Oleocanthal, a type of natural phenolic compound found in extra-virgin olive oil, acts as anti-inflammatory agent. Inflammation is another precursor to many diseases, including chronic inflammation caused by diabetes.
The health benefits of replacing your old oil bottle with olive oil are clear. Olive Oil is also versatile and can be utilized at high temperatures (468° F / 242 °C), so you can cook all your favourite Thai dishes, as well as deep fry. Best of all, it provides you the opportunity for healthier living without boredom or huge lifestyle changes.
In 2017, it’s time to make ‘you are what you eat’ our friend once again.
- By Phasit Kanasirichainon, Dietitian and Nutrition Consultant – Health and Nutrition Lecturer