By Ellen Farrell, MA, NCC, LPC, EEM-AP
I want to feel healthy, but I don’t know where to start – help!
There are some basic components to feeling healthy. It’s is a mind-body-spirit deal! What is your stress management practice? Have you healed past traumas/explored connecting spiritually? do you watch how you breathe; meditate? What kind of movement/exercise do you practice? Let’s start with healthy eating. Researchers agree that the bottom line is whole grains and a variety of fresh fruits and especially, vegetables. Eat foods from a variety of protein sources to meet activity levels and personal needs. So what does all that mean?
First of all, many people do not know that fiber is essential to health, and meat and dairy products have no fiber!
Our bodies run on carbohydrates – but processed foods, white flour, excessive caffeine, and sugars are extremely detrimental, and cause a multitude of imbalances and dis”ease”. Read drmcdougall.com for more info on differences in need for whole grains based on digestion issues. For instance a compromised digestive system may do better with white rice and cooked veggies – always check with your medical professional and consider your specific needs when deciding on dietary choices. Some options to start your day with are: a good level of fiber cereal (5 to 9 grams), a fruit, pea, hemp, or other organic protein shake (throw in a banana, kefir–dairy or non-dairy, and okay if organic; nut butter, or berries!). Or start with a vegetarian, pasture-raised egg and organic whole grain toast. There are also tofu substitutes for eggs – tofu scrambler, my favorite (tho, we use our own spices now), and other soy options for breakfast meat substitutes, such as from Tofurkey, organic grilled soy, or smoked tempeh.
A great substitute: for cheese is Nutritional yeast, flakes or powder; or for cow milk is Coconut milk. This works for baking; and for stews, curries, etc., coconut cream or manna (butter) are both delicious. Add to lentils and rice, with Himalayan salt and pepper, and curry spices like tumeric with healing garlic and veggies – YUM! Additionally, many butter substitutes and cheeses are now available not made from cow milk – though if you use butter or cheese, I recommend organic from grass fed cows ONLY. You can even use plain organic, coldpressed Coconut oil in place of butter… whatever you do, avoid margarine, or any form of hydrogenated fats. I have found that many times people cannot tolerate a food, but when we energy test the organic variety, or lower the amount, they test strong! Keep experimenting to find what works for you.
Consider protein options such as lentils (green, pink, yellow, French!) or legumes (beans are high in fiber!!!), or wild salmon and other cold water fishes (check oceans alive or seafood choices alliance sites for more info.).
Dr. Andrew Weil states that his “nutritional research convinced me of the health benefits of fish”. He goes on to say “…fish provides high-quality protein without the saturated fat present in meat and poultry. And some kinds of fish – specifically, fatty fish from cold northern waters – also provide omega-3 fatty acids, the special, unsaturated fats our bodies need for optimum health. Wild salmon, mackerel, herring, sardines and bluefish are rich in them, as is – to a lesser extent – albacore tuna.”
Omega-3 sources other than fish are few, but they do exist in: walnuts, flax seeds, hemp seeds, etc.; and the oils extracted from them (if fresh: not heated/made rancid). It is possible to get everything you need from non-animal sources. Research amino acids such as Taurine, Threonine, Theanine, or B-12 supplementation if this is a concern.
Consider eating vegetarian, organic/free range eggs! Of course, all animal “meat” is best if organic as well. The old way of hunting animals in the wild, being mindful of the needs of the herd, not killing young or mothers for example, was a far superior approach. Getting closer to this is a more balanced way of living. When you are eating animal products, you are taking in the chemicals that are sprayed on the food they eat (corn, soy). You also want to avoid all the antibiotics and bovine growth hormones that factory farms use. They cause inflated stress hormones and inflammation in the animals who live in such stressful and unnatural settings. Unless you eat only food you grew or hunted, or only buy organic, then you’re eating the same poor quality foods that are found in major chains or fast food restaurants. Go to see what they have at your local farmer’s market, whenever you are able!
Eat right, exercise… do something daily that brings you joy; meditate on, and spend time in Nature. Go sit by a beautiful tree or listen to ocean sounds! Connect with your inner and higher wisdom, and cultivate a connection of trust within, and you will be on the best path to feeling healthy! As with creating balance in your life, this is an ongoing journey. Having a network of friends who are on the same path is great support. Stay present, pay attention, and keep choosing to be healthy!
This article was updated in 2016. Originally printed in the SCAD Chronicle 2006, under the heading, HEALTH GURU it was written by Wellness counselor, Ellen Farrell who coordinated wellness and lifestyle management services in the department of student recreation and fitness.