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The phrase ‘you are what you eat’ has never been more important than now. That’s because a healthy approach to nutrition significantly impacts your body and mind, helping protect you from physical and mental decline as well as keeping you in optimal shape. However, with all the constantly changing nutritional information available to us, it is easy to get confused about what to eat and why.
Don’t let the confusion stand in your way. Because just as movement is a pillar of functional wellness, so too is nutrition – and it’s really not as complicated as it seems.
Like movement, each of us has a unique set of needs. Unlike dieting, functional nutrition is not based on ‘beach-body’ goals, counting calories, or cutting out life’s sweet treats. Rather, it’s based on the notion that food and nutrition are what fuels us, makes us feel better, and keeps us healthier (and happier) in the long run.
Remember, functional wellness is about understanding the why, not simply addressing the what. So here are some easy food tips to help you eat better so you feel better — and honestly, most likely look better too.
Tip #1: Think differently
Let’s say you have struggled with headaches, stomach issues, or lethargy for years. Without thinking about it, you take ibuprofen for the pain, you presume you need a gastroenterologist for your stomach, and that the constant fatigue is due to your hectic schedule.
Good nutrition is about “using food as medicine to support longevity, energy, mental clarity, happiness,” says Dr. Mark Hyman, a world-renowned Functional Medicine Practitioner. This makes perfect sense; the food we eat is what our bodies use to function — each of our systems relying on the complex balance of nutrients, vitamins, and minerals to work together.
So start listening to your body and how you feel after eating certain foods; what feels good, what causes pain – taking note of any changes, good or bad. Pay close attention to how you feel before and after meals, noting changes in your mood, energy levels, and physical comfort. We recommend a “Food Diary” so you begin seeing patterns and what makes you feel great or worse for wear!
Dysfunction arises when we don’t give our bodies what they need. When this happens, your body will signal that something is wrong by presenting a broad variety of symptoms.
Often, this is where we go wrong. We don’t look at what we are eating as the cause or the ‘why’ of the symptoms. Instead, head to the pharmacy to tackle the what.
The truth is, much of what ails us is caused and can be fixed by what we put into our bodies.
So while we are all unique and there is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ nutritional right, the principles remain the same: you should be conscious about what you eat, remembering that food is what fuels you and what heals you.
Tip #2: Eat the rainbow
Let color be the spice of life when it comes to your nutritional needs.
It’s important to fill your plate with a variety of fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes. Including foods of different hues ensures you give your body a wide variety of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants it needs to function well.
It’s not hard to do this with the incredible options we have available to us, in almost any grocery store. Don’t panic, protein is important too, but fresh produce carries most of the nutrients and ‘color’ we need to function. The list below should form the basis of your diet:
(this is by no means a definitive list, just some inspiration in each food group)
Eating processed foods high in sugar and other additives can significantly increase your risk of heart disease and stroke, type 2 diabetes, cancer, digestive issues, compromised immunity, early-onset cognitive decline, and even depression.
A diet high in unhealthy food forces your body to work harder, trying to mitigate the impacts of potentially harmful ingredients, and starving your body of the essential nutrients it needs to function.
This isn’t to say that sweet treats or girls’ night out are forbidden. It’s to be smart and balance the occasional ‘bad’ with a commitment to the healthy stuff your body needs.
Tip #3: Avoid the traps
‘Health washing’ is a term used to make something seem healthier than it is.
It’s no surprise that a lot of marketing dollars are spent to have us believe some not-so-healthy foods are better for us than they really are. Check your pantry for the common health washed culprits.
Prime examples of this are granola, premade smoothies, flavored yogurt, most gluten-free/ fat-free/ low-carb snack foods. Many of these foods are loaded with added sugars and fats, as well as a number of highly refined and processed ingredients to make them taste better and last longer. Look carefully at the labels on the products you buy and don’t just take the product at face value.
While it may be a stretch, try to make as much of your food yourself or buy from reliable, trusted brands.
Don’t let the packaging and product placement fool you. A simple label review or google search will reveal the culprits hiding in plain sight.
Remember, functional nutrition is not about dieting or achieving a goal weight. It’s finding the food plan that will work for your life, nourishing your body with the vitamins and minerals it needs to function optimally. To find more nutrition information, including the vitamins foods contain and the ailments they tackle, please enjoy a FREE 30 Day Trial of TheOptimal.me!
Now that we’ve covered some easy food tips to help you feel great, learn more about the best 15 minutes of your day.Back to "Blog"