I will preface by saying that I am not a certified nutritionist, and did not go to school for it. I learned by self-education, trial and error, and working with professionals. Not every bit of advice is set in stone. My statements are theoretical, provided here to give insight on more options to nutrition and health, in hopes of opening the spectrum of belief that that there are more options than what the Standard American Diet ("SAD") provides, and to show that every choice we make, results in equal and long-lasting effects (like when you drop a pebble in the water, ripples are created). Please experiment with these concepts and see how you feel. Always listen to your body -- it gives you the best advice.
The essential liquid that coats your muscles, sends oxygen into your system, replenishes what is lost in sweat, prevents headaches, removes toxins, and eases digestion is water. Water is extremely accessible, already made, natural and (hopefully) pure and clean and many people do not drink enough of it. Aim to drink a minimum of 8 glasses of 8 ounces a day, and add another glass per ten pounds over the weight you would like to be. Something to consider: you burn calories while you sleep, so not only do you burn more when you get ample sleep (which does not mean stay in bed all day), hitting coffee or tea first thing dehydrates your body even more. Frequently get headaches? Drink water. Drink water after your coffee or tea to prevent dry mouth, dehydration, and/or bad breath. Drink water before and after you eat but limit the amount while you are eating as to not thin the stomach acids, rather sip to wash down the food. Carry a water bottle to make sure you get your daily recommended amount. I suggest a bottle that is BPA-free, dishwasher safe, and has the measurements along the side. (Camelbak is a great brand). Do not re-use the bottles from the pre-filled bottled water, the plastic was only meant to be used once and the chemicals will seep into the water. Also, owning your own is more environmentally-conscious.
Eat whole foods and don't be fooled by bottled drinks with healthy-sounding names. Don't trust the front label. Turn the product around. Become an ingredients-reader. The first ingredient listed has the highest quantity in the food product, the second has less, and so on.... I grew up with the rule if sugar was among the top three, I wasn't allowed to eat it, except on special occasions. There was never Cookie Crisp or Sugar Jacks or any of that in the house. If you don't recognize what is listed in the ingredients, why put that into your body? For example, if you want to drink coconut water, buy 100% coconut water. That should be the only ingredient. What is coconut jelly? Also, among the many strange chemical names (made by the same companies that create fragrances), did you know that Doritos are made with monosodium glutamate? What is that? MSG. That combination of chemicals are banned in most Chinese food restaurants in the U.S. because of it's contribution to cancers, heart disease, and other degenerative diseases.
Eat fiber to aid in your digestion. Men need approximately 30-38 grams a day, while women need 21-25 grams per day. Some high fiber fruits are apples, oranges, avocado, bananas, berries, guava, kiwi, and pears. Some dried fruit high in fiber are apricots, figs, raisins, dates, and prunes. Fruit juices tend to be high in sugar and don't give you the same fiber quantity as a pure fruit. Raw vegetables are higher in fiber than cooked ones because the heat actually breaks down the fiber and converts it into starch. Nuts that are high in fiber are almonds, brazil nuts, peanuts (although not technically a nut), walnuts, cashews, and the butter spreads derived from each. Beans, light popcorn (no butter), sesame seeds, spices, sauerkraut, low-sodium V8 drink, chickpeas, sweet potatoes, wild rice, and whole wheat are other high-fiber foods. Other options are all-fiber cereals, whole grain breads and beans. Also, have on the kitchen shelf any fiber with psyllium husk, other suggestions are flax and chia seeds which you can buy ground or grind yourself and mix into any hot or cold food or beverage.
If your bowel movement is difficult or the results are like tiny pebbles, you need more fiber, more whole foods, and less fried stuff and junk food. If you constantly rely on drugs to relieve your stomach pain, eat healthier; try probiotics in pill or powder-form, or naturally from yogurt. If you suffer from cramps, bloating or abdominal pain, return to easily digested foods (broth, bananas, avocados, artichoke hearts, etc.... and water). Those special cleansing diets and colonics may do more harm than good by removing too much good bacteria and may make you dehydrated, weak, irritable, and possibly more apt to getting sick. Plus, those methods tend to be given by people who may be certified in the process, but do not have medical degrees, and who wants someone poking around inside them without that valuable education? Colonics also may lead to renal failure, liver toxicity, perforated colon, and other bad news, and the practice has not been completely proven as effective.
Here are 20 suggestions to guide you to better health, in and out:
1. Chew your food slowly. Swallow. Put your utensil(s) down between bites. Taste the food. Let your body process it. There's no rush. If you eat quickly, your body won't be satisfied. You may eat too much and might end up with digestive problems.
2. Eat 3-4 small well-balanced meals every day with healthy snacks 2 hours from each meal. Aim for 75:25 as a minimum of healthy foods to non per week and you are doing fine.
3. If you want a treat, have one. Allow yourself that freedom. Don't stress about it. (Unless growling at a cookie works for you.)
4. Avoid temptations (ie: just because you are provided a free lunch buffet, doesn't mean you need to try everything).
5. Yogurt. It has protein, probiotics, and it is filling. Stay away from the fake fruit on the bottom and add your own. Mix in whole grain cereal, ground flax.... Be creative.
6. Prepare your meals. Learn how to cook (don't be afraid to try). Have available grab-n-go foods like fruits, yogurt, trail mix, protein bars, hard-boiled eggs, bags of nuts, jerky (beef, turkey, chicken, buffalo, salmon) for example.
7. Chew gum or suck on a hard candy while you're food shopping to limit your urges.
8. Eat protein at every meal. A snack is not a meal.
9. Drink water! If you are not a fan, then add honey, lemon, fresh mint, ginger, a tea bag, natural fruit juice, etc.
10. If you have heartburn, indigestion, constipation, or other ailments, lay off the sugar, acidic, and heavy (fried or high fat) foods!
11. Be sure to eat the most important meal: breakfast, one high in protein and fiber. You will snack less during the day.
12. Be open to trying new foods. You won't know if you like it unless you try it.
13. If your stomach aches then drink calming liquids like water that are not ice cold. Try warm tea with lemon with honey and/or sliced ginger.
14. Instead of adding sugar to your favorite beverage, and this goes for brown sugar and sugar-in-the-raw, try healthy alternatives rather than the chemical substitutes: like honey, agave, or Stevia.
15. Don't drink soda. It creates kidney issues, sugar overload, obesity, dissolving of tooth enamel, reproductive issues, osteoporosis, asthma, increased risk of diabetes.... And you don't really need more examples.
16. If your stomach hurts, try to back track and remember what you ate and drank the past 48 hours, better yet, if you continue to have aches and pains, keep a food journal.
17. Have your fruit before the meal. Not only does it digest faster than proteins and starches, if it is an acidic fruit, the acid will assist the stomach acids to clean the pathway for the meal. Some theories suggest that the fruit may rot on top of other undigested foods if eaten after the meal.
18. Spice up your foods with other seasonings other than salt and pepper. Spices trigger the hunger responses in your body, causing you to feel full longer. Anise, basil, cayenne, coriander, dill, ginger, rosemary, and turmeric are some great for digestion. Turmeric has also been known to be beneficial in the treatment of cancers and Alzheimer's.
19. If you are trying to catch your breath while eating, slow down. A few things may be happening: you may not be giving yourself a chance to breathe between forkfuls, you may be full and are not giving yourself the time to realize it, or you are not allowing your body to do it's natural duty of digesting what you are giving it.
20. Relying on drugs is not the answer to your digestive problems, look at your diet. Don't solve one problem while creating another.
BONUS: Opposing what you learned as a child: the Golden Rule that "if you don't finish what's on your plate, you won't get dessert." You don't have to finish what is on your plate! Eat what you can, save the rest for later... or for your dog.
Your body is your property, your temple, and your responsibility. Do you want to use it or abuse it? You are not only are what you eat, you are how you take care of yourself, and it's your choice how you live.
If you would like to add your thoughts, please feel free to comment below!
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