A piece on using food to heal.
Food is necessary to live. We all know that. What most of us don't know is how big of an impact food has on our holistic health. What you eat changes your mood, appetite, emotions, physical pain, digestion, mental health (this list could go on). Instead of eating to fill yourself, eat to feel your best. Yes we need a variety of foods to live; are you getting the proper nutrients in your diet to feel your best?
We can always use food as medicine. When looking in the fridge, I think to myself "What will make me feel better?". I want to consume things that will aid myself to feel better and help me perform optimally. I don't want to crash half way through my day, or have mood swings when bad things happen. I am striving to be balanced. Eating certain nutrients helps me achieve this.
Below is a list of foods I enjoy eating to keep myself feeling strong. I have faith that after consuming these items my body feels better and can perform more optimally in my day to day life. I will explain each of their benefits along with supplying you a valid source of scientific information regarding their claims. Although I try to focus on getting most of my micronutrients from plants or natural sources; supplements, vitamins and minerals are great to add to your diet to give you that extra boost. I have provided a gallery at the end of this article with photos of most supplements I take.
Since I am vegetarian and mostly dairy/gluten free, I do lack some very important nutrients such as iron, B12, vitamin C. Everyone is individual and I do have faith that vitamins/minerals/antioxidants etc. help me in feeling my best and may help you in your journey towards better health. I would advise you first to get tested by your family doctor to see if you are lacking nutrients (deficiencies) in any certain areas and then go on to trying out new supplements. There are always risks associated with herbal medicines and vitamins so please take with caution.
As many of my loved ones know, I love everything that is green. Green foods help me feel my best by increasing my energy, digestion and overall well-being. Green foods contain tryptophan = serotonin = improved mood. I make sure I eat at least 1 green thing a day (but average 3-5) to become more balanced from an internal state.
We should be aware, that the term "superfood" is being used commonly today in the health atmosphere, however, it is a marketing term used to state health benefits of a certain food. Many doctors out there may disagree with the word "superfood" as people take it too literally at times. Many of these foods are "super" since they have multiple positive benefits to your overall well-being. Adding them to your diet will aid in solving issues within the body but will not turn you into a "super human". I encourage you to always aim for increasing the amount of healthier foods you eat to feel your best as well.
In addition, I also aim to ensure my supplements and vitamins are obtained from natural plant sources. Synthetic sources can be risky. Aim for eating the food nature blessed us with on our earth.
MY MAIN HEALTH FOODS
I try to incorporate these daily.
1. Moringa Powder. This is my holy grail. It known for it's high vitamin and mineral content with over 40 various antioxidants. It is an ancient tree that has been used for years in herbal medicine studies. The leaves are then grinded to powder. I like to drink a teaspoon with water and lemon or add it to smoothies. I always feel an increase in energy after consuming this.
2. Spirulina. (Another green one). I love this stuff. It is an algae full of nutrients and being researched to have therapeutic effects on the body and mind. I find it easy to add to drinks and food since it is usually in a powder form.
3. Probiotics. They are known for aiding your digestive health by healing the gut. I usually take these in a pill form before bed each night.
4. Echinacea. It is known to protect against the common cold and help with symptoms of sickness. This immune booster can be found in tinctures, vitamins and powders!
5. Activated Charcoal. This black powder can be used many different ways. It is known for it's ability to pull toxins out of the body. It can be used in a drink or smoothie, as a toothpaste or even a face mask. This charcoal has been scientifically researched to help with drug overdoses in the past. I use it when I have had a weekend full of drinking or when I may have taken a large amount of aspirin, tylenol, or advil, to clear my systems.
6. Matcha (another green one!). Matcha is love, matcha is life. Matcha is super fine green tea leaves that are traditionally used in the Japanese Tea Ceremonies. The benefits are endless, ranging from cancer-fighting abilities to weight loss to energy increases. One cup of matcha tea is equal to about 8-10 cups of regular green tea. Step up your tea game with this delicious drink.
7. All Greens Superfood Drink. (This stuff is amazing. It is full of fruit and veggie blends, sea vegetables, digestive enzymes and herbal extracts. I bought it from Costco a few months back and still have a decent amount left in my tub. It does not have a horrific taste and it really cleans out the body when you need it most.)
8. Ginger. (Known to aid in digestion, decrease nausea and increase the immune response)
9. Apple Cider Vinegar. (Kills bacteria within the body and controls blood sugar)
1. Vitamin D.
(Sunshine vitamin, important for bone health)
2. Vitamin C.
(neurotransmitter and immune system health)
3. ThyroVantage HT.
(stimulates thyroid hormones)
4. Vitamin B12.
(nervous system health)
(antioxidant and enzyme stimulator)
(For heart and cardiovascular health, definitely necessary if you are a smoker!!!)
(increases serotonin levels)
(decreases time to fall asleep and quality of sleep)
(This is the most important one for me since I am borderline anemic. Taking iron with vitamin C improves it's absorbency. Important for the transport, storage and use of oxygen in the body)
(Is known to improve quality of sleep if taken an hour before bedtime).
(Aid in digestion and ailments within the body, a herbal remedy)
2. Liposomal Glutathione.
(Important antioxidant to detoxify and aid in cellular defense)
3. Vega Sport Protein Powder.
(A plant based protein supplement with many added benefits)
This stuff is to die for. It may be a bit on the expensive side, however, it contains BCAA'S for your workout needs and tastes delicious (mocha flavour is best). It isn't easy to find a protein powder with BCAA's already included into it.
4. (PLANT-BASED) BCAA'S.
(A workout supplement)
A great supplement to add to your workout routine. I feel and perform my best in the gym when I am consuming these during my workout. They are Branched Chained Amino Acids. They aid in recovery, muscle protein synthesis and energy. I won't workout without them. I did a school project on their efficacy, if you would ever like to read it I will send it to you.
(Another green one...anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory. Clears the body of odours.)
This comes in liquid form and is great to add to smoothies and drinks.
I do wish I had the time to take these every day but realistically that does not happen. I find it easy to take pills right before bed, so I keep many on my night stand (may be an idea for you). However, my favourite way to get most of my micronutrients, is from vitamin powders and liquids. I add everything into a large mason jar, add water, ice and lemon! This is usually delicious and filling. If I am craving sweets, I go to one of these drinks first and see how I feel. Below are some recipes I made but I usually just throw everything in and see how it tastes.
I feel experienced in understanding what nutrients I personally need the most and it may take you some trial and error to find out what your body needs. Don't rush the process. Understand we are all individual. Take your time and eat your greens.
This is how I try to flourish in keeping myself in good health. I'm always interested in trying new health foods so if you have any suggestions please let me know! Thanks for reading.
DAILY GREEN DETOX DRINK:
1 tsp matcha
1 tsp spirulina
1 tsp moringa
1 scoop greens superfood drink
1 drop liposomal glutathione
1 drop bitters
1 tsp activated charcoal
-Add all ingredients to mason jar with water, ice and lemon juice. Enjoy!
1 tsp grated ginger
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 tsp honey
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp coconut oil
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp tumeric
-Add all ingredients to mason jar and stir.
Finally, I have found some time in my day to start planning fitness classes for those around me.
A piece about the basics of nutrition and why it is important.
I remember being in high school and not caring about what I was putting into my body. I felt sick after almost every meal throughout a day (digestion problems, bloating, upset stomach). These digestive issues started when I was about fourteen. Three years ago, I found out I am highly allergic to eggs and slightly intolerant to gluten. To add, I also notice digestive problems after eating dairy, meat and fried foods. To add even more, I am a vegetarian. At first, I was devastated that I couldn’t eat my favourite foods but realistically I just had to make some responsible changes in my diet. I guess you could say I follow a strict diet, however; it is based off a combination of my own beliefs and not wanting to feel sick after eating anymore.
Eating should be enjoyable, not scary. I will admit I have a hard relationship with food sometimes but I am trying each day to not restrict myself too much. I want to eat to feel good and to power myself throughout the day since I am walking around 12 km daily. I also want to enjoy my favourite foods without having to feel guilty or sick after.
Through years of trial and error, I now understand what my body likes to digest. I had never really enjoyed eating meat as a child and felt very confident in becoming vegetarian 4 years ago, but once the eggs, gluten and dairy were out of the question as well, I became scared that I couldn’t eat anything at all. I guess you could say I am close to being a vegan (no animal products at all) but I don’t like to restrict myself from homemade dinners and treats. If someone offers me a cookie, I will usually take it but have to deal with the consequences after (gas, bloating, upset stomach, acne). I also will sometimes eat fish if my own family or myself catches it (so I know where it comes from). Personally, this is the diet I follow to nourish my body and respect my allergies
-I try hard to limit sugar, additives, processed foods, fried foods and artificial anything
This is what works best for me. What works best for you may be something completely different. So why don’t I classify myself as a vegan? People ask me this often or just assume that I am one but to be honest I am not following these diets for the labels. I intend to one day be vegan but as of right now to fuel my body and cravings I sneak in some dairy at times.
Where I want to go with this article is to stress how food can be used as medicine instead of being harmful to yourself. The human body is like a plant. We need sun, water and nutrients to flourish! It is amazing how many issues can be solved within the body when you are eating the proper nutrients for yourself.
Nutrition has always been a passion of mine and I hope to pursue a career in it one day. Hopefully focusing on sport nutrition with professional athletes. I want to make this simple for everyone to understand. Since this isn’t yet thought of as mandatory by schools to teach children, many people lack the basic knowledge of a healthy diet. Canada’s Food Guide gives an extremely BASIC meal plan to follow and can be a great reference for newbies. This is a very basic outline of an extremely complex topic.
There are 3 main macronutrients (consumed in large quantities) your body uses to produce energy. These are necessary for growth and daily living.
-CARBOHYDRATES (get turned into sugar for energy)
-fruit and vegetables
-FATS (also used for energy)
-avocados, nuts, seeds
-PROTEINS (build muscle and carry out cellular functions)
-dairy and meat
In addition, there are multiple micronutrients (consumed in lesser quantities) we need to consume as well. These are necessary to maintain your health and proper body functions.
-iron, zinc selenium
-sodium, potassium, calcium
POWERING OUR BODY
Through food, we power our body. If we are eating unhealthy, low nutrient dense foods, we may not be able to perform optimally. Typically, the average person should be consuming these macronutrient ratios
CARBOHYDRATES (45-65% of daily food intake)
FATS (20-35% of daily food intake)
PROTEINS (15-25% daily food intake)
These percentages vary based on genetics, gender, age, and goals. Most of us are not consuming the proper amounts of these macronutrients. If there is one thing I want people to be eating more of, it is protein. Protein does not provide mass amounts of energy like carbs and fats do but it does increase muscle mass in the body. Having an increased amount of muscle mass aids in carrying out daily tasks, prevents injuries and keeps the body healthy and strong.
Food has always had the ability to affect your body holistically which we tend to ignore. It can change your mood, temperature, physique, energy and cognitive functions. Once you begin starting to eat things that will produce positive effects in the body you will notice you feel better in many aspects. Food is brain power.
Through years of experimenting with food, food allergies, supplements and vitamins here are some ideas of what I like to include daily to stay healthy. Remember every body is different and this is what works for myself most. You may have some individual preferences but this is a good idea of what everyone needs for a healthy body, mind and soul.
MY BASIC HEALTH TIPS
Personally, I always want to try out the weirdest foods. I love everything green. Here is a quick list of some of my favourite foods I aim to eat everyday and their potential benefits to your health.
I’m going to repeat myself again by saying that this is a simple outline of a very complex topic. It took me years to figure out what my body digests properly and I still have more to explore. Don’t rush the process of making changes in your diet but slowly adapt yourself to eliminating toxins and chemicals. Making healthier choices will only give you positive benefits in the long run.
I encourage you to eat to nourish your body not hurt it. Eat to heal yourself. To allow yourself to grow properly. Be grateful of your ability to obtain food whenever you want it. Don't take on flash diets or quick fixes. Make a lifestyle change for long term results. My goal is always to feel better to be able to perform better in all of life’s aspects (fitness, relationships, happiness, health) and I hope this can help some people become more aware of their eating as well.
Thank you for reading my opinion on nutrition and what I do to help me flourish. If you have any questions, please feel free to ask me. Maybe one day when I have more time I can start posting recipes. The picture for this article is a green smoothie bowl with coconut chips, matcha, seeds and frozen chocolate covered bananas.
A piece about taking time for yourself.
This is a follow-up from my last piece regarding the importance of moving your body. I believe activity powers your whole-body strength however; sometimes the best thing you can do for yourself is nothing at all.
Resting is equally as important as moving. A mantra I live by is “Life is all about balance”. Taking a day off can aid you in your journey of growth. Sometimes everything is too much. Too much to listen to, too much to handle. When your body, mind or spirit are fatigued… they are calling for recovery. This can look different for each of us. It can be watching television, taking a bath or reading a book. For myself, I really enjoy laying down. Whether that is on my bed, in the bath or on the beach. It is not having any obligations to fill besides breathing deep and thinking less. Thinking and not thinking about my thoughts. Trying to recognize the positives instead of the negatives. Trying to not stress about the future. Realizing how far I have come and how I should not feel guilty by doing nothing.
My favourite is laying in the sunshine listening to nature. I try to get at least 15 minutes a day of straight sunshine. Sunshine can increase the vitamin D levels in your body. This has the potential to increase your mood, energy and physical health. We struggle with so much darkness in our Canadian winters that many of us will experience Seasonal Affective Disorder.
“Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a mood disorder subset in which people who have normal mental health throughout most of the year exhibit depressive symptoms at the same time each year, most commonly in the winter. People may sleep too much or have little energy. The condition in the summer can include heightened anxiety.”
I do no want to get too off topic, but this is important to understand. Try taking some time in your day to feel warm from the sun. Close your eyes and enjoy it. We are blessed to live in a climate that allows nice weather.
Although this is not easy for all of us to accomplish, it is necessary. Hard workers can get so caught up in life that they forget to take an opportunity to slow everything down. Not taking this chance can lead to burnout. Burnout is when you have too much on your plate. It can happen from not managing time properly, taking on too many tasks or not giving yourself a break. Understand you need rest to grow. I am talking about this in a wholesome aspect. To grow your mind, your awareness of your actions, your thoughts but also your physical body. In fitness, we stress that it is essential to rest and recover for your muscles to adapt; this applies to all of your life. Let your mind and your body relax as well.
Starting something new or facing a challenge requires your body to make some adaptions. Listen to your body talking to you. If you feel tired, rest. If you feel anxious, rest. This is a simple concept many of us forget to understand.
On the other hand, some of us rest too much. We don’t have the energy to power our body throughout the day. We just want to sleep as much as possible. This is easy when you are living with a mental illness. This is also easy when you are experiencing SAD. Getting out of bed can be really hard some days, whether that is from being physically exhausted or emotionally drained. Certain life events can lead to this decrease in energy but one must not let it overpower their life.
My point is we all get sleepy from one time to another but we cannot let this take over our opportunities to live. Living with anxiety has pushed my brain into constant overthinking. I’ve noticed that sometimes my mind gets so tired it can’t think much more. For myself, this looks like staring into space, not being able to finish a sentence, losing my train of thought or just being completely confused on what is going on even though 3 seconds ago I was completely engaged.
My anxiety doesn’t want my body to rest. It wants to keep thinking, keep worrying.
From not sleeping properly for years, I have come to a point where rest is one of the most important parts of my day. This is usually done in yoga, laying down or just breathing deeply without distractions. I strive to give myself at least 5 minutes a day of nothing. 5 minutes to allow myself to not worry about what is happening in the future. This is not easy.
When I was first starting yoga many years ago, I would still be overthinking during my poses. Through years of practicing meditation and mindfulness, I finally feel comfortable with thinking about nothing at all. It took a lot of trial and error to let myself accomplish this. At first while I was trying to calm myself during yoga poses I would imagine a lotus flower on my belly. It would expand into full bloom when inhaling and close up when exhaling. This may be useful to you. I encourage you to all find something that relaxes you as use it as a tool.
Although now when I am trying to rest and cannot stop thinking, I picture a beach. Water has always calmed me. My parents put me to sleep as a baby with the tap running, as nothing else would work. The beach I imagine is blue as can be. I picture myself there with my dog. It is just us. Nothing else. Nothing to worry about. Waves crashing onto the golden sand. If negative thoughts try to creep into this imaginative state, I imagine palm trees blocking them from entering. This is one way that aids myself in finding my zen.
I encourage you to imagine your happy place when trying to relax. Mentally put up walls that stop your negative thoughts. Focus on the good in your life. Focus on what you love and strive for. Allow your mind, body and spirit to relax. Relaxation is required to mature. Reward yourself with rest but know when it may be too much.
We all push through each day with whatever energy our body is providing us. Some of us need caffeine to get through or sleeping pills to stop it all. Don’t ignore the importance of listening to your body and allow yourself to give it the recovery it needs. Overexerting your body is unhealthy and may lead to negative consequences. Step back and be grateful you are alive today. Give your physical, mental, emotional self what it needs. Do not feel guilty about taking time for yourself. You will be thankful in the end.
Photo retrieved from Pinterest. Artist is Laura Supnik.