Clean Eating Tips To Optimize Gut Health

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To celebrate Clean Eating Week here at mindbodygreen we're sharing the many ways that wellness experts fuel and care for their bodies with food.

Today, doctor and Ayurvedic expert Dr. Kulreet Chaudhary shares her simple tips for cleaning up your diet. Check out her course, How to Use Ayurveda to Heal Your Gut and Achieve Long-Lasting Weight Loss to learn more. And for even more info on all things nutrition, check out our awesome video courses.

One of the biggest scientific surprises of the 21st century has been the role that the gut—particularly the gut flora, or microbiome—plays in optimizing total health. This was an eye-opener for me, too, as a Western-trained physician. Had it not been for the fact that I developed debilitating migraine headaches in my early adulthood (which I couldn’t control even as a neurologist) I would have not believed the value of gut health on overall health.

The answer to my migraines was simple but required immersion into an ancient system of healing called Ayurveda. The founding principles of Ayurveda are that food is medicine, and your health starts first in your GI tract. After a few months of reversing my gut health, I was able to rid myself of migraine headaches completely.

To begin your journey to a healthier gut you can start with some simple tips for cleaner eating. Here are three of my favorite tips to clean up your eating habits without adding any significant cost or time:

1. Add turmeric to your food.

Turmeric is becoming somewhat of a superhero these days. The bright orange spice has been a staple of Indian cooking for thousands of years. Now the peppery root is getting its day under the microscope—not to mention in news headlines. (It shows up as a beauty mask, a must-have heart herb, and turmeric milk is even touted as the new green juice!)

Turmeric’s main compound, curcumin, is proven to lower cholesterol in heart patients, and blood sugar in people with diabetes. It’s “anti” in all the right ways: antiseptic, anti-inflammatory, and anti-cancer.

Turmeric is so effective at lowering inflammation, it relieves arthritis and other joint pain. It’s even been shown to stop cancer from growing, and in some cases kill malignant cells.

Researchers are realizing this highly prized spice lowers the risk of Alzheimer’s too. Not surprisingly, turmeric is still part of daily cooking in India, where the incidence of Alzheimer’s is extremely low.

A little bit of turmeric goes a long way. Just add ¼ teaspoon of turmeric powder to your favorite meal or smoothie to get the benefits of this amazing spice. It’s an inexpensive way to fight the effects of our modern diets.

2. Dump your microwave.

It may sound like an impossibility—how would you warm up your tea, reheat your leftovers, make day-old pizza edible again? But hear me out.

There are some good reasons microwaving may be hurting your health. I haven’t owned a microwave for more than 10 years, and I would never bring one back into my house. Here’s why:

If you have a microwave, you are more likely to eat processed food, which is filled with preservatives and colorings. If you eat frozen, microwaveable food, getting rid of your microwave will make you more likely to get into the kitchen and cook the real stuff. That alone is reason enough, in my opinion, to stop the microwave madness.

Microwaving fosters the idea that food should be convenient and you should prepare and eat it as fast as possible. If you can make a meal in two minutes and eat it in three minutes, your digestion is going to have a hard time keeping up.

Humans digest food much better when they spend time washing, chopping, cooking, looking, smelling, tasting, seasoning, serving, sitting down, and savoring their food. This gives your body a chance to fully prepare to receive food by releasing all the right enzymes in response to smell and taste.

Finally, the most controversial position: I believe that microwaving alters the molecular composition of food in a way that renders it less nutritious and even toxic.

The scientific literature hasn’t fully figured this one out yet, but there is evidence that microwaving does change food in ways that regular cooking doesn’t. For example, one study showed that microwaving protein solutions caused the proteins to unfold at a much higher rate than with ambient heating.

Other studies show mixed results for things like vitamin, mineral, antioxidant, and other phytochemical substances, especially in vegetables.

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3. Know your body type and eat accordingly.

Ayurveda offers one of the fastest paths to health. Instead of having to guess which foods, supplements, and behaviors are appropriate for you, there is a simple, direct prescriptive path that is developed for your unique body type, or dosha.

This takes all the guesswork out of getting healthy. The benefits that occur are not only felt in your body—they are also seen in your mental and emotional well-being. This holistic approach to health allows you to become a balanced, vital, happy person with the least amount of effort.

The three Ayurvedic body types, or doshas, are Vata, Pitta, and Kapha. Each dosha has a unique set of characteristics. There are several ways to determine your dosha.

The most accurate is through a detailed history and physical exam by an Ayurvedic physician. However, even taking a quick Ayurvedic quiz will provide you with tremendous insight into your principal dosha.

Most people are a combination of two doshas, but one typically predominates. Once you know your dosha, you can choose the specific foods that benefit your unique constitution and avoid the ones that are poisonous to your body and mind.

Dr. Kulreet Chaudhary

Dr. Kulreet Chaudhary is a neurologist, and the Director of Wellspring Health at Scripps Memorial Hospital and a pioneer in the field of Integrative Medicine. She received her Internship in Internal Medicine at UCLA and her Neurology Fellowship from UCSD. Her research includes groundbreaking work in stem cell therapies for diabetic peripheral neurophathy and drug development for the treatment of ALS. She is the co-founder of Habit Change, and she is committed to bringing national awareness to the need for a paradigm shift in medicine that focuses on patient empowerment and a health-based medical system.
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Dr. Kulreet Chaudhary

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