My definition of proper nutrition is choosing a diverse diet based on nutrient value. This involves choosing foods that have a greater nutrient profile compared to calories. Our generation is consumed with the idea of isolating nutrients, and we tend to narrow our focus on specifics such as carbs, protein, iron, counting calories, etc. But all of these elements work together synergistically, rather than independently. Pinpointing nutrients is the reason why many people tend to be absolutley confused about proper nutrition, a phenomenon called Reductionism. However, when you focus on getting a wide variety of whole, unrefined foods, you naturally get adequate amounts of all essential nutrients, and yes, even protein! Who really wants to count calories? (I know I don’t!). A plant-based diet is naturally lower in calories, saturated fat, and cholesterol. Imagine eating everyday without worrying about how many calories you are allowed to eat or getting enough protein. Imagine the energy and time you can put elsewhere in your life!
Supplement consumption has increased dramatically over the years, and this is because research too often focuses and stresses the importance of single nutrients. An imbalance of nutrients occurs when the diet consists mainly of low nutrient dense foods, such as refined carbohydrates and animal-based foods. Supplements are therefore suggested for those who do not get essential nutrients through a proper diet. But research has shown that manipulating nutrients through supplementation may not have that much of a effect, and can even cause additional health issues. Although we know nutrients are essential to our proper functing, we don’t know exactly what that balance is, and we often forget about the big picture.*
For example, you should choose a smoothie or acaí bowl for breakfast over a stack of pancakes. A smoothie has a greater nutrient density compared to pancakes, thus contributing to your overall nutrient intake. You need not focus on things such as calories, carbohydrates, or vitamin C. You now understand that you are choosing a smoothie because it will provide the nutrients your body needs, plain and simple. This doesn’t mean never eating pancakes again, because afterall, balance is one of the keys to happiness! And everyone loves pancakes! But you choose the healthier option 90% of the time because it will give you the best benefit, both short term and long term.
Food is one of the most important (and often overlooked) choices we make every single day. We need food for energy and getting essential vitamins, minerals, and nutrients in order to function properly. The food we eat determines so many things about ourselves, both inside and out. A glowing inside radiates on the outside, and this can be obtained through better and healthier food choices. There are both short and long term effects based on our diet. Too often, people don’t take these effects into consideration, and we are getting accustomed to the symptoms and signs of illness and even compensating with medicine and supplements that are foreign to our bodies.
It’s time to pay attention to what your body is trying to tell you. As soon as your day begins, one of the first choices you begin is what to eat, and what you eat for breakfast can determine the rest of your day. If your breakfast consists of not eating anything, your body will naturally crave food later in the day to compensate for that very important skipped meal–this usually leads to overeating because your body is off track. On another note, if you begin your day eating eggs, bacon, or pancakes, guess what? You’ll most likely experience poor energy levels for the remainder of your day. Do you ever get that sluggish feeling after a heavy meal? That feeling alone will tell you your previous choices of food was not as high in nutrient value. Foods high in nutrient value (especially long term) will energize you, motivate you, and boost your immune system. A sluggish feeling after a meal means your body is working overtime to digest your meal.
There is a positive cycle that occurs with long-term nutritional choices:
- A healthy breakfast will energize you and motivate you to be productive and active throughout the day. It will also help you stick to healtheir choices for the remainder of your meals while avoiding cravings due to balanced blood sugar levels and proper nutrient and fiber content.
- A productive and active day can boost your creativity and even your confidence. Don’t you feel awesome after getting an entire to-do list done or after you’ve completed your school work or something similar? It’s in our nature to be productive! A whole, plant-based diet full of nutrients actually has the potential to encourage discipline and motivational levels. Believe it or not our body and brain prefer particular sources of energy over others (fruits over candy!) It’s a lot more difficult to get something done when you are tired and unmotivated. This can become a problem when it is persistent. Imagine a life where you have such high energy levels that you don’t even need coffee (or a nap!) anymore, but you are extremely productive. Just one day of this feeling is bliss and you will crave it again the next day, I promise you!
- Healthier food choices lead to an active lifestyle. Aside from being productive, the energy you possess motivates you to be physically active. An active lifestyle is absolutely essential to health. You cannot sit around day after day and expect positive results, both physically and mentally. “A body at rest stays at rest.” And for the already active individual, imagine how improved your workouts could be! You thought you exercised well on pancakes and coffee? Let me show you what a nutritional smoothie can do for you! Once you experience the benefits of a proper plant based diet with your workout efficiency, it’s hard to go back to anything else you used to do. Especially when these benefits go beyond your workout.
- A productive day and an active lifestyle help you sleep better at night. I don’t just mean psychologically, cause that applies here too! Going to bed feeling great because you boosted your endorphine levels and got your to-do list done is a wonderful and satisfying feeling (waking up with the sun, being productive and active throughout your day, and then going to sleep with the sun, doesn’t it just sound natural?). But the energy expended during your day on proper fuel actually helps you sleep better. Tossing and turning, restlessness, waking up tired the next morning–that’s not normal! We are supposed to fall alseep easily, sleep peacefully throughout the night, and wake up with the sun feeling ready for our day! This is called sleep efficiency, a term I learned through one of my favorite authors, Brendan Brazier.
- Better sleep efficiency leads to better choices the next day. Higher energy levels (and natural–no coffee needed!) promote healthier food choices, and this is where the cycle begins again. This cylce is most beneficial when it is followed long term. Habit/long term is easier to stick with and your body adapts to the natural tendencies our bodies recognize through nutritious food and an active lifestyle.
Remember that the choices we need to make everyday will have the greatest impact on our lives. I don’t know about you, but I prefer to be naturally energetic and confident from the productivty and motivation that proper nutrition & fitness provides me!