Diet and Nutrition

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A Year’s Plan Starts With Spring
-Chinese Proverb

It’s easy to feel a boost of energy in the Spring with the fresh, sunny days and blossoming trees signaling new life and regeneration.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), Spring relates to the liver and gallbladder organs, our body’s detoxification system.

 

The Liver system is known as the “farmer who cultivates”. It governs and regulates the blood and the flow of Qi (life force) energy to promote circulation. It processes our emotions and nourishment, eliminating what is not needed.

The Gallbladder system governs decision making and gives us the courage and ability to make decisions. The gallbladder also plays an essential role in the smooth flow of Qi throughout the body.
How Can We Help These Hard Working Organs to Boost Our Vitality in Spring?
Choose Light, Clean Foods
To be in harmony with the qualities of Spring, the foods we eat should provide a gentle cleansing from the heavier foods we ate during the winter months.

Try eating plenty of fresh vegetables and fruits such as; grapefruit, apples, radishes, daikon, broccoli, asparagus, lettuce, leeks, and shiitake mushrooms. Eat lean poultry and meats, preferably grass fed, that are grilled or steamed, not fried. Enjoy complex grains like brown rice and millet. Additionally, food and drink that taste sour are thought to stimulate Qi, so enjoy lemon slices in your water and oil and vinegar dressing or olives.

Fresh Air and Movement
According to TCM, the liver stores blood during periods of rest and then releases it to the tendons in times of activity, maintaining tendon health and flexibility. Find a daily stretching routine that works for you like yoga or tai chi. Fresh air helps liver qi flow so try to take a walk on your lunch break or try an outdoor sport like soccer with your friends or family.

Acupuncture
Seasonal acupuncture treatments can tone your organ systems, aid in your detoxification efforts, and correct small imbalances before they lead to greater disturbances.

Giving our bodies extra support now will not only give us an immediate boost, it will strengthen our systems for the rest of the year. Likewise, investing in time to contemplate our lives and realign our focus, if needed, can help keep us on the path to reach our goals for the future.

Renew Your Mind and Spirit
Spring is a time of birth and change. Reflect on your priorities or goals in life and give them merit. Take opportunities that come your way, give yourself time to explore your creativity, or learn something new.

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When was the last time you got full eating a meal by filling up your senses — noticing the taste, scents, texture and the feeling of nourishment good food can give you?

We often see eating as something on our to-do list unless we are going out for a special meal when we consciously set aside the time to really enjoy it. Recently, the New York Times reported on the Buddhist practice of Mindful Eating and how it is entering secular places, like the Google campus. Mindful Eating is a meditative practice that can quiet the mind and bring your awareness into your body.

How Can You Practice Mindful Eating?

The Center for Mindful Eating lists one of the principles of mindfulness as, “being aware of what is present for you mentally, emotionally and physically in each moment”. Mindful Eating is defined in part as “Choosing to eat food that is both pleasing to you and nourishing to your body by using all your senses to explore, savor and taste.”

Benefits of Mindful Eating
This movement might be gaining popularity because it counteracts two aspects of American food culture that could use some intervention. First, it focuses on pleasure which is a welcome change from punishment prone diet concepts. Second, it slows down our ceaseless rushing which allows time for reflection on our food choices — what we like, what agrees with us, and where it comes from — which can connect us to our community and environment. The main benefits are also twofold; by focusing on the pleasures of food and eating, we can feel true satisfaction and become more adept at noticing when we are full. In the New York Times article, Mindful Eating as Food for Thought, Jeff Gordinier writes, “Mindful eating is not a diet, or about giving up anything at all. It’s about experiencing food more intensely — especially the pleasure of it. You can eat a cheeseburger mindfully, if you wish. You might enjoy it a lot more. Or you might decide, halfway through, that your body has had enough.”

The Traditional Chinese Medicine Approach to Healthy Weight
This non-diet/enhanced awareness mindset is very similar to the Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) approach to regaining and maintaining healthy weight.TCM looks to a root, internal cause rather than external reasons, like food, for weight gain. Usually deficient Qi (lifeforce) or Qi imbalance is the cause. If a body has sufficient Qi, it won’t experience cravings or excessive appetite. Alternately, if there is insufficient Qi, organs may not be able to perform their essential functions well, like eliminating toxins or maintaining proper metabolism. For example, the spleen and liver organ system is key for digestion. If there is imbalance there, you might experience headaches, digestive issues, weight gain, or allergies. Organ systems can become imbalanced for many reasons like viral infections, environmental toxins or emotional trauma. Stress is a common reason for imbalance in various organ systems. The Traditional Chinese Medicine World Foundation writes, “Perhaps the most profound aspect of TCM’s perspective on overweight conditions is its perception of the role emotions play in overall health.  TCM does not see and treat your body, mind, emotions, and spirit as separate, but rather as an interrelated whole…When TCM looks at digestion, it takes the broadest view:  digestion is the ingestion, absorption, and letting go of food, drink, and emotion…”

Chronically held emotions cause stagnation in the organs, creating an impasse for the flow of chi like a dam in a river. Acupuncture can relieve these blocks to restore the flow of energy and re-establish proper energy exchange. People often feel this immediately as relief, joy, settled nerves, or an energy boost. When the imbalances are righted, the body will ask for what it needs and normal weight will return.

Mindfulness can help us to recognize stress, allowing us to acknowledge it and act or let it go. It can also help us to bring more pleasure into our lives to keep in balance. Mindfulness eating is an enjoyable practice to help us tend to the gift of our bodies with greater care and pleasure.

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Coffee is a pick-me-up, let’s meet up beverage in America.

We treat it as a tool for extra alertness or we pivot social events around it. All things in moderation is a great mantra but if you find yourself in a cycle of groggy waking, caffeination, afternoon slump, caffeination, and restless sleep, it may be time to give yourself a healing gift and quit coffee.

Giving yourself time away from the false energy of caffeine will allow you to come back to your own healthy rhythms; restoring your adrenal system and easing you back into deeper, restorative sleep.

WHY SHOULD I QUIT?
Due in part to it’s high levels of antioxidents, coffee does have some health benefits. However, it also raises our blood pressure and levels of the stress hormone, cortisol. Prolonged use of coffee may stress our adrenal system. Since the thyroid gland works in tandem with our adrenals, we need to keep our adrenals healthy for the thyroid to work properly. Women are more likely to experience adrenal fatigue and thyroid disruption so this may be something to consider if you’re thinking about quitting.

HOW MUCH COFFEE IS TOO MUCH?
Tolerance levels affect everyone differently. A recent article in the Chicago Tribune reported that The National Institute of Health found that caffeine “can leave you feeling wired 12 to 16 hours after the last cup, wreaking havoc on sleep” and “drinking just 100 milligrams per day — the amount of a small cup of brewed coffee — and then giving it up can lead to withdrawal symptoms ranging from headaches and depression to flulike nausea and muscle pain.” Only you know if your sleep is suffering or if you are sleepy during the day. This could be because you are drinking six cups or because you are drinking one cup.

HOW DO I QUIT?
If you only drink one to three cups a day, you might be able to quit cold turkey. Withdrawl symptoms are reported to last one to three days so convince yourself to try to go without for three days in a row. By the third day it’s likely you won’t crave it and you can extend another few days and son on. If you drink six cups or more, you may want to taper off. You can do this by limiting yourself to three cups a day, then two, then one. Or you can mix half decaf, half regular coffee for your portions. Some people find it easiest to switch to decaf, which has a tiny amount of caffeine and drink that for a week or so.

HOW DO I BOOST MY ALERTNESS WITHOUT COFFEE?
In the Morning:

Make a morning music mix of whatever gets you going.
Music is used to rehabilitate stroke victims and patients with Parkinson’s disease precisely because it increases mental focus. A Finnish study found that stroke patients who listened to a few hours of music a day experienced a 60% improvement in verbal memory and a 17% improvement in focused attention.

Eat a balanced breakfast.
A combination of protein, a little fat, and complex carbs will sustain your energy and feed your brain for hours.

Take an early morning walk.
Exercise increases oxygen and blood flow to the brain. That, in combination with the fresh air, will erase any morning mental fogginess. If you live in a city, try getting off the train a few stops early on your way to work in the morning. Or, you can start a walking group of parents at your children’s school. You can leave for your walk directly after dropping off your kids.

To combat the afternoon slump:

Drink water!
Often when you feel fatigued, it is a sign your body needs water.

Try a peppy, healthy drink
Perk up with a zippy drink of 3/4 cup sparkling mineral water and 1/4 cup natural fruit juice. Keep a large bottle of mineral water and a single serving bottle of juice in the fridge at work and you’ll have enough for four servings — almost the whole work week.

Eat a protein/fruit Snack
A handful of almonds with some dried apricots or a half of a banana will give you fuel to end your work day strong.

If you think you may struggle with cravings or withdrawl symptoms, give yourself some support. Traditional Chinese Medicine can help you overcome caffeine addiction, heal weakened adrenal glands and bring thyroid back into proper function. With your re-tuned body humming you’ll find you won’t crave caffeine. How will you use all that fresh energy?

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