Nutrition for Wellness: Let Food Be Your Medicine
By Sally Perkins
Today, we live in a fast-paced, stressful consumer based society. It has never been easier to eat, eat, eat and, when you’re full, eat some more while checking your social media on your phone. Our houses are always stocked with our favourite snacks. And although we all know it’s better to consume organic, whole foods, which help us stay sharp both mentally and physically, this is sometimes easier said than done.
Over the past 50 years, we as humans have changed a great deal, both physically and emotionally. But why has this change happened and is it good or bad?
Facing Our Changes
Our nutrition has changed greatly over the years, and while we’ve all grown in height, we’ve also put weight on too. Our feet have also gotten bigger (but that’s not something to worry about!)
What’s worrying is the growing rate of obesity, with a BMI of over 30, even in third world countries. We’ve also become more stressed out and unable to focus; we spend hours and hours using our phones and in front of our computers, and are continuously distracted by electronic stimuli. This kind of continuous stress causes headaches, high blood pressure, heart disease and a weak immune system.
So what can we do to make sure that we stay healthy?
Changing Our Habits
Often we rely on foods that are processed, unhealthy, and absolutely loaded with sugar. Aside from causing weight gain, this is also dangerous for our health. In Australia, an estimated 11.2 million people are overweight or obese, which comes down to around two out of three. For children, the ratio is one out of four, totalling around 1 million children; lower but still considerably worrying.
We need to create new healthier habits and change our relationship with food to make lasting changes in our lives. It is also necessary to find effective ways of combating stress and dealing with our fast-paced, modern world. There are simple Buddhist practices which can help us greatly, such as meditation, yoga and mindfulness.
Mindful eating can be an effective change, helping us to control portions by focusing on what we are eating and listening to what our bodies are telling us.
Eat Whole Foods
Whole foods are nutrient-dense and give us lots of fibre, vitamins and minerals. They are also low in added sugar and fat. Ideally, a whole food is produce with only one ingredient, such as an apple, or an egg. Eating whole foods has a number of benefits, such as reducing cholesterol, decreasing the risk for diabetes and regulating blood sugars. Food also affects your skin, which can look dull and suffer from outbreaks when eating unhealthy foods; eating whole foods will not only help you maintain your weight but will also give you clear, glowing skin and shinier hair!
Typically, processed foods are full of added sugars, preservatives and “bad” fats, which are unhealthy and do not give you the energy you need. Processed foods can sometimes be hard to recognise, such as fruit or vegetable juice or sweetened yoghurt. Make sure you read the labels! Try to buy seasonal food directly from a local farmer or from a farmer’s market; if you’re feeling super healthy, try growing your own fruits and vegetables at home. You’d be surprised to learn you actually don’t need that much space!
Try a Sugar Detox
Sugars are literally everywhere, often in places, you would never expect to find them. Aside from the obvious sugary cereal, they can even be found in bread, tomato-based sauces or flavoured milk!
Sugar is addictive and gives you a short rush; when the crash comes, you find yourself feeling bloated and sluggish. Try following a sugar detox diet to get your energy back and start feeling fabulous again.
Fill up your plate with fruit and vegetables and stay away from all the sugar loaded treats; it may be hard at first but your body (and waistline) will thank you for it!
Naturally Add More Exercise to Your Day
In the 1960s and 1970s, spending all day in front of a computer was unheard of. Jobs were simply not as sedentary as they are today! It’s important to try to incorporate more exercise into your day, and it doesn’t necessarily have to take up extra time.
For example, you could purchase a standing desk or commit to stretching your legs every half hour or so, even if it’s just for a quick walk around the office. Use your lunch break to take a walk! Another simple way would be to change your commute habits. Do you take the bus or the metro to work? Consider walking, biking, or at least getting off one stop early and walking the rest of your way.
Give Yourself Time
It takes time and effort to adjust to a new diet and changes in your nutrition and lifestyle, especially because eating whole foods and adopting practices such as meditation and yoga involves a lot of work. There are no shortcuts, everything needs to be planned. It’s ok to slip once in a while, just as long as you get back on track. Reward yourself (not with food) for sticking to your diet and don’t beat yourself up if you struggle at first.
Ultimately, you have to make these changes because feeling healthy actually feels GOOD. You’ll have more energy, you’ll sleep better, and you’ll finally be free of your sugar cravings! What could be better?