HEALTH TIPS TO LIVE BY
Updated: May 2, 2020
When you ask someone to explain what entails being “healthy”, chances are they can already put together a pretty decent answer right there on the spot. So then why is it that so many people (particularly in western cultures) find it so damn difficult to just be healthy?
Well the answer is simple, we as society are conditioned to want what we don’t need. Our brain thinks more is better, Netflix over exercise, chocolate is yummier than celery … la, la, la, the list goes on. Now if we were all sitting in a room and I asked you to raise your hand if you too have thought along those lines before, 100% of you would would straighten your arms and agree ... but that’s fine! We are human!
In terms of trying to be healthier it doesn’t help that eating more sugar, salt and fat makes us want to eat more sugar, salt, and fat, which should come as no surprise to you now why those 3 things wriggle their way into practically everything we consume. Food manufacturers are smart! They know what sells, and if there is any harsh reality we should talk about today it is this; no matter what they claim, food companies are in for the $$$ and sadly, not for your health. So wipe your tears, and open your eyes because there is, surprisingly, a world of health out there that is more then attainable no matter how crazy day-to-day life gets. You just have to know how to see it.
Tip no.1: Think different, be mindful.
So this first tip is the most important (and longest) of them all, because it sets the foundation of your health. How you think can determine everything from your levels of stress and anxiety, to your ability to digest and absorb nutrients. But changing the mind is no child’s play. It’s messy and difficult, and overall next to impossible to master- but the beauty of the matter is that you don’t need to! The simple act of identifying thoughts as thoughts (confusing, I know) give you all the control you need. If you can learn to look at any situation and assess your thoughts as they come through, your judgement will be clearer.
Picture this: you’re looking at a decadent piece of chocolate cake with the darkest of icing dripping gently down its side, and its just staring right back at you- what are you thinking? ‘Oh my gosh I want a bite… or two, or three, because work is a drag and this is exactly what I need right now…oh and I guess I ate a healthy breakfast then walked to work so it’s fine…. ah but I’ll probably feel sick after so maybe I shouldn’t… nah who cares I’m just gonna eat it and start being healthy tomorrow’, and before you know it, the cake is down in 3 minutes’ tops and you can’t even remember eating it.
So this is where I challenge you. Change the way you think. All that debating is too much unnecessary inner conflict that you just don’t need. Look at the situation from a simpler point of view; What do you actually feel like? Are you hungry? Do you just want something sweet? Will anything else actually satiate you or is this piece of cake truly going to make you happy right now, because if the answer is yes (and you’re not eating cake for every second meal) then go for it. Sit down, remove any distraction, smell its sweet sent, take a small piece by the spoon, and slowly let the taste sensation begin. They say eating is the most intimate relationship you’ll ever have and well, whoever actually said that, is completely right! Eating should be intimate, its meant to be. The mere thought, sight or smell of a food engages the cephalic phase of digestion, and in modern society, we completely skip this whole step. We eat on the go, and we don’t stop to think about it. Mindful eating may very well be the one thing society is missing out on for better health- all we have to do is give it the time it deserves!
Tip no.2: Eat colourfully.
When it comes to food, there is no going past fruit and vegetables for optimising health. These beauties come in a myriad of shapes, sizes and colours, providing an abundance of vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals that do wonders for the body. Now whilst I am happy that the 2 fruit 5 veg rule even exists, I prefer this… “eat as much fruit and veg as you damn well want”. You can never have too much, only too little variety. Eat the rainbow! (and no, the skittles rainbow does not count). If you try to incorporate even just 2-3 different colours into each meal, you will be doing yourself well.
If you struggle with getting in your fruit and vegetables, looking at your meals from a colour point of view will keep you conscious of it. Try hiding some greens in a cacao smoothie, or mixing some zucchini noodles in with your normal pasta… the versatility of fruit and vegetables is the beauty of them. Get creative!
Tip no.3: Mix raw with cooked.
Many vegetables lose parts of their nutrients when cooked in some way. Certain vitamins and minerals are more susceptible to these changes than others, but don’t freak out- this is okay! Cooking some vegetables on the other hand can enhance their nutritional profile instead. Heat can start to break down these vegetable’s cell walls and improve the bioavailability of certain nutrients.
There are pros and cons to both cooked and raw food, which is why my third basic health tip is to try mix both into your meals everyday. If you’re going to have a salad, try lightly simmering your tomato’s so that the carotenoid lycopene can be more readily absorbed and exhibit some of its beneficial anti-oxidant and anti-cancer properties1. Or if you plan on making a delicious quiche, be sure to side it with some fresh greens and avocado! Remembering to have a quick glance down at your plate before eating, and perform the quick two-point mental checklist of raw and cooked- you know you can’t go wrong.
Tip no.4: Grow your own!
Yep no matter where you are, or what city you live in- growing your own produce is a beautiful pastime that has been lost in modern times. Controversial I know… but I truly do believe that the art of cultivating your own produce, even on the teeniest-tiny scale, is time well spent.
It’s a quick excuse to say you don’t have time, but it’s easily done in the busy reality of today with deadlines and responsibilities filling your days from dawn till dusk. This is why all I challenge you (if you don’t already have a green thumb) to grow just one fruit, vegetable or herb of choice. If you have just a small unit, buy a little pot of basil and place it on your windowsill- all you have to do is pour in some water as you stroll by.
Or if you have a little garden available, pop in some shallots from your local grocer and I promise that you’ll blink twice and all of a sudden there’ll be shoots growing everywhere (chucking shallots into pretty much every savoury dish is my favourite… just be sure to wash them properly and don’t slack off like me, otherwise you’ll be dining with a slug as well which let me tell you, is not high on my recommendation list).
Once you get the feel of growing one plant, I know you’ll be hungry for more. There’s just nothing as tasty, fresh or healthy as eating something straight from the garden, and all the while you’re helping the environment and retaining the foods nutritional profile as much as physically possible straight from its life source- yay!
Tip no.5: Eat simple, don’t over complicate it!
I’m not sure exactly when the food we put in our mouth became such a topic of stress and anxiety. At what moment did eating simply go from being hungry, selecting a food, then eating it, to considering this array of technicalities like calorie counting, restrictive diets, and Instagram worthiness. Food is described as any nourishing substance that is eaten, drunk, or otherwise taken into the body to sustain life, provide energy, promote growth, etc. and yet modern societal constructs have managed to turn it into a never ending puzzle of confusion.
Even the current health movement of superfoods and protein powders is only adding to this skewed reductionist view that some foods are superior to others. Now I’ll be quick to note that, yes, when I talk about food, I do mean real food; fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes, etc., however, every food has its place. So long as most of the food you eat is visibly identifiable as some kind plant or meat, and it hasn’t been processed beyond belief- then you’re doing just fine.
So if your beautiful morning ritual of coffee or tea only feels perfect with a tea spoon of sugar mixed into it, then by all means have it- food is meant to be enjoyed (and besides, I guarantee that in the grand scheme of things that teaspoon of sugar is nothing compared to the hidden nasties in some of the other things we don’t think twice about eating).
Just eat simply! If you are looking for a morning snack and are stuck between the “superfood” bar that costs $5 a pop, or a banana… please, choose the banana- because it’s jam packed with all you need and more! Every real food is a superfood, and once you realise that, it’s all that matters.
Tip no.6: Spoil yourself by always, always learning
Now this is the last tip I promise, and congratulations! Because you’re doing it right now! Whenever you can ask questions, communicate with your local produce guy, search something up, read a book, or take a class you are giving yourself the best present you can- knowledge!
We are never to old to stop learning, especially when it comes to health. As discussed in tip no.5, all real foods are superfoods, however, being smart about when to eat them may do you a great deal of good. Learning how blueberries at breakfast can help your memory for the day, or that some milk before bed may help release melatonin and aid sleep, all comes in good time if you just allow yourself a moment here and there to become educated on something helpful, and something new.
The functions of tomato lycopene and its role in human health. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/285142861_The_functions_of_tomato_lycopene_and_its_role_in_human_health