As you work to stay centered and cultivate inner calm and peace, it is important to also evaluate what you put into your body. We discussed messages and media last week, and this week I want to dive deeper into the link between nutrition and mental health. Whether you are vegan, vegetarian, pescatarian, or an all-around omnivore, the composition of your body as a human means you are subject to certain tendencies based on the correlation between what you eat and how your body will break down those materials.
For starters, one area almost all of us are deficient in is hydration. The word has been out about how good water is for us, but are you aware of why? Two thirds of your body’s composition is made up of water, so hydrating yourself serves to replenish and preserve your body’s organs and tissues. Something else that is true is that water is the vehicle through which nutrients move from our digestive tract and into our cells for use. If you take a multivitamin or eat copious amounts of fresh produce to stay healthy, your body could be missing out on some of the nutrients you are seeking without proper hydration.
There is an adage that the number of ounces one should drink a day is equivalent to half their body weight, but quantities like this only scratch the surface of what your body could really use. One gallon of H2O per day consistently can help your body stay at peak performance with sufficient flushing of the kidneys and liver. Other benefits to drinking a gallon of water a day include clearer skin, healthier hair, and better colon health. The importance of good hydration is doubled for women who are pregnant to ensure optimal health for mom and baby.
Next, while processed foods taste amazing, and are often the most convenient to access, processed foods can weigh our bodies down in more ways than one. The least processing the better when it comes to ingesting foods that agree with our bodies as processing (by way of preserving or otherwise altering) often means the inclusion of additional fats, oils, sodium, and sugars we receive. While those items alone are not harmful, keeping their quantities low should be a priority for everyone. Overconsumption of sodium, sugar, and oils increases the risk for developing hypertension, diabetes, and hypercholesterolemia (high cholesterol).
This is not to imply that diet restrictions are the sole answer to avoiding these, either. You should listen to your body and how it reacts when you consume certain ingredients, and adhere as best you can. Outside of avoiding dairy or highly acidic foods for certain unpleasant reactions, pay attention to how your body metabolizes alcohol, pastries, or certain meats. Avoiding certain foods, or timing your consumption of certain foods, can help you maximize your energy and stay alert rather than feeling sluggish or bogged down.
Lastly, as you find what fits and what doesn’t, do not be afraid to sample foods from all across the spectrum. Even if you are not vegan, there is no rule that states you can’t try a vegan recipe every now and then. Working with a variety of ingredients in the kitchen allows you to get to know flavors from other parts of the world, thus expanding your palette. You may also find that you get added residual benefits from trying new foods, such as the pain relief benefits provided by turmeric (which can also be used for seasoning), the hormonal balance you can find in red raspberry leaf (most often in tea form), or the added digestive benefits you can get from consuming raw papaya.
As you work to protect yourself – your energy, your psyche, your image – I encourage you to regulate how you feel more closely with diet choices. This practice will not only help you take even better care of your body, but will arm you with good knowledge you can share with others.
Antoinette is an online curriculum designer who moonlights as an author, editor, podcaster, and yogini. When she is not designing courses, authoring books, or recording episodes for her podcast, she is enjoying life with her husband and two children. Find her on Instagram @msantoinettechanel.