Whole foods. What does this mean?
"Whole foods" refers to food that has been minimally processed or refined and free from additives and things that we cannot pronounce (i.e. artificial substances).
Super foods. What does this mean?
"Super foods" refers to food that is nutrient-dense and beneficial to our health and well-being.
Generally speaking, whole foods are super foods.
When we fuel our bodies with whole foods and super foods our body will thank us. Here is a quick-guide list of whole foods and super foods:
- healthy fats - example: Omega 3's
- non GMO/hormone free poultry and meat
- vegetables - think greens.
- fruits - berries especially.
- fibre - soluble and insoluble fibre.
- colourful foods - antioxidant-rich.
Eating whole foods and super foods is a fantastic preventative measure for prolonged and bountiful health. However, if we are too rushed in our eating practices the nutrients may not have the same "promised" nutritive impact on our overall health. You see, when we rush the ritual of eating, or choose to eat on the go, our digestion is adversely affected. This is why the practice of slow, mindful eating has proven benefits to overall wellness.
The nutritional aspect of eating begins well before eating. We get a signal that we are hungry. Then, our salivary glands being to get to work. Our body is now ready to accept food. If for some reason we are rushed and not entirely present as we eat, we tend to chew inadequately which puts a heavy workload on the digestive system... Rather than breaking down small, easily digestible morsels of food, the digestive system faces big hunks of food that slow the digestive process down and stress the digestive system as a whole.
The better approach is to eat mindfully and properly chew food and think about the nourishing benefits of what we are eating for optimal digestion and overall nourishment. Ease the pressure on your digestive system with the following mindful eating practices when fuelling your body with whole foods and super foods.
Top 10 Mindful Eating Practices for Optimal Digestion of Whole Foods & Super Foods:
- Take time to prepare your super food with people you love - This simple activity is nourishing in itself for relationships with others and with yourself. As you prepare your food, your body is made aware of the imminent meal. The digestive process begins with olfactory and visual sensory stimulation of food which stimulates the salivary glands. If it is not possible to make meal time a cooking extravaganza, at least visualize that you will be eating in the near future and consider the smells and colours of the food - this will stimulate your body to prepare your digestive system for an incoming meal.
- Take your seat - Make sitting down for your meal a sacred ritual. In our busy lives, eating on the go has become so prominent that the art of gathering around table is lost in the hustle and bustle. Find a tidy area, set your table, and sit up with good posture to approach your mealtime.
- Take a moment - Some may say Grace, others may give Thanks. Often times, these rituals are reserved for special occasions only given the fast-paced lives we lead. Even if it is in your mind, look at your colourful plate of food and acknowledge the beauty of what this food has in store for you and your well-being. Believe it or not, this also has a huge impact on the digestive process.
- Turn it off - Yes, I occasionally take pictures of my food. And, like most of the world, I aim to set my cell phone aside but sometimes, it just doesn't happen. The norm is to widely accept cell phone and electronic usage virtually at any time. The ideal scenario is to eat - alone or in the company of others - without distractions of phones bleeping or the television blaring. The occasional TV dinner is the ultimate luxury, don't get me wrong! (I remember that being such a treat as a child, and now I can see from my parents perspective it was likely a treat for them to have some peace and quiet at meal time i.e. no siblings bickering). For now, forgo multitasking at mealtime. Be present and consider how the food you are eating is nourishing every cell in your body. This contributes highly to the benefits of eating nourishing foods.
- Listen up - Are you eating mindlessly? Are you full? Are you continuing to eat because others around you are still eating? What is your body saying to you? Okinawa, Japan is famous for its practice of hara hachi bun me, which refers to eating until you are 80 percent full. This practice is popularized as this population is specifically shown to lead lives of rich health and longevity. Take a note from the Okinawans and listen to your gut when it tells you you're nearly full!
- Don't drink up - Avoid drinking too much water with meals as it tends to dilute digestive juices.
- Chit chat - Eating with others is far more interesting and enjoyable that eating on your own (in most cases). In fact, eating with others has been shown to be more beneficial for your health especially in aging populations. Take time to converse with the people around the table. Discuss the days events, upcoming plans, or centre the conversation around the food and recipes on today's menu.
- Chew, chew, chew, and then chew some more - Do you have that one friend that is the last one to finish his/her meal? That one friend that takes F-O-R-E-V-E-R to eat and it is so annoying that it incites a small fire of rage within you? Here's the deal: aspire to be more like this friend. Eating slowly and chewing thoroughly is the key to complete digestion. By adequately chewing, we send a readily digestible bolus (ball of chewed up food) to our stomach where is broken down some more before traveling onward to the small intestine for further digestion (I won't get into the specifics of what is digested where etc.). Put simply, the less we chew our food, the more work our digestive systems has. If we continuously stress our digestive system we may face adverse health consequences.
- Take a walk...the dishes can wait! - Taking a short walk after a meal stimulates the digestive system. Committing to a walk after your meal is also a great incentive to not overeat to the point of discomfort which leads many of us to the couch for a sedentary couch session. Try to avoid this as it is not conducive to good digestive functioning and it is a poor lifestyle habit. If a walk isn't available to you or your loved ones, try a kitchen-clean-up-dance-party. Blast the music and get upright for a few minutes before retiring to the couch. You've got this!
- Cleanup - Brush your teeth following a meal with a toothpaste that signifies the end of a meal to you, such as peppermint. This is a great habit to get into for you... and for others! If you do this step before kitchen cleanup, you'll be less inclined to eat a second meal. In the kitchen, cleanup is a perfect occasion to pack meal-size portioned leftovers away in containers (preferably the non-plastic variety). It's also clever to take inventory of what you need to rid of or replenish in your kitchen inventory for healthy, nutrient-dense, mindful meals in the coming days. This task is often easiest on a full stomach!
Eat whole foods and super foods - these foods are closest to their natural state and contain the most nutritive value for our body, mind, and spirit. Prepare these foods with love. Eat mindfully. Eat well. Eat until you feel appropriately satiated.
Be good to you.