This week’s blog is by request and it’s one that resonates with all of us at some time or other. That is to approach each day giving our body the best choices available for great health.
When people comment on the strange kitchen gadgets I have, like my dehydrator, spiraliser, juicer or Vitamix, and see the cupboards full of strange ingredients with varying shades of green powders, and grains they’ve never heard of, or don’t know how to pronounce like quinoa and amaranth, they have a tendency to think ‘My goodness, it is a world away from how I prepare and eat food’. If we see ‘good health’ and healthy habits’ as this great big project involving some of the above then of course we start to feel overwhelmed.
If I’d fast-forwarded to the future 15 years ago then I would have been pretty overwhelmed looking at what a ‘healthy lifestyle’ involved and the way I live today. Quite honestly I’d have thought I was a bit bonkers. The point is I haven’t made all these changes overnight. They have all been small, incremental steps that when put together over 15 years have made my lifestyle look very different to the one in my 20s and early 30s. Some of those steps were ultimately necessary at the beginning of my health journey just to stay relatively well. Some were as a result of the endless, on-going research that I do (and love). These days most are just habits and practices that make good sense to me and make me feel good. There is no ‘one size fits all’ when it comes to health. Listening to our own inner wisdom is key.
Comparing ourselves to others is not all that helpful either. No one can truly know how well, vibrant or energised another person feels. On occasions when I see people food shopping with baskets full of processed food I wonder how they must feel eating that way. All I know is that my body is not very forgiving when I feed it less than nutritious food, even for one day, but that is not the same for everybody. Raising our awareness on what we choose to eat and how our body reacts is how to make easy, sensible decisions with food.
I’ve had a good think about all that I have learnt and implemented into my lifestyle. Here are some really key steps you can take to help get you on track:
Water is key in helping your body perform all its necessary functions optimally. However much we play around with our diets and food, living without water, (depending on the temperature and climate, how much fat you have in your body, and how much activity you do in that time), you’d only last about 12 days tops.
When we consider that we are made up of 75% water and the brain closer to 80%, it is surely common sense that any depletion in our stock of water is going to have a big affect on our ability to function. But how many people are conscious of giving their body sufficient good quality drinking water every day, and I mean water, they require to function at maximum health and effectiveness? Dehydration is a huge contributor to tiredness and is often mistaken for hunger. If you are tired a lot of the time and/or sleep poorly then try eliminating diuretic drinks like black tea, coffee and fizzy drinks, increase your intake of good quality drinking water and see how much improved you feel.
Limiting your gluten intake has proven to be a wise move for the vast majority, not just those unlucky enough to have been diagnosed with coeliacs. Removing gluten from the diet has proven to be massively beneficial in reducing a vast array of health problems including Hashimoto’s, chronic fatigue syndrome, infertility and autism. It made a huge difference to my health.
The troublemaking gluten protein gives dough its elasticity and can therefore behave like chewing gum in the digestive system, adhering to the intestinal wall and impairing our ability to take up other nutrients. Of all the grains, wheat contains the most gluten, followed by spelt, rye, oats and barley. Good gluten free grain choices are rice, millet, quinoa (though it is actually a seed, it is a great substitute for grain), amaranth and buckwheat.
Amino acids are the building blocks that make up proteins. Good levels of which are essential for the body’s repair and maintenance. Protein is the essential nutrient that makes up the core of our body from bones, muscles, arteries, veins, skin, hair and the tissue of all our major organs. We are quite literally made from this nutrient.
If you have been prone to dieting over the years then it is likely that your body is suffering from amino acid depletion. It is also key to make sure you are getting the complete range of the essential amino acids which are easily found together in animal proteins but need to be combined in vegetable sources, for example brown rice and legumes eaten together will give the complete range of amino acids, (quinoa is one of the few vegetable sources of protein that is complete). Protein is found in meat, poultry, fish, eggs, nuts, seeds, legumes and dairy (though dairy is a very challenging source for most of us as it can be very mucous forming and is generally highly processed).
Of course like everything there needs to be a balance. Too much protein in the diet is very damaging to the kidneys and very acidic to the body. Certainly having adequate protein in the diet will help with food cravings and blood sugar balance and the brain needs good levels to function too, so be sure you are having adequate amounts.
Ditch the scary ingredients labelled foods
Walk into any supermarket and pick up a product and the label reads like something out of a chemical laboratory. I can’t believe I used to eat s@*t like this all those years ago. Do not think for one second (like I used to), that because a food item is sold in a supermarket legally that it is safe to eat and that it will not harm you. It has become so normalised to eat foods full of chemicals that we have forgotten to question if what we are eating is wise. Our bodies are not built to absorb or process chemicals. It simply does not recognise them.
If I buy the odd item that is not a fresh, wholefood like some jars or pickles then I check that I recognise what is on the ingredients label is actual food. Generally once you get more than 5 or 6 ingredients it’s starting to get too highly processed. Always check the sugar and sodium content too, as these have a tendency to be very high in packaged foods.
Look at your sugar intake
Hands up if this is your weakness? Years ago my hand would have been high in the air. No question, if there was a dessert or cake on the go then I would be having some. These days I’m a lot more discerning. I never thought I’d say this, but I really dislike very sweet foods now and I literally cannot eat them, as I find them so unpalatable. That is due to a combination of factors. I no longer have a candida problem. An imbalance of these bacteria will have you craving sugar and carbs like there’s no tomorrow, to keep feeding the candida. I keep my blood sugar levels more balanced these days with good fats and protein and lots of good quality green vegetables. Those dark leafy greens are so nutrient dense they really help rebalance any sugar craving, which inadvertently comes from an often-dire need for quick energy if nutrients are lacking. I also ditched processed sugar and started to only use natural sugars like dates, raw honey and maple syrup. Eating sugars in this way means you’re also consuming other balanced nutrients so as not to be getting just a pure sugar hit and high blood sugar spike. Also, never deny yourself! (Unless you are ill, e.g. diabetics and those suffering from candida, in which case you might want to look at your self care not just food choices). Changing a processed sugar rich diet can be done gradually without feeling like your depriving yourself, which will only make you crave all the more. It’s about what nutrient rich foods you can add in, and then what you leave out will barely get attention.
Bring on the fat
I am still in heaven after all these years knowing that high quality, unprocessed fats are really incredibly good for you. Though many for years have known this, it’s finally leaking into the mainstream; saturated fat is not the baddie it has been made out to be. Now it’s coconut oil all the way for me! This medium chain fatty acid is not only a saturated fat, but its presence in the diet has been attributed to lowering cholesterol and balancing blood sugar levels. it also actually helps you burn more fat and increases your energy and has been shown to prevent heart disease. In fact among the healthiest people around the world have a high consumption of coconut.
Omega oils are the most important of the lipids (fats) macronutrient family for good health and the most fragile of all the oils, specifically omega 3 oils and the majority of people are severely deficient. This oil is so essential for dozens of functions within the body. It plays a major role in preventing heart disease, type 2 diabetes and is an anti-inflammatory so helps with a myriad of inflammatory diseases.
…and I just want to add an adjunct to the above. Your approach and thinking around food and nourishment play an equally important role. A salad eaten feeling lonely and depressed is far less healthy than a burger and chips enjoyed in the company of people you feel hugely connected to, with laughter and joy.
A healthy lifestyle isn't necessarily about what we eat (though undoubtedly it does play a part), it's about how we feel. The food is simply a tool to nourish us and make us feel our best to achieve all we want to achieve in life. For the most part it is raising awareness about our food choices to get the best out of each day. Good health choices have opened up a life for me I never dreamed possible 10 years ago.
If you a struggle to pick healthier choices then maybe they aren’t the right ‘healthy’ choices for you or maybe you’re not very good at self care, in which case this deeper issue would need to be addressed and has little to do with food. We can only work with the awareness we have, so if you think you want to work on increasing your awareness and health then here is a link to the form where you can contact me for an enlightening conversation around your health:
Alternatively you can call me on 07786 687444 or you can email me firstname.lastname@example.org.
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