Nutrition – One of Life’s Important Elixirs
“You are what you eat.” This favorite saying has become somewhat of a cliché over the years. But it is a simple truth. In both treating and watching elite athletes for decades, so much about the level at which they are able to perform is tied to what and how they eat. Guess what? The same is true for you and me. “Proper” nutrition isn’t a one-size-fits-all proposition. Eating healthfully is going to look quite different for the cyclist who rides a hilly 25 miles in 90 degree heat than it will for the person who practices gentle yoga indoors three times a week. But no matter the quantity of food required in either of these examples – the quality of the foods we eat absolutely matters.
With the availability of “convenience” foods that really hit its North American peak in the 1980’s, we’ve seen the proliferation of the microwave dinner, fast-food drive-thru and pre-packaged foods with ingredient lists that are paragraphs long and virtually-impossible to pronounce. Three cheers for convenience and immediate availability, right? Not exactly. The transformation of our food delivery system may offer benefits of accessibility and price, but it can also have very steep health costs. It’s no surprise that with the availability of snack food/junk foods at its height, we’ve also seen a steep increase in obesity, heart disease, diabetes and cancer. Indeed, we are what we eat. While it’s beyond the scope of this blog to put a specific nutrition plan in place for each reader, suffice it to say that focusing your diet on nutrient-rich, wholesome foods like vegetables, fruits, lean protein and whole grains, while including less of the processed, packaged food-like substances, will help you go the distance in terms of your overall health and well- being.
Cavemen didn’t have grocery stores. By design, we humans were engineered tens of thousands of years ago to go out and hunt, kill and prepare our food. That takes a lot of energy, as you can imagine. While we don’t have to go through the process of hunting, gathering and preparing our own foods now, we can still benefit from an understanding of the adaptive process our ancestors used in relationship to food. You see, they instinctively adapted their body’s activity level to times of feast or famine. They figured out how much they would need to eat in order to sustain themselves. Sure, eating may have been pleasurable at times but at its core, the act of consuming food was for survival.
Are you an emotional eater? Do you use food as a source of comfort in times of great stress or sorrow, whether or not you’re actually hungry? Simply put, this isn’t the way our bodies were designed to function. Take some time to focus on when you eat and why. If you begin to see a pattern of food intake that has nothing to do with hunger, dig deeper. Is there something else you could be doing to calm those emotions? Think about a long walk, yoga or a brisk jog around the neighborhood instead. You’ll feel better for handling life this way in the long run, I promise.
Sometimes the right key can unlock doors we thought were welded shut. Have you ever heard of the glycemic index (GI)? It could be one of those tools for you. In fact, the GI is among the most referenced tools used by nutritionists around the world. Why? In a nutshell, the GI is a ranking of carbohydrates on a scale from 0-100 according to how a food raises blood sugar levels after eating it. Foods with a high GI result in blood sugar spikes while those with low GI produce only gradual rises in these levels and also have proven health benefits. Studies suggest that certain diseases are directly related to the GI level of the overall diet. Bottom line: understanding the GI of the foods you eat is mission-critical for your health. Learn more about the Glycemic Index here.
Whether you’re an elite athlete or a senior who wants to maintain an active lifestyle well into your golden years – proper nutrition plays a big role in getting you there.
Remember, you are what you eat, you drink, you think and you DO! Do it right and reap the countless health and wellness benefits.