Eat Smart and Strong

This month I’m sharing highlights from my recent presentation, “Eat Smart and Strong” at the Danville Senior Center.

Send us a note if your school, company or community center would benefit from a live presentation about how nutrition affects our health.

Today’s focus is how to sharpen our mind and strengthen our body and immune system.

One of the beauties of nutrition is that when we eat to support one aspect of our health, our choices also benefit the rest of our bodies. I like to focus on digestive health because nearly every illness can be linked to digestion in one way or another.

This is interesting when you consider that most people are too busy to sit down and really chew their food when they eat. We can’t digest if we don’t slow down. We must relax and chew for the automatic production of enzymes, stomach acid and bile to happen. If you are anxious or speedy at the beginning of a meal, acknowledge how you feel. Then take a couple of deep breaths and give yourself permission to slow down. Remember that eating is an act of self-care. Eating more slowly will allow you to really appreciate your food.

Everyone knows vegetables are good for you, but why, exactly? Every color of fruit and vegetable is associated with a different range of nutrients and antioxidants,  which are important to fight inflammation and repair tissue.

Our body needs to maintain a slightly alkaline pH around 7.4 to function. If our bodies become too acidic, we pull minerals from our bones to compensate and inflammation ensues. Stress, (there’s that need to relax again,) pollution, food sensitivities, caffeine, alcohol and sugar acidify our body. Most fruits and vegetables make our body more alkaline.

Those of you who suffer from acid reflux are wondering how this relates to your condition. While these two issues are related, the connection is not direct. Oddly enough, that little sphincter muscle at the base of your esophagus might not be tightening because you don’t have enough acid in your stomach. Acid blockers and antacids further neutralize your stomach acid, and soon you are unable to digest protein. This also prevents the absorption of minerals, which are needed to alkalinize your blood and support your body in hundreds of ways. So it’s totally possible to have too little stomach acid and too much acid in the blood stream at the same time, and this dynamic becomes more and more common as we age. Many of my clients overcome acid reflux by identifying the triggers that cause symptoms.

We also need stomach acid to absorb B12 (cobalamin.) B12 is so important, it’s the only B vitamin our body can store. The body can’t repair the damage caused by a B12 deficiency. Dementia, lethargy and damage to the nervous system are all hallmarks of this issue. The only food source of B12 is animal protein. Rumors of yeast and green algae as sources are untrue, and you really can’t afford to make a mistake with this one. Supplementation with pills won’t cut it, especially if the product contains the cheaper cyancobalamin form. Shots are scary and expensive, so I recommend the more easily absorbed methylcobalamin sublingual form, which is directly absorbed into the bloodstream.

In previous posts I’ve discussed the importance of reading ingredients labels, or better yet, choosing foods that don’t have labels at all. The same is true for the products we apply to our body. It’s almost comical how the label will brag that it contains cocoa butter, and yet the prized oil will appear halfway down the ingredient list, showing that there is hardly any cocoa butter in the container. The other ingredients are mysterious and hard to pronounce, and worst of all, the product may cost as much or even more than real cocoa butter!

We do absorb what we put on our skin, so as my favorite nutrition professor, Laura Knoff used to say, “If you can’t eat it, don’t put it on your body.” Synthetic perfumes can affect our immune and nervous system as well. So give your body a break and use the good stuff.

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