Are these “healthy” habits holding you back?
I stopped buying wellness magazines several years ago when I got tired of conflicting information within every publication. One article might suggest cutting out dairy to achieve greater health and well-being, while the next article would offer up a recipe for a “beauty food breakfast” that utilized yogurt (made from dairy) as a key ingredient.
Society makes nutrition complicated. While “health” is not a “one-size-fits-all” package, as a nutritionist, my goal is to make simplify it.
Here are some common “healthy habits” that could be holding you back from achieving superior health.
- Chewing gum between meals, or to curb hunger. I love popping a piece of gum in my mouth after a meal. In college, I went through packs a day, trying to get through my business classes without falling asleep. The action of chewing is part of the digestive process. Chewing sends signals to the stomach to start producing digestive juices— hydrochloric acid. If we are not actually eating anything for the stomach to digest, this production of hydrochloric acid, (not to mention the air we swallow while chewing gum), can create gas, bloating, digestive problems and ulcers.
- Eating Popcorn. Popcorn has long sense been touted as a health, or “diet” food because it is high in fiber and low in calories (when prepared properly at home). In my diet days, I ate hoards of popcorn. Here is the issue: If you eat popcorn, you have likely noticed and have been frustrated by those little kernels that get stuck between your teeth, no? The same goes for your digestive tract. Popcorn is actually very irritating to the system and those little kernels get trapped, contributing to small, bulging pouches that can form in the lining of your digestive system— the diverticula. Popcorn is also very low in water, so unlike vegetables that naturally contain water and fiber, all of that fiber can be slow to move throughout the 25 feet of your intestines. When food is slow to move, it causes bloating, constipation and sluggish, irritated and inflamed bowels.
- Snacking on fruit. I have often had clients come to me and say: “But I am eating so clean. Why do I feel bloated after: insert— (having a bowl of berries for dessert), (a tangerine before dinner), (an apple with lunch)…” Here is why: While some of my clients are perfectly fine eating a mid-day apple, and most certainly this would be preferred for kiddos, the issue with snacking on fruit after a heavier meal is natural fermentation in the stomach. If say, you have eaten a salad with grilled chicken and avocado at noon, that meal will still be in the process of digesting 2-3 hours later when you are grabbing for that apple. I love apples. Apples make me happy. However, I am not one of those nutritionists that will tell you to eat an apple with protein. Fruit is a very simple food. It contains one ingredient. It is rich in hydrating water, vitamins, minerals, fiber and naturally occurring sugars. Fruit can digest quite quickly when consumed on an empty stomach (which is why healthcare practitioners do not want diabetics consuming it alone) but combined with heavier foods, it naturally ferments, slowing the digestive process. I would rather my clients have a few bites of dark chocolate, or a few spoonfuls of a delicious ice cream, post dinner, than a bowl of berries. Stick with the berries for breakfast.
- Drinking liquid with meals. I will keep this one simple. Drinking liquids with meals dilutes digestive enzymes. Digestive enzymes, both created by the body and naturally occurring in “whole” foods, are necessary for complete and proper digestion. Ideally, drink 30 minutes prior and post meals. Staying hydrated is important, especially when it comes to not overeating, but ideally do not consume water with food.
- Your smoothie. Oh gosh. Where to start on this one. Somewhere along the line we seem to have come to the conclusion that the more superfood ingredients we add to our smoothies, the better. While blending food absolutely makes it easier to digest, the unnatural combination of so many ingredients, also usually coupled with a processed protein powder and fruit, can create digestive discomfort. Try simplifying your smoothies and see how you feel. Consume them alone and not along side a full breakfast.