You Are What You Absorb - Supporting Digestion & Nutrition
Why is nutrition important? Nutrition is the foundation of our health, energy and wellbeing. We gain our essential nutrients from the food we eat.
You’ve probably heard the term – “you are what you eat?”
Another term is more realistic – “you are what you absorb.”
The food that we choose to eat each day becomes our physical body and our biochemical processes, so making sure our digestion is functioning at optimum levels is key to absorbing the nutrients from our food.
Hippocrates said “Let Food be thy medicine, and medicine be thy food”.
The concept of using food as medicine now has a multitude of research behind it to support how the particular nutrients and phytochemicals have various therapeutic properties for prevention and treatment of disease states.
Poor eating habits play a huge role in diseases such as cancer, heart disease, stroke, diabetes and the list goes on.
As a naturopath, I believe that each person has different needs from their food intake according to their age, lifestyle, ability to absorb nutrients, and individual needs; however there are requirements that apply to each of us.
The food that we eat needs to be nutritious, delicious and fresh.
Eat real food - Avoid food out of a packet.
Avoid the white refined foods – white flour, white sugar, white rice, etc.
If it has been alive and grown, then eat it. If it has not, then don’t.
Real food, not too much, consistent intake across the day.
Balanced and varied, and breakfast is the most important meal of the day.
It is also important to eat real food on a regular basis to stabilise blood sugar levels. Ever heard of the term “hangry”? That combination of hungry and angry? Blood sugar irregularities have a major impact on our energy levels, mood and behaviour. The refined carbohydrates, such as white flour, white sugar, white pasta, white rice etc, alongside of sugar (including soft drinks) create a sugar spike, which then causes your energy and mood to crash alongside of your blood sugar within the hour. These foods also deplete your body of essential nutrients for mental health such as your B vitamins and magnesium.
Our eating habits are as important as the food choices we make in achieving and maintaining health. An old saying “Worry and hurry are the enemies of digestive health” is more applicable today than ever before. In order to truly benefit from the dietary changes we make, it is important to also adopt healthy eating habits.
Chew – Digestion begins in the mouth with chewing and the secretion of enzymes. Eating quickly increases the amount of air and the size of the food swallowed. This will lead to inadequate digestion and an increase in gas production.
Eat regularly – Eat at least every 4 – 5 hours. Our bodies need regular fuel to maintain blood sugar levels and metabolism but enough time to complete digestion before more food is eaten. Avoid skipping meals by having balanced snacks on hand for busy times. Hunger is a sign of low blood sugar and will lead to poor food choices and overeating if ignored.
Avoid overeating – Overeating occurs when we skip meals, eat too quickly or don’t satisfy our taste buds. Overeating is a major cause of obesity and stresses the liver and digestive tract. To reduce the risk of overeating, spread you meals evenly throughout the day and don’t leave the largest meal until the evening. Our digestive fire is at its peak around noon, a time that it most efficient at converting food into energy rather than storing it as fat.
Eat with awareness – Awareness eating has been proven to cause a rise in metabolism. Ask yourself how hungry you are before and after each meal. Take 5 minutes to relax before a meal if you feel stressed. Prepare as many meals yourself as possible – touching, tasting and smelling food before you eat it will prepare the body for digestion, prevent overeating and improve your psychological relationship with food. A microwave meal is more likely to result in overeating compared to a home cooked meal. Stop eating when you are almost full, to gauge whether you need any more. It takes approximately 20 minutes for our brains to receive the signal of satisfaction during a meal.
Achieve fluid balance – Avoid drinking excessively during a meal as this can reduce enzyme activity. One glass of fluid is adequate. Drink at least 2 litres of water between meals each day. This can include herbal teas.
Prepare – Shop for fresh food regularly and keep your pantry stocked with good staples to make it easier for you to eat a healthy diet. Whenever you cook or prepare food, make double and freeze in individual containers for future meals. When preparing dinner, make lunch at the same time. The best preparation is knowledge about healthy food options.
Go 50% raw – Have half of your vegetable and fruit intake raw (eg. Salads) unless otherwise advised by your health care practitioner. Fruit and vegetables contain enzymes which aid digestion, so aim to eat some with every meal.
Exercise – Aim for at least 3 to 4 times per week. Exercise works the diaphragm, which massages the intestines and thereby improves digestion. It also regulates appetite, blood sugar control and metabolism.
90% for the body, 10% for the soul – Ensure that the majority of food consumed is within the healthy range (90%) and allow the odd treat to satisfy your mind, soul and social life (10%).
Eat positively – Good habits can be easily established with a little effort and a positive frame of mind. A balanced healthy diet doesn’t have to be boring, bland, time consuming or expensive. Take back the control of your diet and health by making your own choices and stop allowing the food industry to dictate what you eat. And remember that food should be prepared, and eaten with joy.