Updated: May 21
I was a picky eater as a kid and into my early adult years. And if something was going around, I most likely would get it, things as simple as a cold or as complex as malaria. I never thought I would reach a point where I could spend a full year feeling mostly healthy, But that is who I am today. It did not happen overnight. However, taking simple but consistent measures have allowed me to reach a healthier equilibrium. There are a few principles that I have adopted that can make a positive impact for you as well.
Drinking water: I never thought that I needed to drink water unless I felt really thirsty.
Perhaps this is why I suffered from constipation often. Nowadays, a glass of filtered water first thing in the morning and lots more throughout the day help me not only stay hydrated, and support regular bowel movements, but water also support healthy skin. We are all dehydrated by the time we wake up in the morning unless we wake up in the middle of the night to drink water. While drinking water whenever you feel thirsty is important, nighttime is not the best time, as that is the time when your body needs to rest. There is no other drink that can replace water, whether you like it or not. Water helps to dilute and expel toxins from your body, as Anne Louise Gittleman explains in her book The Living Beauty Detox Program. Something I practice regularly is to drink water between meals rather than with meals. However, I can drink some warm water immediately after I eat and that also works.
Some experts, such as Donna Gates with Linda Schatz, authors of the Body Ecology Diet, recommend not drinking cold water while you eat as this may dilute the digestive juices and slow down digestion. There is no consensus on how much water we should drink. Conventional wisdom says that we need eight glasses of water of 8 ounces each. I have heard also that the best amount is the equivalent of half your body weight in ounces of water. This means that at 130lbs, I should drink about 65 ounces of water.
Eating whole unprocessed foods: As much as possible, I eat beans, lentils, fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds. I eat boiled eggs, chicken, fish and beef as well and I limit my intake of processed meat. Occasionally, I'll have a sausage that has no added nitrates or nitrites and from meat that was not treated with hormones. I prefer whole plant foods because they contain fiber which promote regular bowel movements. When buying a processed food, how much fiber should you look? Twelve percent or 3 grams of fiber is a good start. More is even better as the more the fiber the greater the chance of preventing constipation, provided you drink enough water with it as well. Fiber expands and can cause constipation if you do not drink sufficient water with it. A daily bowel movement removes toxic waste from your body.
Fiber also keeps you feeling fuller for longer. If you tend to feel hungry sooner than you think you should, check the fiber content of your foods and increase the amount if necessary. Fiber also slows down the absorption of sugar into the bloodstream. This is particularly important for anyone with blood sugar imbalances. The fourth benefit of fiber is that it feeds the good bacteria in your gut. These are the ones that fight for you and keep your immune system strong. In their book, The Fiber35Diet, Brenda Watson with Leonard Watson recommend 35 grams of fiber every day to support a healthy weight. Legumes are one of the highest sources of fiber. They include some of my favorites: black beans, chickpeas, and lentils. These are foods that I did not enjoy much growing up because I associated them with acid reflux. I am now able to fully digest and enjoy them regularly because I presoak them prior to cooking them and I have them with lots of vegetables, usually fresh but sometimes frozen as well. Beans and lentils are also good sources of protein, an important macronutrient for the body.
Diversifying protein intake is also important. You need protein to help your body produce enzymes and hormones but proteins are needed for many other reasons: They are building block for your bones, skin and blood. And you need proteins to repair tissues. This is the reason why athletes need protein following a workout or other athletic activity. You may be aware of family members or friends who take long to recover from a wound. They may be eating foods that do not provide sufficient protein. Fortunately, you do not need too much protein. Thomas Rau, in his book, The Swiss Secret to Optimal Health, recommends 40 to 50 grams of protein per day. Too much protein makes the body acidic, as Rau states, and the higher the acidity, the less healthy the body becomes. Some people love meat and eat way too much of it and less of the other sources of macro and micronutrients. There are many sources of protein to choose from, some more expensive than others, depending on where you live and the quality you are looking for. Beef, chicken and fish, eggs, yogurt, and various types of beans and lentils are all good protein sources that I choose from.
I have learned not rely too much on beans and rice that used to be staples in my diet. Both are significant sources of carbohydrates and a high carb diet is not helpful for weight management and maintaining stable blood sugar. In fact, I now recommend to people with blood sugar issues to favor beans over rice especially when trying to manage a limited budget. Beans also provide carbohydrates and protein along with other nutrients such as iron and folate. The fiber in beans also help to keep us feeling fuller for longer. Diversifying my sources of protein and adding animal sources more regularly than I used to has helped me to maintain stable blood sugar levels much more effectively.
Manage stress productively: It took me some time to reach a point of understanding and acting on the belief that if I want to be a good steward of my assets – including my family, my job, my finances, and all other physical property, then I should take care of the most important asset I have: my health! Managing stress is a very important component of supporting one's health. Stress is much more harmful to the body than I had realized. You might also be ignorant of the fact that when you allow stress to get a hold of you, its impact reaches deep into your body, mind and spirit. There are many ways that I manage stress these days and it does not take a lot of time, but it's a decision I make regularly and intentionally throughout the day.
Sometimes, all I need to do is to stop and to notice the beauty of a sunset and be thankful for that moment and the view. Sometimes, I go out for a nature walk and enjoy the beauty of trees, gardens, blooming flowers or the sound of chirping birds. At mealtime, stopping and being thankful for the nourishment in the food I am about to eat before I take the first bite allows me to not eat while stressed. The more intentional and intuitive and the less impulsive I choose to be, the better I get as serving others with the same level of empathy and understanding. Taking care of myself enables me to serve as a better model for others who see me as a teacher or mentor. Taking care of myself teaches me to act as a steward of natural resources and the environment that serve as my sources of food and inspiration. I hope that these simple habits will inspire you to take better care of yourself and know that the simple steps you take on a regular basis do add up and result in a healthier and happier you!
To your health and wellness,
Rose Kadende-Kaiser, Ph.D. Founder, Season of Health
Integrative Nutrition Coach www.seasonofhealth.net
Gates, Donna with Linda Schatz. Body Ecology Diet. 2011. Gittleman, Anne Louise. The Living Beauty Detox Program. 2000. P. 40. Prochaska, James, John Norcross and Carlo Diclemente. Changing for Good. 2002. P. 15 Rau, Thomas with Susan Wyler. The Swiss Secret to Optimal Health. 2007. P. 59. Watson, Brenda with Leonard Smith. TheFiber35Diet. 2007.