What we eat profoundly affects our health and well-being. Obesity is at epidemic proportions in the United States and throughout the world. Many of us eat more than we require. We eat when we are rushed. We don’t understand how various food elements interact; and we are not as knowledgeable as we could be about various diet types and their effects on our health.
Most individuals enjoy sitting down and eating a delicious meal. Food provides an opportunity to socialize and, if the food is nutritious, it also supports a healthy body and mind. However, if individuals are stressed before, during, or after a meal, the nutrients they eat are not utilized as effectively as when people are relaxed. If stress also causes an individual to eat food that is not nutritious, health issues can result. Nutrition, stress, and the immune system are closely related.
Two-thirds of adults and one-third of children in the United States are overweight or obese. Left unchecked, the effects of this crisis on the nation’s health, health care costs, and productivity could be catastrophic. As a nation, we’re getting more obese every day, many of our children are obese, and our life expectancies are much shorter because of it, despite trying many types of diets, eating less, and moving more.
Our diet has a profound impact on our health and well-being as well as the health of the environment, yet many of us are not aware of where our food originated or how it was produced. We eat toxic, irradiated, or genetically altered foods, and we eat more than we need. How can we change our eating habits and become more conscious of what we eat, why we eat it, and how it is prepared?
Food is a dynamic force that interacts with our bodies on multiple levels: the physical level, the mental-emotional level, and the energetic or spiritual level. Conscious eating involves an awareness of the eating process from beginning to end, and it includes thinking about how dietary choices affect others. Any food choice that is truly good for an individual’s physical health and well-being will also be good for his/her spiritual well-being. Today’s food landscape is dominated by factory farms and food industry practices that violate spiritual principles, as well as human and animal rights, and damage the health of the planet.
An important element of health is the ability to understand what is in the food we eat. Knowing how to read and understand food labels can help individuals make healthier food choices. Many consumers do not fully understand what the labels on their food means in terms of nutritional value or the way the food was produced, raised, and manufactured. With this knowledge, understanding the labels becomes easier and making healthy choices are the result.
While modern medicine has produced many scientific advances, one of the most important “advances” in health and medicine has been the recognition of the value of botanicals, herbs, and herbalism. After all, nature and plants have been an essential part of everyday life since the beginning of recorded history. Used for medicines, clothing, food, and in religious ceremonies, in many health belief systems, plants are considered a gift of nature and valued for their healing effects.
Most Americans consume far more sugar than they require, and this contributes to obesity as well as many types of diseases. The role of sugar in the American diet is an important one, and understanding its effect on the body and its role in inflammation and disease can significantly affect one’s health. Alternatives to refined sugar are numerous, but are they safe and effective? Not all sweeteners are created equal and it is important to understand which ones are generally accepted as safe and which ones may threaten one’s health.
Probiotics are live microbes (bacteria) believed to be beneficial for the host organism. They are the same or very similar to bacteria already in the body. The lower digestive track is filled with a complex and diverse community comprised of millions of these microbes. They are used globally to improve the health and well-being of animals and humans. Sales of probiotic supplements have soared in recent years on the basis of intriguing research that demonstrates potential benefits for many chronic conditions, including cancer. With the rise in interest in integrative health as well as complementary and alternative therapies, this trend is likely to continue.