Sometimes it can feel as though you need an encyclopedic knowledge of nutrition in order to keep on top of your health.
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The reality is that there are simple steps you can take to keep on top of your health, and ensure you’re giving your body the nourishment it needs.
The trick is to understand that men and women are different creatures – our bodies actually have different needs, as we are more prone to particular deficiencies and health concerns.
Belinda Reynolds has outlined the key health boxes you should be ticking on a daily basis, to help demystify health and wellness and ensure you focus on what matters for you.
1) Stay in touch with your body
The most important thing we can do is get to know our body. Understand what makes us feel well, and what doesn’t.
Don’t ignore anything unusual, or uncomfortable. Check your breasts and have regular pap smears. If you are experiencing significant fatigue, headaches, PMS or period pain, unusual discharge, irregular bowel habits or mood problems – DO NOT ignore them.
Just because others you know may be experiencing it too doesn’t mean that it’s normal. Seek out the advice of a qualified healthcare practitioner who may be able to suggested further tests, or dietary and lifestyle changes.
2) Focus on colourful vegetables and fruits
A diet rich in antioxidant – and nutrient-dense plant foods is essential to health. Aim to consume 5 servings of vegetables and 2 servings of fruit per day. Include varieties that are rich in colour.
Green leafy and cruciferous vegetables can be particularly beneficial as they support healthy detoxification of undesirable substances (including unwanted hormones) from the body.
Nuts and seeds can also be great sources of minerals (e.g. zinc and selenium), and provide a good source essential fatty acids.
Incorporate virgin olive oil, coconut oil and avocado where you can. These plant-derived foods provide more essential fatty acids and are great to assist in keeping inflammation in the body under control. This helps many things, from skin issues, to period pain, to concentration and mood.
3) Eat lots of fibre and consider fermented foods and probiotics
Are your bowel habits irregular? Do you ever feel bloated, gassy, uncomfortable, or weird, foggy and lethargic after certain meals? You could have a microbial imbalance in your digestive tract, and this requires a healthy, fibre rich diet (plus quite possibly a probiotic supplement) to correct.
Also consider that you may have some mild intolerances to particular foods. Some common intolerances are gluten (yes, even if you’re not coeliac), dairy and fructose. Too much sugar will also mess with your gut flora so minimise that where you can!
Exercise has been shown to be a natural antidepressant, to support brain health, assist in maintaining healthy bones, plus it helps you to stay a healthy weight and feel energised.
Exercise is just as important as a healthy diet – so treat it as a priority not an optional activity.
If you find it hard to squeeze in long arduous sessions, anything is better than nothing – try some exercises using your bodyweight in the lounge room, some yoga poses or a brisk walk.
5) Avoid too much sugar, alcohol and nutrient-deficient, over-processed foods
The more undesirable foods you eat during the day, the less space there is to fit in the good foods which actually support your health.
No one is perfect, and the occasional treat can be good for the soul, but at least 80% of your diet should be made up of health-promoting plant foods, healthy protein and fat sources. Try replacing white rice with cauliflower rice, make noodles out of vegetables to have in place of pasta (or even do a half/half mix), have carrot sticks dipped in home-made guacamole for a snack and mix antioxidant-rich berries with some natural yoghurt and some cacao or vanilla extract.
Make sure most of the days of the week are alcohol-free and don’t consume sweetened beverages. If you’re exhausted and prone to reaching for numerous cups of coffee or a sugar hit to feel energised – consider having your iron checked, and speak to your practitioner about whether a multi B or Ubiquinol supplement may be something worth considering to help you through.
Keeping on top of your health doesn’t need to be rocket science. Simplifying nutrition advice down to key steps makes your health goals achievable as opposed to unattainable.
Keep these key tips in mind and you’ll ensure that you are paying attention to your specific health needs as well and setting yourself up for a healthy lifestyle, as opposed to a short-term ‘health kick’.
Do you have any other tips to add to this list? Please share in the comments below.