With our recent Memorial Day holiday, summer is nearly upon us! During summer, many of us enjoy vacation time, or maybe just a change from indoor activities to outdoor adventures. Keeping ourselves healthy is important even during this time of the year… Who wants a summer cold?
With a balanced diet, rest and exercise we can better take advantage of our great summer weather. A well-nourished person has more energy, vitality, better resistance to disease, cheerier moods and feels better overall. With these results in mind, here are two important things you can do to improve your diet and your health:
Eat real food. This means whole,
What is a natural food? Ask yourself, ”How much processing went into this food?” During each step of processing a food, critically needed nutrients are lost. The more processed a food is, the less healthful it is.
Avoid refined foods, artificial flavors, colors and preservatives. Food that is made in a lab is not real food! This includes ”health food” products such as soy sausage, veggie burgers and packaged cereals, as well as more obvious ”junk” foods.
What to eat, then? Eat vegetables, meats from pastured animals, properly prepared (soaked) whole grains and beans, natural fats (like butter, coconut and olive oil), full-fat dairy products, nuts, eggs, fruit – foods your grandparents would recognize. If it won’t spoil, do not eat it!
Consume balanced meals:
A balanced meal consists of a protein, a fat and vegetables. Avoid meals that contain only carbohydrates. For example, oatmeal is a perfectly healthful carbohydrate, but not by itself. Serve it with eggs, sausage, cheese or some other protein source to make it balanced.
A balanced meal is so important because it has a balancing effect on blood sugar. Our bodies and brains are fueled by glucose, which is made when the foods we eat are broken down during digestion. Carbohydrates digest quickly. Complex carbohydrates (whole-grain bread or a sweet potato, for instance) take a little longer to break down than refined carbohydrates, but they’re still fast. Protein breaks down more slowly, and fats take the longest to digest.
If you eat a meal or snack that is only carbohydrates or too high in carbohydrates you will get a rush of glucose in your blood. Blood sugar shouldn’t be too high or too low, so your body releases the hormone insulin, which brings your blood sugar down to an acceptable level. One of the ways it does this is by telling your cells to open up and take in the glucose to store as fat!
The higher your blood sugar gets, the more insulin your body needs to produce. A large amount of insulin released at once has the unfortunate side effect of bringing your blood sugar down too low, which is called hypoglycemia. When you’re hypoglycemic your brain struggles to function properly and you can experience fatigue, headaches, brain fog, intense food cravings, irritability and mood swings.
Most Americans are on an energy and mood rollercoaster all day long. Their blood sugar spikes after high-carbohydrate meals, then crashes, then spikes again after that soda or muffin, then crashes. In addition to the energy and mood problems this cycle causes, it’s bad news for our health: repeated spikes in insulin are what cause insulin resistance, diabetes and obesity, and they are also one of the primary risk factors for heart disease and Alzheimer’s disease.
Eat balanced meals that won’t spike your insulin levels by including enough protein and fat in your meals. The correct amount will differ from person to person and depend on your activity level. If you feel hungry and it has been less than three or four hours since your last meal, then you didn’t get enough protein and/or fat at that meal.
As a rough guideline, aim for 20 to 25 grams of protein per meal, which is around four ounces of meat or three eggs.
The good news is that eating balanced meals is really satisfying. Your mood, energy levels and weight stabilize. You will have fewer cravings and with this balance have a more enjoyable and maybe even slimmer summer!
Enjoy this recipe from my friend Nora Gedgaudes, author of ”Primal Body, Primal Mind” and her new bestseller, ”Primal Fat Burner.” Salud!
Nora’s Nut Ball Snackers
One regular-sized jar of almond butter. Stir surface oil in well.
5-10 ounces (an approximation) of organic nuts (almonds, pecans, macadamias, brazil nuts, pistachios, etc. – preferably pre-soaked and dried). Use a food processor to grind or chop to desired consistency.
Handful of organic sesame and/or chia seeds (great source of mucilaginous fiber to help ”keep that train rolling”)
Organic shredded coconut
(as much or as little as you like)
Alcohol-free vanilla extract, or powdered/crushed vanilla beans
One full brick (room temperature) of Kerrygold butter (a ”key” ingredient)
Organic coconut flour (Bob’s Red Mill makes a good one) – add for additional yummy coconut flavor and/or better binding
Organic coconut butter
(you have to taste this stuff to believe it!)
Stevia (for added sweetness, if needed or desired)
Bee pollen (why not? Good source of flavinoids)
Organic cacao nibs (adds chocolatey flavor without adding sugar. Also, cacao nibs have roughly twice the antioxidant content of green tea!)
Lately I’ve taken to adding a scoop of Garden of Life ”Super Seed” (fiber supplement) for some great added texture and flavor
Blend all the above thoroughly in a bowl, then spoon out into little ”balls” and place on wax paper on a plate or tray. Refrigerate for at least an hour, or until these firm up.
If you want to take them with you, you might consider placing them in a small portable cooler. You could also individually wrap these in wax paper to secure them (if they can’t be refrigerated) so they don’t get all over everything if they melt.
Prepare your taste buds to be dazzled!
At Natural Grocers in Eugene, where I am the store’s Nutritional Health Coach, we offer free classes that include plenty of information about healthy eating choices, and free one-on-one health coaching sessions (call 541-345-3300). Please ”like” our Natural Grocers-Eugene Facebook page. Find our store’s schedule of free classes at: https://www.naturalgrocers.com/store-location/eugene/.