Fatigue, bloating, anxiety, depression, brain fog, hormone imbalance, and restless sleep. Do any of those symptoms sound familiar to you? Did you know that the foods you are eating or not eating could be causing these symptoms? The foods you choose to consume on a daily basis have a huge impact on your mind-body health.
Our food choices have powerful effects on our bodies. Healthy food (such as whole foods and natural foods) have a positive effect on our well-being, while processed foods (especially fast food) have a negative effect. You’re either feeding a disease, fighting one, or fighting not to have one with every bite you take.
I know how overwhelming it can be to know what to eat as there is so much conflicting information out there on what is and isn’t healthy eating. I often get asked what I eat, and though I love to share this information, what’s most important is what I don’t eat. This is a topic I could talk and write about for hours, but if I had to narrow it down, these would be my top 3 tips on using the power of food as medicine!
3 Simple Tips to Using Food as Medicine
Tip #1: Eat Cultured Foods
Cultured or fermented foods contain beneficial probiotics (good bacteria) for your gut. Cultured foods help with digestion, bloating, hormone imbalances, brain fog, the immune system, heart disease, and mental health. They promote good health all around which is why they’re considered “superfoods.” You might be wondering what on earth cultured foods are? Here is a list of some cultured foods that I incorporate into a healthy diet.
Often times when people think of cultured foods they think of yogurt. Yogurt is just one of many types of cultured foods. Please don’t go out today and buy just any yogurt, as many of the options today are filled with sugar! You really want to read the label and make sure you are not purchasing one that contains sugar or fruit.
I personally buy plain sheep yogurt, since I do not do well with dairy, and I either have it plain or add in my favorite berries. Plain yogurt can be tangy, but I find sheep yogurt is milder compared to yogurt made from cow’s milk.
My favorite yogurt is the Coconut Cult’s yogurt made out of coconut milk. They ship it right to your door and it is heaven. A little goes a long way! You can find this on my “recommendations” page.
Kefir has a thinner consistency than yogurt so it is more like a drink. Kefir typically has more fat and protein than yogurt. Again, buy plain kefir and not the sweetened sugary versions! I like to add kefir to my protein shakes for an extra boost of healthy fat, protein, and of course, probiotics!
If you are lactose intolerant—the inability to digest lactose—you can oftentimes still consume yogurt/kefir as most of the lactose is removed as it is broken down into glucose and galactose. You can also always opt for yogurt/kefir made from coconut, almond, goat, or sheep’s milk.
Sauerkraut is fermented cabbage, and I am not talking the canned stuff here!! The sauerkraut in the can is dead, meaning there are zero living probiotics, so it is not cultured! I honestly never liked the taste of canned sauerkraut, but love the taste of the real, live stuff!
Cultured or fermented sauerkraut is sold in the cold section because it has live cultures in it, and the label will say cultured so you know it is the real deal. I like to add on top of my salads, soups, grass-fed beef weenie wraps, bunless burgers, or eat it straight!
If you are wanting a spicy version of sauerkraut then this is it! Kimchi is also fermented cabbage but spicy!!
Cultured foods are also really simple to make! So whether you do not live close to a store that sells these gut friendly foods or you just want to experiment with making your own there are tons of great recipes you find on Pinterest and online.
I know some days it’s hard to incorporate cultured foods so make sure you take a good probiotic daily to ensure you are putting beneficial microbes in your gut! I recommend taking one in the am and 1 in the pm. Look for a good quality probiotic that has multiple strains aiming for 15 – 30 billion each dosage.
Tip #2: Cut Out Sugar
Oh, where do I begin with this beast! Sugar is one of the most addictive substances you can put into your body, and it wreaks havoc on your gut and immune system. Sugar feeds all chronic diseases! Sugar contributes to obesity, type 1 and type 2 diabetes, sleep disturbances, anxiety, brain fog, depression, poor gut health, cravings, and it even changes your palate to where you only want to eat a limited variety of foods that are—you guessed it—sweet!
If that laundry list of symptoms and chronic conditions isn’t enough for you to ward off sugar like it’s the flu, then I don’t know what would! Cutting out sugar is one of the hardest eating habits to change. Why? Because it is so addicting, and when you go to quit, the craving for it becomes even more intense. I know first hand how hard this can be as I had to overcome this myself, but if you could only make one change this would be the one I would tell you to start with.
Check the Label
These days, sugar is in almost everything we eat and drink. Sugar disguises itself with many names: agave syrup, barley malt, brown rice syrup, molasses, date sugar, fruit juice, and any ingredient ending in -ose (fructose, lactose, glucose, sucrose, maltose, dextrose, and galactose). It is important to check the label for these aliases but it is also important to read the nutrition label to see how many grams of sugar per serving. A good rule of thumb, and one that I use, is to stay away from anything with more than 2 grams of sugar per serving and then watch your serving size!
A lot of sugar consumption is consumed through beverages. Juice, wine, sodas, sweetened coffees, sweet teas. I know these can be hard to give up so I will offer some alternatives that taste just as good and are good for you!
- Coffee – I love my coffee, even though I only drink decaf, sweetened with stevia. Stevia is a natural sweetener and a little goes a long way. I personally buy the Sweetleaf Stevia because it does not have any added sugar alcohols or additives. I also think it is the best tasting stevia on the market. If you are a sweet tea drinker it is time to swap out the table sugar or artificial sweetener for a natural no calorie sweetener like stevia.
- Alcohol – I think everything is okay in moderation, and balance is key. Who doesn’t like to have a nice glass of wine every now and then? I do, and when I do I opt for the Dry Farm Wine label. Their wines are made without all of the harmful chemicals, additives, dyes, and sugars! One bottle of their wine has less than 1 gram of sugar per bottle! They also taste better, and there is no headache the next day! Once you learn about all of the harmful chemicals, additives, and sugars that are in wine it makes hard to drink. Mixed drinks are sugar bombs, so if I am going that route then I choose vodka or tequila (stick with the clean and organic if possible), fresh lime, and mix it with either water or sparkling water!
- Juice – Another sugar bomb here! If having a glass of OJ or cranberry juice is part of your morning ritual, then it is time to say goodbye! One 8oz serving of orange juice contains around 21 grams of sugar and cranberry juice has a whopping 31 grams of sugar in 80z! That is a lot of sugar! Instead, opt for warm water with lemon. Making this swap saves you up to 217 grams of sugar per week!
- Sweets – Who doesn’t love a little indulgence every now and then? I absolutely love chocolate, and couldn’t imagine a world without it! Chocolate contains antioxidants, helps raise good cholesterol, is a good source of healthy fats, and is loaded with minerals. I am not telling you to reach for the nearest Hershey bar. Most chocolate sold in stores is loaded with additives, is super processed, and contains a lot of sugar! Thankfully, there are companies now that make chocolate that contains all of the good stuff without the bad stuff and is sweetened with natural sweeteners, like monk fruit. I have two favorite go to’s for when I want a little piece of chocolate, and that is Julian Bakery’s Paleo Thin Dark Chocolate and Choczero’s dark chocolate bark. I consider fruit to be a sweet, and treat them as such. Fruit is great to eat as it contains tons of vitamins and minerals, but many fruits are high in sugar. I know it’s a natural sugar, but it’s still sugar. I recommend sticking to low sugar fruits like blackberries, raspberries, jicama, strawberries, and blueberries. You can have higher sugar fruits (bananas, grapes, apples, peaches, pears, and melons) in moderation.
- Sodas – Are you a soda drinker? If so, it is time to kick that habit to the curb and opt for a healthier alternative like sparkling water, which comes in a variety of flavors, and still gives you that carbonated feel. If you are a stickler on sodas, then try out Zevia brand sodas which are naturally flavored sodas sweetened with stevia which is a natural sweetener with zero calories. My kids love the Zevia sodas for when they want that effervescent beverage!
So if you are starting your day with a banana, sweetened yogurt with granola, and a cup of coffee sweetened with sugar then it’s time to switch it out for alternative healing foods.
As you can see, sugar is in everything. Sugar is also extremely addictive. If you are suffering from anxiety, depression, brain fog, hormonal imbalances, disturbed sleep, and having a hard time losing weight then cutting sugar out of your diet will greatly benefit you. You will notice how addictive sugar is because when you cut it out of your diet you will crave it even more! You might even, temporarily, feel worse when you cut out sugar as your body detoxes. But, be patient as it is only for the first few days. By day 5 you will start to feel better! Make sure you are eating your cultured foods and drinking plenty of water daily as that will really help as your body detoxes from the sugar.
Tip #3: Drink Water!
Seems so simple right? I know you were probably expecting something different for my third tip, but this one is important enough that it made it to the list!
I am always amazed at how little of this natural resource is consumed as a drink! I have had people tell me they may only have 1 cup a day! Why are people not drinking enough water? Often times we get so caught up in our day we forget to drink water, and some of you do not like the taste of water.
No matter the reason for your lack of consumption of this valuable resource, it is time to start adding it to your daily regimen. Let’s look at how important water is to our bodies.
Did you know up to 60% of our body is made up of water?
Did you know you can go 3 weeks without food but only 3 days without water? Many of us seem to have this fact backwards!
These facts alone show the importance of drinking water. Every cell and system in your body needs water to perform optimally. Here are some of the benefits of drinking plenty of water.
- Flushes out toxins – Water helps to flush out toxins, viruses, and bacteria. This is why when you go to the doctor with the cold or flu you are told to drink plenty of fluids! The more water you drink, the more you urinate, the more unwelcome toxins you flush out.
- Helps with fatigue – Oftentimes when we are tired we want to reach for a snack, but I encourage you to drink a glass of water instead. Drinking water increases blood volume and helps maintain blood pressure. Water moistens oxygen for easier breathing and helps deliver nutrients and oxygen to every cell. So, the next time you feel tired reach for some high quality H2O!
- Helps digestion – Drinking enough water helps to ensure you are having better bowel movements and are not constipated. If you suffer from bloating, then I suggest drinking more water! Drinking a lot of water at once might cause temporary bloating, but it is just that, temporary, because it is going to end up flushing out waste and help to reduce the dreaded bloated belly. I recommend drinking water in between meals instead of during meals. The reason for that is that you do not want to water down your stomach acid during a meal by drinking a lot of water during a meal. You need your stomach acid undiluted to help breakdown and digest your meal.
- Weight loss – Yes water can help you lose weight! How? As you now know water helps flush out toxins, gives you more energy to work out, helps with constipation & bloat, and one more thing, hunger! Did you know hunger pains and thirst pains feel the same? They do, but most of us assume when we get that feeling that we are hungry. Next time when you feel hungry drink 10-12 oz of water, wait 15 minutes, and then re-evaluate your hunger. This saves you tons of calories and helps keep you hydrated! When you are drinking plenty of water you stay more full which helps you to not overeat during meal time. Lastly, when you are drinking enough water then you are having more frequent bowel movements and urination which is clearing out waste and helping your waist to slim down!
I hope you now see the health benefits of drinking enough water. Being well hydrated can improve so many health conditions. I personally start my day by drinking 12oz of room temp water and then 10oz of warm water, with the juice from a lemon and 2 tbs of Apple Cider Vinegar to help flush out all the house cleaning my body did while I slept. I am then energized and ready for my day!
Make These Tips Habits & Start Feeling Better Every Day
These are just some of the ways that food is medicine. Incorporating these 3 tips into your daily regimen will greatly help you on your journey to achieve optimal wellness. If you are suffering from fatigue, anxiety, depression, brain fog, poor sleep, bloating, or other side effects of poor nutrition, then incorporating these 3 tips could help to reduce your symptoms. What you put into your body can greatly affect the way you feel. Knowledge is power and I hope I have given you some power today to make better, healthier choices at the grocery store!