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Nutrition Basics and Healthy Eating Habits

Updated on March 9, 2014

Fast food is the alternative for many people who don’t know how to cook and/or are single, as well as others who are constantly on the go for work. They are often left helpless and ignorant when it comes to healthy eating habits and food choices. Many have not been taught ‘how’ to eat, or the importance of what you’re eating and how it affects your body, mind, and energy levels. You never know what you’re getting when you eat at a restaurant; the oils that they cook in, the salt content, and other possibly harmful ingredients and ways in which the food is prepared. While there are many places to eat out, preparing your own food is the wisest way to make sure you get all of the essential nutrients in your diet without the harmful ingredients and improper methods of cooking. I will attempt to share some of the knowledge that I have learned and experienced as far as making food choices and eating a balanced diet with healthy eating habits.

An important part of nutrition for everyone is to make sure that you chew your food. Whether it’s a Big Mac or a raw food shake, chew your food thoroughly before you swallow, even the liquids. In our body’s infinite wisdom, the process of chewing allows your stomach to know what’s ‘coming down the pipes’ and to adjust the proper ph in your G.I. tract. Chewing also stimulates secretion of human salivary secretory immunoglobulin A, which is vital for the health of the immune system and digestion. The more you chew, the less energy it will take your body to break down and absorb the nutrients. When you don’t chew your food and swallow large mouthfuls that haven’t been prepared for the stomach, this can cause gas and a host of other gastrointestinal problems. In addition, your body has to expend much more energy for digestion, and larger particles of undigested food matter won’t be assimilated. To illustrate this point, there is a story of two men who survived a concentration camp in WWII by eating pieces of a leather jacket while others died of starvation. They were reported to have thoroughly chewed every piece, which illustrates that ‘how’ you eat is an important part of absorption of nutrients and healthy eating habits.

Another important component of healthy eating is to be in a place (mentally) where you can enjoy and appreciate your meal. Many cultures and societies say a prayer before each meal, blessing the food and people who made it available. Eating while stressed, in a negative mind-state, on the run, or in a rush is a recipe for digestive problems. In our fast-paced world, for many this is the only option. However, you can choose to close your eyes for a moment and take a deep breath before each meal. This puts your body in the peaceful parasympathetic mode of your nervous system. As opposed to the sympathetic mode, which is geared for fight or flight reactions, and blood is diverted away from your digestive organs to your extremities. Relaxing into the moment while you eat, and savoring each bite, the smell and/or taste and texture can greatly improve your digestion and energy levels. You can put aside your thoughts and worries while you eat, by becoming aware of the act of mastication and what you’re eating. This simple observance can help you to sustain your energy levels mentally and physically throughout the day, and clear up many types of gastrointestinal disorders.

There are many viewpoints and theories about ‘what’ to eat, so I’m going to suggest only the basics. Whether you’re a vegetarian or not, getting adequate amounts of protein in your diet is a very important aspect of health. This is the building block of your body, and getting all the essential amino acids is a key to energy and good health. It is possible to get all of the protein that you need from a vegetarian diet. Nevertheless, those that are highly active, and of certain blood types and ancestry, being a vegetarian may prove to be a challenge. Whatever you choose to eat, avoid or limit packaged, canned and boxed foods, table salt, refined sugar, deep-fried foods, and over cooking. It’s a good idea to choose a wide variety or colors in the fruit and vegetable kingdom, and to become knowledgeable about which ones are good for your individual constitution. Try to buy your food and produce from local sources, in season, organic, as this will benefit not only your local community and farmers, but keep your body in tune with your environment and the time of year. Furthermore, avoid or limit food or beverages that are too hot or too cold which can aggravate and/or shut down the digestive system.

Supplementation is a tricky issue because a lot of what is out there is misinformation and dead nutrients. It might be best to choose supplements that are from a whole-food origin, grown and produced with all the necessary co-enzymes that are found in whole foods. Keeping it simple, I’d say that the most important supplements are: Probiotics (best bought and kept refrigerated), E.F.A.’s (essential fatty acids), a green food such as: Spirulina, Blue-Green algae, or Chlorella, and a quality multiple. However, the source and production of these supplements is significant, as you want to avoid contaminated fish oil laden with heavy metals and probiotics that aren’t viable. E.F.A.'s are essential fats that you must get from your diet, and are necessary for the following processes: formation of healthy cell membranes, proper development and functioning of the brain and nervous system, proper thyroid and adrenal activity, and hormone production. The only company that uses a fermentation process to preserve the original vitamin content in E.F.A.'s is greenpastures right here in the United States. Check out the weston price organization website for more info. Two trustworthy and beneficial probiotic companies are ‘Natrens’ and ‘Metagenics’. Getting a refrigerated bottle of acidophilus, and another of bifidus, two of many strains and the majority of good bacteria in your GI tract, will literally cover all of your large and small intestine needs. Green foods are high in chlorophyll, and chlorophyll is chemically similar to that of human blood. Another much respected supplement company is ‘Standard Process’ which has been around since 1929. They offer a wide range of choices for every nutritional need and disease, and have one of the best multiple supplements (Catalyn) on the market.

Coming back to how to prepare food is a challenge for those who can’t cook. I have my own uncomplicated methods that I will share. I’ve learned that it’s a good idea to eat a hearty breakfast with some form of protein; this may be the most important meal of the day for lasting energy levels. I usually prepare oatmeal, eggs, and/or make a smoothie with fruit, whey protein, yogurt, and ground flax seeds. For lunch and dinner, I like to have a form of meat protein, and either a salad or steamed vegetables. If you’re a meat-eater, try to buy it from a farm where the animal lived cage-free and wasn’t given harmful additives, like anti-biotics and steroids, in their diet. Try not to overcook your meat and stay away from cooking over charcoal and other toxic sources of heat. Steaming veggies is as easy as buying a steaming basket, cutting up your favorites, and lightly steaming them for a few minutes. You do not want to steam them too long or they will lose nutrients and become soggy and lifeless. The best sauce I’ve found that goes well with most veggies, and that almost everyone has in their fridge, is a combination of mustard and mayonnaise. This tastes good on greens, asparagus, artichokes, and a variety of other vegetables. You can also bake your root veggies such as: onion, garlic, burdock, and carrots with a little olive oil and sea salt for 15-20 minutes on 350 degrees. Salads are easy to make with your favorite ingredients, as well as pasta and rice dishes with an added protein source. Potatoes are nutrient dense and high in potassium. Baking a potato is as simple as putting it in the oven on 350 degrees for 45 minutes to an hour. Alternatively, they can also be boiled or steamed, but best to stay away from deep-frying them.

These are some of the basics of nutrition and healthy eating habits as pertaining to individual health and well-being. Proper nutrition and health are complex issues, but can be simplified if you follow a few basic principles. If you’re having problems with certain foods, allergies and/or indigestion, simply try chewing your food and relaxing your mind while you eat. If the problem persists then you may have to eliminate specific foods from your diet. Figuring out what is right for you, and a suitable diet for your individual constitution, is best done with a qualified health practitioner.

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    • storke profile image

      storke 7 years ago from Santa Cruz, California

      Great Kingsti ! This is true and correct. I will change the article to reflect this new info.

    • profile image

      kingsti 7 years ago

      I was shocked to learn how much processing goes into the fish oils including Carlson's and Nordic Naturals - both of which I have stopped consuming. Problem is that the heat generated during processing destroys the vitamin content of the fish oils and synthethic vitamins are then added back in. Ditto all krill oils. Only company that uses a fermentation process to preserve the original vitamin content is greenpastures right here in the United States. Check out the weston price organization website for more info.

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      Craig Lane 8 years ago

      Chris certainly speaks the most powerful form of knowledge - direct experience. I am proud to say he is my brother and he walks his talk, a rare commodity in health teachers.

      I would add that important nutrients from what I see clinically is FOOD-BASED b-vitamins, minerals from raw whole food sources (not cooked bone meal or weird forms of calcium like carbonate that one could lick the sidewalk and get better absorption), and person specific needs for unnatural forms of radiation like cell phones, microwaves, EMF's, WiFI signals might be more bioflavaniods and iodine rich foods like seaweeds.