As I mentioned in my previous post, aside from yoga, there are 4 other factors that are responsible for our overall well-being. One of those 4 factors is “diet”.  Nutrition and diet is paramount for a healthy body and brain. It is very important to get to know your body and identify the type of food that is compatible with your body type and temperament.  Depending on your age, weight, gender, body type and your overall health, you need to find the right balance of nutrients from each food group to achieve maximum health benefits. Not considering allergies and specific health issues, a balanced diet generally contains food from each of the following food groups:

  1. Protein
  2. Fruit, vegetables and legumes
  3. Milk and dairy products
  4. Starchy foods such as bread, rice, potatoes, pasta, etc.… And last and the least (literally):
  5. “Sometimes foods”:  This food group is high in fat, sugar and/or salt and they have very little to no nutritional value. They are usually highly processed and packaged like chips, pastries, ice cream, soda, fast food.  You are better off without them but if you decide to have any, a very small amount of what you eat should be made up from this food group.

I am going to add one more item to the above list and that is “WATER”.  I Know…you are probably saying water is not food but believe me, it can solve many of our health, diet and weight issues; and let me explain why:

The truth is, most people confuse thirst and hunger, often mistaking the former for the latter. Clinical studies have shown that 37% of people mistake hunger for thirst because thirst signals can be weak.  So what happens is most people keep eating food (when their body doesn’t need it) and that results in weight gain; and so many other issues rise as a result of not getting the much needed water to their system. If you are experiencing any of the followings, you need more water:

  • Dry skin
  • Feeling sluggish
  • Dry-eyes
  • Increased heart rate
  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness

Drinking water is very effective in suppressing the  appetite so you will feel fuller and eat less.  Give it a try…Before each meal, or when you feel hungry or you crave junk food, drink some water first…you will be amazed how easy it is to watch your portions when you are not thirsty.  Drinking plenty of water also prevents fluid retention, because your body won’t try to retain water if it’s getting enough.

Water is essential to our entire system.  Our brain is 80% water, our muscles (including our heart) are 75% water, our blood is 83% water, our lungs are 90% water, our skin is 64% water, and even our bones are 30% water!

So now you see that it’s not just your body that needs water.  When you hydrate your brain, you will be able to think faster, be more focused, and experience greater clarity and creativity. Water is also essential for delivering nutrients to the brain and for removing toxins.  One study shows “Dehydration will induce the decrease of whole brain volume”…DECREASE OF WHOLE BRAIN VOLUME?!…That sounds scary…I don’t know about you but I need my entire volume.

Going back to diet, moderation is the key to a healthy diet

But what does moderation mean? It means eating only as much food as your body needs. You should feel satisfied at the end of a meal, but not stuffed. The followings can help eating in moderation:

Eat slowly and chew thoroughly: It takes a few minutes for your brain to tell your body that it has had enough food, so eat slowly and stop eating before you feel full.  Chewing your food thoroughly not only slows you down, It also improves your digestion and gives you the maximum amount of nutrients from your food.  In Ayurveda and Iranian Traditional Medicine it is recommended that chewing each bite of food a minimum of 32 times, or until it’s liquefied, is the key to optimal well-being.

Drink plenty of water: Stay hydrated and drink often so you don’t confuse thirst for hunger.

Opt in for smaller portions: By serving your meals on smaller plates or bowls, you can trick your brain into thinking it’s a larger portion.  Your serving of meat, fish, or chicken should be the size of a deck of cards and half a cup of mashed potato, rice, or pasta is all you need for your carbs.

Limit buying “Sometimes Food”: Be careful about the foods you keep on hand.  “Your healthy diet begins with your grocery shopping habits”.  It is much easier to eat healthy when you don’t have junk snacks readily available at home.

Practice “Mindful Eating”:  Mindful eating goes beyond the individual.  Be present at the moment and be aware of the effect and the impact of the food you are eating on your body and the world around you.  In other words, mindful eating means being fully attentive to your food—as you buy, prepare, serve, and consume it.  The ideal mindful-eating food choices are similar to the Mediterranean diet—centered on fruits, vegetables, whole grains, seeds and nuts.