Beyond Nutrition: Eating habits that’ll keep you healthy
As you may have already experienced, nutrition is a heated topic that experts keep struggling with each other for centuries,
There is pretty much a consensus that if you will eat “the right stuff” you will enjoy better health. However, what is “the right stuff” experts are very far from agreement.The dispute is mostly about What to it, while about how to eat is rarely addressed, and it’s a pity, because on that topic most experts most likely can easily agree.
The following are rules that can be applied to your diet regardless if you are Vegan, Paleo, Macrobiotic or even a coke-and-burger eater. Your body will thank you for following these guidelines, which were passed to us from ancient times.
Eating many meals a day doesn’t mean that you need to eat more, but that you should not reach the hunger stage. Our stomach expands and contracts based on how much food is in it. Whenever we eat it stretches, and It contracts when the food is gone. Contracting and retracting, over time, makes the stomach larger and with a reduced capacity to shrink.
Since some of the sensors that dictate the sense of hunger are based on how full the stomach is, a bigger, less flexible stomach results in experiencing hunger more frequently. So even though our intuition may tell us to eat less frequently if we want to lose weight. The reality is quite the opposite.
Furthermore, an elastic healthy stomach will improve our digestive process, thus allowing us to absorb the nutrients needed for our health.Taking into consideration our modern lifestyle, experts usually recommend to eat every two to three hours if possible, but given people’s tight schedules, the least we can do is eat five times a day: I usually recommend eating an early breakfast soon after wake up, a second breakfast two hours later, an early lunch, an afternoon light meal or snack and dinner.
Don’t skip breakfast
Breakfast is essential for a few reasons: hopefully it comes after eight hours of fasting, so as mentioned before, it stops the contraction of the (empty) stomach. Furthermore, after so many hours of fasting the stomach has a high level of acid, since juices were produced throughout the night.
Another reason to have a hearty breakfast is that in the morning we need more energy than throughout the rest of the day since we are starting many processes that require energy.
Chew your food meticulously
Chewing the food gives us two major advantages. It mechanically breaks down the food and makes it easier for our digestive tract to extract nutrients from it, and it slows down the eating process, athus allowing our sensory system provide us with more accurate message of how hungry we still are.
Allocate time for eating
Eating should be done with our full attention, in the least stressful environment possible. Eating while distracted, under stress or simply in a rush may cause unpleasant and even dangerous consequences, starting with the risk of choking and ending with eating things we wouldn’t had we not been distracted.
Energetically speaking, being mindful as we eat helps us maintain a healthier relationship with our food and our immediate surroundings, it allows us to digest the food better and reduce our overall stress level.
Therefore we should eat seated, in a comfortable and hygiene environment with enough time allocated that we will not need to wolf our food down in a rush.
Food should be tasty and aesthetic
In Chinese medicine we often talk about the energetic quality of food. If we talk in western terms. Modern science also acknowledges the importance of sensory information processed by the brain in preparing our digestive system to receive and process the food.
When we like the food, even before we start eating it, our system starts producing chemicals that will help us digest the food: we all have the experience that when we see food we like, we start drooling, and our stomach starts making distinct noises. What we are experiencing is the digestive tract getting ready to absorb the food.
Follow eating etiquette
Following the rule of aesthetic eating, following our eating habits is a part of our sense of comfort and well being.Each culture and sub culture has its own eating etiquette. In our multicultural environment it is possible that we are exposed to different food etiquette: Chinese eat with sticks, Caucasians eat with flatware, Indians eat using their hands etc.Even among the people who eat using flatware different etiquette differs from one culture to the other, or even from one social class to the next.So one may ask what is the appropriate eating etiquette we should follow: If we are eating Chinese food, do we need to rat with sticks even though we are Caucasians, for instance? The answer most likely is that we should follow the rules we feel that fit us best. If we try to follow rules we do not feel comfortable with we will affect our eating habits and most likely will have poorer overall experience.
“In each meal, have five colors on your plate”
This Chinese proverb relates to two different factors.
As mentioned before, food should look good. But besides that, it is important to note that ancient Chinese attributed different nutritional values based (among other things) on color.
So the message this proverb is sending is to have balanced nutrients in each meal.
Modern science reinstates this ancient wisdom. As our scientific understanding of the gastric system expands, we find out new links between different nutrients.
It turns out that many nutrients depend on the presence of other nutrients and enzymes to be absorbed.
Other eating suggestions
The following suggestions do not stem directly from Chinese medicine, but most likely will also receive the blessings from experts regardless of their nutritional concept
Avoid industrialized food
By industrialized food I mean food products we buy ready made. With these products we have no control over the quality of the ingredients, so even if they are advertised as “organic” or “natural”, these products have by far less nutritional value than homemade food made of “real” food: vegetables, fruit, animal produce etc.
Pay attention to the way the products you buy have been treated
Besides the obvious ethical questions raised by the way some food industries treat animals and even plants, there are serious health issues we need to pay attention to in order to avoid serious pitfalls.
While hygiene, which until recently was the most pressing ithreat with industrial foods , is by now more or less standardized, issues of contamination, freshness and nutritional value are still clouding our food industry.
Common sense dictates that a chicken that was raised in a battery, stuffed with hormones and without seeing a single day of light quite obviously is not the same as a free-range chicken. Wheat that grew in toxic waste is not going to have the same nutritional value as wheat that grew in a clean environment etc.
Even the most “healthy “food ingredient, if raised in a contaminated environment may no longer be considered healthy.
We often tend to overeat, or to eat too much of the types of food that are rich to start with. This is particularly true about meat and milk products, which are very rich, and therefore can easily be over consumed.
Pay attention to how your body responds to different foods
Each person has their own tolerance, sensitivities and needs for different foods. “intellectual eating”, meaning eating according to any given health doctrine, needs to take into consideration our individuality. As a rule of thumb, if something makes you feel unwell after consuming large quantity of it, we most likely should not eat it at all to start with. If, for example, after half a glass of milk I feel sick, most likely I shouldn’t drink milk at all.
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