The idea of wellness considers the whole of your body, not just a particular area like your physical health. Holistic health addresses your mental, emotional and physical health. It is challenging starting a radical overhaul of your lifestyle and often it is simply disregarded. Although your intentions are good, who’s not been sidelined by the chocolate digestives five minutes later.
On the smiley side, taking control of your well being doesn’t mean ditching everything in your cupboards or spending daily hours at the gym. On the contrary, it is the small changes in your daily routine that can add up to bigger benefits in the long term. “Rome wasn’t built in a day!”
I focus upon a few targeted things, overtime these build and small successes translate into larger ones.
1. Eat Real Food
There’s no getting away from it, processed food is bad for you. The e-numbers and additives along with the artificial sweeteners aren’t doing any of us any good.
While processed foods may be more convenient in some ways, they don’t make you healthier or happier.
One of the easiest changes you can make is to cut out the rubbish and stick with whole, unprocessed animal and plant foods as they contain the essential vitamins and minerals you need for optimal health.
- Real food is lower in sugar and is packed with antioxidants and nutrients that support heart health and eating a diet rich in nutritious unprocessed foods may also help to reduce inflammation in the body.
- Unprocessed foods are often high in fiber which helps to make you feel more satisfied with fewer calories as well as improving your digestion.
- If you’re a diabetic or at risk of developing the disease, eating fibrous plants and unprocessed animal foods may help you to control your blood sugar levels.
- Sugar and refined carbs can promote dental decay by encouraging and providing a food source for the bacteria that live in your mouth. And the combination of fizzy drinks and sugar is especially likely to cause tooth decay.
- A diet based on real food may reduce your cravings for sweets, cakes or fizzy drinks. Good news if you’re trying to lose weight.
Rachel Brown, of The Wellness Project NYC, is a holistic nutritionist counselor. She comments “It’s ok to indulge once in a while but be aware of what you’re putting into your body. Tricking the body with artificial sweeteners and other shortcuts has a very negative affect. We do need fats and calories, but get them from healthy, whole foods”.
2. The Benefits of Superfoods
Superfoods are the real deal. More than just trendy foods with names you can’t pronounce. They are packed with antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and essential fatty acids, all of which help the body return to a state of balance.
Superfoods can also boost the immune system and reduce inflammation.
Top superfoods to try:
- Blueberries are widely known as power packs of nutrition. They are highly valued for their high level of antioxidants containing vitamin C and K, fiber and manganese. Being low in calories and high in nutrients they are a fantastic choice for one of your daily portions of fruit and vegetables. I love blueberries in my morning breakfast ritual – something to bring the mouth and morning to life.
- Broccoli frequently appears so unappetizing, especially reminiscent of old school dinners. However, it does contain many nutrients such as folate, vitamins C and A along with calcium. It is a member of the cruciferous family of vegetables that include cauliflower and cabbage. Broccoli can be a flexible ingredient that works well in salads, stir-fries, curries and soups. Just ensure you don’t overcook it!
- One of world”s most popular health foods, Quinoa ( pronounced keen-wah)is high in protein, free of gluten ( it is a grain crop that is grown for its edible seeds) full of fiber, B vitamins, iron, potassium, calcium, vitamin E . The good thing about quinoa is how easy it is to incorporate into your diet as it goes with so many other foods. Try it in salads, soups, porridge or as a side dish.
- The fiber-rich, dark leafy vegetable that looks similar to spinach and is jam-packed with essential vitamins and minerals is Kale. A serving of cooked kale provides more than half your recommended daily vitamin C. I must admit it’s not one of my favorite greens on it’s own but add it to stir-fries, soups or even crisp it in the oven as a nutritious snack and it is transformed.
There’s something to be said about helping the body get rid of a buildup of gunk and overindulgence that can slow you down, affect the metabolism and generally make you feel terrible.
Saying that, have you ever tried one of those weekend juice cleanses? All that fruit juice, high in sugar, usually sends your blood sugar levels on a rollercoaster ride.
What happens on Monday? Back to feeling awful again.
Why not support your body’s own natural detox process by trying the following:
- Start the day with hot water and fresh lemon. Tastes great and gives you a boost of vitamin C.
- Drink more water. The body needs about 6-8 glasses each day to keep hydrated and flush out any toxins.
- Cut down on alcohol and caffeinated drinks
- Avoid those processed foods while eating less meat, dairy and sugary foods. This will give your digestive system a well-deserved break.
4. Take Care of your Gut Health
70% of the body’s bacteria live in our gut, so maintaining a healthy balance is key to optimal functioning. The gut bacteria colony is made up of probiotics (good), pathogens (bad) and fungus (the other).
When the mix is slanted the wrong way, it can begin to affect your entire wellbeing from your mood, anxiety levels, metabolism and weight. But what sends it off balance?
Toxins, environmental factors, inflammatory foods like sugar and carbohydrates can cause disruption to your gut health. In turn, this can cause problems with the immune system, which when overcharged, can find it then difficult to fend off a common cold let alone any strain of Coronavirus.
To improve digestion and look after your general health, there are some broad principles that apply to all:
- Eat a wide range of plant-based foods. A healthy gut has a diverse community of microbes, each of which prefers different foods.
- Eat more fiber. Fruit, vegetables, pulses, nuts, and whole grains feed healthy bacteria.
- Avoid highly processed foods as they often include ingredients that either suppress “good “bacteria or encourage “bad” bacteria.
- Try probiotic foods, like yogurt, as they contain live bacteria thought to be beneficial.
5. Add Mindfulness to your Day
At first, mindfulness can seem like an intangible concept. However, practicing mindfulness is, quite simply, the act of concentrating on your breathing, being aware of your breath and being aware of what is going on around you in the present moment.
The more you do it, the clearer the simplicity of it becomes and the benefits manifold. It lightens your mind and your spirit. You could consider it to be a simple form of meditation by which you focus your attention on your breathing. Focusing on your breath in this way allows you to observe your thoughts as they arise in your mind and little by little, let them go.
Like any discipline, you do have to practice.
Focusing your thoughts:
- Do you tend to get so focused on a goal that you want to achieve that you lose touch with what you are doing right now to get there?
- Do you rush through activities without being really attentive, to the point that sometimes you never reach that goal?
- Practicing mindfulness, creating a mental environment that is harmonious and peaceful, is conducive to clarity of thought. Why not give it a try?
Going back to the beginning, let’s remind ourselves “what exactly is holistic health?”.
I said it considers the whole body, mental, physical and emotional health. Sometimes the task of taking care of ourselves seems too daunting and too large, but by focusing upon a few things, over time these grow and build. Try one hack or try them all.