Optimum Wellness Presented by King Soopers

“The doctor of the future will no longer treat the human frame with drugs, but rather will cure and prevent disease with nutrition.” ~Thomas Edison

March is National Nutrition Month and this year’s theme is “Savor the Flavor of Eating Right.” National Nutrition Week launched in 1973 and was fully embraced by dieticians and nutritionists across the country. So much so, that by 1980 it became a month-long observance with March officially deemed “National Nutrition Month.” The goal is to promote awareness around healthy eating and good nutrition, which has evolved and changed over the years. That’s the interesting thing about nutrition and science, it is ever-evolving. So in honor of this year’s theme, I’d like to draw attention to the idea of Eating Right and what that may mean for all of us.

The word diet comes from the Latin word diaeta, which means, "way of living prescribed by a physician| regimen| diet.” As naturopathic doctors, we are often asked, what should I eat? Certainly there is no one size fits all answer. However, these guidelines may help you make nutrition work for you:

Feed Your Head First, Your Body Second, Your Emotions Last. We are big fans of The MIND Diet, which is now being recommended as a possible preventions strategy against Alzheimer’s disease. What we especially like about the MIND diet (MIND stands for Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay) is that is combines the essential goodness of the Mediterranean, Okinawan, and DASH diets, which focus on fresh vegetables and fruits, whole grains, healthy fats, nuts, seeds, fish and lean protein.
When our bodies and brains receive a steady flow of healthy nutrition throughout the day, which means not skipping meals or mainlining sugar and caffeine, then we are less likely to be emotionally driven towards bingeing on an entire bag of potato chips or gallon of ice cream during times of stress or crisis.

Eat Real Food. As simple as it sounds, some time over the last 50 years or so, our food has become more and more “fake.” What that means is a lot of artificial sweeteners, preservatives, and now, genetically modified ingredients. The best way to know you are eating “real food” is to simple avoid excessive packaged foods including cookies, crackers, cake mixes, prepared foods, and fast food. Read labels. Shop the produce aisle and think about buying your nuts, seeds, beans, legumes, and grains in bulk. Eat eggs from pasture-raised chickens; wild or sustainably farmed fish (check out http://www.seafoodwatch.org), and natural and ethically raised lean meats.

Avoid Fad Diets. Fad diets are unsustainable. Real nutrition never goes out of style. If you are eating unprocessed, whole, organic foods, managing healthy portions, and maintaining an active lifestyle, you will rarely have to maintain a restricted diet – unless medically required or recommended.

Eat With the End in Mind. When you become conscious of the way you feel—emotionally and physically—before and after you eat or drink certain foods, you will begin to eat with the end experience in mind. You will choose nutrient-dense, whole foods rather than over processed, nutrient-void, calorie-dense foods; because you will notice a difference in how you feel and function as a result of your choices. Eating with the end in mind supports us in making choices about food that build a more confident, optimistic, centered, and energized body and brain chemistry.

Many of us have lost sight of why we eat. Of course, the obvious answer is that we eat to sustain life. Sometimes we eat because we’re bored, lonely, sad, angry; or sheer habit tells us to put something in our mouth. But eating and preparing food should be enjoyed and celebrated; it should help us Thrive, not just survive. It is a daily ritual that can be spiritual and holy as well as satisfying, creative, and fun; yet we often eat with little or no thought about what and how much we put in our mouths. It’s time to remember how to eat with intention—to dis- cover why we eat and what it means to Thrive.

Think about what truly feeds you. Yes, of course, food feeds you, literally. But look around your life. What else feeds you? Family, friends, career, sports, hobbies, all of the above?

The integrative nutrition work and philosophy of Joshua Rosenthal—in particular, his work on primary and secondary foods. In his book, Integrative Nutrition, he states, “Primary food is more than what is on your plate. Healthy relationships, regular physical activity, a fulfilling career, and a rich and dedicated spiritual practice can fill your soul and satisfy your hunger for life. When primary food is balanced and satiating, your life feeds you, making what you eat secondary.”

Think about a time when you were out of touch with eating. Maybe you’ve always been. When we are stressed or feeling disconnected from family or friends, or when we are not aligned with our personal integrity and purpose, we are very vulnerable to making poor food choices. How do you tend to eat when you are feeling lonely or less than your best? Do you desire comfort from food? Do you notice that no matter what or how much you eat, you almost never feel satisfied?

Take this one step further and think about when you are connecting with the primary foods that nourish your soul and life. Do you feel purposeful and fully connected? Are you serving and loving yourself and those around you with your best? Being in integrity with your life’s choices feeds you. You gain energy and confidence when you are plugged in to what truly and deeply nourishes you.

When your primary foods are feeding your soul, what do you feed your body—nourishing, nutrient-dense whole foods? If your primary foods leave you unfulfilled, sad, stressed, empty, or angry, what happens with the secondary foods? Do sugar, carbohydrates, unhealthy fats, and salt draw you in? When you live in alignment with what truly feeds you first, you build a foundation for making impeccable choices with the secondary foods.

In honor of National Nutrition Month, Savor the flavor of eating right and celebrate eating well. Use food as a means to raise your vitality along with your joy.