Are you eating the same foods day in and day out? Is this good for you? Let’s find out why food variation is so important for optimal health.
Have you ever prepped your meals for the week? Do you do batch cooking each week?
Does this picture look familiar:
I think we’ve all been there, the desire to be able to prep our meals for the week with ease.
Prepping our meals like this makes it easy, right? You already know the amount of calories and macros you are going to consume by eating this way. You can just cook up a huge batch of the same thing and divide it out for the week.
Not only does it make meal prep easy, but it also helps us stay on track with our healthy eating.
But what if I were to tell you that by eating the same things over and over each day, you may actually be doing more harm than good!
Food Variation and Gut Health
You may have been hearing a lot about gut health lately.
Why? Because it’s thought that 70% of our immune system is in our gut! So you can see why it’s so important to keep our gut healthy.
How do we do that?
We eat a wide variety of foods!
Eating a wide variety of foods creates a larger bacterial diversity in your gut. Having a larger bacterial diversity in your gut helps us to avoid some serious diseases such as diabetes, arthritis, and cancer.
Gut bacterial diversity is also related to weight loss. It seems that the healthier your gut, the easier it is to lose weight.
Let’s look at an example:
If you’re loading up on chicken breast and broccoli everyday, and never eat something like kale and raspberries, then the bugs that favour using the nutrients from chicken breast and broccoli are going to have a leg up over the bugs that favour using the nutrients from kale and raspberries. Eventually, they might wipe out the kale and raspberry loving bacteria for good!
Not only are we getting more good gut bacteria by eating different foods, but we are also getting more micronutrients. If we are eating the same foods over and over, we are getting the same micronutrients over and over.
The more we vary our food, the more vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants our body will receive.
Food Variation and Food Sensitivities
Let me first explain the difference between a food sensitivity and a food allergy.
Food allergy: an immune response triggered by eating a certain food.
Food sensitivity: a physiological response associated with a certain food.
A food sensitivity/intolerance, is caused by an inability to digest a food and occurs in the digestive tract and not the bloodstream, like a food allergy. Symptoms are “delayed onset”, where symptoms do not appear for hours or even days. Food sensitivities can come and go during the course of one’s life.
Some of the most common food allergens are:
- GMO, genetically modified foods
- Gluten ( in wheat, rye, barley and some oats)
- Tree nuts (such as almonds, cashews, walnuts, pecans, pistachios, Brazil nuts, hazelnuts, and chestnuts)
- Nightshades are a family of vegetables that include potatoes (except sweet potatoes and yams), tomatoes, peppers (green, red, yellow, orange, jalapeno, chili, and pimentos), eggplant, tobacco, spices (from peppers like cayenne, chili, red pepper, curry mixes, paprika)
You can also develop a food sensitivity by eating the same food too often.
Let’s take myself for example.
I got a food sensitivity test a few years ago. At the time, I was eating the same things for breakfast, lunch, and snacks. I was eating a lot of eggs (about 4 per day) and a lot of peanut butter (about 4 Tbsp per day.)
Guess what foods are on the most common food allergen list? Eggs and peanuts!
Guess which foods I developed a food sensitivity to? Eggs and peanuts!
I was also eating a lot of whole grains and soy milk at the time.
I was also eating pineapple about 4 – 5 times a week:
I immediately stopped eating eggs, peanuts, gluten, and soy milk. I cut them out of my diet completely.
My symptoms of gas and bloating went away as soon as I cut those foods out.
But guess what? I replaced that peanut butter with almonds. Almond butter, almond milk, almond flour…almonds, almonds, almonds!
Guess who now has a sensitivity to almonds? ME!!
Now, instead of eating almonds all the time, I rotate between other types of nuts like cashews, walnuts, pecans, macadamia, Brazil, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, etc. (You can make nut butter out of ANY of these nuts BTW!)
I also make sure to vary ALL of the foods I’m eating.
My RULE is this: I don’t eat the same food again for 3 days.
For example, I vary my breakfast every 3 days:
DAY 1 BREAKFAST: zucchini, bell pepper, mushrooms, and kale sautéed in coconut oil, served with grain free oatmeal.
DAY 2 BREAKFAST: Chocolate Vegan Shakeology.
DAY 3 BREAKFAST: Leftovers (which is typically a serving of protein, veggies, and healthy fats.)
If I have Shakeology one day, then I won’t have it again for 3 days, I’ll have my Keto Chocolate Milkshake or Mojito Smoothie if I want a shake. If I have cashew butter one day, then I won’t have it for 3 days, I’ll have another nut butter like tahini or pecan butter.
I try to stick to that rule as best I can. Of course, it doesn’t ALWAYS happen, but I try to vary my foods from day to day as much as I can. That means I buy a LOT of different vegetables and eat a lot of different healthy fats and meats.
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I do notice a huge difference when I don’t eat the same foods over and over. I’m less bloated, have less gas, and am more regular. I also enjoy my food more! When I was eating the same things each day, it got a little boring after a while. But now, I enjoy a bunch of different foods and I never get bored of the same things.
The problem is that most people eat foods they have become sensitive to several times a day. Every time that food enters the body, the immune system whips itself into a frenzy. But because symptoms are delayed up to 72 hours after eating, a food sensitivity can be hard to spot. Without diagnosis or awareness, the damage is repeated over and over, meal after meal. Eventually, inflammation seeps throughout the body, establishing an environment ripe for weight gain and chronic disease.
Here are some common symptoms of a food sensitivity:
- Weight Loss Resistance
- Thyroid Dysfunction
- Chronic Pain/ Inflammation
- Stomach ache
- Acid Reflux/ GERD
- Chronic pain/ Arthritis
- Dark circles under the eyes
- Anxiety / Depression
- Sinus Problems
If you think you may have a food sensitivity, or you find you’re eating the same foods over and over again, I highly recommend you get tested! I suggest the delayed sensitivity response test. It’s just a simple finger prick test which is painless. Who knows, it might open your eyes to some symptoms you’ve been having.
But even if you aren’t experiencing any symptoms, I suggest you start to vary your food more. This will give your body more micronutrients and help support good gut health!
Do you vary your food? Are you open to trying new foods and adding more rotation to your diet?