What, How, and When You Eat Boosts Wellness
One third of the body’s immune system is located in the gut. The balance of your gut microbes and whether inflammation is instigated or quelled depends on some basic food habits. The food choices you make, the timing of those meals and snacks, and other feeding variables all help to strongly determine how “well” you are in terms of limiting illness and optimizing health.
Restrictive diets are not necessarily the answer, unless they offer mostly whole foods. Sure calorie intake is very important when it comes to weight control, but at the core of the diet you need quality foods that help to optimize health and limit disease risk. Unfortunately, many people struggle with diets – they find the rules difficult to follow long term. One expert recommends at least taking breaks from your regular diet to engage with an inflammation-limiting diet for periods of time, before going back (for a while) to your regular diet.
Alternating your diet can help to lower inflammation for periods of time. It’s also a less extreme way of balancing less nutritious food choices with periods of healthier eating.
Another approach is to eat “clean and healthy” 90% of the time, and enjoy treats (red meat, alcohol, processed foods, and desserts) 10% of the time. Or fill your diet daily with fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts, seeds, legumes, fat free dairy, eggs, fish, and then add some small treats.
One dietary approach that is considered filling and tasty is the Mediterranean-style of eating. Countless studies find that this dietary approach can help to limit weight and risk of chronic diseases because it offers whole foods, variety and is quite balanced in nutrients. A Mediterranean-style diet can also be served to the whole family, whereas most restrictive diets are appropriate for adult members of the family, but not the children or growing teens.
If you are willing to shift your diet then it’s also important to factor in your personality and your work/life profile.
Do you do better with sudden, significant changes? A dramatic diet shift, keeping in mind that you will still include some treats may be the better approach for you.
Do you do better with slower-paced changes? Swapping out some foods weekly for healthier options and taking time to forge this new dietary approach may be a better approach for you.
Do you travel a lot for work? You likely need a diet plan that will work well with eating out a lot. Portion control may be the biggest tool that will help you navigate away-from-home eating.
Have you decided to revamp your family’s diet? Then you may want to poll all family members on food likes and dislikes and work on each of the six food groups (fruits, vegetables, grains, fats, dairy and proteins) to find choices that everyone can enjoy over a period of several weeks to several months.
The goal is to incorporate healthier foods, in reasonable portions sizes into your daily life, while still enjoying some select treats. Eating this way will support the delicate balance of microbes in your gut, help to limit inflammation, and help to reduce disease risk.