Nutrition + Hydration
What to eat + what to drink
Here are the basics: hydration is key, nutritional requirements are 100% unique to you, and eat as organic and pesticide free as possible. For details, read on.
SUCH AS IN ALL OF LIFE, WE BEGIN WITH WATER
Most of us know that drinking water is a non-negotiable for health, but knowing how much water our body requires and what type of water we are drinking is so often overlooked.
Here are the basics of hydration:
You need to be drinking at least half your body weight in ounces, per day, minimum. So for a 150lbs woman, 75oz per day is her bottom line.
Hydration requirements rapidly increase with stress, dry environments, travel, warm weather, exercise, caffeine/sugar/alcohol/drug intake, sauna, breastfeeding, sickness, and more.
The quality of your water is incredibly important. Make sure that it is filtered!
When drinking filtered water, it is crucial to add the nutritious minerals back in that were lost during the filtration process. Without these minerals, our body is not able to fully hydrate.
Let's not forget, water doesn't need to be basic. Water is an excellent medium for personalized tonics to target your health goals. Need inspiration? See mine below.
MY DAILY WATER TONIC
My Daily Water Tonic
Rich in minerals, chlorophyll, medicinal mushrooms, and more, this tonic ensures that I am flooding my body with rich hydration.
- 32 oz. of reverse osmosis water
-Juice of 1 Lemon
-2 dropperfuls of Chlorophyll
-2 dropperful of Reishi extract
-2 dropperful of Lion's Mane extract
-2 dropperful of Chaga extract
-3-5 drops of Trace Minerals
Swirl + enjoy. Repeat 3 times per day.
For ingredients see Master List in the Resources section of the Spirit House.
NUTRITIONAL REQUIREMENTS ARE INDIVIDUAL AND UNIQUE
Although there are definitely some across-the-board general guidelines, I cannot stress enough how individualized diet and nutrition is.
Some people need to eat a lot, some people need very little. Some do better skipping meals, some need to eat every 2-3 hours. There is no right or wrong way to feed your body so long as you are eating enough of the right types of foods and the foundation of your nutritional intake is solid. The diet you follow, if any, should be the diet that works for you--not what influencers, marketing strategists, or media tells you is best.
The basics of adequate nutrition depend a lot on tiny structures in each of our cells called Mitochondria. Mitochondria make energy by using oxygen and nutrients from food. The cells in the brain, heart, nerves, muscles, and organs all have higher concentrations of mitochondria, which dictate body-wide wellness.
Through the use of therapeutic foods, we can support our cellular mitochondria and enhance vitality.
Mitochondria thrive when we eat beautiful, nutrient dense foods that help maintain blood sugar and decrease inflammation in the body. Below, you can find recommendations and breakdowns of all of the food groups, whether you subscribe to a vegan, vegetarian, or omnivore diet. For extreme ease, see the Grocery Shopping Essentials or the Eat the Rainbow handout at the bottom of this module.
This category is of utmost importance for providing necessary phytonutrients. My patients are encouraged to try vegetables new to them and to aim for a minimum of 5–8 servings every day (ideally, 10–12 servings). The best way to eat an abundance of vegetables daily is to include them in at least two meals (three if possible). Also, seasonal ingredients should be eaten when possible. For example, try a red cabbage salad in the winter, when highly nutritious cabbage is abundant. Be sure to eat a "rainbow of colors" to ensure optimal variety in phytonutrients (see the Going Deeper + Bonus sections below for more info), and don't forget about fermented vegetables, such as sauerkraut and kim chi as these have been shown to have countless additional health benefits.
**Organic vegetables should be purchased, and if organic produce is not available, be sure to wash vegetables carefully and peel before eating.
Fruits are packed with phytonutrients. Therapeutic foods in this category include all berries, pomegranate seeds, and grapes with the skin, which have shown to increase levels of glutathione in the body. Blueberries contain one of the highest antioxidant levels of all fruits and also help with blood sugar control. Apples contain phytonutrients that suppress inflammation. Fruit juices are not encouraged, as they are dense sources of sugar and can increase blood sugar levels. Small amounts of dried fruit are good occasionally, and dehydrated, non-sweetened fruit can be made at home. It’s always better to couple fruit with a little bit of protein, such as nuts or nut butter, to offset any blood sugar spikes. As with vegetables, it is important to purchase organic fruit whenever possible.
Protein helps stabilize blood sugar, which is important for brain health. Ideally, some protein should be included in every meal. Vegans can choose soy and legume proteins; lacto-ovo-vegetarians can have soy in addition to eggs and cheese; omnivores can have all of these foods plus animal foods like poultry, beef, wild game, turkey, and fish. High-quality proteins are the best choice, including grass-fed, organic, non-genetically modified organism (GMO) sources. For fish, remember to choose wild-caught sources, as farmed fish may contain hormones and toxic chemicals called polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs).
Legumes are an important source of the B vitamin folic acid. They are a healthy alternative to animal protein, as they contain quality vegetable protein. They are also a complex carbohydrate, which helps keep blood sugar stable and promotes a feeling of fullness. Legumes may be eaten in the form of soup, cooked beans, dips, or hummus and will complement a non-starchy vegetable.
Dairy + Alternatives
Dairy + Alternatives
Many people avoid dairy products because of allergy or sensitivity, or because they find them inflammatory. If dairy works for you, making sure to choose grass fed, organic, free range dairy from
small farmers (check your local farmer's market!) is best. Fermented dairy, such as yogurt and kefir is optimal as they contain beneficial microbes known as probiotics, which are important for a healthy digestive system.
There are several dairy alternatives to choose from, such as almond, hemp, oat, coconut, or soy milk. Labels should be read carefully to ensure the absence of added sweeteners; evaporated cane juice and brown rice syrup are commonly added to these dairy alternative milks. It is safest to purchase milks that say “unsweetened” on the front of the box, or to make your own. Coconut and nut-based yogurts also have some added health benefits from their beneficial fats. When choosing soy milk, it is essential to select only organic to avoid GMOs.
Nuts + Seeds
Nuts + Seeds
While all nuts and seeds are healthy for the brain, be sure to buy nuts that aren’t heavily salted and roasted in oil. Eating a variety of nuts ensures getting a variety of phytonutrients. Nut butters are easy to incorporate into snacks and meals; examples are tahini drizzled over vegetables and pumpkin seed butter spread on an apple slice. Another option is adding ground flaxseed meal, chia seed, or hemp seed to a smoothie, or sprinkling them on salad. Please note that hemp seed and ground flaxseed may easily become rancid if not stored in the refrigerator or freezer. Seeds have differing nutritional benefits, so consuming a variety of them is best when possible.
Fats + Oils
Fats + Oils
It is important to include good-quality fats every day to help keep inflammatory processes in balance. A vast selection of fats and liquid oils can be used for salad dressings (cold preparation) and cooking (warm to hot preparation). Minimally refined, cold-pressed, organic, non-GMO fats and liquid oils should be used whenever possible, as these will be the best quality. Several servings per day of these healthy fats are beneficial. When possible, phytonutrient-dense, unfiltered, extra-virgin olive oil should be used to dress salads and vegetables. MCT oil is another option. For medium high-heat cooking, coconut oil, MCT oil, and ghee are best because they are less likely to oxidize than other oils.
First, it is important to note that all the fiber and phytonutrients that the body needs are available from the abundant vegetables and fruits listed above. Grains tend to have a major (unnecessary) role in our diet, and I encourage you to use them only supplementally on an as-needed basis. Healthy grains should be certified organic whenever possible, and the least processed the better. Examples include oats, rice, corn, quinoa, flour, and more.
NUTRITION ROUND UP + OTHER CONSIDERATIONS
Now that you've got a good understanding of the basics that make up adequate nutrition, there are a few extras that will really ensure your success and help the body thrive.
First and foremost, if you stick to eating seasonally, you will be giving your body exactly what it needs, saving money, and helping the environment.
Second, when purchasing food, make sure you understand labels, ingredients, servings sizes, and codes that appear on the sticker. If it contains ingredients that you can't clearly picture in your mind, ie potassium sorbate, than its probably best to pass. When purchasing fruits and vegetables, the first number of the code on the sticker tells you the following:
3: conventionally grown, 4: conventionally grown, 8: genetically modified (GMO), 9: organic
While its best to consume all-organic-everything, this is not the reality for most of us. Following the Dirty Dozen + Clean 15 is an incredibly helpful tool for avoiding the most pesticide and toxin laden foods, and knowing what is best to buy organic. A quick google search on your phone can yield some incredibly helpful diagrams. All in all the most important things to remember about nutrition are to truly figure out what foods work best for you, what your body needs, and the best, most healthful ways of providing that for yourself.
In the Basics we learned that hydration is key, nutritional requirements are 100% unique to you, and eating as organic and pesticide free as possible is key. But what about our cravings and eating habits? For details, read on.
WHAT ARE YOU CRAVING?
Eating healthy day to day most certainly isn't boring, and even when food cravings pop up it can be an opportunity to listen to our bodies and try to figure out what it's telling us. It's important to note however, that food cravings can sometimes be a signal that something bigger is going on, for example, if you find yourself constantly craving sugar, there can be a range of larger issues that need to be addressed. It is almost important to bring forward the idea that if you are craving a food you are most likely deficient in it--say, red meat for example. However, this is only true is some cases. Craving a certain food group doesn't necessarily mean you are lacking, as sometimes you are craving it because of excess, or for psychological reasons (for example, craving salty popcorn while at the movie theater). In summary, really pay attention to your food cravings and try to break them down. What is really going on? Working with a professional is always a great place to start.
BRINGING CONSCIOUSNESS TO OUR EATING HABITS
One of the most complex relationships in the human experience is our relationship with food. When trying to understand nutrition at a foundational level, it is a non-negotiable to review your eating habits and how they may be impacting not only your relationship with food, but how food is assimilated and utilized in the body. Use the following questions as a rough guide to prompt this inner discovery and reflection:
1. Do you eat too fast, or too slow?
2. Do you eat late at night?
3. Do you skip meals due to time constraints?
4. Is your nutrition or eating schedule wonky due to travel, parenthood, school, work, etc?
5. When under stress, do you eat too much or too little?
6. Do you eat when you're bored?
7. Do you forget to eat?
8. How many meals do you eat out per day? Per week? Per month?
9. Do you have a history or current struggle with disordered eating habits, such as restrictive eating, anorexia, bulimia, overeating, orthorexia, etc?
10. Do you continue to eat foods that your body does not do well with (ie food sensitivities)?
IDENTIFYING FOOD SENSITIVITIES
Do you suffer from any of the following conditions: digestive problems, headaches, chronic sinus drainage, low energy, depression, mood swings, eczema, skin irritations, acne, joint aches, asthma, and/or weight gain? Health problems such as these may be related to a specific food or foods eaten frequently. Many people with food sensitivities don’t even realize how awful they feel until the trigger foods are removed from the diet. Food reactions are a frequently overlooked cause of chronic health issues. Some reactions occur immediately after eating the food (allergy), but in other cases, symptoms may be delayed by several hours or even days (referred to as food sensitivity or food intolerance). Removing specific foods from your diet will allow the body to recover and begin to function efficiently again.
These adverse food reactions are common because the same foods are eaten day after day, resulting in greater sensitization to these foods. If the right foods are not eaten, digestion and absorption may be impaired. Additionally, those with weakened immune systems may be more prone to food sensitivities. Protocols such as the Elimination Diet when done with a licensed and experienced healthcare provider can help to uncover food(s) that may be the culprits.
On a day to day basis, try to pay attention to and record instances where you feel suboptimal after eating. Note if there are any correlations with your diet and the way you are feeling. Experiment with removing a food group and see how you do.
EAT THE RAINBOW
Beautiful foods are healthy foods and we are blessed by just about every color of the rainbow when it comes to variations of fruits, vegetables, and other food groups.
Instead of getting the full rainbow of color, you may be eating the standard processed food colors of brown, yellow, and white. For example, think of the typical breakfast menu – waffles, pancakes, ready-to-eat cereal, sausage, and eggs – which does not necessarily provide much color early in the day. However, if you had a fruit smoothie with blueberries, peaches, dark leafy greens, and raspberries, you’d have 3-4 colors of the seven colors of the rainbow first thing in the morning! Make it your goal to get the full seven colors every day with a variety of foods. There are thousands of phytonutrients in nature. If we eat the same foods over and over again, even if they are colorful, we may be missing the universe of important phytonutrients in foods. One helpful hint is to try a new food every week to ensure that you are getting different foods to try!
When we put certain foods together, we may achieve a better effect than if we just had the foods by themselves. Sometimes, there can be a “synergistic” result from combining certain foods. For example, putting turmeric with black pepper together with olive oil could enhance the phytonutrient effects of all three foods on your health. Adding lemon juice to spinach could help the iron become more absorbed by your body. Try putting plant foods together for an enhanced health benefit.
For more information on the phytonutrient spectrum and eating the rainbow, see the Bonuses section.
Bonuses + Handouts
Here you will find all the extras and bonuses mentioned in the Basics + Going Deeper modules, plus a little extra. Enjoy.
Copyright © 2018 by Motherhood Medicine.
All rights reserved. These writings or any portion there of many not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the expressed written permission of the author except for the use of brief quotations in a review. These writings are not intended as a substitute for the medical advice of physicians. The reader should regularly consult a physician in matters related to his/her health and particularly with respect to any symptoms that may require diagnosis or medical attention.