“That’s NOT Healthy” | What We Think Health Is vs What It Really Is (Part I)

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Burger anyone?

We’re currently putting together a series on Instagram (which you’ll have to wait and see on Instagram of course) and it got me thinking, is health really what we think it is?

One of the most enlightening discoveries that has come out of our Life Rating in the app is the reality that very few people actually know what is conducive to being healthy.

Some people think it’s all about calories. Some people think it’s about greek yogurt, quinoa, and kale. Some people think it’s all about macros. Some people think it’s all about BMI or weight. Some people think healthy is a size or a look.

All of these people are right. They’re also all wrong.

How so? Well. Health is holistic – it’s made up of a number of different factors. I’m going to try and break it down, bear with me.

Here’s Holistic Health I: Food – what you eat, when you eat, how you eat

What was your last meal? Do you know which nutrients were in it? Do you know how those nutrients affect your body? If they make it stronger or weaker, energise it or slow it down?

Food is made up of these main big food groups: carbohydrates, protein and fat. Collectively these are known as macronutrients. Let’s start with carbohydrates. There are three different types of them: starch, fiber, and sugar. Starch provides our bodies with a slow and steady release of energy, fiber is good for our bowels and can help reduce the risk of heart diseases, and natural sugar provides our bodies with energy to do all we need to do through each day. Next, protein. Protein makes up a vital part of all the cells in the body. We need it to build and repair muscle tissue, it’s needed for bones, cartilage, skin, and blood. Then there’s fat. Fat provides our bodies with energy, stores excess calories as energy for a later date, contains fatty acids that are essential for growth development and cell functions, helps our nerves and brain to function properly, and transports fat-soluble vitamins through the bloodstream. There are different types of fat, with the best being the naturally occurring plant-based fats, and whilst our bodies need fat, too much of the wrong type of fat can lead to cardiovascular disease, weight gain, raise your cholesterol, and put you at risk for different cancers.

You also need to think about the quality of the foods you eat. At Lifesum we tend to talk about “whole foods”, and whilst we like the store a lot, that isn’t what we’re talking about. We’re talking about foods that are as close to their organic state chemically as possible. Broccoli, for example, is a whole food. White pasta, is not, as it’s been processed and altered chemically, resulting in a loss of its natural nutrients. If you can document how a food got to your plate without any trouble, or if you know what the ingredients within it are without the need to google them, it’s most likely it’s a whole food.

Action point: First off, don’t stress about it. There’s a lot to think about, but that’s where we can help. (Yes, I’m about to talk about Lifesum‘s food ratings, no, I’m not just pushing our food ratings!) If you open food search in the app you’ll see small letters next to each food item. These are our food ratings. Clicking in on them will give you more insight on the contents of that food, good and bad, and if you click ‘learn more’ you’ll get into the infographic which explains in more detail how we assign the ratings to the different foods. This will help you learn more about which foods are the most healthful.

So what you eat is very important. Our bodies need certain nutrients if they’re doing to function properly, and the foods we eat affect not just what we look like (belly rolls or no belly rolls), but hormonal balance, energy level, mood, skin, bowel and concentration – in other words, how we feel. We have to think about what we eat.

We also have to think about when we eat. There are claims that when people eat smaller meals at regular intervals throughout the day their metabolisms speed up, their cholesterols are lower, their moods are stabilised, and their energy levels are better maintained.

When you eat isn’t just about the frequency though, but about the time of day you eat. Breakfast is recommended for ‘breaking the fast’ to energise the body after a long period of not eating (12+ hours). You need energy to get by. Conversely, eating too late in your day can affect your body negatively. If you eat right before bed, you could end up with indigestion because your body absorbs food only when you’re in an upright position. Timing is everything.

What about how you eat? Do you eat in front of the TV, scrolling through your Instagram feed or while reading the newspaper? Eating without fully focusing on the food we eat can lead to us eating more than necessary as our attention shifts from our bodies and how they feel, to what it is we’re watching or reading. We often continue eating even when we’re full because we’re too busy reading/watching to notice.

Action points:

  1. Don’t wait until you’re starving before you eat .
  2. Try to eat at the same regular intervals if possible, this will stop you experiencing energy dips and overeating/undereating.
  3. Focus on your food when you’re eating it – switch off the TV, sit down at a table, and just eat. Try not to gulp your food, chew it a few times, slowly, and put your silverware down between bites (or if you’re eating a burrito or a taco, put it down until you’re done with the bite in your mouth). You can read more about mindful eating here.

So can a pizza be good for you? Abso-freaking-lutely. What about a burger? You betcha. It’s less about what cuisine the food is, and more about what kind of food it is. What’s its nutritional balance? Does it contain the right distribution of carbs, protein and fat? Is it made from all whole foods? Is it free from chemicals? Understanding what makes food healthful will completely revolutionize the way you cook and eat for the better, and once you cross the threshold it’s hard to go back!

Come back soon for Holistic Health II: Forget skinny and strong, exercise is for your health

/Femi, The Girl Who Hates Working Out

RELATED: Healthy is…? – The Health Questions People Ask Google

With Lifesum, tracking your healthy habits (and the not so healthy ones) becomes a breeze. We’ll help you pick the right food, and eat the right portion sizes, to reach your personal health goals.

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