7 food goals for a healthy mind and body in 2021

Nutritional medicine practitioner, Michele Chevalley Hedge, shares seven food goals you should set yourself in 2021 to get your mental and physical wellbeing back on track.

This year, our idea of ‘good health’ has shifted dramatically from weight loss to balanced mental wellbeing and a robust immune system – especially in the wake of the pandemic.

Given that COVID has forced us to forge innovation and transformation – across everything from eating habits, food shopping and prep to consumption and even family dinners – it’s apparent that eating and drinking, need to be more nourishing and nutrient-dense. This is also as we move towards new levels of understanding and research as to how diets affects our emotional, mental and physical conditions.

So still after a trending mantra for the year ahead? Try this: “Use food for your mental and physical wellbeing in 2021”. Here are the seven food rules you should be following for your wellbeing this year.

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1. Eat your greens

The plant-based boom will continue, and cauliflower pizza will be as ubiquitous as headlines about Meghan Markle. Whether it be faux meat, seafood, dairy or eggs, this movement stems from emerging research on plant-based diets’ ability to lower inflammation, which is a key culprit in depression and poor immune function. There will be less focus on vegetarian diets and more attention on flexitarian eating. Keep in mind that vegetables should make up 30-50 percent of each meal.

2. Pick food for your mood

There are 13 nutrients that relate to the prevention and treatment of depressive disorders: folate, iron, EPA, DHA, magnesium, potassium, selenium, zinc, thiamine and vitamins A, B6, B12 and C. Consciously think about incorporating the following nutrient-dense foods into meals for a healthier mind: various seafood, especially oysters and mussels, organ meats, leafy greens, lettuces, capsicums and cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, brussel sprouts and kale.

3. Consume a ‘biotic’ food every day

You should already be aware of prebiotics and probiotics for optimal gut health, but there’s a new sheriff in town: the postbiotic. All three ‘biotics’ not only play into your immune system, but also your ‘gut-brain connection’ and mental wellbeing.

This new player is an end product of the fermentation process and a bonus is that it doesn’t need to be alive. Sourdough bread reaps the benefits of postbiotics, which is perhaps one of the reasons why IBS and FODMAP sufferers feel better after eating it.

4. Boost your immune system

COVID prevention will increase the need for rigorous research on vitamins and nutrients. According to studies at Harvard University in the US, zinc, vitamin C and the “most promising” vitamin D lead the way. While supplement sales are set to increase on the back of this, so will consumption of foods abundant in these nutrients. So along with your (safe) daily dose of sunlight, add mushrooms, salmon and egg yolks to your arsenal.

5. Add some spice

As we move towards health-conscious eating, we’ll consume more whole food that is unpacked and unprocessed. This begins to shrink your shopping cart and could impact your variety of tastes.

A way to make your tastebuds happy is to use more spices and sauces in cooking. Not only can they be antioxidant-rich, and full of phytochemicals and micronutrients, they can also turn healthy – but possibly boring – foods into tasty delights. Think colour, flavour and fragrance without the additives, sugar, preservatives or excess salt. Jalapeño jam, nutty pesto, spicy mayonnaise, wasabi horseradish, mustards, turmeric salad dressings and chilli everything will become the new salt ‘n’ pepper.

6. Drink less alcohol

Mindful drinking is an admirable goal. You can still have a healthy lifestyle without having to compromise your social life. When considering what to drink, look for low or lower levels of sugar, sulphites and preservatives.

With this in mind, hard seltzers and kombuchas will continue to be popular due to their fruity taste, and without the bloat and bitterness of beer. Natural wines are also a good option. They often contain fewer chemicals, are low in sulphur and are made through sustainable farming practices. Tick, tick, tick.

7. Heal with honey

Stock up on this sweet amber to help you reach your nutritional and physical goals this year. Not only does honey contain a host of micronutrients, amino acids and phenolic antioxidants, but its antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory and anti-viral properties make it a popular ingredient in beauty and therapeutic products, too. Plus, it can be used for everything from soothing sore throats and dry eyes to adding a bit of joy to your cup of tea. All hail the honey.

Michele Chevalley Hedge is a nutritional medicine practitioner, founder of the wellness website A Healthy View and author of Eat Drink & Still Shrink.