In a previous article, I discussed the first two elements of health: mind state or the mind’s connection to health. It’s really how we choose to think. The second element: exercise, the body’s need to move. Exercise is how we choose to move our body’s, how much we respect the amazing machine that carries our being.
The 3rd element of optimal health is diet. The word diet has a skewered connotation. “I’ll take a double quarter-pounder with cheese, super sized fries and a Diet Coke.; after all, you know I am on a diet.” Diet has been degraded to mean sacrifices a person makes for a short amount of time to lose 5 lbs or 10 lbs. then revert back to the same old eating habits that got you into trouble in the first place. That’s a futile effort at best.
Diet for our purposes is a living plan for maximizing nutrition. It’s a part of our lifestyle. It’s really when we choose to eat, what we choose to eat, and how much we choose to eat.
Let’s go back to the basics of what good food really is, back to the basics.
First of all food is fuel. Nutrition is to your body what gasoline is to your car. It’s the nuclear material that produces electricity. It what hay is to horses.
You have to take in, in order to give out. Fuel is the energy needed to make things happen.
There are just a very simple, basic way to understand good nutrition and poor nutrition.
We are going to categorize food into two main divisions: Macro-nutrients and Micro-nutrients.
There are three food groups under the heading of macro-nutrients.
The largest by far, is carbohydrates. When you think carbohydrates you should consider these are quick fuel. Carbohydrates are mostly comprised of sugars, that is, quick energy, like jet fuel. It burns fast and provides maximum energy to do hard work. Splitting fire wood, running five miles, cross country skiing, building a deck, body building. Hard work.
The major problem with carbohydrates is that we eat way too much, and we eat the worst kinds. Yes, there are good carbs and bad carbs. Bad carbs are anything that is mostly wheat and sugar, baked goods, processed foods are mostly sugary carbs. Rice, potatoes are carbs. Breads, cakes and donuts are carbs.
But so are beans, lentils and legumes. Those are the slow burning carbs. Slow burning carbs give you more nutrition than fast burning carbs. Slow burning carbs don’t overload your system with too much sugar all at once.
If you are an athlete, you will eat a lot of carbs in preparation for a race. Marathoners eat lots of carbs. Sprinters and swimmers rely on carbs for bursts of tremendous energy. Do you remember at the Beijing Olympics, much was made of Michael Phelps and his 10,000 calorie breakfasts? Stacks of pancakes drenched in syrup.
If you are an office worker or sit most of the day for the work you do, how many carbs do you think you need? Not very many at all. Our overweight and obesity issues as a society stem from sugar/ carb overload. In the 1980’s doctors were advising a low fat diet to fight obesity. That advice failed to stem the upward rise of the nation’s weight problems. Why? Because people avoided fats, everything was low fat, high carb. If you need to lose weight you need to lose the carbs, that is to say the high glycemic carbs, the sugary carbs. When you process the fat out, things taste bad. So food scientists added salt and sugar and artificial flavors to make low fat foods taste good.
The second group of foods comprising macro-nutrients is fats. Sometimes referred to as fatty acids. Fats are acidic by nature and provide the body with needed base material for cellular repair and growth of cells and organs in the body. The brain is made up of 40% fat. Fat is used to protect organs from damage. Fat provides the material for making hormones and vitamins. Fats are really, really important.
Of course, there good fats and bad fats. The fats to avoid are hydrogenated fats, partially hydrogenated fats and trans fats. What’s wrong with these fats? They are processed by man, chemically altered for long shelf life. Not a bad idea for food preservation, but the law of unintended consequences kicks in and there are nasty side effects from these fats. The problem is that they stay in your body for a long time too! Like an unwelcome guest for the holidays that just won’t go away!
Good fats are coconut oil, olive oil and fish oil. Fish oil, fresh and premium grade are responsible for repairing the cardio vascular system, for thinning the blood, for preventing stroke and heart attack.
Most Americans have an Omega-3 fatty acid deficiency. This can be correct with a daily dose of pure Omega-3 fish oil.
The third group of macro-nutrients are comprised of the family of proteins. Our proteins mainly come from meat, muscle meat. Chicken, beef, soy, whey, dairy products. Proteins are the only material with which we can build muscle. Again athletes and body builders will need to have a good portion of protein with every meal. Proteins are used to build muscle and excess protein will be expelled, proteins will not cause weight gain.
Most of us who are not professional athletes should eat a little of these 3 macro nutrients groups but the majority of our food should come from an entirely different group of foods:
The unsung heroes of the nutritional world: Micro-nutrients.
What is most neglected in the food and diet world are …Micro Nutrients.
What is the one class of food we haven’t talked about. Vegetables. Vegetables are full of micro-nutrients that bring health to our bodies, filled with phyto nutrients. When you neglect vegetables you neglect health.
Most people when asked say they eat lots of vegetables, but if they keep a food journal which I asked all my coaching clients to do for at least a month, it becomes clear that most people greatly exaggerate what they think they eat in the way of vegetables. Usually, it’s about 5% but it should be 50%. It’s difficult to shop for vegetables in many localities but the choices of fast foods are abundant just about everywhere. That creates a problem.
What’s missing in most fast food restaurants? Vegetables. Overtime, health suffers. There goes your health.
That’s the third element of health summed up in three words: Eat more vegetables.
Oh, don’t rely on canned vegetables entirely. Many times they are packed with excessive amounts of salt. Look at the label and check it out. Fresh are best, frozen are okay too.
The 4th element of Optimal Health: Sleep.
Yes, take a nap. It’s good for you. Health is anchored by the ability to disengage from the world and its stresses through sleep. It kind of circles back to our first element, the Mind.
Stress is part of life and a stress free life really doesn’t exist. Some stress is good for us to keep us interested in what’s going on around us, but too much stress causes the release of hormones that overtax the organs in your body.
Learning to de-stress, learning to wind down in the evenings is extremely important.
In order to get really good, sound, satisfying sleep, there are a couple of things you can do, should do.
The last waking hour should not be consumed with light emitting screens such as the television, computer screens or your snazzy smart phone.
The light entering your eyes late at night breaks the circadian rhythm. It tells the subconscious brain that it’s daytime and you’ve got keep going. It keeps you “wired.”
Better to read a book, not on a device but on paper, with the light coming from over your shoulder. Darken the room with curtains and don’t have any blinking electronics on in the room. Clocks with light, phones charging, even lit on/off buttons can disturb your sleep. Make your bedroom a dark cave, and settle into a sound sleep.
The last thing you think about can have an effect on your sleep. You can use this to your advantage. If you have a problem that needs solving, rather than worrying about the problem and creating toxic juices in your body, it’s much healthier to use a tried and proven technique. You can frame a question in your mind, or even write it in your bedside notebook. “I need an answer to this: XYZ.” Having posed the question, you can release if from your conscious mind and turn it over to the subconscious or if you are a spiritual person you can turn it over to the Universe or God.
Many times, a good night’s sleep will bring clear answers in the morning. Pay attention to the early morning thoughts. You’ve heard the expression, “Okay, let me sleep on it and I will let you know what I think in the morning.”
This works equally as well to take whatever worries you have and commit them to paper. It’s a form of release and the burden of the worry need not be carried while you sleep, it’s safely in storage on your bedside notepad.
Meditation is a form of rest and sleep. Yogis can get the equivalent of 8 hours of sleep in 20 minutes by using a form of meditative semi-conscious state called the yoga nidra.
Affirmations of goodness and light.
Joy, Strength, Wisdom, Peace. These are my four words I recite before sleeping. I touch my thumb and index finger on both hands and affirm Joy. I touch my thumb and middle finger and assert Strength. I touch my thumb and ring finger and affirm Wisdom. I touch my thumb and pinky and assert Peace.
That’s a much better mind practice than recounting all the bad and negative things that happened during the day.
That concludes this lesson for now. Remember your MEDS.
Mind State or Mind Connection to Health
Exercise or Exert Your Muscles for Health
Diet or Dine on More Veggies
Sleep or Simply get more restful sleep.
If you like these articles let me know. If you need some advise on nutrition, dietary supplements, or Nutraceuticals, get in touch. I would like to hear from you.