The key to healthy eating is to take in foods that are nutrient-dense instead of those that are calorie-dense but low on nutritional value.  Another way of looking at it is to focus on giving your body what it needs and not what is harmful.  Foods that are lacking in important nutrients and enzymes make it difficult for your body to build and maintain healthy tissue and detoxify cells.  The more chemicals and additives you take in, the more likely they are to cause changes in the genetic material of the cells, as well as speeding up the aging process while interfering with immune response.

As much as possible, eat foods that are whole and unprocessed, that have not been chemically altered or filled with synthetic ingredients.  Stay away from processed foods full of added salt, sugar and fat as well as avoiding those that are genetically modified.

Some simple changes you can make include swapping in healthier options for some of the less nutritious foods you might be currently eating:

Avocado instead of mayo – In addition to being rich and creamy, avocado is full of healthy fat and fiber as well as 20 vitamins and minerals.

Almond butter instead of cream cheese – As a spread, almond butter provides more protein, fiber, calcium, vitamin E and magnesium not to mention flavor.  You’re also getting mainly monounsaturated fat instead of the saturated fat in cream cheese.

Cacao powder instead of cocoa – Cocoa powder is processed and stripped of nutrients, whereas cacao is high in anti-inflammatory antioxidants.  Also choose dark chocolate instead of milk chocolate for its antioxidant flavonoids, aiming for at least 70% cocoa solids.  Dark chocolate is high in minerals like iron, magnesium and zinc.

Sweet potatoes instead of white – In addition to their much richer flavor, sweet potatoes are very high in beta-carotene (which your body can convert to vitamin A) and provide more fiber and vitamin C than white potatoes.

Walnuts instead of croutons – Instead of only adding crunch to your salad with croutons, also add a powerhouse of nutrition.  Walnuts are high in protein, fiber and healthy omega-3 fat that helps protect your heart.  They contain the highest level of antioxidants of all nuts and they contribute to healthy cholesterol levels.

Coconut water instead of fruit juice or sports drinks – Even 100% fruit juice is high in sugar and has been stripped of its fiber, leading to spikes in blood sugar.  Coconut water is naturally low in sugar and loaded with potassium and electrolytes as a much better alternative to sports drinks.

Whole wheat flour instead of white – White flour is highly processed and stripped of its nutritional value.  Whole wheat flour provides almost three times as much fiber as well as antioxidants.

Spaghetti squash instead of pasta – If your aim is to lose weight or reduce carbs, enjoy your favorite marinara on top of spaghetti squash where you’ll take in 1/5 of the calories and 1/4 of the grams of carbs.  The spaghetti squash also offers fiber as well as beta carotene.

Avocado oil or extra-virgin olive oil instead of canola or vegetable oil – Canola oil is highly processed using synthetic chemicals and almost always made from genetically modified crops.  It contains little nutritional value and appears to increase inflammation and negatively impact heart health and memory.  Olive and avocado oils are unrefined and high in antioxidant polyphenols that are anti-inflammatory and lead to improved heart and brain health.

The process of determining what makes a healthy food swap is as simple as asking yourself if what you’re eating is nutrient-dense or full of empty calories.  The more whole and close to its natural state the food is, with little or no processing or added chemicals, the better it will be for you.

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