“How important is it that I eat only organic vegetables? And what about chia seeds? I’ve heard that those are good for you. Oh, and what about bone broth?”
These represent the types of questions that I hear while visiting with my inquisitive clients.
I love these types of questions; I really do. It is a privilege to support such an engaged group of people seeking answers among the information that is swirling around out there in the world of nutrition science. While the questions themselves will vary from client to client, the aim remains the same – to seek better health by obtaining the newest and best information out there so that life can be lived full of vitality and energy, free from distress and disease.
Like many of my clients, I have spent many hours pouring over health publications and journals looking for the “real” answers to some of these same types of questions. There is always is something new to learn whether from a colleague, another health professional, or a vetted publication. A word-to-the-wise – information may always have some bias, even if it’s from a very well credentialed source. Always stay curious.
While one perspective could be that access to all this information is great, it can cause a persistent case of analysis paralysis. That means not doing anything because you’re uncertain of what information to adhere too. But don’t be dismayed! There is some consistency in all of the opinions and studies out there that anyone can implement at any time to begin working towards better health.
Here is some general consensus about what you can do to live a healthier life. Remember, these are the BIG things to do that will go a long way towards improved health.
Don’t eat added sugar. Remember, we’re talking about focusing on BIG, no-brainer changes to make that can have a profound impact on how you feel. This is numero uno! Adios to baked goods, cookies, cakes, donuts, ice cream, sweetened beverages, and even some sugar-laden items that are parading around as “health food.” Most adults consume around 22 teaspoons of sugar per day – that’s around 88 grams! Less is more so read those labels and ingredient lists. Look at the amount of added sugar on the label and scan the ingredients for anhydrous dextrose, brown sugar, cane crystals, cane sugar, corn sweetener, corn syrup, corn syrup solids, crystal dextrose, evaporated cane juice, fructose sweetener, fruit juice concentrates, high-fructose corn syrup, honey, liquid fructose, malt syrup, maple syrup, molasses, pancake syrup, raw sugar, sugar, syrup and white sugar.
Eat more vegetables. “I’m so hungry, I could die.” I’ve heard this many times from many clients. My counter to this is often, “Well, how are you doing on your vegetable intake?” (Insert cricket noise here.) Ah yes, when we take unhealthy foods out, we may feel increased hunger if we’re not adding the healthy foods in. Our bodies have learned to anticipate regular food intake through feedback mechanisms like blood sugar balancing and when that doesn’t happen, hunger signals go on overdrive. In addition to helping stave off hunger with all of that good-for-you fiber and water for volume, vegetables are loaded with phytonutrients that nourish our cells. A common retort is, “I don’t really like vegetables.” Unfortunately, I’ve met many adults that grew up eating mushy, steamed veggies with no seasoning at all. Try grilling, sautéing, baking, and broiling. There’s a veggie out there calling your name! Go eat it.
Drink clean, purified water. Our bodies are made up of somewhere between 50-65% water by weight. That’s a lot! Fluids in our body comprise a large part of our cellular communication network that allows for the movement of important nutrients and solutes in and out of our cells and all around our body. When we don’t drink enough water, that communication network suffers and we feel the consequences. We can feel sluggish and lethargic. So drink up and aim to get in about 60 or more ounces per day.
Move your body. And here come all the questions…How long? How often? What should I do? Do I follow a program? Should I switch it up? These are all great questions to ask and yes, there are some specific answers. But the reality is that a large percentage of adults do not engage in regular physical activity. So if the starting point is low, set the bar low too. Wait, what? Yep – you heard me. Set the bar low. Go walk for 5 minutes a few times a week. Will this make a huge health difference? No. But it does have the potential to make a habit difference and eventually, that habit may lead to longer and more frequent periods of regular exercise.
Four things. Four BIG things. And four simple(ish) thing that often get overlooked. If you’re feeling stuck and don’t know what to do to move forward, check in with these things first. There are always ways to personalize and optimize but never lose sight of the obvious.