For pillars of wellness part 1: nutrition, let’s talk about how nutrition is the core of any functional wellness plan. I consider there to be 4 pillars of wellness including Nutrition, Exercise, Stress Management, and Adventure. All of these pillars work together to strengthen you as a whole. While there may be other aspects of health worth paying attention to, managing these 4 pillars makes everything easier.
The truth is you can’t exercise yourself healthy, stress management yourself healthy or accomplish (adventure) yourself healthy. Without nutrition, all of these other pillars become stress at worst and ineffective at best. If you are not eating the foods necessary to support your health you cannot thrive, recover well after exertion, and likely will gain weight. Also, if you are eating things that either damage or poison you, your health deteriorates and can quickly lead to death (in severe cases) or gradually promote inflammation, chronic disease, and eventually autoimmune diseases.
Support your body!
You need to find the foods that are essential to your health and wellbeing. Once you’ve found the core foods that you can eat daily, then you can experiment with other foods. Ideally, you want to consume an abundance of healthy fat, a large diversity of plants, and animals.
I’ve discussed this topic previously, so I will give the cliff notes. The healthiest fats you can consume are in order of their open bonds including Saturated fat, Monounsaturated fat, and Polyunsaturated Fat. The best animal sources of healthy fats include animals of all kinds including ruminants, fish, and birds, other healthy fat sources include coconut, olive, and avocado oils. Again, you can learn more about each of these fats in my previous article on the topic.
Diversity of plants
There are few people that would argue against eating plants (including whole fruit). The issue comes when the only food we try to eat are plants, there are just too many essential nutrients missing. There are a ton of nutrients to be found in plants but you can’t find ALL of the essential nutrients in plants.
A balance is necessary, without the nutrients in plants (and some anti-nutrients) pure animal consumption can become detrimental to our health, digestion can suffer, the gut biome becomes less diverse, and carcinogens from cooking animal products can accumulate (although, there is more danger in not consuming animals). Guess what, eating an abundance of plants with your protein and fat prevents consequences from consuming animals from occurring. Likewise, fat and protein can help to deactivate the self-defense mechanisms present in plants that could cause us harm.
The fiber in plants is also essential for maintaining a highly diverse gut biome. Without a diverse gut biome, your body can’t convert nutrients from the food we eat. A highly diverse gut biome also makes various enzymes necessary to support life and more fully digest protein and fiber. In addition, a diverse gut biome will also maintain our metabolisms, lower inflammation, enhance our immune systems, and support a healthy mood.
Why animals and not protein? I say this because the protein component of animals is not the end all be all. If you want all the benefits of eating animals, you want to consume “nose to tail” as much as possible. The organs of animals are rich in nutrients, minerals, and other healthy cofactors. The bones and cartilage are essential for healing the gut and supporting hair, skin, and nails. Protein may be the least important nutrient in the animal, even if it is the tastiest. Depending on how adventurous you are I’m not opposed to insects either but as of now, I have yet to take the plunge myself.
There are some out there that would claim that grains and simple carbs are necessary, that we need upward of 150 – 200 grams of carbs a day. This is preposterous and only true for those that burn simple carbs exclusively as their sole fuel source. You don’t need a donut after a work out, you can do just fine eating an apple or banana. You can also take branched-chain amino acids or medium chain triglycerides to refuel after a workout, they break down at a rate similar to simple carbs. The image below sums up how we should start looking at nutrition.
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