This post is multi faceted as either a patient or close friend is currently dealing with an autoimmune disease, surgical recovery, or recent injury… and we’re starting the nutritional challenge at Crossfit Marbella tomorrow. 6 weeks of workout, mobility and nutritional awareness. The goal is not weight loss: the goal is self-improvement and nutritional awareness. I love food. I follow fellow foodies and frequently make what they advise, some are fast, some take hours, some take all day, but the point is eating smart and for your purpose. It isn’t difficult you just have to commit to start.
My past two weekends have been spent in continuing education classes learning about gut health and how exercise, nutrition and acupuncture can work together cohesively to treat your pain, but symptoms, and/or systemic condition. So with that, together let’s embrace better healing, promote a healthy lifestyle and empower your wellness, because You Can’t Out Exercise a Bad Diet! Food and exercise go hand in hand as exercise burns calories and firms muscle and how you restore those calories to do it all again tomorrow, is paramount.
Inflammation (swelling, edema) is the body’s protector or reaction to a traumatic event. When you sprain your ankle, it swells and gets hot because this is the body’s way of self healing: increasing blood supply and bringing nutrients to the injured area to begin the chain reaction of repairing damaged tissues. A similar reaction occurs after surgery. On the flip side, excessive swelling hinders the healing process and needs to be controlled. Ask any person with an autoimmune disease or those in chronic pain.
My suggestions are just that, my suggestions. Take it or leave it and they are based on a multitude of concepts: the Mediterranean Diet, the Perfect Health Diet, Grain Brain and non-GMO foods. The Mediterranean diet is rich in anti-oxidants, omega 3 fatty acids and high fiber foods all with anti-inflammatory properties. Grain Brain and The Perfect Health Diet explain what an excess of processed or complex carbohydrates (candida/yeast) does to our vessels, synovial fluids within joints and the hormone production for daily function. And of course, the terrifying effects that the chemicals used to make GMO foods block (or inhibit) multiple receptors for enzymes and hormones slowing our body’s natural ability to function, let alone heal itself. In short, eat real food, avoid processed food or food made with preservatives – food is not meant to last longer than it’s normal occurring life. With a long-winded short explanation let’s get to the foods.
No one likes to be told what he or she can’t have (right, Natalie?) so let’s focus on all the delicious foods we can enjoy!
Water: We’re 60% water so drink all the water you want, carbonated, still, infused with fruit (lemon, strawberry, watermelon), vegetables (cucumber my fave), chia seeds… The options are endless.
Vegetables and Fruit: we all get confused occasionally? Tomato, avocado whatever – if it’s a fruit or veggie, eat it (just make sure it’s GMO free). Vegetable portions should be the size of your fist (1 for females, 2 for males) and each meal must have at least this many vegetables. Try and vary you vegetables from meal to meal and for the seasons. Because of the sugar content associated with (most) fruit, limit to 2-3 servings per day. If it grows during the harsh of winter or heat of summer it means it is able to protect itself against the elements and will help protect you too! Mother nature is genius, and herbalists of Traditional Chinese Medicine adopted these theories, which is why we as trained acupuncturists can suggest foods or give supplements for treatment. But I digress…
Protein: vegan, vegetarian, pescatarian or carnivores, we all need protein. Incase you’re unfamiliar or would like to vary your options here are some of my faves: fish (wild-caught or cold water best), animal meat (Grass-fed and organic are ideal), eggs, beans/lentils (either as a protein or carb, not both), soya/tofu, and nuts. I personally avoid soy but will use Bragg Liquid Aminos as my soy sauce alternative and occasionally divulge in some edemame. Protein portions should be the size your palm. 1 palm for ladies, both palms for the gentleman.
Carbohydrates: Hands up if you love carbs!! I will eat french-fries every day if I could, oh wait. I did! In high school and it was delicious!! Some of my fave nutrient-dense carbohydrates are rice (basmati, as it’s easiest to digest), quinoa, buckwheat, oats, barley, sweet potatoes, rustic potatoes (root vegetables), and fruit. Carbs should fit into cupped handfuls, 1 for ladies, both for men.
Fats: Here in Spain we are blessed with some amazing olive oils, so I do not need to worry that people will still cook with (or pour bouts of it) over their pan y tomate breakfast. Personally, I alternate between, avocado, grapeseed and olive oil. Clearly, fried foods aren’t the best, but sometimes we gotta have the crunch or Pimiento Padrón. A serving size of fat is the size of your thumb, both thumbs for men. Healthy fats include avocado, nuts & seeds, coconut oil, olive oil, avocado oil, or grass-fed butter.
Spice it up: Use known anti-inflammatory herbs and spices for seasoning. Curry (Thai or Indian), ginger, turmeric, cayenne, garlic, onions, basil, rosemary, cinnamon, are all anti-inflammatory or metabolic boosting. We need iodine – salt is great, try the pink Himalayan salt, sea salt, or kosher salt to suggest a few. Regular “table” salt has been processed and stripped of its natural beneficial compounds.
The finer things in life: I like wine, coffee, and others like chocolate. Be smart. We don’t need the entire bottle or the whole industrial sized candy bar. Red wine is best for it’s resveratrol but hey – do you, but in moderation. (1-2 glasses/day). For the chocolate indulgers: try to enjoy natural chocolate, those with pronounceable ingredients. Chocolate is “naturally” occurring – it doesn’t need 40 fillers to be delicious. I’ve been working away at the same bar of chocolate in my cupboard for 4 months (I realize that’s absurd to some, but I can’t say I particularly like chocolate – but wine… ummm, assuming I drank my water quota an open bottle doesn’t last that long). Point being, find a good brand, fewer additives and enjoy in moderation. Currently, I’m all about Tony’s slave free chocolate bars (thanks to my bestie in the Netherlands for the introduction). For the beer drinkers, there are numerous gluten free options out there that don’t compromise taste. I’m not promoting alcohol consumption (it is inflammatory) but I’m not about to turn down a glass of wine if offered. If you like something find the healthy option for you and continue to enjoy – we only live once.
Good luck to those in the challenge and please message me if you have any questions.
Grain Brain, The Perfect Health Diet, Class notes from SCUHS curriculum 2009-2011: Dr. Thompson, Dr. Kadar, Dr. Yu