As the old saying goes, “variety is the spice of life.” And, if your diet lacks variety, you’re definitely missing out in many ways. In addition to offering different textures, flavors, and aromas, a varied diet provides a diverse range of essential nutrients.
Unfortunately, when you aren’t getting enough of specific nutrients, you can experience fatigue, issues with mood balance, heightened levels of anxiety, weak muscles, diminished mobility, a low-performing immune system and many other problems.
Although chiropractic care aims to improve how the body functions by promoting optimum spinal alignment and balancing the entire musculoskeletal system, many of our patients that come to us are unable to reach their wellness goals because of the absence of good nutrition in their diet.
Therefore, when treating our patients, we always take a comprehensive, multi-pronged approach to promoting overall wellness. Read on to discover how implementing a varied, diverse diet can have a positive impact on how you feel, how your body functions, and how quickly many of your ailments may heal.
Variety and Health
Different foods provide different nutrients and in differing amounts. Some foods are great for giving us energy, while others support good brain functioning or heart health. If you are only eating foods that make you feel alert, you’re missing out on options that are rich with antioxidants and minerals for staving off degenerative, age-related diseases such as osteoporosis, and even Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and arthritis.
Good food is good medicine, and if you’re using this medicine in a preventative fashion, you want to make sure that you’re addressing all of the potential risks, and all of your body’s ongoing needs.
If your goal is to achieve and maintain a balanced and healthy body weight, the best way to do so is by practicing balanced nutrition. Failing to get enough of the nutrients that your body requires for daily functioning is a major step towards a slow and under-performing metabolism. More importantly, eating a balanced array of healthy foods will promote higher levels of satiety so that you’re less prone to overeating, and less likely to snack in-between meals.
Balanced eating and a concerted effort to consume nutrient-dense foods that boast a variety of antioxidants, phytonutrients, vitamins, and minerals will help you sleep better. This will provide everything your brain needs for good cognitive functioning, memory, and endurance.
When we think of malnutrition-related muscle weakness, we often think about the muscles in the arms, legs, and abdomen.
In reality, overall muscle power is what keeps your heart pumping and your digestive system moving. Countless people who suffer from chest pains, general fatigue, constipation, hemorrhoids, and other common ailments do so simply because they aren’t getting the right nutrients, or they aren’t getting enough of them.
Protein Is a Critical Component of a Healthy Diet
High-protein diets are typically maintained by people like bodybuilders who are concerned with building and retaining lots of muscle. While protein is the basic building block of the rippling muscles favored by weight trainers, it’s also important for establishing a lean, lithe, and all-around strong-looking physique for the rest of us.
Surprisingly, protein is also a driving force behind every cell process. It plays a key role in immune response and in metabolic reactions. It helps with the formation of blood cells and aids cellular repair. An excellent source of energy, protein is a critical part of your diet.
Tips to Eat More Fruits and Vegetables Each Day
The growth of fruits and vegetables is actually quite miraculous when you consider just how many predators and problems they encounter as they form. While growing, these foods are constantly attacked by insects, fungi, and many other outside invaders. To ensure their survival, they’re packed with natural defenses.
These defenses are called phytonutrients or phytochemicals. These are the chemicals that plants produce to keep themselves healthy while growing. When you eat fruits and vegetables, you gain the benefits of the very same protective agents that have kept them safe and alive.
Every fruit and vegetable comes with a unique range of benefits based upon its own phytochemical profile and nutritional profile. Certain antioxidants, phytonutrients, vitamins, and minerals can be found in specific fruits in vegetables, but are totally absent in others. Some profiles are more similar than others. With fresh produce, bright color often indicates the presence of key nutrients.
For instance, beta-carotene, which is an orange-colored pigment that can be synthesized by the body and converted into vitamin A, is frequently found in carrots, winter squash, cantaloupe, orange bell peppers, sweet potatoes, and other orange-colored foods.
If you eat lots of these foods, you’ll get plenty of vitamin A, but you’ll also be missing out on the many other pigments and nutrients that are found in purple foods like blackberries and purple cabbage, or red foods like chili peppers and radish.
To load up on a diverse range of nutrients, and to eat more fruits and vegetables each day, try these strategies:
- Chop your fresh fruits and veggies up to create colorful salads
- Create a fruit and vegetable platter and visit this when you feel like snacking
- Start dining on soups and stews that have a variety of colorful vegetables added in
- Sip on fruit-infused water throughout the day
- Find a local market that offers fresh, seasonal fruits and vegetables at a reasonable cost
When you can, try to purchase organic produce so that you aren’t consuming unnecessary and potentially harmful chemicals in the form of pesticides and herbicides. If there’s a fruit stand by your job, use your lunch breaks to load up on healthy snacks. This is a great way to both improve your nutrition and get some low-impact, low-stress exercise in.
Types of Vegetables
Depending upon who you ask, vegetables can be divided into many different categories. To keep things simple, let’s talk about the six primary types that you should be getting plenty of. These are:
- Leafy greens like spinach, collards, and kale
- Allium or garlic, onions, shallots, and green onions
- Edible stem plants including kohlrabi, celery and asparagus
- Marrow which includes pumpkins, zucchini, and other squash
- Root or tuber vegetables such as potatoes, sweet potatoes, and yams
- Cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, and brussel sprouts
If you’ve never been much of a vegetable fan, try changing how you cook and serve them. Fresh vegetables have the best nutritional profile, whereas canned vegetables have lost much of their nutrients during the preservation process. If you can’t access fresh veggies all the time, frozen options have undergone far less processing than canned.
Keep in mind that certain vegetables such as collards and kale actually have more bioavailable nutrients or nutrients that your body can readily use after they’ve been lightly pan-seared or steamed.
Finally, there’s an odd, seventh type of vegetable that you’ll want to make sure you’re getting plenty of. These are legumes or pulses, and many need to be soaked and cooked before consumption. Legumes include beans, lentils, green peas, green beans, and edamame or other soy products. Legumes are sometimes classified as fruits.
Types of Fruits
Any produce that bears its seed within itself or within its edible parts is considered a fruit. Thus, the list of fruits contains a few surprising options such as tomatoes and avocados. Fruits can be broken down into six types:
- Drupes or stone fruits that have a large pit at their center and fleshy, enlarged areas around their cores
- Pomes are smooth-skinned fruits with several seeds at their core and include pears, apples, and even kiwis
- Citrus fruits such as lemons, oranges, tangerines, grapefruit, and limes that have pulpy flesh and a thick, peel-able rind
- Tropical fruits like dates, figs, pineapples, and papaya
Fruits have rich nutritional profiles, but many are also high in sugar. When determining how to balance your produce consumption, limit your intake of excessively sweet fruits, and indulge heavily on fruits with a tarter taste. Loading up on berries is a great way to get essential vitamins.
Having smaller amounts of melons, pineapples, pomes, and drupes will expand the range of nutrients that you’re getting while moderating your sugar intake. At the end of the day, reaching for any fruit is better for your body than reaching for refined, sugary snacks.
Dietary Fiber: Essential for a Healthy Diet
You also want to get plenty of fiber in your diet. This helps keep your digestive system moving, and it also provides a sense of satiety. A fiber-rich diet can keep you from snacking in-between meals, and from developing constipation-related issues. Fiber also helps moderate cholesterol levels and blood sugar and assists the body in maintaining a balanced weight.
You can get plenty of fiber from fresh fruits and vegetables, but this is also where natural, whole grains come in. You can give your body plenty of fiber by eating steel cut oatmeal for breakfast or by consuming steamed brown rice with your meals.
Tips for Proper Nutrition
There are a number of wellness tips that are well supported by leading research. Here are a few that are actually based on good science.
- Eat fatty fish: Fatty fish such as salmon and mackerel are packed with high-quality protein and healthy fat.
- Drink coffee: Java is high in antioxidants, and studies have linked coffee intake to a reduced risk of Type 2 diabetes and longevity.
- Eat and drink probiotics: Probiotics in enriched yogurt, sauerkraut and drinks like kombucha manage gut microbiota, which is incredibly essential for overall health.
- Use extra virgin olive oil: This oil is loaded with healthy monounsaturated fats and powerful antioxidants that keep your heart healthy and fight inflammation.
- Pair foods the right way: Pairing certain foods together increases nutrition absorption. For instance, pair tomatoes with olive oil or make a dish that uses turmeric and black pepper.
- Drink beet juice: Studies show that beet juice may improve circulation, increase stamina and lower blood pressure.
- Avoid white: When we say avoid white, it means avoid white bread, white rice and white sugar. They are highly refined and have a high glycemic index and lots of carbohydrates.
Skip the Fad Diets and Gimmicks
Sadly, when people attempt to drop pounds and “get healthy,” they often do so by implementing strict, deprivation diets that eliminate specific foods or entire food groups.
Weight loss plans like these typically lead to short-term results, and they simply aren’t sustainable. More importantly, when your body is deprived of nutrients, it takes its own actions to correct nutritional imbalances. Your body might slow its metabolism, or begin leaching nutrients like calcium and magnesium from your teeth and bones.
Achieve Total Health and Fitness
A good diet can go a long way towards helping you feel how you want to feel. A balanced array of nutrients will give you more energy, activate your metabolism, support your immune system, and promote improved sleep hygiene and improved cognitive functioning among other things.
If you’re having a hard time establishing an effective weight loss plan, suffering from nutrition-related health issues, or still need answers to questions about nutrition, we can help. At Cool Springs Family Chiropractic, we’re committed to helping our patients achieve total health and wellness.