skip the fads here's how to nourish the soul to live well

Skip the Fads: Here’s How to Nourish the Soul to Age Well

Let’s talk about health and wellness. It’s definitely a big business, globally – roughly worth $4.2 trillion representing 5.3 % of the global economic output.

Why is it big business? It’s because we’re on a never-ending quest for eternal youth. The health and wellness industry knows our weak point.

A simple Instagram search for the hashtag “healthyfood” brings up 121 million posts; “healthylifestyle” gives you 127 million posts and “healthyeating” shows 44 million posts. Could you say that we are a little obsessed with finding the magic bullet for finding optimal health?

And what exactly are we searching for – is it a shortcut to losing weight fast, gaining more energy and focus, eliminating wrinkles and saggy skin or preventing diseases? Ultimately, is there a drive to live to a vibrant 120 years or beyond? You gotta wonder what we’re really after.

But, I have a nagging suspicion that many common health trends are leading us astray. In fact, they could be diverting us from the timeless principles that actually contribute to healthy, graceful aging.

Let’s cut through the noise surrounding these very noticeable trends:

Gluten is Evil - So Go Gluten-Free

Of course, while some individuals may genuinely require a gluten-free diet due to Celiac disease, sensitivities or a general intolerance, restricting gluten has become uber-trendy over the past 20 years.

About 1% of the American population is truly dealing with Celiac disease, yet more than 20% of Americans are on a gluten-free diet, perhaps to manage an autoimmune or digestive condition or by choice to lose weight.

Gluten, a structural protein comprised of prolamin and glutelin, is typically found in wheat, barley and rye.

The fact is, unnecessarily cutting out these grains may lead to deficiencies in fiber, calcium and B-vitamins, which are crucial for overall health. And the GF products you’re substituting with may contain additives, sugars, artificial preservatives, seed oils and synthetic ingredients that could do your body harm in the long run, including weight gain. Yes, that darn weight gain no one wants more of at midlife.

GF food is also up to 242% more expensive than regular gluten products. Instead, opt for a balanced diet with a variety of organic whole grains for comprehensive nutrition – your wallet will thank you too.

Cow Milk is Bad - So, Drink Soy or Almond Milk Instead

Ok, there are definitely more people being diagnosed with lactose intolerance who simply cannot drink cow milk. And more people are turning vegan. And as a result, we’ve seen an uptick in the consumption of soy, almond, cashew and rice milk at the expense of cow milk.

But here’s a bit of a reality check: fresh, organic, grass-fed wholesome cow milk has been consumed by people worldwide for centuries and it remains a good source of calcium and protein. Don’t give it up completely unless you’ve got a medical reason or you’ve opted for a vegan lifestyle.

The Protein Powder Craze

Protein powders have become synonymous with fitness and health, but relying solely on them can be a shortcut to missing out on the diverse array of nutrients found in whole foods.

Older adults over 60 typically need 45-68 g of protein each day. As we age, eating good sources of protein becomes increasingly important to maintain muscle mass and prevent sarcopenia (or muscle degeneration).

Eat a little more animal or plant-based real protein if you’re craving it – why consume a protein powder that’s likely been sitting on a store shelf for a while? Sure, it might be convenient to throw a couple of scoops into a smoothie, but it’s not fresh!

Could it be that we’ve been mindlessly contributing to a $5.28 billion market without giving our protein consumption much thought?

Many reports, including this PubMed study from 2018, indicate that the best whole-food protein sources like lean meats, legumes and nuts offer not only essential protein but also valuable vitamins and minerals that help older adults age well.

Vitamin Water Fad

Yes, this one is most definitely a fad that makes me cringe. The allure of vitamin-enhanced water often masks hidden sugars and artificial additives lurking within them.

Research and common sense suggests that the best way to obtain essential vitamins is through a well-rounded diet rich in fruits and vegetables. Opt for water infused with fresh fruit and herbs instead, ensuring true, organic and nutritious hydration without unnecessary and harmful extras.

"Healthy" Snacks

Snacking is a multi-billion dollar industry with numerous options claiming to be “healthy” – you know, they’re low-fat, fat-free, low-calorie or cholesterol-free. These so-called healthy snacks include, and are not limited to baked chips, vegetable chips, gluten-free cookies, protein bars, even “organic” yogurt with fruit. All of these items are highly processed, often laden with sugars, extra salt, preservatives and seed oils, and they lack the nutritional punch of whole foods. 

If you’re dealing with a chronic health condition, these “healthy” snacks could actually be making your health worse, and could generate other side effects including weight gain and diabetes.

Why not return to the simplicity of raw nuts, fruits and vegetables for nourishing snacks that support both physical and cognitive health? There’s probably a nugget of truth in the saying that “an apple a day keeps the doctor away” – just saying.

The Brown Grains Myth

How have we come to believe that all grains must be brown for optimal health? I believe we have dismissed white grains to a large extend, which have been consumed across many Asian cultures for centuries. The fact is, both brown and white rice can be part of a healthy diet. Research shows that it’s more about the overall quality of the diet than the color of the grains. 

Lab-Made Meat and Plant-Based Alternatives

The recent rise of lab-made meat and plant-based burger alternatives mirror the quest for healthier choices that are better for us and the environment. But here’s the big question: do you really know what you’re eating when it’s lab-made?

What are the real long-term health effects of consuming these fake food products? They typically contain additives like methylcellulose, soy lecithin, sunflower lecithin along with seed oils and a hefty amount of added salt. We just don’t know the impact these ingredients will have on our bodies down the road.

A well-balanced diet that includes real lean meats, plant-based proteins like lentils and legumes will provide a healthy spectrum of nutrients essential for aging well.

If you really want a plant-based burger, make your own from scratch – you’ll know exactly what’s in it.

Overreliance on Supplements

In the past 25 years, we have seen a proliferation of the global supplement industry. Why is that? Has the quality of our food combined with our modern lifestyle, deteriorated to a such a low point we need a handful of pills to get through each day?

Now, I’m not knocking all supplements out there – many of them do give us vital nutrients we need to manage a chronic health condition. But, make it a point to check your supplements for filler ingredients and to ensure they are truly the real thing and not synthetic chemicals you’re taking.

Even better – get most of your vitamins, minerals and essential nutrients from whole food sources instead.

Mindful Eating

Have you noticed how preoccupied we’ve become with the consuming part of eating? We’re constantly on the hunt for the best food promising quick and better nutrition that we’ve forgotten how to eat.

If you want your food to truly nourish you, and to age well, slow down and pay attention to your eating habits.

Stop eating on the go – and that includes while driving, working at your desk or running out the door with your mouth full.

Recognize your hunger cues, and sit and eat a meal with your full attention on it. Savor each bite, take in the aroma, and pay attention to when you become full. Make it a point to eat with other family members and friends on a regular basis (remember family dinner time each evening?) These are simple strategies for weight management, improved digestion and your overall well-being.

Call me old-fashioned (and I’m totally fine with that), but I believe the secret to aging well requires a return to the wisdom of balanced, home-cooked meals.

There are no trendy shortcuts when it comes to healthy eating and longevity.

The human mind, body and spirit come to life when you eat a colorful array of fruits and vegetables each day, some organically sourced protein, dairy, healthy fat and wholesome grains.

Getting nourishment naturally, in moderation and eating mindfully are the timeless cornerstones of healthy aging – along with getting daily exercise, keeping stress in check, avoiding stimulants and getting enough sleep.

Wouldn’t you agree it’s time to return to simple, wholesome eating? Let’s anchor ourselves in the proven principles of nutrition that continue to stand the test of time. And you’ll be on your way to living really well for the rest of your life.

And that’s food for thought if we want to live a long and healthy life.

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