How to Eat Right for Optimal Health

By Phil Faris

As we age, it becomes more and more clear that “we are what we eat”. The saying “garbage in equals garbage out” starts becoming abundantly clear. To achieve optimal health, we must embrace the fact that it is the nutrients from the food we eat that fuels our body and our health. Therefore, we must become very aware of how, what and when we choose to put into bodies.
Let’s face the truth; by following our traditional food pyramid, the latest fad diet and substituting fast food for fresh food the United States is now one of the fattest nation in the world.
There are hundreds of diets and fads that hold the promise of making you thin. They keep you focused on food and your weight. To achieve optimal health we offer simple lifestyle strategies that helps you focus on nutrition and health. By embracing these lifestyle stsrategies you’ll give your body what it needs without being a slave to monitoring calories, grams, points or the scale.
1. Listen to Your Body
Your body is a wonderful machine that lets you know what it needs-if you’ll listen. This means to start eating with your stomach and not your head. Learn to recognize when you’re hungry and then eat. Don’t just eat out of habit, impulse or emotions. Learn to recognize when you’re satisfied not full and then stop eating. Even if you still have food on your plate.
2. Drink 8-10 Glasses of Water
Over 70% of our body is water. This important fluid transports nutrients, hydrates the body and flushes toxins from our cells and tissues. Not only should we drink a substantial amount of water each day (6-18 glasses), but, more importantly, we need high water content in foods in our diet. Drink little or no water with your meals as this slows down digestion by diluting digestive juices. Avoid caffeine or carbonated beverages-opt for juices/and or water. (This is especially important for women of all ages, as carbonated beverages increase the calcium drain on the bones.)
3. Eat moderate balanced meals
If you listen to your body and eat only when you’re hungry, you’ll probably find yourself eating three to four times a day. By eating meals that have the proper balance of protein, carbohydrates and fat, you’ll be satisfied and your body will get the nutrition it needs. To make sure you get the right amount of each food group try these guidelines:
  • Protein. Aim for portions about the size of your hand. Good sources of protein include lean meat, fish, egg whites, dairy products and nuts.
  • Complex carbohydrates. Eat a fist size portion of complex carbohydrates.Good sources include whole wheat breads and pastas, wild rice, grain cereal and potatoes.
  • Fruits and vegetables.Eat a fist size portion of vegetables or fruits and each meal. Aim for five servings of fruits and vegetables throughout the day.
  • Fat. Limit fat intake to what’s necessary for adequate flavor.

One final guideline is to stop eating three hours before going to bed. Sleeping on a full stomach can slow your metabolism and disrupt your sleep.

4. Eat Enough Fresh and Live Foods
Daily, our body needs vitamins, minerals, and glucose from carbohydrates, amino acids and fatty acids. These nutrients should not come from a bottle/pill/potion, but from eating live foods. Live foods such as fruits and vegetables have high amounts of readily available nutrients found in naturally balanced levels. These foods, in uncooked form, require minimal energy to digest.
5. Reduce the Amount of Processed Food
We should ingest food that is high in nutrient density. We are, after all, eating to fuel and run the amazing body. Many foods are high in calories, yet low in nutrients. Eating a high percentage of these foods means that we must take in too much food to receive enough nutrients. Our body must also expend considerable energy in digesting and breaking down these complex foods in exchange for little nutrient benefit. Begin to ask yourself: what foods give me energy and what foods drain my energy? Eat a high percentage of fruits and vegetables-they need very little energy to digest and give you a great nutrition bang for your buck!
6. Take Time to Enjoy What You Eat
In our fast food, multi-tasking nation, it’s not uncommon to see people eating while driving to work and talking on the cell phone. Eating on the run certainly doesn’t add enjoyment to eating. When its time to eat, relax and make sure that you take the time to enjoy what you’re eating. Savor every bite by eating it slowly. Take time between each bite so that your body digests the food. By taking time to enjoy your meals you’ll find you recognize when you’ve had enough before your full and your body is able to get the full nutritional value of the food with proper digestion.
7. Eat Enough Fiber
There are two types of fiber, soluble and insoluble. Soluble fiber, which is found in our foods like broccoli, pears and oat bran, can lower the cholesterol levels. Insoluble fiber, which is found in wheat bran beans and celery speeds up the food as it moves through the intestine. This helps prevent constipation and other digestion problems. Although fiber doesn’t provide any calorie or nutritional value, helps prevent insulin resistance, a condition that impacts your metabolism and accelerates aging. Fiber also slows the break down of carbohydrates in the blood, which prevents sudden spikes in blood sugar. Finally fiber makes you feel full so it helps prevent overeating. Most medical and nutritional experts suggest taking in 25-40 grams of fiber a day.
Optimal health is not a goal to achieve but a journey we experience. Following the seven lifestyle strategies outlined here will give you the nutritional foundation for a healthy and vital life.
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