Over the festive period we all seem to abandon our regular health and fitness regimes for a more intense and exaggerated version of life in the name of celebration. To make sure we compensate for this let’s look forward to getting back into the realm of healthy living (or start now if you feel inspired!).
So what is the perfect diet? An impossible question to answer as obviously we are all different, however, we can look at our fundamental similarities and functions which can provide a base for what everybody requires for maintaining a healthy, balanced body and mind. One key word here is “mind”; when looking into diet it isn’t very often that the heath of the mind is considered. We all know we must eat fruits and vegetables, keep hydrated, etc. in order to maintain a healthy body yet the mind also plays a huge part in our overall wellbeing. So the best way to live healthily is to take care of both and balance our mental health, as well as our physical, in order to find harmony.
If our body isn’t working well, neither will our mind, and vice versa.
An anti-inflammatory diet combined with meditation is claimed to be a great way to provide the perfect balance for both. Deepak Chopra claims that this is what our cells would request if they could they speak! This isn’t a referral to the beneficial, acute inflammation which assists in our healing, but the inflammation that occurs through trauma; the harm that we inflict on ourselves when we do not eat well, a side effect from infection, or from having an unhealthy immune system – often resulting from lifestyle factors like stress and a lack of exercise. Chronic inflammation results when the immune system releases chemicals meant to combat injury and bacterial and virus infections, even when there are no foreign invaders to fight off. Processed food is not just something we should avoid at times, it is actually toxic, we should never eat it. The toxic chemicals within such foods can leak through the digestive tract and cause the trauma which leads to chronic inflammation. This inflammation can go unnoticed and can lead to serious disorders such as hypertension, heat disease, cancer, allergies, asthma, arthritis, stroke, gout, IBS and Crohn’s disease.
An anti-inflammatory diet is organic, fresh, nutrient-dense, unprocessed, high in fibre, low in sugar and salt, avoids preservatives and trans-fats in order to keep the microorganisms in your intestines healthy and prevent the seeping of toxins into the blood as well as assist the immune system. If your digestive system is flourishing and functioning efficiently it sends positive messages of well-being to the brain and heart. This type of diet can also lead to weight loss, along with regular exercise, which, in turn can also improve metabolism.
The microorganisms in the gut do not just respond to diet but also our emotions, and therefore stress. This is where the mediation and mindfulness comes in. Our health relies on us being at peace internally; a ten minute meditation or time-out to relax or do something beneficial that you enjoy (take a bath, go for a walk, sit on your favourite bench, read a book, practice yoga, stretch) each and every day. We must carve out this precious and important time for ourselves in order to find our own happiness, reduce stress and therefore maintain well-being. Deepak strongly recommends the combination of an anti-inflammatory diet alongside the practice of meditation in order to achieve optimum health. The emotional and psychological benefits of meditation can help you to reduce resentment, grievance, and reduce any negative (and therefore harmful) emotions and stress.
To identify with our body’s physical and mental needs is paramount in maintaining a long and healthy life.
Tips on Following an Anti-Inflammatory Diet
Eat five to nine servings of antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables each day:
- Berries (such as blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries)
- Dark green leafy vegetables (such as kale, spinach, and collard greens)
- Sweet potatoes
- Nuts (such as walnuts, almonds, pecans, and hazelnuts)
- Beans (such as red beans, pinto beans, and black beans)
- Whole grains (such as oats and brown rice)
- Dark chocolate (at least 70 percent cocoa)
- Lower (but don’t avoid altogether) your intake of foods high in omega-6 fatty acids while increasing your consumption of foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids (such as flaxseed, walnuts, and oily fish; salmon, tuna, mackerel, and herring). Maintain a balance of the two.
- Replace red meat with healthier protein sources, such as lean poultry, fish, beans, and lentils.
- Swap margarine and vegetable oils for the healthier fats found in olive oil, nuts, and seeds.
- Instead of choosing refined grains, opt for fibre-rich whole grains like oats, quinoa, brown rice, bread and pasta that list a whole grain as the first ingredient.
- Rather than seasoning your meals with salt, enhance flavour with anti-inflammatory herbs like garlic, ginger, and turmeric.
Breakfast foods: breakfast smoothie, chia bowl, oatmeal.
Lunch: salad with quinoa and vegetables, soup, grilled salmon.
Snacks: fresh blueberry fruit salad, apples, nut butter, walnuts, chia seed pudding, guacamole.
Beverages: ginger turmeric tea, green juice, green smoothie, herbal tea, turmeric tea, green tea.
Tips on Meditation
If you don’t already practice it, there are plenty of places online to begin with guided meditations. I personally began with Oprah and Deepak’s 21-day meditations as they are grounded, inspiring and designed to suit almost everyone.
Start with a few minutes a day and don’t expect your entire world to change after a few days. You’ll slowly and surely come in to a rhythm that is meant for you, it is such an individual process. The idea is to embody calm and release negativity.
Try to carve out a daily time for your practice in a comfortable, quiet, light and airy space. Avoid any interruptions. If you can’t achieve this make sure you have headphones and at least find an area where you won’t be disturbed for the duration.
Become a qualified holistic therapist
Here at the School of Natural Health Sciences we offer distance learning diploma courses in both Meditation and Mindfulness. Our Meditation Course takes the student on a journey through both Eastern and Western meditation techniques, no previous qualifications are necessary. Our Mindfulness Course has become hugely popular, it discusses many techniques to help manage stress and pain levels and improve relationships.