What do we mean by eat well? Eating well is being mindful of what you eat. Whatever you eat or ingest you must consider its impact on your health, weight, well being, etc. It is about nutrition! For complete wellness, nutrition should be part of your wellness strategic plan.
Do you have complete nutrition? The answer is probably no. Most people don’t get their daily allowance of minerals, vitamins, and amino acids.
The truth is that it’s okay to have a bad day, a day that doesn’t fulfill all of your daily needs. Chances are, if you’re careful about your health, you’ll make up for your deficits later in the week. The problem comes when the nutrition deficits are ongoing.
For example, if you never get enough vitamin B, you’re going to start experiencing some significant health problems. Yet if on a weekly basis you do get enough vitamin B, then your system will balance out. It’s important to know that many nutrients, not all, are stored in your body for a duration. And your body does make some vitamins, like vitamin D.
So complete nutrition doesn’t have to mean that you get 100 percent of every nutrient every day. What it does mean is that you do give your body the nutrients that it needs, and that is readily accomplished with a healthy diet. You don’t necessarily have to spend money on supplements.
Why Is Complete Nutrition Important? What Are the Benefits?
There are a number of benefits to complete nutrition, including but not limited to:
Stronger Immune System
When you have complete nutrition, your body has what it needs to function optimally. That means that it can focus energy on your immune system. When foreign invaders like bacteria and viruses hit your body, and this happens on a daily basis, your immune system kicks into action and isolates and kills the invaders. If you don’t have complete nutrition, your body has to compensate for that lack. When it has to compensate, it’s weaker.
You need a number of nutrients in your body for your metabolism to function well. Your metabolism is a complicated system of hormones, enzymes, and chemical reactions. It needs specific minerals and vitamins to manage different levels of the process.
For example, your thyroid is a gland that releases hormones that impact your metabolism. When this hormone is low, your metabolism slows down. You feel lethargic, you get sick more often, and you gain weight. Vitamin D, B, and C are important for healthy thyroid function, as are many minerals including selenium.
Because your cells and systems require essential nutrients, when you fuel your body with these nutrients it has what it needs to thrive. It’s not compensated. It’s not weakened. It’s able to function optimally. When you’re compromised and your body has to work extra hard, that’s when disease happens, which ultimately shortens your life span.
As you can see, complete nutrition is essential for optimal health. So why not take a supplement? Why rely on food when a pill can help you give your body the vitamins and minerals that it needs?
Why Not Just Take a Pill?
People take supplements for a variety of reasons. Common logic for some is that they eat healthily but they take a multivitamin for insurance. It’s a just-in-case option – a Plan B, so to speak. The other reason that people take supplements or a multivitamin is because they believe that they’re staving off disease.
Many advertisements for supplements will tell you that taking a multivitamin will help prevent heart disease. There are vitamins for men and sexual health, for women and memory loss and for teenagers too. There are even gummy candy-like multivitamins to make them more fun to take.
The truth is that most vitamin supplements aren’t doing what they claim, especially synthetic ones. Many studies have proven that supplements really do little if anything at all. And one large study, published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, showed that both multivitamin and mineral supplements did not work any better than placebo pills. In turn many doctors have stopped recommending that their patients take multivitamins.
When you really need to supplement your diet think products from natural ingredients, avoid synthetic products as much as possible. Synthetic supplements are known to have adverse side effects, and this makes them not really beneficial.
Could It Be Dangerous?
Additionally, many people believe that taking vitamin and mineral supplements is causing vitamin poisoning. According to poison control centers, there are more than 60,000 reports of vitamin toxicity annually.
It’s Your Money
Think about the answer to this question… would you rather spend your money on food or on vitamins? Estimates are that 150 million people use supplements annually and they spend more than 20 billion dollars. How much did you spend on supplements last year? Would you rather have spent that on something else?
Generally, people enjoy eating much more than taking pills. And nutritious food can and does taste wonderful. You can get the complete nutrition that we talked about, and you can do it without taking a supplement.
What Nutrients Do You Need?
If you’re striving for complete nutrition and you’re looking to get it from food, it can be helpful to know what vitamins and minerals most people fall short on. These are generally nutrients that can be difficult to get from a standard American diet.
The daily recommendation for calcium is 1,000 milligrams a day. Calcium as you may know is good for bone health. It’s also an important part of the digestive process and other metabolic processes.
Calcium is essential, in fact, for creating energy from your food. And many people just don’t get the calcium that they need on a daily basis. It’s such a problem that many physicians consider it to be just short of an epidemic.
According to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, “In the United States alone, 10 million people have osteoporosis, and 18 million more are at risk of developing the disease. Another 34 million Americans are at risk of osteopenia, or low bone mass, which can lead to fractures and other complications.” (Source: http://www.aaos.org/about/papers/position/1113.asp)
You can find calcium in dairy products of course. But if you cannot have dairy products, then consider looking at fortified dairy alternatives, dark leafy greens, and fish with bones like sardines.
Potassium is another mineral that is often difficult to obtain. On a daily basis you need 4,700 milligrams a day. The average banana has 422 mg of potassium. Potassium helps regulate your blood pressure. It may also decrease bone loss, reduce your risk of bone loss, and help with your cardiovascular health. It’s also part of the energy creation process.
Foods that are high in potassium include potatoes, tomatoes, and beans (including soybeans), Swiss chard, dates, avocado, fish, and raisins. It’s important to know that Swiss chard and avocados have almost 1000 mg of potassium per serving.
Bananas, while delicious, aren’t the potassium powerhouse that many believe them to be. They’re great, but if you really want a good bang for your buck, try an avocado.
There are a few minerals that are essential to good health and magnesium is one. It’s also one that is a little difficult to obtain without a conscious effort. The daily recommendation is 320 milligrams a day.
What does magnesium do? It helps with muscle and nerve function, and like many minerals it helps sustain strong bones and bone density. Magnesium is found in seeds and nuts as well as fish. It’s also found in dark leafy greens, beans, and avocados. One serving or cup of spinach will give you 157 milligrams of magnesium, almost half of your daily recommendation.
You’re supposed to get 15 milligrams of Vitamin E each day. It doesn’t sound like much, but unless you eat nuts or fortified cereals, you may have a difficult time getting enough vitamin E. It is a vitamin that supports eye health, skin health, and is an antioxidant.
Other common nutrients that people tend to be deficient in include vitamins A and C, as well as fiber. However, the truth is that if you get your daily serving of fruits and veggies and you have a few whole grains, you’ll get your daily supply of these important nutrients.
So the trick is to make sure that you integrate these nutrient-rich foods into your diet. That’s best accomplished with a little meal planning. Meal planning is exactly what it sounds like. You create a plan for what you’re going to eat during the week, including your meals and snacks.
Let’s take a look at some tips for better meal planning.
Tips For Better Meal Planning
Meal planning becomes an important part of achieving optimal or complete nutrition. If you don’t have a plan for what you’re going to eat, you may end up grabbing whatever is fastest and most readily available.
This often means you’re consuming processed food or junk food. It’s a missed opportunity to get at least some nutrients into your system. Junk food often causes more harm than good.
What Is Meal Planning?
Meal planning is simply deciding in advance what you’re going to have to eat. In most cases people plan several days’ worth of meals and snacks. It makes shopping, cooking and preparing food, and eating, a much simpler and healthier process.
Here are nine steps to make meal planning fun and easy.
1 Decide How Often You Can Shop
If you can only shop once a week then you’re going to want to plan an entire week’s worth of meals. If you can shop every three or four days then you only have to plan those meals.
2 Plan For Snacks Too
Include snacks into your meal planning. It’s too easy to grab something unhealthy when you don’t have a plan.
3 Make It Tasty
Sure, you can plan to have carrots and celery stick for a snack. However, if you don’t like carrots and celery sticks, there’s a bigger risk of you letting that snack get moldy in the fridge while you go out for some fries. Make sure the recipes and foods you put into your meal plan are actually foods that you want to eat.
4 Identify Recipe Sources
Where are you going to find your meal ideas? Identify a handful of great sources of nutritious recipes. For example, you might begin to subscribe to a few nutritious eating blogs, or you might buy a few cookbooks.
5 Create A System
Create systems to organize and plan. For example, maybe you hit the supermarket on Wednesday and Sunday. Sit down at your table and make a full meal plan before you shop. Add ingredients from each recipe to your shopping list so you go to the store knowing exactly what you need to buy.
6 Get Folks Involved
If you’re cooking for a family, get others involved in the meal planning – and maybe even the preparation! When people feel that they have a say in what is served, they tend to be more excited about it. You might, for example, let a child choose one meal a week. They can also help prepare that meal.
7 Have Contingency Plans
It always makes sense to have some backup food. You might not have leftovers that you expected from last night’s dinner and now you have nothing for lunch. If you have some backups then you’re ready to go.
8 Make Ahead
If you live a super busy life (and who doesn’t), then consider a few make-ahead recipes. These are healthy recipes that you can prepare on the weekend, freeze, and thaw and heat for dinner. Casseroles are great for this. Crockpot recipes are also wonderful. You can put everything together in the morning and come home to dinner.
9 Try Something New
It’s easy to get into a meal planning rut. Meatless Monday, taco Tuesday, noodles on Wednesday and so on. While that does provide a framework to make planning easier, it can also start to feel limiting. Try to include one new recipe each week. It’s good to feel excited about your food.
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Meal planning can take some getting used to. It requires you to create a few new lifestyle habits. However, once you’ve integrated these habits into your routine, you’ll wonder how you ever managed without it. It’s a great way to make sure that each meal is nutritious and delicious.
One of the nutrients that many people tend to be deficient in, especially those with specialty diets like a vegetarian, are the B vitamins. Next, well take a look at foods that are high in B vitamins so you can make sure to include some of these foods into your meal planning.
Foods High in B Vitamins
Did you know that there are eight B vitamins? They often work together but each one has a few specific jobs. For example, thiamin or B1 is necessary to make energy for your cells from the food that you eat.
It’s also an important part of making DNA and RNA. You really cannot do without this vitamin. So let’s take a look at each of the eight and provide a short description about what it does and what foods provide that specific B vitamin.
You can find this B vitamin in beans and lentils. You can also find it in many meat products, including read meat and pork. Vegetarians will be happy to know that it’s in many nuts and seeds as well as spinach, cauliflower and cruciferous vegetables.
B3 is also an important part of creating energy for the cells. In addition, it synthesizes fatty acids and is important for your cardiovascular health. You can find niacin in fish, beef, and chicken as well as peanuts and beans and lentils. It’s also in whole grains.
Very important for children and their development, B2 is required for energy production, growth, and controlling free radicals in the body. Salmon, beef, eggs, and green leafy and cruciferous veggies contain riboflavin. Also known as vitamin B2, riboflavin is a basic building block for normal growth and development.
B5 aka pantothenic acid, supports your body to produce energy. It’s found in lots of different sources, including both meat and vegetables. Avocados, organ meats, nuts and seeds, are all great sources of B5.
This is a vitamin that your body simply cannot do without. It’s essential for just about every cellular function in your body, including your hormones, your nervous system and your metabolism. If you eat meat, you won’t have a problem getting this nutrient. Don’t eat meat and you’ll have to look for fortified foods and dark leafy greens for B6.
B7 is also known as biotin. It’s found in yeast, dairy products and strawberries. It’s important for hair, skin, and nail health, as well as metabolism.
Folic acid, or B9, is needed for the formation of red blood cells. It’s important in the development of fetuses, and you can find it in fortified foods and dark leafy greens.
This vitamin helps produce cellular energy and DNA synthesis as well as the formation of your red blood cells. It’s important. You can find it in animal products almost exclusively, including milk and eggs. If you’re a vegetarian or a vegan, look for fortified foods to get your B12.
B vitamins are important for optimal health and there are many B vitamins that you just cannot live without. Also, there are minerals that are essential for survival. We’ll explore those next and talk about how you can embrace mineral-rich foods into your daily diet.
Tips to Consume More Foods That Are High in Minerals
When you think about complete health and a well-rounded diet, you probably think about vitamins first. After all, we often hear words like “antioxidants” and “plant sterols” and “phytochemicals” before we hear words like “electrolytes” and “minerals.” Yet minerals are just as essential to your health and vitality as vitamins.
What Do Minerals Do?
Minerals actually play a very large role in a number of metabolic processes. At the cellular level they are an integral part of the energy production process. Your body cannot make energy from your food without minerals.
Minerals are also required for carrying nutrients to your body, as well as the hydration and elimination process. You probably already know that minerals are required for bone health, but did you know that minerals impact your hormones and your immune system too?
The bottom line is that minerals are equally important to your health and this is often overlooked. Let’s list the most important minerals first and then talk about adding them to your diet. The top three were mentioned earlier.
Getting Minerals Into Your Diet
1. Dairy Or Fortified Dairy Alternatives
We’ve already discussed how dairy provides calcium for a healthy diet. If you cannot have dairy products, try dairy alternatives that have been fortified with calcium. They may also have some additional mineral fortification.
2. Dark Leafy Greens
Dark leafy greens are one of the most powerful superfoods that you can add to your daily diet. This includes kale, spinach, and collards. Add them to smoothies, enjoy salads, and you can also sauté and even bake some greens. They’re packed with minerals and vitamins.
3. Bone Broth
Bone broth has become all the rage and if it hasn’t hit your community yet, just wait. Bone broth is made from boiling bones for long periods of time, up to 12 hours. It releases the minerals and an abundance of flavor. You can make soup from it or drink it as is. It’s super healthy and a great source of minerals.
Finally, don’t forget that sea salt, kelp and fortified cereals can also provide an abundance of minerals. While you don’t need a large amount of minerals on a daily basis, it is important to make sure that you’re eating foods that give you the mineral nutrition that your body needs.
We’ve talked about minerals and a few vitamins specifically. Now let’s take a look at a broader category, antioxidants, and talk about what they are, why they’re important, and how to make sure you’re getting them into your diet.
Foods High In Antioxidants
You’ve probably heard the term, “antioxidants.” And you may know that they’re good for you and that you can find them in food. You can also find them in beauty products, vitamins, and nutritional products. What you may not know is exactly what they are, and what they do for you and your body.
What Are Antioxidants?
In technical terms, an antioxidant is a substance that inhibits or stops the oxidation of other molecules. Okay, great – right? What’s oxidation and why does that matter? Well, when something is oxidized it loses electrons. It’s now called a free radical which means that it can, and wants to, bind with something. There’s room. And it can wreak havoc and cause damage to your tissues.
These radicals can start chain reactions. These oxidized elements actually steal electrons from other molecules, which damages them.
Now your body can handle some free radicals. It’s used to it and it’s generally prepared to deal with it. However, our lifestyle has changed enough that we now tend to have many more of these little buggers running around in our bodies. They’re caused by environmental problems like pollution, pesticides, and even exposure to cigarette smoke.
Antioxidants Neutralize Free Radicals
Antioxidants, as mentioned, negate the damage of free radicals. They protect your cells and help ensure you don’t suffer the damage from free radicals. So what damage can free radicals cause?
Some of the problems include (but aren’t limited to)
• Neural degeneration, which can lead to Alzheimer’s
• Premature aging
• Coronary heart disease
• Some cancers
Antioxidants are found in some specific foods. There are three major antioxidants that you want to include in your diet every day. They are beta-carotene, vitamin C, and vitamin E. You can find antioxidants in abundance in colorful veggies and fruits. Look for purple, red, blue, and orange produce.
You can also find them in interesting sources like coffee and tea, chocolate, and onions and garlic. The good news is that essentially if you eat a diet that is generally prepared from whole foods rather than processed foods, you’re probably getting an abundance of antioxidants with every meal.
Focus on making sure that you’re getting enough fruits and vegetables and you’ll be well on your way to preventing excess damage caused by free radicals.
We’ve talked a lot about the nutrients that people generally consider to be healthy – vitamins and minerals. However, your body cannot even metabolize many vitamins and minerals without two other important nutrient categories. We’re talking about protein and fat.
What About Protein And Fat?
Your body is protein. It’s in every cell and tissue. Enzymes are made from protein, as are your hormones and components of your blood. Your hair, nails and of course your muscles all are made from protein.
Protein isn’t stored in your body. You have to consume it and this is where many people get into trouble. Vegetarians often don’t get enough protein, though many other people don’t either. There’s a misperception that Americans often get too much protein. The IOS has the following recommendation:
Adults need to get a minimum of 8 grams of protein for every 20 pounds of body weight. So if you weigh 150 pounds, you’d want to get at least 60 grams each day. Athletes and active individuals may need more protein.
The challenge when you’re talking about complete health is to find sources of protein that come from foods that also provide other nutrients. For example, salmon is a protein that comes with omega-3 fatty acids, lentils are packed with protein and an abundance of vitamins and minerals, and eggs come with minerals too.
When it comes to fat, it is true that your body need fat. However, what it needs are fats from plants rather than fats from fatty cuts of meat. Sure, you can have the occasional hamburger but you may not want that to be the norm. Studies have shown that food that’s high in saturated fat does cause heart disease and cardiovascular problems.
Strive to get your fats from plants. For example, avocados, nuts and seeds are all high in fat, but it’s fat that is good for you. When you’re looking at your plate of food, the majority of it should be vegetables and plants. However, you do want to have some room devoted to both fats (a small amount) and protein. A balanced diet is the best way to get complete nutrition.
Simple Signs That Your Diet Is Missing Something
It can be difficult to know if you’re getting the nutrients that you need. This is one of the biggest reasons why people say that they take a multivitamin. However, we know that supplements don’t really work and they rarely offer a benefit. A better approach is to pay attention to your body. Here are some signs that your diet is missing something.
1. Low Energy
One of the surest signs that your diet is deficient in something is that you’re low in energy. If you feel fatigued, it can be something as simple as not enough minerals or vitamin B in your diet.
2. Losing Your Hair/Cracking Nails
Dry and brittle nails and hair are often a sign of a nutrient deficiency. It could be that you’re low in protein or you could be low in biotin.
3. Muscle Cramps
Muscle cramps are often a sign of mineral deficiencies. You may also be dehydrated.
4. Skin Changes
If you notice rashes, acne, or small red bumps on your arms and legs, then it can be a sign of nutrient deficiency.
5. Chronic Illness
If you find that you’re getting sick more often or generally feeling unwell, look to your diet. Take some time to evaluate if you’re getting complete nutrition or if you might be lacking.
Finally, your digestion can be a big clue about your nutritional wellbeing. Talk to your doctor if you have digestive and/or elimination issues. It’s a direct reflection of your health and wellbeing and can be a significant clue about what is missing in your diet.
Next Steps: Getting Complete Nutrition through Your Diet
Awareness is the first step to improving your nutrition and leveraging food instead of pills. Become aware of what you’re putting into your body and how it makes you feel. What foods make you feel healthy and strong? What foods improve your digestion? What improves your sleep and what foods make you feel lethargic or cause cravings?
You can begin by keeping a food journal. Start learning about the nutrients in your food choices. What types of fat are you getting and are you eating enough protein? You might consider making a list of the daily recommended values for the major nutrients. From there you could start placing checkmarks next to the nutrients you are getting from each meal.
Whether you measure and calculate and total your daily nutrients, or you simply keep an eye on whether you’re getting what you need, is up to you. What’s most important is that you’re aware of what you should be getting and that if necessary, you’re taking steps to improve your nutrition by making smart food choices.
This brings us to the final step and that is to set nutrition goals and to change your eating habits. For example, do you normally skip breakfast altogether, or just have a piece of toast? You’re missing an opportunity for nutrients. Change this habit and drink a smoothie or eat a piece of whole grain toast with an avocado on it. Take advantage of every snack and meal because they can be both delicious and nutritious.
There are many programs or way of living methods that help in being selective of what you eat. Such include;
Organic Way Of Living
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All material provided is meant for educational purposes only and should not substitute for a medical consultation. All readers are strongly encouraged to consult and work with an experienced health-care practitioner.