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Spring is upon us and with warmer weather comes everyone going outside the house and into favorite restaurants, ripping and running from work to events, and fitting in just enough sleep along the way. Sure, life is a thrill, and it can be far less fun spending hours in our kitchen, preparing and cooking our own balanced meals, while jumping in bed at appropriate times that will provide us the rest that we need. But without proper nutrition and wellness practices, are we really living, or just struggling to catch up with the experiences that a healthier, rejuvenated version of ourselves could have?
Let’s take a look at some common, and uncommonly known nutrition and wellness tips, with expert advice straight from the desk of nutritionist Charmaine Jones, MS, RDN, LDN, and Founder and Owner of Food Jonezi.
DID YOU KNOW that not all “organic” food is nutritionally better than conventionally grown foods?
What Is Organic?: The USDA Organic label on various foods choices whether produce, meats, etc., indicates that the food item has grown or been handled without using genetically modified organisms, which the organic standards expressly prohibit. USDA standards vary based on the food type. When we see the USDA, or certified organic seal on a food item, that indicates that the product is at least seventy-percent natural.
Nutritionist’ Insight (CJ) – “The Dirty Dozen”:
Nutritionally, organic and conventionally grown foods are no different nutrient-wise. However, the process is different. There is a very helpful list created by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) which provides the twelve foods that should be purchased organic due to the amount of synthetic pesticides used to grow the fruits and vegetables.
The “Dirty Dozen” of fruits and vegetables that are best to purchase in it’s organic form based on the EWG’s 2023 Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce, are; Strawberries, Spinach, Kale/Collard/Mustard Greens, Nectarines, Apples, Grapes, Bell Peppers/Hot Peppers, Cherries, Peaches, Pears, Blueberries, and fresh Green Beans.
DID YOU KNOW that sugary drinks are the most fattening products in our modern diet? A high intake of sugar, whether in our drinks, or food sources, often causes a slew of health issues within the body that become harder to reverse later.
Nutritionist’s Insight (CJ):
“Excess sugar definitely leads to body inflammation. Not only that, but when your body is taking excess sugar, it causes a significant amount of weight gain. What people don’t realize is that weight gain is so critical in this [circumstance], because when someone gains weight, those fat cells release a toxin in the body. That toxin causes inflammation. That’s why weight gain becomes a huge factor in all of this. If you drink a lot of sugary drinks, it definitely causes weight gain, it definitely leads to these toxins being released in your body, it leads to inflammation, it decreases your immune system, it leads to cardiovascular disease, it causes insulin resistance which leads to diabetes, high blood pressure which they call the silent killer, it clogs the arteries, [and more].”
Quick Tip: With every meal or snack, add some proteins. Even if you are only eating grapes or a type of fruit, it can spike up your blood sugar, and quickly drop it whether it is from natural or added sugar, consequently leaving you unsatisfied. The American Heart Association recommends just nine teaspoons of added sugar a day, and just six spoons for women and children. However, the average American intakes 17 teaspoons of sugar or more. Stay alert to your sugar intake!
FRUITS, VEGETABLES, AND OMEGA 3’s
DID YOU KNOW that a diet full of nutrient-rich foods like fruits and vegetables, along with omega-3 fatty acid rich foods help stabilize your mood, creating fewer mood swings and an improved ability to focus? Likewise, natural, unprocessed foods largely help to prevent symptoms of depression.
Nutritionist’s Insight (CJ): Fruits and vegetables and Omega 3’s are powerhouses and good resources for overall health, and important to increasing your mood and brainpower, specifically Omega 3’s.
Omega 3’s have a great ability to increase your overall blood flow to your brain which improves learning abilities, memory, and overall cognitive function. Omega 3 coupled with fruits and especially green leafy vegetables, are great for improving brain function. Omega 3’s help prevent proteins called beta-amyloids, that as you age build up, and clump in our brains that can cause Alzheimer’s disease.
“Green leafy vitamins, for example, are rich in Vitamin K, lutein, and beta carotene for example, all help increase our mood, and blow flow throughout our bodies, especially Vitamin K. When you are first born you get a shot of Vitamin K which helps make the blood flow through your body consistently, and fluently. So when your blood flows properly throughout your body, especially to your brain, it definitely gives your body that boost.”
Best Foods For Omega 3 Intake: Omega 3 fatty acids are best retained within our diets, primarily through eating fatty fish including sardines and anchovies, but also higher quality fish including salmon, swordfish, or tuna. Additionally, green leafy vegetables, and fruits like berries are awesome for the bloodstream and brain functioning.
*Stay away from deep-fried, and fried foods, as it adds an extra layer of unnecessary fat which can be detrimental to your heart health.
DID YOU KNOW: Intermittent fasting is a great method to accomplish weight loss, improve heart health, improve brain health, lower the risk of type II diabetes, and reduce the risk of cancer?
What is Intermittent Fasting?: Intermittent fasting is a dietary schedule or routine largely dedicated around when you eat food, rather than what you eat. That means, you will eat during a specific period or time frame of time during the day, and neglect to eat during the remaining hours until your eating window returns.
What Are The Benefits?:
After hours without food, the body tends to exhaust a sugar reserve and consequently, begins burning off fat. During that period, some benefits of fasting are;
1. Improves the digestive functions: During the period where you are not eating, your digestive system is given a rest, taking time to repair and rebuild.
2. Improves memory and thinking, Like a form of detoxing – Similar to fasting allowing the digestive functions to rest, it also gives the body a moment to strengthen your cognitive functions.
3. Helps to improve blood pressure – Intermittent fasting helps get your body back on track, as it is great for reducing Type II diabetes. When you are fasting, it is similar to your body flushing a lot, typically allowing the body to use the bathroom more often during the fasting period, as you will tend to eat less calories during this time, and lose weight, which also helps reduce a person’s chance of getting diabetes or high blood pressure.
Breaking Fast: “When you intermittent fast for a certain period, once you break your fast, you have to still maintain eating every three to four hours in well-balanced, small meals. You cannot break your fast and go to Popeyes, or eat every, and anything. It is a very disciplined diet. Intermittent fasting does require a lot of preparation and discipline. You should always have someone who can guide you through [your] fast, because that first moment when you break your fast, is the most critical part of the [process]. You don’t want to break your fast, with some fast food. Break your fast with a broth, or some soup. Remember, your digestive system was at rest for a [certain number] of hours. You just can’t eat something that is high in fat, you have to slowly transition back into eating.”
DID YOU KNOW that a deep, roughly ninety-minute cycle of REM sleep per night is critical to sustaining your health, and physical healing?
What Is REM Sleep?: REM sleep, which stands for “rapid eye movement,” is a type of sleep cycle occuring in intervals during our night’s sleep. REM sleep cycles allow our brains and bodies to process new information and motor skills, memory consolidation, emotional processing, and encourage healthy brain development.
Nutritionist’s Insight (CJ): “REM sleep is very important. I always consider REM sleep as the moment your brain is cleansing itself. It helps boost memory, concentration, repair the brain, and get the rest that you need to throw away the junk and keep what you really need. It’s like getting rid of the stress that your body endured that day, but overall, getting a proper amount of sleep is critical for the body. Also, when you don’t sleep well, you eat more, because your body is trying to find that energy to keep you going, so you typically eat more unhealthy foods!”