Helpful Tips To Keep Well
I’ve heard some pretty amazing things over the years, having had conversations with people about holistic nutrition. Here are the top 10 picks of things I've been told:
- “I don’t like water; I only drink soda.”
- “My daughter is a vegetarian. She has coffee and a Danish for breakfast and eats lunch at school. For dinner she opens a can of peas and a can of corn."
- “I have had all the chemo and radiation my body can take. Would it hurt me to take B vitamins?”
- “I always remove the germ of the peanut because it is poison.”
- “I’m feeding my baby (six months old) cooked whole grain rice (not blended) with applesauce, because the applesauce will help him digest it.
- “Do you think oysters would help my husband? He’s impudent.”
- A woman with a master’s degree in nutrition told me her diet consisted of four foods because everything else was contaminated with toxins.
- “I know I need minerals, so I started sucking on matchsticks.”
- I received a phone call from a lady who said, “I’m all out of B12’s; can I take two B6’s?”
- (And the prize goes to:) I’ve been taking euthanasia to help my immune system fight this cold.” (Perhaps Echinacea?)
As you can see, it’s a jungle out there. Nutrition is as important to health and life as oxygen is to breathing. It’s so sad that we don’t grow up with a real understanding and appreciation for what is wholesome, life sustaining and enhancing when it comes to food. Optimal nutrition, like health, begins with a mindset. Here are some important basics that somehow fall by the wayside in the everyday practice of living:
1. Appreciate your food for the purpose it serves. Clothes shopping, buying a car, choosing a new home, or picking out a new pair of shoes may get more attention sometimes than what is going into our mouths. This is fuel for life—to give us energy, vitality, productivity, brain function, and peak performance.
2. Eat close to the garden. No, not in proximity to the literal garden, but eating fresh, whole foods supplies maximum nutrition over processed and refined foods. The more fruit, vegetables, and grains are processed, the more depleted they become.
3. Let quality win over quantity. It is not only the appearance of freshness, but also the way it is grown. 100% organic and biodynamic are winners hands down because you won’t be ingesting pesticides, herbicides, antibiotics, growth hormones, and a myriad of synthetic/toxic chemicals. Food should match up with our cells. Normal, healthy cells and nutritious foods are partners.
4. Chew your food well. Digestion begins in the mouth as the teeth mechanically break down food into smaller components. Saliva begins the breakdown of starches. Gulping, rushing, distractions such as TV, lack of time, etc. all come into play. Remember college days? Everyone chows down on Mac and cheese and fills up with a Big Gulp® in three sizes. Mom was right—chew your food well.
5. Don’t drink a lot of liquid with meals. Digestive enzymes and hydrochloric acid in the stomach need to be concentrated so don’t dilute them with too much liquid.
6. Taste is the key to enjoyment. Many folks resist the concept of health foods because of the perception of bland taste. Birdseed and cardboard are two words I’ve heard in jest. “Tofu has the texture and taste of a sponge,” was another offering. Actually, this has more to do with preparation and creativity than the food itself. I will mention, however, that you can taste the difference in an organic apple or carrot, for example, than a conventionally grown one. The variety of possibilities is incredible. You can make mouth-watering, healthy sauces, desserts, entrées, and side dishes that are taste extravaganzas! No excuses on this one.
7. Open your cabinets and check food labels. This exercise is quite a revelation. If you are not a label reader when you shop, you’ll want to become one. Notice the actual list of ingredients and see how many names for sugar, MSG, preservatives and other chemicals are consistently showing up. I’ve seen frozen tater tots that had no taters.
8. Cut off meals several hours before retiring. Sleep is the time for the body to detox and cleanse and well as refresh. Eating a meal close to bedtime engages the digestive processes as well, and the body is doing double-duty. Tossing and turning from a feeling of fullness and frequently waking up defeats the purpose.
9. Prepare ahead. If you’re traveling, late for work, having to skip lunch, or any similar scenarios, plan ahead the night before. Have healthy snacks ready to go that you can grab on your way out or pre-pack a meal just in case.
10. Invest in some healthy cookbooks. If you have been eating healthy for some time, you can look at any cookbook and make substitutions. Try a raw food cookbook. Step out of the usual and try some international cuisine. Food preparation and cooking can be an adventure of colors, textures, and tastes. I see each dish as an opportunity to create a work of art with some amazing fuel.
11. Understand acid/alkaline balance. Foods will fall into two categories: acid and alkaline with some foods somewhat in the middle. If the diet is predominantly acid, there is more inflammation, nagging symptoms and possible disease processes brewing. An easy way to remember the alkaline foods is to think most fresh fruits and vegetables are alkaline-forming. Here is a list for handy reference:
Alcohol, Asparagus, Beans, Brussels sprouts, Buckwheat, Catsup, Cocoa, Coffee, Cornstarch, Cranberries, Eggs, Fish, Flour, Pasta, Garbanzos, Legumes, Milk, Meat, Mustard, Oatmeal, Olives, Pepper, Plums, Poultry, Prunes, Sauerkraut, Shellfish, Soft Drinks, Sugar and all foods with added sugar, Tea and Vinegar
Low-Level Acid Forming Foods:
Butter, Canned or Glazed Fruit, Cheeses, Dried Coconut, Dried or Sulfured Fruit (most), Grains (most), Ice Cream, Ice Milk, Lamb’s Quarters, Nuts and Seeds (most), Parsley
Avocados, Corn, Dates, Fresh Coconut, Fresh Fruits (most), Fresh Vegetables (most), Honey, Horseradish, Maple Syrup, Molasses, Mushrooms, Onions, Raisins, Soy Products, Sprouts, Umeboshi Plums, Watercress
Note: All vegetables (especially raw) balance the acid/alkaline levels in the blood. Citrus fruits contain citric acid, which actually alkalizes in the system. A glass of water with squeezed fresh lemon is a great wake-up drink in the morning.
Low-Level Alkaline-Forming Foods:
Almonds, Blackstrap Molasses, Brazil Nuts, Chestnuts, Lima Beans, Millet, Soured Dairy Products
The study of the principles of good nutrition will empower you to make healthier choices and eat for life. Education is the key to health. If we don’t see the connection between poor diets, deficiencies and disease, we are at a great disadvantage. Bon appétit.