Sometimes it can be hard to know what the best thing is to do for your health. Our naturopath Katherine shares her top 10 tips for healthy living.
1.Chew your food
Your mouth is the first part of your digestive system, containing enzymes which begin the process of breaking down carbohydrates. By chewing food thoroughly you are aiding the digestive process, as particles will be smaller and easier to digest once they reach the stomach. Chewing food thoroughly also prevents overeating, as it takes our body a while to register that we are full. The act of chewing triggers the stomach and intestines to secrete acids and enzymes that will help to digest the food to come. Aim for at least 30 chews per mouthful.
2.Keep your fluids up
Aim to drink 2 litres (8 glasses) of purified or spring water each day. Dehydration can lead to fatigue, headaches, moodiness and even constipation! Keep a water bottle with you and sip throughout the day. Try to drink your water between meals as too much fluid intake with your food can water down stomach contents and reduce enzymatic activity.
3.Cut back on the refined carbohydrates
Yes, this includes our old friend sugar. Sugar and other simple carbohydrates such as white bread, pasta, white rice, biscuits, cakes and of course chocolate and lollies, cause a fast rise in blood sugar levels, with a resultant drop shortly following. This means that the energy gained from these foods is quick and short lived, whereas complex carbohydrates such as whole grain bread, rye, brown rice, oats and spelt give you slow and sustained energy release, as well as making you feel fuller longer. Another downside to refined carbohydrates is that they are ‘nutrient robbers’ as they lack the nutrients which are usually contained within the grain in its whole form that help to break them down. This means that they use up valuable nutrients within the body to help to break them down for utilisation in the body.
4.Balance your blood sugar levels
An imbalance in blood sugar levels can lead to foggy headedness, headache, fatigue, irritability and sugar cravings. Using complex instead of simple carbohydrates as outlined above will have a beneficial effect on your blood sugar levels. Other dietary factors which regulate blood sugar levels include eating protein with every meal and eating smaller meals more frequently. Avoid skipping meals as this leads to low blood sugar levels and can slow down metabolism.
5.Include plenty of roughage
Low fibre intake has been associated with bowel and colon cancer as well as other digestive diseases. Fibre has a balancing effect on blood sugar levels, gives us stool bulk to prevent constipation and increases the amount of beneficial bacteria in our digestive system. Fibre is found in fruit and vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds and legumes. If your diet is based around these foods you can be sure you are getting adequate amounts of fibre.
6.Pump up your antioxidant intake
Antioxidants in foods are phytochemicals and nutrients which help to reduce oxidative damage in the body that can lead to inflammation and tissue damage. High antioxidant intake has been associated with a lower rate of cardiovascular disease, cancer, autoimmune and endocrine disease. Antioxidants can be found in fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds and whole grains, but foods which are particularly high in antioxidants include blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, kiwifruit, lemons, grapefruit, green tea, red wine (moderately of course), brazil nuts, olive oil, green leafy vegetables, tomatoes, sweet potato, beetroot, capsicum and apples. Brightly coloured foods are generally high in antioxidants, so aim for a rainbow on your plate. Minimise cooking and keep the skins on to retain high levels of antioxidants.
7.Keep it fresh
Fresh foods are high in essential nutrients and minerals as well as giving you vitality. Ensure that around 50% of the fruit and vegetables you eat are in their raw form. Things like fresh fruits, salads and vegetable juices should be consumed regularly. Farmers markets are a great way to get fresh local produce at a great price, so check out if there are any in your area. Raw foods are cooling so should be consumed more frequently in summer and less frequently in the colder months.
Yes, exercise, the dreaded word for some is a very important part of maintaining health and wellbeing. Not only does exercise help us keep in shape, it reduces inflammation in the body, helps with the movement of lymphatic fluid (and therefore the excretion of wastes) and helps to get much needed nutrients into the tissues. Another benefit of exercise is that it releases endorphins which are our feel good chemicals, improving mood and sense of wellbeing. The trick with exercise is to find something that you enjoy, there’s no point slogging it out at the gym if you hate every moment of it! For some joining a sporting team or martial arts club can be fun, for others just going for a walk or doing some yoga is beneficial. Find out what suits you best and aim for at least 40 minutes three times a week, combining aerobic (increases you heart rate) and strengthening exercise (like weights, yoga or pilates).
9.De-stress and think positively
Stress contributes to a number of health issues affecting the nervous and digestive systems, lowering immunity and causing hormonal imbalance. Removing stress from our lives is rarely an option however there are ways to help cope with stress more effectively, which will reduce its negative effects in the body. Eating a balanced diet with adequate protein and regulating blood sugar levels as described above will help your body deal with stress more effectively. Relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, yoga, exercise, meditation and calming self talk can help to deal with stress. If you have a significant amount of stress in your life seeing a counsellor, massage therapist or naturopath may help you to deal with it more effectively. There is a strong link between the mind and body, so negative thoughts can have a huge impact on the way we feel. Thinking of the positive aspects of a situation instead of the negative can not only lower your stress levels but can shed light on a situation that can help you to deal with it.
10.It’s all about you
Having the time to do something that you enjoy or that relaxes you is an integral part of achieving wellbeing. You might have a hobby such as painting, playing an instrument or sewing, or you may enjoy simply reading a book or relaxing in a hot bath. Think of what makes you happy and make sure that you find the time to indulge yourself in these activities. The result will be greater personal satisfaction and lower stress levels.