One of my most favorite things to do in the spring is spring cleaning. I tend to rip open my closets and remove all of the items that seem to “weigh me down.” Let’s just say that the Salvation Army has come to expect a significant uptick in my giving in May. Spring cleaning, however, is also an activity to consider for your health. This spring, aim to eliminate the foods that are taking a toll on your energy, your weight and your overall well-being. Here are six types of food worth cleaning out of your life for optimal health and an extra spring in your step!
- Refined Sugar and Sweetened Foods. Avoid foods with refined sugars as well as high fructose and regular corn syrups. Candy, soda, syrup, jelly, cookies and baked goods are on the “avoid list.” Instead, eat foods that are naturally sweet or sweetened with fruit or 100-percent fruit juice. You can also use natural sweeteners, such as honey or pure maple syrup.
- White Flour, Refined Flour, Enriched Flour. Avoid eating bread, cereal or grain products that have been processed, refined or bleached, e.g., those that use white flour, refined flour or enriched flour. During the milling process, refined flour loses key vitamins and nutrients in the germ and bran. As a result, manufacturers will enrich flours by adding certain B vitamins and iron back into the flour after processing. Fiber (an important nutrient), however, is not added back to enriched flour. Instead, look for those grains that are whole.
- Packaged Foods with “Un-Whole” Ingredients. Many packaged foods that seem healthy often contain fillers, preservatives and other ingredients you don’t want in your diet. If you do choose something that has been manufactured or processed (anything canned, packaged, etc.) try to avoid those that contain ingredients you don’t recognize or that you know to be especially unhealthy.
- Diet Foods. Diet foods are lower caloric versions of their high-calorie cousins, made by reducing the sugar and/or fat content. Reduced sugar foods and beverages are often loaded with highly-processed, chemically-derived sugar substitutes; reduced fat foods usually have a lot of added sugars. Both options require additives and processing that are best avoided.
- Fried Foods. Fried foods, especially those that are packaged or come from fast food restaurants, more often than not, contain saturated and trans fats. These fats have been linked to disease and other health problems.
- Fast Foods. As upsetting as this may be, fast foods are, by all means, the worst of the worst offenders. Most are mass produced, processed and filled with preservatives, artificial flavorings, colorings and other additives. Furthermore, fast food restaurants tend to use ingredients of lesser quality combined with unhealthy fats.
Make this spring your healthiest yet! What do you plan on cutting out in order to spring clean your diet?
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