Eat an apple. Go for a run. Drink more water.
We’ve heard it all before. But how many of us set out to make healthy choices only to forget why we made them and how to keep them up?
I find that while its relatively easy to know something intellectually, its far more challenging and rewarding to know it in your experience, to feel it and truly understand it. Knowing something in the mind is helpful only if it is a blueprint for the experience.
If something you have read or learned resonates with you, you should think about it, and try to incorporate even the smallest of changes into your life. I personally believe in a healthy diet and having as little an impact on the earth as possible, and here are some examples of how I think many of us may overlook some simple yet powerful tools to being a conscious consumer and achieving good health.
Why to eat fruits and vegetables
The colours in fruits and vegetables indicate the presence of phytochemicals and antioxidants which help to neutralise toxins which you take in daily. These toxins may be a result of exposure to pollution, cigarette smoke, chemicals in food or stress. Fruits and veggies are also rich in fibre which stimulate digestion and again, help you to get rid of those toxins. They are also rich in vitamins and minerals which are essential nutrients. Fruit is always delicious and vegetables can be too with a little bit of preparation.
It’s interesting to note that whole, unprocessed food like fruits, vegetables, milk, whole grains, seeds, nuts and beans are designed to release carbohydrates slowly into the bloodstream leading to a balanced energy level throughout the day, allowing you to remain calm and be productive. Processed foods cause spikes in blood sugar levels which in turn makes your day a series of highs and lows. Whole foods also have the nutritional edge on vitamin supplements or nutrition replacement drinks which don’t have the complementary fibre to aid in the absorption of the nutrients they contain.
Why to reduce intake of animal protein
Animal products usually contain large amounts of saturated fat which increases your risk of developing heart disease and increases your blood pressure. Most people consider animal products as their primary source of protein but most people also consume well in excess of their protein needs. This puts strain on the system as it has to spend energy getting rid of this excess or converting it into fat. Also, animal products may contain hormones and antibiotics which don’t belong in your body. In addition, you’re not getting enough immune boosting antioxidants or fibre when you eat large amounts of meat and little fruit and veg. Personally I am not sure about being totally vegetarian or vegan but have been experimenting with these diets for about three years and have learned a lot so far.
Some popular arguments in favour of cutting down on the consumption of meat and dairy products and subbing in plant food sources are:
- It’s cheaper to eat less meat and more veg.
- You’ll lose weight.
- Expand your knowledge and appreciation of super nutritious fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts and seeds.
- Help to clean the environment – Large amounts of manure, methane, ammonia and nitrous oxide gases from livestock accelerate green house gas emissions and pollution.
- Decrease hunger – A significant number of crops grown on earth are fed to animals instead of being used for human consumption.
- Decrease the inhumane treatment of animals.
- Avoid disease and sickness due to excessive consumption of meat and dairy.
- Protect fish populations from being over-fished.
Why to exercise
Exercise is a natural anti-depressant, it can be very social and fun or it can be a personal challenge. It can be done indoors, on the road, on a mountain or in the sea. Whatever sport or activity you enjoy, it can be relaxing or invigorating. Also, muscles burn calories and therefore no diet is complete without an exercise program. As you start breathing deeper and more rapidly, your lungs will be filled with fresh air and you’ll begin to sweat. These processes aid in the elimination of waste and energise your cells. Take a break from the computer and get outside!
Why to read the label
When you eat a carrot, you’re eating a carrot. When you eat rice, you’re eating rice. When you eat a Nestle Smarties chocolate bar, you’re eating cane sugar, full cream milk powder, cocoa mass, cocoa butter, non-hydrogenated vegetable fat, wheat flour, emulsifiers, (E322, E476), whey powder, flavouring, starch, colourants (E171, E163, E150c, E162, E160a, E160c, E100, E141) and glazing agents (E901, E903). That is quite an extensive list for a piece of chocolate.
Many packaged foods have undergone numerous processes to get to and stay on the store shelf and many of the additives that go these foods are toxic to our bodies. The more synthetic or highly processed ingredients there are, the more stress on your system and the harder your body has to work to digest or excrete them. This inevitably makes us fat and sick. I think it is safe to say that most of us don’t like the idea of being fat or sick.
NikNaks (40g) Carrot
Dietary calories 217 25
Carbohydrates 21g 6g
Total fat 14g 0.2g
Sodium 400mg 42mg
Additives E262, E270, E260, soya, N/A
E110, E124, E551, E341c,
E631, E627, E621.
The above mentioned processed foods most likely fall into the category of junk foods. Junk foods are exactly that; junk, a fake version of actual FOOD, food provided by the earth to give us nutrients, help us grow and embrace our lives. Junk foods are a concoction of ingredients designed to delight your taste buds and keep you coming back.
Food and nutrition should be synonymous, therefore junk food cannot be called food because it has very little or no nutrition. When eating junk food is more than occasional, you are going take in plenty of toxins and you will overeat to compensate for the lack of nutrition, thus sabotaging any weight or health goals you may have. I reckon that there comes a time when we have to slowly let of go of comforts like coke and marshmallows. The time is now!
Why to eat organic food
Organic simply means natural, without chemical or other intervention. If it isn’t organic it means it is food+something else. All we need in our diets is food, naturally provided by earth, not the ‘something else’. Organic food is nutrient dense and chemical free and its production does not degrade the soil in which they are grown. I don’t know enough about GMOs to go into depth but it is something we should all be aware of. Read up on Monsanto for more info and check out a book called Genetic Roulette by Jeffrey Smith if you’re interested in finding out more.
An amazing book and movement known as The Earth Diet talks about many of the eating and health principles mentioned above in much more detail and with expertise. I highly recommend checking out the website and the book.
Embrace healthy living
Eat more fruit and veg, cut down on meat and dairy, read the label of processed foods, go organic where possible and get physically active. You’ll feel and look good, save cash and minimise the damage done to the one planet we know is thriving with life. Let’s not leave a trail of chemicals and disease behind us. Instead, let’s embrace healthy living and leave behind a cleaner and more sustainable world.