It seems that you can’t turn on the TV or open a magazine today without being bombarded with diet and nutrition information. While much of it is good, there is also a lot of misleading information out there; and since no two people are the same, all diets are not created equally. To understand the basics of nutrition and what constitutes the best daily diet for you, it is important to first know how our bodies treat the foods that we consume on a cellular level. Every cell in our bodies needs glucose, oxygen and stimulation.
I’m sure you’ve heard that breakfast is the most important meal of the day and it is true. To gain optimal health benefits from your diet, it is important to eat within one hour of waking. But why? Breakfast gives your body the fuel that is necessary to replace those glycogen stores and without breakfast you are more likely to experience cravings, leading to unhealthy choices during the day. Not only that but breakfast gives you a mental advantage, improving your ability to think and problem-solve. Just be sure that your breakfast is a healthy one. A high-fiber, low glycemic index breakfast such as oatmeal or an egg white omelette and whole grain toast are far better choices than a sugary cereal.
Carbs, contrary to a plethora of press and online information, are not just NOT bad for you, they are essential to your health. To get the most benefit from carbs, be sure to eat carbs with protein to balance blood sugar. “Good” carbs come in many delicious forms and can be found in fruits, vegetables and even dairy. The “bad” carbs, cakes, doughnuts, refined flours and sugars, can lead to diabetes, heart disease and other health problems and should be limited if not avoided. If you love pasta, think about trying whole wheat pasta or quinoa. Even popcorn makes the list of healthy carbs. Aim for eight servings of fruits and veggies throughout the day and if possible, eat small meals every 3-5 hours to reduce cravings and keep your metabolism running it’s best.
One of the essentials of basic nutrition, water is a little miracle worker in our bodies. It keeps our organs hydrated, fights fatigue, boosts energy and flushes out toxins. Just a small amount of dehydration can have an impact on the way we feel. Mild dehydration is the most common cause of daytime fatigue, a condition that an estimated 75% of Americans suffer from regularly. To ensure that you are drinking enough water, divide your weight in half. That’s the magic number to aim for in ounces of water each day. Also, try not to drink with meals as it dilutes stomach acid and interferes with digestion.
Also essential to maintaining optimal health is exercise. Some of us love it, some of us hate it, but we all have to do it. As little as 30 minutes, 5 days a week spent on an aerobic exercise is all it takes to improve and maintain our overall health. You don’t need a gym membership, walking is great exercise too.
Perhaps one of the most overlooked pieces of our health puzzle is the sun. Many healthy benefits have been attributed to sunlight. As little as 15 minutes spent enjoying the sun each day gives us Vitamin D, which is manufactured naturally when the sun’s UVB rays hit the skin. This essential vitamin strengthens our bones and protects against diseases such as cancer and heart disease. And the sun makes you feel good too, giving us a happier (“sunnier”) outlook and better sleep. Getting enough sleep is very important to our overall health and nearly 75% of Americans have difficulty going to, or staying asleep at least a couple nights a week. Eight hours of sleep can elevate mood and ensure that our immune system is working properly, therefore fighting off disease, improve learning and memory, keep our weight in check and even protect our heart. Sleep disorders have been linked to hypertension, increased stress hormones and even irregular heartbeat.
A true understanding of how to naturally correct imbalances in the body through nutrition and exercise will heal the body, leading to the healthiest and most fulfilling life possible.