Author: Kate Atkins
Take a look at how you’re living right now. Are you living the healthy life that you desire to live? Or do you need to make some adjustments? Are you striving to become the best version of you or do you find yourself to be complacent with where you are right now? If you’re not living a healthy life or striving to be the best version of you, what’s stopping you? What excuses are allowing to let manifest and rob you of creating the quality of life that you desire? Most people say, “I don’t have time”, “I don’t have money” or “I don’t know how.”
Living a healthy life is not as complex as most make it out to be. It doesn’t take much time, except setting a little extra time to prep food, and may cost a little extra money to buy fresh produce vs canned or pre-made foods but just think…What is your health worth to you? Is it worth having the energy to run around with your kids, or do daily activities without feeling tired? Is it coming off medications for preventable diseases? Is it to look and feel better about yourself?
I believe that diet is 80% of weight loss and maintaining a healthy weight. Eating clean and healthy is not a fad diet, it is a lifestyle choice. It’s putting the proper food and nutrients into your body. I want to share with you Five Keys to a Healthy Life that are simple and easy to follow that will help your body perform at it’s best. If you incorporate these keys, you will notice a change in how your body feels, your energy levels, and overall health!
Eat food that comes from the earth verses food that has been canned or packaged. This doesn’t mean only eat raw vegetables but you should include a variety of food from fresh fruits and vegetables, to wholesome grains, nuts, beans, and legumes. Fruits and vegetables have a lot of vitamins, minerals, fiber, and antioxidants that are beneficial to your health. Eating a variety of different fruits and vegetables will ensure you are getting the proper nutrition. You can easily cook vegetables by steaming, sautéing, roasting, and grilling. Boiling vegetables strips the nutrients from them. Most people avoid vegetables, grains, beans and legumes because they are bland. However, you can make them tasty the healthy way! When seasoning food, try using garlic, citrus fruit, fresh herbs and spices. Also limit your intake of salt.
Most Americans tend to flavor their food by adding salt. According to the American Heart Association, you should try to limit your sodium intake to around 1500 milligrams but no more than 2300 milligrams per day. However, the average American consumes more than 3400 milligrams per day which is a lot! Cutting back to the recommended intake will significantly improve your blood pressure and heart health. Most meats, vegetables, and fruit already contain small amounts of salt, so you don’t need to add more. It is also used as a preservative in canned and frozen foods, which I will touch base on next about limiting the amount of processed foods. Even “healthy” frozen dinners such as Lean Cuisine, Kashi, Healthy Choice, and Amy’s, to name a few, all contain high amounts of sodium to preserve their food. So unless you have a medical disorder causing low sodium in the body, ditch the salt! You don’t need it!
Processed means it has been changed from it’s natural state in order to be safe to consume. This not only applies to canned or packaged foods but refined grains and carbohydrates which include white rice, bread, pasta, sugars, and oils (such as vegetable oil: safflower, soybean, and sunflower oil) When carbs and grains are processed, they are stripped of their nutrients. Not all harmful foods are processed. Some foods have to be processed such as meat and dairy. Foods that can be harmful to the body are foods that contain processed ingredients to preserve food, make food taste better or to improve the texture/consistency of food.
These processed ingredients such as artificial sweeteners, fillers, thickeners, and preservatives have been FDA approved as safe to consume in small amounts. However, these ingredients are not natural! Our bodies are not used to digesting them which in can ultimately cause inflammation in the body. It’s hard to completely eliminate processed foods, but be aware of what you are about to consume and put into your body. Here’s a rule of thumb: If you don’t know what an ingredient is, look it up. If you cannot pronounce it, don’t eat it! And lastly, look for the least amount of ingredients without added sugars, preservatives, fillers or thickeners.
Believe it or not, but sugar is the source of many health problems! In the 1906’s “low fat” diets became popular. Physicians and researchers linked heart disease to high fat diets. Companies started putting more sugar into their “low fat” products to make them taste better. A great documentary to check out is “That Sugar Film” which shows that sugar is a huge factor in causing heart disease, diabetes, and obesity. Damen Gameau went from a plant based diet to products that were “healthy” and consumed 40 teaspoons of sugar per day. In 2 months, he gained 19 lbs and in 18 days his body showed signs of fatty liver, hypertension and diabetes from consuming so much sugar! Crazy isn’t it? What’s also crazy is that according to the American Heart Association, Americans consume 22.2 teaspoons per day. The recommended daily serving of sugar is 6 teaspoons for women and 9 teaspoons for men per day. Don’t forget natural sugars count too. Fruits contain natural sugar called fructose but they are packed with vitamins, minerals, fiber and antioxidants. Some fruits have more sugar than others such as mangoes, cherries, figs, grapes, and bananas. Consume fruits that are higher in sugar earlier in the day, and limit the amount you consume to 1-2 fruits per day. Fruits low in sugar can be consumed throughout the day such as berries, avocado (yes it’s a fruit!), peaches, oranges, and grapefruit.
Humans are the only mammals that consume dairy in adulthood, and it’s from another mammal! So why do we still drink milk? Because many companies market that the best source of calcium is from milk. However, it is not the only source! Foods that are high in calcium are kale, spinach, collard greens, broccoli, oranges, white beans, sesame seeds, and almonds. Also when most adults get older, some develop lactose intolerance because the body stops producing the enzyme lactase which breaks down the milk sugar lactose. When the body is unable to break down lactose, this results in gastrointestinal inflammation such as bloating, nausea and diarrhea. Another great documentary that is a book is called “The China Study” that was conducted over 10 years which looks at diet, lifestyle, and disease in 65 rural counties in China. The study showed that casein, which is the main protein found in milk, when consumed in large amounts can turn on cancer genes! This is pretty scary! I recommend reducing the amount of dairy to 1-2 servings per day or try substituting regular milk for almond, cashew or coconut milk instead. Remember, almonds are also a great source of calcium!
Why is water important? Our bodies are made of 70% water. At a cellular level, our cells need water from our skin, to our blood vessels, muscles, and organs. Water is excreted when we are breathing, urinating, and sweating. Water is vital for normal cell function, to get rid of wastes/toxins, and to keep you regular. It is need to keep our skin and muscles hydrated. Don’t wait until you’re thirsty! When you are thirsty, that means your body is dehydrated.
According to the Dietary Reference Intakes, females should drink 11 cups and males should drink 15 cups of water per day. You can also obtain water from water rich foods such as greens including kale, spinach, lettuce, fruits, and vegetables. Meat, fish, bread and pasta do not contain much water. Also, be aware of flavored water and flavored mix-ins! Most contain artificial sweeteners such as fructose, aspartame, or cane sugar which is part of the second key in reducing the amount of processed foods/ingredients. Some people think water is bland but you can make your own flavors! How can you make water taste better? Infuse your water with fruit (strawberries, lemon, oranges), herbs (mint, basil, cilantro) or even vegetables like cucumber.
So, do these Five Keys mean chew on raw, garden vegetables only and deprive yourself of anything with flavor? Of course not! Eating clean is a process, but I learned great ways to not only make healthy tasty, but that also made me feel great! And you can too, hopefully with the help of these 5 Keys. Challenge yourself to take the steps necessary to give your body the energy it needs to thrive while creating a lifestyle that allows you to live life to its fullest!
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