We are all aware of the importance of choosing proper foods to eat. It has been drilled into our brains that we need to eat real foods and avoid the cheap, processed, high sugar “foods” that are constantly being advertised to us. Once we make this choice correctly, it is important to learn how to ensure your body can use these vital nutrients.
- Choose Foods Wisely
These are common sense tools that most of us know. Pick lots of vegetables, some fruits, some protein (animal or plant sources, depending on your preference) and a little unprocessed carbohydrate (vegetables often do the trick) at each meal. Once you create the meal that is real and made by you, you will truly know what has gone into it and if you are comfortable eating it. However, choosing a chicken salad over a burger and fries is only going to work if your unconscious mind is digesting the foods correctly.
- Be Present
One of the greatest tools that I found in my path towards optimal health, is mindfulness. Mindfulness is the ability to be present in a situation by fully experiencing the moment that you are in. It is simply the act of blocking out external stimuli and focusing deeply on the present moment and how your body is feeling and reacting in the moment.
When you bring your healthy, prepared lunch to work, many people tend to simply plop it down in front of them at their desk and quickly scarf it down while sitting in front of their computer. Others even have their dinner in front of the television while binge-watching shows on Netflix – I am guilty of this as well. By doing this, we are setting up our bodies for failure in terms of optimal digestion of our foods.
Once we give the meal our true undivided attention, it will actually taste better as we can truly experience our food – the texture, the temperature, the flavors and all the other components that make real food taste truly amazing. This allows us to enter a parasympathetic, or relaxed state of mind, a state which is essential for the body to digest foods into the bloodstream correctly.
- Chew Properly
When we sit down in front of the computer or with our cell phone in front of us, our attention is divided – often times we pay more attention to the screen than the food and that means that we are not chewing our food enough. When we chew our food and give it the attention in requires, we can consciously do so until the food becomes soft, and moist. This will allow our tastebuds to be correctly activated and inform the brain of the specific types of food and the taste that we are experiencing. The brain then in turn will signal the correct processes to occur – for example if our food is sweet, the brain will signal the beta cells in our pancreas to secrete Insulin, while if the food is fattier, the brain signals the liver to produce and release bile to aid in its digestion.
It is also important to chew your food sufficiently so that the acid in your stomach can properly break down food into digestible nutrients. If food is still in big chunks, your stomach will not be able to break it down sufficiently, causing decreased digestion of required vitamins, minerals and micronutrients.
One trick my wife and I have started to use, is by putting our fork down between bites and only picking it up once we have finished chewing the previous bite. Chewing your food properly not only signals to your brain the kind of food you are eating but also ensures your stomach is able to absorb the most amount of nutrients.
- Take your Time
Eating in a rush causes our bodies to re-enter a sympathetic fight-or-flight state, a state in which digestion is not considered an important process in the moment. It is incredibly important to take your time and chill out while having your meal.
Think of your digestion like a carwash. First you choose a reputable carwash station – someone you know and trust to do a good job. Next, when you pull up to the carwash and get your car in the proper position, you need to put your car into neutral and take your foot off the pedals. Lastly, you should take your time and enjoy the ride – like a child mesmerized by the process going on outside of the car, be present and enjoy the ride.
My mentor Dr. Sachin Patel of The Living Proof Institute has a great saying in order to optimize digestion – Choose, Chew, Chill. Choose the correct foods, chew them properly and chill while eating. Some great tips to promote your optimal health!