We all want great health and to look and feel well. Good nutrition is the cornerstone to health; there is so much truth in the adage ‘You are what you eat’.
But when it comes to the right nutrition where should we start and what should we prioritise?
This World Health Day we ask clinical nutritionist Suzie Sawyer, to help simplify things by sharing her top five health tips.
Routine creates balance
Stressful and busy lives can negatively impact our eating patterns. Eating at erratic times, missing meals and grabbing food on the run will just create more stress on the body. When we’re stressed, the body naturally shuts down the digestive organs by diverting blood flow away, which in turn interrupts absorption of essential nutrients.
Additionally, the body likes to know when it’s going to be fed otherwise it will start storing fat for survival and naturally slow metabolic rate. Keep eating times regular, chew mindfully, savouring every mouthful (you’ll also naturally not overeat) and take some pride in what you have prepared. Food is one of life’s amazing pleasures, so use it to feed your amazing body as it deserves. Put eating a varied and balanced diet at the top of your priority list.
Take vitamin D all year-round
If your joints and muscles are stiff, you’re feeling low in mood or sugar cravings are off the scale, chances are you’re low in vitamin D. Public Health England advise we should be taking a supplement all year round, (and don’t stop just because the sun’s come out!). It is advised that we should all take a supplement of 10 micrograms daily as a minimum, such is the level of deficiency in the population: in fact, ongoing research telling us we need more. Interestingly, upper safe levels for supplementation of vitamin D are 75 micrograms daily. If you’ve still got any of the above symptoms, or blood tests reveal you’re low in vitamin D, then do increase the dosage.
Oily fish with bones, eggs and mushrooms are good food sources of vitamin D so eat these but you’ll still need to supplement as well.
Eat the colours of the rainbow
I talk so much about eating a rainbow of foods and it’s one of the best insurance policies you can choose for protecting health. The colour of foods, especially in fruits and vegetables, all represent nutrients, and especially antioxidants in many different forms. All are essential for protecting the body against free radical damage.
If counting portions of fruit and vegetables is a bit too much (and let’s face it we can’t always know what an individual portion size is), then just aim for meals that are full of colour. Without even counting, you will be eating a rainbow every day and your health will love every mouthful.
Don’t fear fat
Fat is not only essential for providing energy and keeping us warm, it’s also needed for the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins, including vitamin D. Healthy fats include the omegas 3 and 6, which can’t be produced in the body, as well as olive oil, walnut oil, sesame oil and a variety of other nuts and seeds with their oils.
In short, the body needs them every day, and eaten in the right quantity, healthy fats are not going to cause weight gain. On the contrary, without sufficient healthy fats in the diet, the body will start craving sugar causing blood sugar imbalances and often consequential weight gain.
Many people wrongly think that starchy carbohydrates fill you up. And for a time, they will. Carbohydrates from whole grain sources such as oats and whole wheat bread and pasta are slow-energy releasing, keeping everything balanced. However, it’s protein that keeps you feeling fuller for longer. Most importantly, protein is essential for numerous body functions such as maintaining healthy immune and hormone systems, building and repairing muscle and bone, and essential detoxification processes. Ideally it needs to be eaten at every meal where possible.
The good news is that there’s plenty of choice when it comes to food sources; eggs, meat, fish, poultry, dairy, beans, legumes, soya, nuts, seeds and all foods produced from them. An average-sized person needs a minimum of 50-60 grams daily and most people need much more, especially if they’re active. You’ll be amazed just how much stronger and energised you’ll feel just by putting protein on the priority list when meal-planning.
So, embrace these five tips and hopefully you will really feel the health benefits.
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