What Is Health?
Sometimes when you hear a word too many times it can lose its true meaning or power. Words like LOVE or AWESOME are good examples of this but perhaps one of the most overused words is HEALTH, or to BE HEALTHY. We all know inherently that to have it is a desirable goal but what are we really talking about when we refer to health? To a doctor it means to be free of disease or blood test numbers that “look good”, but when a sports agent it uses the term it means that a player can do his job despite injuries or mental angst. An accountant would say it has to do with cash flow and a therapist would say that it has to do with a person’s ability to remain emotionally stable. An insurance agent knows it’s attached to other words like monthly premiums, current vs. projected disease and medical procedures, age and lifestyle choices. A savvy marketing executive might consider the word itself more powerful than the rest because he/she knows if people believe that a product is “healthy” that it implies many other outcomes like weight loss, an improvement of life in general including more happiness, attractiveness and a even a better social life. Even the definition of the word health is not universally agreed upon.
After reading through a lot of definitions on the word I think the Med lexicon Medical Dictionary’s sums it up best: A state of dynamic balance in which an individual’s capacity to cope with all the circumstances of living is at an optimal level; an ability to deal with physical or mental stress and a feeling of well-being.
Simply put, it’s the pursuit of a flourishing condition.
As a nutritionist I believe that getting your nutrition right is a huge part of obtaining a state of good health and will support all your other pursuits. Nutrition refers to a process in (humans) involving the intake of nutrient materials and their subsequent assimilation into the tissues. It is the act or process of nourishing one’s body. Mark Twain said it this way: “The only way to keep your health is to eat what you don’t want, drink what you don’t like and do what you’d rather not”. Was Mr. Twain being a bit cheeky or does he have it right? I’d like to think he’s wrong, that you can learn to like (even crave) the foods that are best for your body but since I have small children I know that this is not our natural state!
So what does our body need? On the one hand it’s common sense but on the other the pursuit takes place in a somewhat hostile environment with lots of distractions along the way. We’re coming off a time of holiday cheer combined with a lot of busyness and at the same time we’re in the midst of the flu season. Now is the time to take inventory (don’t worry, I’m not going to mention the word “resolution”) and see what we need to tweak in our daily food and drink consumption.
Water, Water and then more Water.
Dehydration is a silent yet powerful culprit in a myriad of ill-health conditions. The first sign of dehydration is not necessarily feeling thirsty, especially in the colder months when you might be as in tuned to the sensation. Other signs of mild to moderate dehydration include a headache, dry mouth, muscle weakness or general malaise. If you don’t like the idea of drinking cold water when you’re already feeling cold from the weather outside, try a few of these alternatives:
- Purified room temperature water instead of ice water.
- Hot purified water with a slice of fresh lemon.
- Decaffeinated Tea
- Make it Fancy: Bubble water with a splash of citrus or with some fresh cranberries dancing around in the bubbles served in a wine glass.
- Prepare soups with extra broth.
- Caffeine and alcohol have the opposite effect on hydration. Take a solid break from these types of drinks for a few weeks to reset your daily habits.
Eat The Rainbow Twice Over
On the one hand, eating well requires deliberate and diligent effort every hour of every day yet the formula itself is fairly simple. First and foremost, eat a lot of fresh fruits and vegetables from across the color spectrum. It has been my experience that if you get this right and keep it as a top priority all the other aspects of nutrition will naturally fall into place. Your aim should be 10-15 servings of fruits and vegetables everyday, 3-5 of which should be dark green. If this seems daunting, it’s not as hard as you think. Here’s a menu example:
Breakfast: Green smoothie with 2 cups of fresh spinach, one apple, 1 carrot, 1 orange, hemp seed, soy milk.
Lunch: Portobello Mushroom sandwich with sundried tomato pesto and romaine lettuce
Dinner: Roasted Vegetable Ragout (squash, cauliflower, eggplant, zucchini, marinara, greens and chickpeas)
Take inventory of your current food habits. This is good to do a few times a year, especially if you’ve noticed signs that something’s not “quite right” like you’re catching colds easily, feel run down or simply don’t have the energy or mental focus your have enjoyed in the past. Sometimes it’s as simple as cutting back on refined sugar and caffeine and increasing wholesome foods, so no need to over-think it. Never underestimate a return to the basics!
Supplements Should Be Supportive
As unfortunate as it may be, our food supply no longer supplies us with all the necessary vitamins and minerals and trace minerals our body needs for optimal health. This is mainly due to over-farming and the use of pesticides. But not just any supplements will do because there’s a lot of garbage out there and you must be careful not to waste your money (for a more thorough look into how to spot a junk vitamin here’s a link to my blog on the subject: http://www.happycow.net/blog/?p=3588). Evidence of nutrient deficiencies are most often subtle and could be explained a few different ways so most people wouldn’t think that adding a multivitamin for instance could really make a difference, but sometimes it makes all the difference in the world.
In order to flourish, you must consider every day whether your current habits are life-giving or life-stealing. The pursuit doesn’t end as long as you’re living and requires vigilance and discipline in order to become all that you’re capable of. Good nutrition practices will help to prevent a lot of illnesses but excellent nutrition will serve and support all your goals and dreams.
by Melissa Sanborn of Nutritional Brands, PureVegan