Week 24 Blog-Foundation to Better Physical and Mental Health

Today, we will shift our focus to foundational information. A foundation as defined by Merriam Webster is -a basis or principle upon which something stands or is supported. To build anything in life- relationships, houses, businesses, church, organization etc.- there has to be something SOLID at its base for it to take shape. This is true for your well-being as well- physically, mentally and spiritually.

This world we live in can be stressful. Information is changing hourly and it is hard to keep up. We need to STOP right now. Clear your mind and assess your foundation. Three areas you need to focus on before adding anything else to your- to do list are Diet/ fueling, exercise/ MOVE and sleep.

A. Diet and nutrition (fueling)- The food we put into our body is its only fuel. The picture I give is like fueling your car. You put the correct fuel in the tank to assure you will have a vehicle to get you from point A to point B. If you do not FEEL like putting gas into your car- you must or suffer being stranded. Same goes with your body. Fuel it with junk- highly processed, high sugar, high saturated fat, low nutrient foods- what do you expect to happen over time? Your body will not run as efficiently as you think it should. It will clog, tire and inflame. The truth hurts some times. I know for reality has hit me square in the face plenty of times!!! So, let’s look at fueling as part of your foundation.

What you put into your mouth affect every aspect of your health. Over the past 23 weeks, RefineMEnt has provided practical advice to fueling your body better. It takes time for changes and I understand that. Taking the information given in this podcast and researching a healthy diet you can choose foods that fit in a healthy, well-balanced daily intake and also fit into your budget. By doing better, day by day, you can reduce your risk of many undesirable health conditions such as heart disease, stroke, obesity and diabetes. Several studies show that your diet can affect your mental health as well. Studies suggest that certain diets may reduce the risk of developing depression and anxiety.  I have provided a link to a study on my website. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32823562/

1.            Choose foods that are richly colored- deep greens, oranges, reds, purples, blues. They contain a anthocyanins type of flavonoid, a family of powerful antioxidants that fight the effects of aging and oxidative stress. The definition of anthocyanins is “blue, violet, or red flavonoid pigments found in plants. They help fight those wild child-free radicals that like to do damage. They protect your heart and help with your immune system and so much more! This is a great place to start in food decision making.  Think berries, purple/red grapes, red onion, red cabbage, certain apples and pomegranate for just a few ideas.

Dark greens- Salad greens, kale and spinach are rich in vitamins A, C, E and K, and broccoli, Bok choy and mustard are also rich in many of the B-vitamins. These vegetables also contain an abundance of carotenoids-antioxidants that protect cells and play roles in blocking the early stages of cancer. They also contain high levels of fiber, iron, magnesium, potassium and calcium. The dark greens supply a significant amount of folate, a B vitamin that promotes heart health and helps prevent certain birth defects. Studies have shown that eating 2 to 3 servings of green leafy vegetables per week may lower the risk of stomach, breast and skin cancer. These same antioxidants have also been proven to decrease the risk of heart disease. Eating dark green leafy vegetables is vital to a healthy, balanced diet. There are many ways to enjoy a meal with leafy greens: Make a salad, wrap it up: Make a wrap with tuna, chicken or turkey and add romaine lettuce, spinach, arugula, and other veggies for some extra flavor. Add to soup or a stir-fry. Eat them steamed or raw. Add them to an omelet for a little vitamin zing!

Perhaps one of the most appealing benefits of dark green leafy vegetables is their low calorie and carbohydrate contents and their low glycemic index. So add deep colored fruits and vegetables to your daily intake to start building that foundation.


2.Whole Grains-Whole grains or foods made from them contain all the essential parts and naturally-occurring nutrients of the entire grain seed in their original proportions. 100% of the original kernel – all of the bran, germ, and endosperm – must be present to qualify as a whole grain. Examples are Amaranth, Barley, Buckwheat, Corn, including whole cornmeal and popcorn, Millet, Oats, including oatmeal, Quinoa, Rice, both brown rice and colored rice, Rye, Sorghum (also called milo), Teff, Triticale, Wheat, including varieties such as spelt, emmer, farro, einkorn, Kamut®, durum and forms such as bulgur, cracked wheat and wheatberries, and Wild rice. Week 7 of the RefineMEnt podcast covered this area. Go back to review.



 ancient grains- The Whole Grains Council, generally define ancient grains as whole grains that are largely unchanged over the last several hundred years. Ancient grains are certainly more nutritious than refined grain products (like white flour or refined crackers). Many ancient grains thrive with lower levels of pesticides, fertilizers, and irrigation, making them a great choice to consumers. Sorghum, teff, millet, quinoa, amaranth, buckwheat, wild rice, einkorn, emmer/farro, Kamut®, and spelt are examples of ancient grains. Modern wheat (constantly bred and changed) is not an ancient grain.


 sprouted grains- Malted or sprouted grains containing all of the original bran, germ, and endosperm shall be considered whole grains as long as sprout growth does not exceed kernel length and nutrient values have not diminished. Sprouted grains are simply whole-grain seeds that have just begun to sprout. To catch the sprouts at just the right moment in the growing process, whole-grain seeds are typically soaked and then put in an environment with controlled amounts of warmth and moisture.  Kristina Secinaro, a registered dietitian at Harvard-affiliated Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center says “Sprouted grains have many health benefits. It’s the result of catching the sprouts during the germinating process. “This germinating process breaks down some of the starch, which makes the percentage of nutrients higher. It also breaks down phytate, a form of phytic acid that normally decreases absorption of vitamins and minerals in the body. So sprouted grains have more available nutrients than mature grains,” Secinaro says. Those nutrients include folate, iron, vitamin C, zinc, magnesium, and protein. Sprouted grains also may have less starch and be easier to digest than regular grains. “It may help people who are sensitive to digesting grains,” Secinaro says. You can find sprouted-grain goods (flours, breads, buns, muffins, tortillas, crackers, and even pizza crust) at a farmers’ market, or in a grocery store. They should be in a refrigerated or frozen section. If they’re not, they probably have preservatives in them, although sprouted quinoa or rice flour can be safely kept on the shelf.


If you want more information on these or more grains visit Oldways Whole Grain Counsel    https://wholegrainscouncil.org/whole-grains-101/whats-whole-grain-refined-grain/sprouted-whole-grains


The best way to ensure that you’re getting the full spectrum of nutrients available in nature is to eat a variety of different grain foods. After all, each whole grain has something different to offer (from the calcium in teff, to the soluble fiber in barley), making it hard to play favorites.


3.Lean proteins-The USDA’s definition of a lean meat protein is one that contains less than 10 grams of total fat and fewer than 4.5 grams or less of saturated fat per portion [100 grams].  It is important to have protein in your fueling because protein helps fill you up. Lean versions do this with less fat and fewer calories. Lean protein may be beneficial to maintain and build muscle because protein is an essential building block for muscles.  Here are wise choices- boneless skinless chicken breast, White-flesh fish — e.g., tilapia, cod, flounder and pollock — is protein rich and very lean, with only about 100 calories per 3.5-ounce serving. Lean beef provides an excellent source of protein and iron with fewer calories and less fat than non-lean meat sources. 95% lean or more counts as “lean protein., Tuna- less than two grams of fat per serving. It’s also a good source of omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin D and selenium., Shellfish, including shrimp- one serving of shrimp (not deep fried) provides more than half your daily recommended allowance of selenium and vitamin B12.  plain greek yogurt -packs 15 grams of protein per 6 ounces, compared to nine in regular yogurt. Avoid flavored yogurts (extra added sugar), but feel free to add fresh fruit, cinnamon or slivered almonds. Beans- (kidney. Pinto, black etc.) beans have five grams of protein in each half-cup. Use in soups, chili and casseroles. Tofu- it is a vegetarian’s go-to meat substitute. In a half-cup serving has nine grams protein with 4.5 grams of fat and only 75 calories. Farro-ancient grain has 10g protein in ½ cup cooked. Farro acts a lot like barley and can be used interchangeably in most recipes. Farro is a wheat product so contains gluten. I have a recipe on my website this week that utilizes Farro. Check it out! Cottage Cheese- Look for low fat options. Cottage cheese is exceptionally lean — less than five grams of fat,11 grams of protein and about 90 calories per cup serving.

4.Healthy fats- Dietary fat is essential to your health. It gives you energy and helps your body absorb fat-soluble vitamins. Look for the unsaturated fat. This tends to be liquid at room temperature. It's found in vegetable oils, fish and nuts. There are two main types of unsaturated fat: Monounsaturated fat. This is found in olive, canola, peanut, sunflower and safflower oils, and in avocados, peanut butter and most nuts. Polyunsaturated fat. This is found in sunflower, corn, soybean and cottonseed oils. It's also found in walnuts, pine nuts, flaxseed, and sesame, sunflower and pumpkin seeds. Omega-3s fall into this category and are found in fatty fish, such as salmon, herring and sardines. Even though unsaturated fats are the best choices, the KEY is limiting the portion sizes- Just a little! Tips to help- Limit processed foods, which often contain saturated fat, trim all fat from protein sources before cooking, use olive oil when you can.

5. Grill, bake, slow-cook more and fry less!

Gut Health- I have to add this because I truly believe your health is dependent on how healthy your digestive system or gut microbiota. The hundred trillion resident microorganisms, including bacteria, fungi, protozoa, and viruses, collectively referred to as microbiota have been found to work closely with the immune system and contribute to metabolic health. 70-80% of immune cells are present in the gut. Many factors influence how healthy your inner armor is: The gut microbiome may be influenced by multiple factors including: Activity level, Age, Alcohol use, Diet composition, Genetics, Medication use (e.g., antibiotics, NSAIDs,), Method of infant delivery and feeding, Stress, Tobacco use.

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33803407/Go back and listen to the RefineMEnt podcasts from week 10-12 to refresh your knowledge on the importance of a healthy gut microbiota. One powerful key is to incorporate prebiotics, probiotics and postbiotics into your nutrition routine! 

The first footing for a solid foundation is -Choose your fuel right- be smart for your health really does depend on it!

The next footing in your foundation is:

B. Exercise (MOVE)

Exercise is an important part of physical health. It is a cornerstone of health and benefits nearly every system in the body. Research tells us that it is also vitally important in promoting positive mental health by improving mood and reducing mental health symptoms. We sure need to get this news out to the world! Sustained cardiovascular exercise for 20 minutes or more is known to produce natural mood enhancing neurotransmitters called dopamine and endorphins. Dopamine is a small molecule neurotransmitter which is mainly responsible for movements and feeling of pleasure, sleep, improvement of memory, mood fixing, focus and attention, behavior, learning, and pain processing. Endorphin is a larger molecule of neuropeptide with the main function of pain relief. When endorphin secretions are low, it causes people to feel anxious and more susceptible to pain. High levels of Endorphin suppress pain and make you happy emotionally and physically. Endorphin secretion can be induced by proper exercises, meditation and by certain foods. https://www.differencebetween.com/difference-between-dopamine-and-vs-endorphins/   

Here are some foods that help increase your endorphin levels-spicy components in hot peppers and similar foods may trigger a pain sensation in the mouth, which prompts an increase in endorphins. This is great news for my sweet daughter-in-law, Alexa, who LOVES spicy foods! Eating dark chocolate can also boost endorphin levels. Cocoa powder and chocolate contain chemicals called flavonoids that appear to be beneficial to the brain. Good news but this is not a license to eat chocolate candy daily. The emphases is on DARK chocolate.

 So, you see, regular exercise can expel some of the stress energy that accumulates over your day. When we MOVE, we see immediate affects like reduced anxiety, lowered blood pressure, and better sleep.  We also can see long term benefits like better weight management, stronger bones, and a reduced risk of serious diseases. High intensity exercise decreases our appetite, often for at least 30 to 60 minutes after finishing a workout. Physical activity can help you feel more satisfied after a meal. Sedentary activities appear to have the opposite effect. Research has shown that people who spend more time watching television consume more calories and are more likely to be overweight.  It is recommended for adults (18+) to aim for 150 minutes per week of Moderate-intensity aerobic activity. Vigorous-intensity aerobic activity, aim for at least 75 minutes a week.

  https://health.gov/sites/default/files/2019-11/PAG_MYW_Adult_FS.pdf All ages and all body types benefit from physical activity.  So, make it family fitness fun! MOVE MORE- SIT LESS!! What counts? Whatever gets you moving!

Two footing secured- proper fueling and exercise. Let’s complete our health foundation with:

c. Sleep

Regular physical activity also boosts our ability to get a good night’s sleep because it gives the body is bit of a workout to make up for our sedentary lifestyle. But we have to time our workout to benefit restful sleep. A good workout can make you more alert, speed up your metabolism and energize you for the day ahead, but exercise right before bedtime can lead to a poor night’s sleep. Sleep experts recommend exercising at least three hours before bedtime. Exercising at this time is beneficial because body temperature is related to sleep. Body temperatures rise during exercise and it could take up to 6 hours to begin to drop. Because cooler body temperatures are associated with our ability to fall asleep, it’s important to allow the body time to cool off before going to bed. https://www.exmed.net/Diet-Exercise-and-Sleep  This is not an excuse NOT to exercise after work or in the late afternoon/evenings. You know your body best. The more intense your workout, your body temperature will rise higher than a moderate walk or yoga. Get in tune with your body and schedule your exercise/MOVE to be the most beneficial to your health!

The exact mechanisms of how sleep works, how sleep rejuvenates the body and mind is still much of a mystery. One thing sleep specialists and scientists do know is that adequate sleep is necessary for healthy functioning. Sleep regulates mood and is related to learning and memory functions. Experts say, on average, most adults need between 7-8 hours’ sleep a night.  Almost one third of Americans are getting less than 6 hours per night. This sleep deprivation increases the risk of health conditions like diabetes, heart disease, and stroke. Prolonged sleep deprivation can also affect concentration and other cognitive functions. When you are well rested, the events of the coming day can be dealt with in a positive manner.  Being rested helps improve our energy levels.  When energy levels are up, life’s challenges are more manageable and you will do more of what helps you to take good care of yourself like eating better and exercising. (You see a positive wellness cycle EAT_MOVE_SLEEP)? Like most areas in life, we must create good habits. Here are tips to assure great sleep- have a consistent bedtime routine, putting your smart phone or computer aside at least an hour before going to sleep (to avoid blue light stimulation), bring the lights down in your sleeping area – invest in black out curtains and avoiding caffeine after about 3pm, don’t eat too late: Be sure to give your body time to digest after eating large meals, exercise during your day and try exercising outdoors- as exposure to natural light during the day can help keep your body in sync with its natural sleep rhythms. All great ideas to incorporate starting today. For more on this topic look to my RefineMEnt podcast week 9.