Some Universal Truths About Food (In my humble opinion)
So often, I work with people to create a personal menu of foods that will be helpful for them to heal and optimize their digestion and overall health. My background includes training in a number of "food as medicine" paradigms and most plans are a combination of those paradigms.
However, there are a few healing elements to food that are beyond choosing what we eat. There is so much value in approaching how we eat to help optimize our health and specifically, digestion. These guidelines are universal to any paradigm of prescriptive eating. I call them "Universal Food Truths" and work them into all plans.
The First Truth is timing in our meals. Our bodies love regular meal times and portion sizes, so predictability in timing can be amazingly helpful. This may be a schedule that is unique to you, but making sure you are prepared to eat at generally the same times can help your body stay
The Second Truth is to eat in a calm setting. Digestion is so much better when we stop multitasking and eat in a relaxed, enjoyable environment. Think about the last time you ate lunch: did you eat at all? Did you eat in front of your computer, working? Did you eat a snack bar in the car as you rushed from one commitment to another? Or nervous system is divided into 2 parts- the sympathetic, or "Fight or Flight" side and the parasympathetic, or "Rest and Digest" side. I am sure you can guess which one is responsible for relaxation and see how it is connected to digestion. Taking time to eat, chewing each bite fully and being present to our meal not only helps digestion but increases our ability to be mindful about how full we are and how much we need to eat to feel satiated.
The Third Truth for healing digestion is to enjoy the food you eat with both your tastebuds and your eyes. The Chinese have a saying, "We eat first with our eyes". This means that our experience of food begins with seeing the colors and presentation. Think about your desire to eat when something is beautifully plated and compare it to a meal that has been rushed and slapped on a takeout container. The healing property of food begins here, with the eyes, where we have a positive association with our food. Our meals must also taste appealing. Yes, perfectly healthy food can help in so many ways but if the food is not something you enjoy, then it looses a huge healing property in the mind-body connection. There is a balance between always eating the "right" foods and enjoying the foods that we love in moderation. The feeling about what we are eating is just as important as the nutrient content of the foods we eat. This is not to say that sometimes, we may benefit from eating foods we aren't the biggest fans of, but mostly, we should feel good about what we are consuming.
So, during this holiday season, don't feel guilty about enjoying foods (in moderation!) that may not be chockfull of nutrients. The connection they bring and the enjoyment can be healing in and of itself. Of course, remember to wear a smile when we eat, because that will always increase the healing potential of our food. Happy Thanksgiving!