I know that there’s so much competing food and nutrition information out there it’s hard know what to do. Whether you're a steak-loving Paleo, a raw foods vegan, a flexitarian, or undecided, you can take a deep breath and relax.
Here are five core principles that will help you to improve your health, weight, mood and digestion regardless of what you eat. (Well, within reason!)
1. Choose your foods mindfully.
Mindfulness is an awareness about the decisions we make in the moment, and a commitment to make those decisions based on our highest level of inner wisdom. When we pay attention to whether or not our choices are in harmony with our desire to feel well, and then we decide to act consistently, we are practicing mindfulness.
So, for example, realizing that the seemingly yummy muffin you're about to purchase on your way to work is going to leave you feeling exhausted in an hour, and that you want it because you're anxious about the meeting with your boss at 10:30, you might choose to have something more grounding instead — for example, a hardboiled egg and a fresh vegetable juice, which will keep you energized and on your best game.
2. Eat slowly. Aim to take 30 minutes per meal.
Most of us rush through most of our meals. Slowing down while you eat has many benefits:
- More chewing means more breakdown of your food before it gets into your gut, decreasing your risk of developing food sensitivities.
- Eating more slowly allows your body to become naturally sated before you’ve had a chance to overeat.
- A relaxed meal means more healthy blood flow to your gut, which means better digestion and also assimilation of nutrients.
- We also get more pleasure from our food when we actually take the time to savor it.
3. Have gratitude for the food in front of you.
So often we start our meals worrying about how our food is going to make us feel, or if we're eating the right thing on our latest healthy diet, or how many calories it really has. All of this worrying just interferes with our goal of feeling good. Instead, try approaching your food with a gratitude attitude.
Take a minute before you take that first bite to appreciate the food, the earth, the farmers, the marketers — all of the complex beings and elements that go into bringing that food to you. While you eat, make sure to taste, enjoy, and savor your food. You’ll get all of the same benefits as eating slowly, and you get the additional alchemy that happens when we shift from a worry mode to a thankfulness mode.
4. Hari hachi bu.
This is a Japanese practice of eating until you’re 80% full. You feel good, comfortable, satisfied, but never stuffed. It's one of the simplest health practices to increase your longevity. I guarantee you’ll feel healthier, more energetic, will notice that your digestion is improved and you’ll likely lose a few pounds, too!
5. Eat whole foods.
Regardless of the eating plan you prefer, make sure all of your foods are as natural as possible.
- Avoid processed foods (including most flour and sugar products).
- Whenever possible, choose foods that have the least packaging.
- Make sure you recognize all of the ingredients on the label.
While organic foods have not been shown to contain more nutrients than conventional choices, we do know that antibiotics and other medications in meat and dairy, and pesticides and herbicides found on produce and other food products increase our risks of numerous medical problems including thyroid disease, inflammation, weight troubles, diabetes, and even cancer.
All meat and dairy should be produced with an eye toward sustainable practices. For safe produce choices, see the Environmental Working Group’s Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen.
Food is about health and pleasure. Following these five simple rules will certainly increase both for you! Bon appétit!
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