Whole Foods: Nourishing and Healing The Body
“OK girls, what vegetable do you want tonight, corn or green beans?” In response to this question, my sister or I would go to the cupboard and grab whatever can seemed most appealing on that particular night, and that was the extent of my veggie experience growing up. Any foods other than meat and potatoes were a pretty foreign concept to me. I didn’t grow up wandering through a local farmers market or helping my mom tend to the family garden. In fact, it wasn’t until more recently that I have begun to understand the true purpose of food, which is, to nourish and heal.
Food that nourishes
It seems like a nice concept, but what does it really mean to nourish the body in Hopkins? Nourishing the body means giving it food that strengths, builds up, and promotes life and health. It’s not about restricting; it’s about giving our bodies the fuel it needs to make them run at their best. Our bodies are beautiful mechanisms that operate as one unit with all of its systems influencing each other. What we put in our mouth is going to affect us from head to toe. And, because we are all created as unique individuals we all have different responses to the food we ingest.
Therefore, it’s important for us to know what we are eating and how it makes us feel. This may require us to look beyond the initial moment and think about how the food is making us feel in the minutes, hours, and days that follow. Much of the heavily processed food we eat is designed in a way to make us crave it more, by giving the initial satisfaction, but leaving us depleted of any true nourishment. Now let it be known that not all processed food is ‘bad,’ per se, but eating whole food in its most natural way is the safest bet.
Let the food you eat nourish not only your body, but your soul as well. In the hustle bustle of our lives, food choices are made by what is the fastest, easiest, and most convenient. It’s the same consumer mentality that drives all our choices. But what if we looked at food as a way to nourish our soul? Instead of having dinner be a part of our check-list that we begrudgingly do, what if it became a time where we stopped, slowed down, and enjoyed the process. What if it became a time to invite those we love to gather around the table with us, to celebrate the highs and journey through the lows of life together? Let food, cooking, and eating become more than just a mindless activity we are forced to do. Let it nourish your mind, body, and soul!
Food that heals
Food has the potential to harm or heal. It’s no secret that a bad diet plays a major role in the development of heart diseases, Type 2 diabetes, and metabolic syndrome. More often than not conversations around food are negative and are accompanied by the all too familiar friends of guilt and shame. “Don’t eat this, don’t eat that, I ate too much, that’s bad for you, that will make me fat…” You guys, I have a secret I need to share… food is GOOD! Food is sooo good and it’s meant to be good for you too!
Here are a few of the healing properties that we can find in some whole foods:
Phytonutrients: these guys are compounds found in plants that protect the plant from fungi and bugs. When we eat fruits and vegetables we get to enjoy their same protective benefits, because they help our cells to communicate better and prevent chronic disease.
Probiotics: It’s all about our gut! A healthy gut leads to healthy digestion, and new research is revealing just how important our gut health is. Heavily processed food can lead to damage of our digestive tract which can promote the symptoms of arthritis, asthma, and autoimmune disorders. Probiotics are the good bacteria in our gut that work to protect it. Probiotics can be found in foods that are living, yes I said living! But before you freak out too much, you may be surprised to learn you have probably eaten them already in food like yogurt. Other food sources are: kombucha (ask me how to brew your own, as I am a proud home brewer!), sauerkraut, kefir, kimchi, tempeh, or virtually any other fermented food.
Inflammation fighters: When we injure ourselves, our body has an inflammatory response which is great because the white blood cells flood that area to start the healing process. However, there has been a recent trend of chronic inflammation influenced by a poor diet, which can lead to a host of other issues. A diet high in trans-fat and sugar drives this chronic inflammation, which is the case for many Americans. However there is hope! Some great inflammation fighting foods are: omega-3 fatty acids (think fish, avocados, and dark leafy greens), ginger, turmeric, pineapple, and green tea.
Where to start?
- Take a breath! That was a lot of information I just threw at you. It’s about starting small and making small changes over a long time. The more wholesome food, like fruits and veggies you eat, the less you will crave the added artificial sugar found in heavily processed food. True change takes time, because you have to retrain what you have been doing for years.
- Shop the perimeters of the grocery store. Most everything you need can be found around the outside.
- Don’t be afraid to fail. Eating more whole food probably means more cooking, which is a terrifying idea for some. You’re not failing, you’re learning!
- Shop local. For us Minnesotans this can be hard, but take advantage of the months we do and venture down to the local farmers market like the one in Hopkins , the one on Lyndale in Minneapolisor find one close to you using the Minnesota Grown Directory. Or, you can take it one step further by joining a local CSA!
- Think of it as an investment. The cost of eating good quality whole foods is often higher than boxed processed foods. However, paying for healthy foods now will help you to save from having to pay for medical expenses down the road.
- It’s all about balance. Carbohydrates, fatty-acids, and proteins are the building blocks of all good food, and we NEED all of them! Eating a variety of whole foods will give you all that you need. What you don’t need is added sugar or trans-fat. If the ingredients list has sugar, high fructose corn syrup, or fruit juice concentrate, it’s probably not going to make you feel good in end.
- Listen. Listen to your body and notice what food makes you feel good and what food doesn’t. Even ‘healthy’ food can make you feel bloated or groggy if you are allergic or are sensitive to it.
- Change the way you think! This is probably the most important. Instead of torturing yourself by restricting and depriving or mindlessly eating, ask yourself instead, what will help me to grow and thrive?
While food is an important factor in combating illness and promoting health, sometimes more still needs to be done. If you’re having chronic pain or have had an injury, our holistic approach to physical therapy may be the next step to take towards achieving better health and function.
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