I’m always curious as to how I can easily improve my health, and I know one of the most powerful ways to improve health is by choosing what to eat. I know variety is the spice of life and that includes a wide variety of vegetables. So we eat on average 21 meals in 7 days (unless you’re intermittent fasting….more on that in another post) and I want to review the current variety of vegetables I eat in an average week and see if I fall short of 21 different vegetables. So here goes
- Baby spinach
- Sweet potato
- Alfalfa sprouts
- Snow peas
So I’ve listed my most common vegetables that I would purchase on an average week (mainly organic) and I’m eating two thirds of the concept of 21 different vegetables in a week! This makes me think what can I add to improve this variety. Here goes:
- Asparagus (although seasonal)
- Spring onion
- Bean sprouts
- Bok choy
So if you have a think about your usual favourite vegetables you buy/grow on a weekly basis, are you getting close to a variety of 21 vegetables? What extra/different veggies might you add to your weekly shop to increase the variety?
And why is it recommended to have a wide variety of vegetables in our nutritional intake?
Well each different vegetable provides different nutritional benefits to us, so to optimise our cellular needs through what we eat, we need a good variety of vegetables on a regular basis.
Sleep is the number one medicine everyone should be taking!
I highly recommend a good intake/dose/amount of sleep every night. Research shows on average we are sleeping 2-3 hours LESS per night than in the 1980s – that is a big loss of sleep over 365 days.
So why is sleep so important for good health? While we sleep our brain cleans out metabolic waste products, so we can think more clearly, create more memories and be more engaged with what we do. The most important time to have undisturbed sleep is from 11pm to 3am.
Why do so many people have sleep issues?
I believe there are a whole range of reasons for this including lifestyle, nutrition, stress and environmental. Firstly I strongly believe and have read the research on the impact of screen time on our health. This has been a big change in our daily routine over the past decade and a half since portable devices have become easily available. So what is the issue with screens in the evening? Our screens emit blue light which is part of the natural light spectrum. Blue light tells our brains it is daytime and that we should be awake and not be producing melatonin (our go to sleep hormone). So by using a blue light emitting device right up until you close your eyes (your head may already be on the pillow!), your brain is wired and active and takes longer to relax into the restful state.
What can you do to help your body and mind settle into sleep better?
There are a range of supportive measures you can use:
- Avoid using technology including tv, computers, ipads and phones for 90 minutes before bed.
- Avoid overhead light globes and use warm lighting for example salt lamps or warm globes.
- Buy some blue-light blocking glasses if you must use a screen late in the evening.
- Use a screen dimming application on your computer for example f.lux, to decrease the blue light emitted from the screen – it looks slightly yellow.
- Use the Twilight mode with an Android phone and Night Shift with an iPhone to automatically dim your screen from 7pm to 7am.
- Go for a morning walk to get sunlight on your retinas (back of your eyes). Sunlight is a trigger for our circadian rhythm and if you teach your body when it is morning and time to be up and active, it will help train it to slow down and rest in the evening. Failing time to have a walk, even 5 minutes outside for your morning cuppa is beneficial.
If you can improve your sleep you will notice changes in your health in as little as 24-48 hours. It is fundamental to good health and there is no medicine that can replace regular restorative sleep.
As we get into the deep mid winter here in Orange, what can you do to reduce the chance of catching a cold, or shorten the duration of a cold?
I have 3 young kids at home and sniffles and sneezes are pretty common at this time of the year. As a starter I often swap dairy intake for a non-dairy source. Dairy proteins are known inflammatory triggers in the gut, and can contribute to mucousy symptoms in the nose, sinuses and throat. I would recommend avoiding all dairy for 30 days to allow gut repair to happen. Most of our immune system is in our gut so it’s a great place to start.
Other triggers may include dust including house dust mite waste products. So what can you do to reduce the circulation of these microparticles?
Air your house often, yes even in winter, a fresh breeze can do wonders for cleaning up the air in your home.
Wash doonas regularly, change pillows annually, use a mattress protector.
Take your shoes off when you walk in to reduce dirt and toxins picked up from outside.
Some people regularly use essential oils to freshen the air, and these natural oils have anti-bacterial and anti-viral properties.
How good is your nutrition? If you are deficient in certain nutrients it may take longer to get over a common cold. For example zinc is essential for good immune function. Zinc is naturally found in red meat, oysters and pulses. It is important to discuss this with your doctor if you are supplementing with zinc tablets as high levels can be dangerous.
Vitamin D has a multitude of good functions in the body including immune health. Ideally we can get this through sun exposure, however over the winter months a supplement may be of benefit as the strength of the sun is less over winter and it’s cold so we don’t get our skin out so much!
Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that can be found in a wide variety of fruits and vegetables including citrus fruits and green leafy vegetables. Did you know that we are one of the few mammals on earth who cannot make vitamin C? So we are dependent on nourishing foods to supply enough vitamin C for our system.
And finally, I would include in any patient consultation or when looking at the health of my kids, that they are having enough sleep on a regular basis. Our bodies need enough sleep to regenerate, detoxify and maintain a healthy immune system. So for an adult aim to get eight hours of good restorative sleep most nights and your body will be able to work on any pesky bugs who may be responsible for a common cold.
If you are getting coughs and colds more often than usual, it may be wise to visit your health care provider to ensure your body, including your immune system, is working well.