By MJ O'Leary, JOYVIAL Executive Health Coach
Our always-on lifestyles juggling competing needs, demands, and deadlines has normalized eating on the go. Grabbing a quick bite on the run may satisfy your hunger, but it rarely provides the nourishment needed to thrive.
Each and every meal offers the opportunity to harness the considerable power of food. You’ve likely heard you are what you eat, and there is truth to this. What’s at the end of your fork has a profound impact on your physical and mental well-being, as well as your ability to navigate life’s stressors. To enhance your health, eat real food, and eat it slow.
A simple guide to eating well
There are many schools of thought when it comes to diet, and the conflicting nutrition advice can be downright confusing. It’s really quite simple to shift your health in a positive direction: increase your intake of real food - vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts, seeds, and mushrooms - and reduce your intake of processed food.
Life gets busy and often leaves us with minimal time to prepare meals. Ready packaged foods are easy and so darn convenient. But the convenience comes with a price. When we process food, we essentially destroy it, we make it nonfood. These highly refined nonfoods offer little to no nutritional value, expose us to chemicals (added to extend the shelf life) and at the same time mess with our blood sugar, gut health, and hormones.
Cutting back on processed foods can be a challenge. In addition to the convenience factor, processed foods are deliberately engineered to excite your taste buds so you can’t stop eating them.
To get started, focus on the worst offenders. Steer clear of any products that contain high fructose corn syrup, artificial sweeteners, vegetable oils (canola, corn, soybean, safflower) as well as foods with a long list of ingredients you can’t pronounce.
In addition, embrace spices, herbs, foods rich in fiber, and the colors of the rainbow.
Eat the rainbow. A diet rich in vegetables and fruits is associated with a longer, healthier life span. In addition to the vitamins and minerals needed for our bodies to optimally function, plants are loaded with health benefitting phytonutrients (natural substances that help plants survive), that exhibit antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anticarcinogenic properties. Different phytonutrients show up as different colors in the plant so aim to eat a wide variety of colors throughout the week for full benefit.
Boost your fiber. Fiber keeps your blood sugar in check and feeds the healthy bacteria in your gut. People who eat sufficient fiber experience lower rates of diabetes, heart disease, and cancer, yet most of us don’t eat nearly enough. High fiber foods include beans, lentils, avocado, peas, broccoli, acorn squash, oranges, sweet potatoes, chia, and flax seeds. You may need to build your fiber intake slowly over time to let your digestive system adjust.
Spice it up. More than just flavor enhancers, herbs and spices are nutritional powerhouses with a wide variety of health benefits. It’s like having a pharmacy in your kitchen! Apply liberally to salads, soups, vegetables, sandwiches, and smoothies. Braggs 21 seasoning makes it easy.
A simple guide to digesting well
Our culture encourages go-go-go /do-do-do which often creates an internal environment of mental and emotional distress. When we are in a stressed mode it is normal for our digestive juices to be reduced (by as much as 60%!) to support other body functions that promote survival (e.g., running for our lives – after all, we still are wired like our cave ancestors). There is a direct connection between stress (whether it be emotional, physical, or physiological) and chronic digestive issues.
A few calming breaths and a conscious effort to sit and relax prior to, during, and after eating facilitates digestion. Eating on the run, or at your desk in the 10 minutes carved from a full day of meetings, is a recipe for digestive distress.
How you eat is as consequential as what you eat. You are what you eat… but more importantly, you are what you digest and absorb. Eating slowly and mindfully helps you to onboard far more nutrients.
Sit Down and Slow Down. Most of us chew only a few times before swallowing a bite of food. The longer you chew your food the more it reduces the work of your stomach which inevitably results in better nutrient absorption.
Stop eating two hours before bed. Eating too close to bedtime makes it harder to sleep well. If you have a sleep tracker do your own test - have late dinner for two nights, then early dinner for two nights and you’ll notice a significant difference in the quality of your sleep.
Space dinner and breakfast twelve hours apart. If you eat dinner at 7pm, wait until 7am to eat breakfast. This break makes room for your body to heal and repair.
A focus on how you eat is an easy way to invest in your physical, mental, and emotional well-being with a fast and significant return on your investment.
Over time harm or health accumulates from what and how we eat. Shifting to a real food diet may mean big change and too much change at once can be overwhelming. Take steps in the direction of real food and make small changes you can sustain.
Aim for better, not perfect.
By MJ O'Leary, JOYVIAL Executive Health Coach
Would it be helpful for executive health coach MJ to support you on your journey to living your healthiest, most JOYful life? Learn more about JOYVIAL at www.joyvial.com or simply send an email to email@example.com to schedule your free discovery session.