The beginning of a new year can be a powerful time of reflection and change making. It can also become a little overwhelming as we think about all of the things we want to improve on in the year ahead, especially if we feel like there's a long way to go. It's important to keep in mind that health is a journey, not a destination, and simple, easy tweaks and substitutions can have incredible benefits if done consistently.
If improving your health through the power of diet is on the agenda this year, these 10 food swaps will certainly support your efforts. And the best part is they don't require too much will power, just a simple upgrade to something even better which you may be surprised to discover you love.
1. Cook with coconut oil instead of refined vegetable oils
Oils are incredibly important for our health. They nourish our brain and skin and support hormonal balance. But the wrong types of fats can definitely do more harm than good. Various oils also behave differently when exposed to heat – e.g. some can oxidize or go rancid very easily. Coconut oil is one of the best plant-based oils to cook with because it is very stable, even at higher temperatures. Great for baking, sautéing, stir-frying and even making raw desserts like cheesecakes, fudge, and pies.
2. Sweeten with coconut sugar instead of cane sugar
We all know that keeping sugar consumption in check is an important aspect of maintaining our health. Too much of it can lead to blood sugar issues and diabetes, mood swings, hormonal issues, throws the gut microbiome out of balance and can lead to heightened levels of inflammation throughout the body. But for most of us, there's no need to cut it out entirely. Instead, we should be getting our sweet tooth fix from natural, unrefined sweeteners like coconut sugar which contains vitamins and minerals, and has a much lower glycemic index.
3. Season with Himalayan salt instead of table salt
Salt is an important aspect of making food taste delicious, and it's also an important part of our biochemistry. We need mineral salts to thrive. While white table salt is associated with issues like high blood pressure and water retention, pink Himalayan salt comes directly from the earth and contains all necessary trace minerals for our body. Mineral salts are crucial for healthy nerve function and digestive function, electrolyte balance, and help promote alkalinity within the body. It's such an easy swap and the best part is your meals will taste even better.
4. Use fresh herbs instead of dried
All herbs are wonderful, but fresh herbs contain even more health benefits because they contain more of the essential oils, phytonutrients and vitamins and minerals that help support our health. Instead of using dried ginger in a soup, mince up some fresh ginger root and toss that in for a great boost to digestion and immunity. Instead of using dried turmeric in your turmeric latte blend up the fresh root for an even more potent punch of antioxidants. Use fresh herbs like cilantro, basil, and parsley in your salads and as garnishes. The best part is your taste buds will also thank you. So flavorful!
5.Add dark greens to your salads
Salads should be on the menu daily – we can all benefit from eating more vegetables and greens. However, not all salads are created equal. If you find yourself relying on romaine and/or iceberg lettuces to make a tasty salad try incorporating darker greens like chopped kale, collards, and cabbages to the mix for a huge boost in nutritional value. If you find the flavor to be too bitter, know that your taste buds will adjust as you eat these darker greens on a regular basis, and also be sure to use plenty of healthy, cold-pressed oils and lemon (fats and acidity) to help offset the bitterness.
6. Drink kombucha instead of soda
Soda can be a hard habit to kick for many. There's the issue with caffeine and sugar being addictive, but it's also often about the habit or ritual of drinking something fizzy and refreshing. If you find yourself reaching for a soda out of habit, try swapping it out for a fizzy probiotic-rich beverage like raw kombucha or water kefir. These tasty beverages will give you something to sip on and satisfy your soda craving all while helping boost digestion and immunity with millions of beneficial microbes.
7. Bake with almond flour instead of wheat flour
You don't have to give up gluten entirely to benefit from using gluten-free flours consistently. Even those of us who aren't allergic or intolerant to gluten often find that we feel better if we minimize or cut out our gluten consumption. Blanched almond flour is an incredible wheat substitute that can be used to make all kind of things from bread, cookies, and muffins to things like pancakes and waffles. It also happens to be a good source of protein and is low in carbs. Win-win!
8. Use raw nut butters instead of peanut butter
Why stick with only peanut butter when there's an entire universe of raw nut butters to explore. Peanut butter can be harder to digest for many, and while it does contain a good amount of protein, isn't necessarily the best source of healthy fats or vitamins and minerals as it has been processed with high heat. Peanuts are also notorious for having higher levels of mold or fungus which isn't good for our health over time. Raw nut butters like almond and hazelnut offer a great alternative. Or try seed butters like sunflower seed or sprouted pumpkin seed.
9. Start the day with purified lemon water instead of coffee
Are you someone who goes straight to the coffee pot after getting out of bed? How we start our morning sets the stage for the choices we make throughout the day. Make sure you are loving your body first thing in the morning with a large glass of purified water and a squeeze of lemon. This will wake up your digestive system, alkalinize your body, and hydrate thirsty cells. Coffee, on the other hand, is dehydrating and also acidic. If you do drink coffee, be sure to at least drink your water first and drink additional water throughout the day to compensate.
10. NEED a little caffeine? Try matcha instead of coffee
If giving up caffeine in the morning entirely is just not gonna happen (hey, you gotta be realistic), try at least switching over to matcha which is way less acidic, has a bounty of antioxidants, has a more mellow effect on nervous system, and isn't as harsh on the adrenals. Not to mention it's delicious! Try blending your matcha with some stone ground coconut butter and raw honey for a delicious coconut matcha latte.