What you put into your body is incredibly important. Eating well isn’t just focusing on what not to eat, it’s also focusing on what to eat. Making sure your body gets the nutrients it needs is vital to boosting energy, ensuring healthy digestion, building and repairing muscle, and even keeping skin beautiful. So many people make a dedication to exercise but fail to make any changes in the foods they eat. Diet and exercise are most effective when done together, but we believe making changes to diet before committing to exercise will get you better results and keep you on track too.
Diet and exercise are the first two priorities we talk about on the Five Pillars of Health. Doing both at the same time can prove frustrating and overwhelming if you are at the beginning of your journey to becoming a healthier person all around. If lifestyle changes aren’t achievable you’ll fall off the wagon. Setting goals you are able to master while having clear expectations will set you up for long term success when it comes to living healthier.
Step one – change your thinking.
The first step in mastering your food choices is understanding the purpose of food. If you can change the way you think about food and change the purpose it has in your life you’ll find better outcomes. This means conquering the habits of binge eating out of boredom and emotional eating. If this is a hard habit for you to break then replace it with a good habit. If you get a craving for something from the vending machine at the same time every day then choose to go for a walk at that time instead of succumbing to your old habit. During your walk recall these four purposes of food.
Food as Fuel.
Food is intended to fuel and repair the body. If you aren’t eating the right foods your body will find it difficult to power through exercise and repair muscle afterward. It’s also likely you wont see results as quickly as someone who is getting appropriate amounts of proteins, carbohydrates, and fiber. Spend some time getting your body prepared for exercise by eating healthier first.
Food as an immune booster.
Focus on eating foods able to boost your immune system. Everyone knows foods high in vitamin C help fight off infections and assume oranges have the greatest amounts of vitamin C, however, a guava contains more than twice as much vitamin c as an orange. Zinc is a powerful immune booster, foods high in zinc include oysters, beans, and beef. Additionally, sunflower seeds, almonds, and spinach are all rich in vitamin E. Vitamin E works to stimulate the production of infection fighting cells, while Zinc helps those cells to fight more aggressively.
Adversely, sugar is powerful in its ability to suppress immune reactions. AskDrSears.com explains how sugar suppresses your immune system, Studies have shown that downing 75 to 100 grams of a sugar solution (about 20 teaspoons of sugar, or the amount that is contained in two average 12-ounce sodas) can suppress the body’s immune responses. Simple sugars, including glucose, table sugar, fructose, and honey caused a fifty percent drop in the ability of white blood cells to engulf bacteria.
Food to improve digestion.
Digestion and immune function go hand in hand, it should be no surprise that people with food allergies often have weakened immune responses. If you’re finding certain foods bring side effects then try eliminating those foods from your diet altogether.
The acronym HOPE is an easy way to remember which foods are best for digestion.
H – High Fiber: bananas, spinach, flax seeds, broccoli, beans; avoid grains as they can cause inflammation
O – Omegas (3,6,9): fish, oils, seeds, nuts, avocados, and leafy green veggies; avoid vegetable oils
P – Probiotics: through supplements, also fermented foods like sour kraut and kefir
E – Enzymes: melons, mango, avocado, honey, and through supplements
Food as medicine.
Whole foods really do prevent disease! The key here is to eat organic foods that can be found in nature; fruits, vegetables, meat, eggs, nuts, and seeds. GMO, or genetically modified foods, have proven to be harmful to the point of causing disease. For example, beef that is injected with hormones has been linked to cancer in women, but beef is an excellent source of zinc, iron, protein, and B vitamins, so remember to grab the organic option. Eating healthy foods isn’t enough, it’s vital to consider how the foods you eat are grown and harvested.
Many whole foods have been linked to preventing cancer: grapefruits, oranges, nuts, berries, sweet potatoes, wild salmon, green tea, and green vegetables to name a few. Are you beginning to notice a trend here? We hope so! Whole foods serve multiple purposes in getting you healthy and keeping you healthy. What seems daunting doesn’t have to be. Instead of focusing on everything you can’t eat, focus on everything you can eat and what those foods are accomplishing for your body. When you eat blueberries think about how your brain, immune system, and white blood cells are all getting a major boost in productivity. You’ll feel good about what you’re eating and what you’re eating will make you feel good!