3 WAYS TO CREATE BETTER GUT HEALTH AT WORK
When it comes to gut health, the priority is to be free from bloating, pain and discomfort. So many times, I have suffered from one or more of these symptoms, and probably you too at some point in your life. This is because when it comes to food choices, we often find ourselves eating foods that are not suitable for us.
As a society, we are tending to consume a higher percentage of processed foods, filled with preservatives, additives and colourants. We are also often in a hurry, and we end up grabbing the first thing that picks our interest, and it might not be necessarily the healthiest option. Although occasional consumption of processed foods might not have a great effect on the body, when happens often can have a negative impact on the gut flora, compromising our digestive health.
Is the answer to cook everything at home from scratch? If you have time, it’s great to prepare your own food, but the reality is that many of us cannot (or at least cannot do it 100% of the time). Eat a healthy, balanced diet is possible even if you often have to rely on ready-made foods, you just need some guidance.
The three points below are great suggestions that you can implement from today.
1.INCREASE VARIETY. It is so easy to get the same thing every day, but you end up missing out on taste and nutrients! Each food has a unique combination of vitamins, minerals and plant compounds that we need to thrive, and by eating the same types of foods day after day, we risk missing out on important ones (this, when chronic, can lead to malnutrition). Try to have different meals most days or at least add different elements to the same meal. We often find ourselves eating similar foods either because we like the taste or because something is easy to prepare.
If you are cooking your own lunch, then aim to rotate the foods that you buy, experiment with seasonal produce (which is also cheaper) and get at least 3 different foods with every meal. Some examples are quinoa with olives and tomatoes; grilled chicken with sweet potatoes and green salad; steamed kale with feta and red peppers; vegetable frittata with green salad. If you are adventurous, take inspiration from other culture and experiment with new ingredients, food combinations and spices, the result might positively surprise you!
Need ideas for a supermarket lunch? It can be as easy as a sandwich with a side of carrots and hummus; a mixed salad with a pouch of cooked quinoa/lentils; salmon chunks with guacamole, cherry tomatoes and cooked rice. In many supermarkets there are now packed fresh fruit and veggies ready to eat, and also pre-cooked lentils, legumes and grains, which are perfect when you don’t have time to cook but still want to have a wholesome meal.
2.OPTIMAL WATER INTAKE. Whenever we talk about health, we must talk about maximising fluid intake. Water makes about 60 to 70% of our body, and every single cell needs water to survive, in fact we would die after just about 3 days without it. Water also helps to get rid of toxins by flushing them out via sweat, faeces and urine, hence if we don’t drink enough, we might end up accumulating them in the body. Some of the fluids that we need to survive come from food, but the vast majority come from drinks.
What are the options? I would always prioritise pure, filter water or spring mineral water for most of my drinks and add some flavours throughout the day. An herbal tea is great during the winter months, as herbs can add beneficial properties on top of warming up the body. During the summer months a squeeze of lemon/lime juice or some mint leaves can be very refreshing. Adding fresh fruit and herbs is another smart move to make the drinking experience more pleasurable. Keep a full refillable water bottle next to your desk and alternate it with hot or cold beverages. Whatever you choose to drink, just make sure you keep sugary beverages at minimum.
3.MINDFUL EATING. When eating in front of the screen or when stressed, we are less engaged with the food in front of us, and this often translates into a poor appetite perception, making us more prone to overeating. We are also less likely to appreciate the food that we eat, as we don’t pay attention to taste, texture and smell (if you ever had a meal in front of a screen and forgot what you just eat, then you know what I mean).
Try as much as possible to take a break when eating, even for just 10 minutes. Put down the phone and look at the food, smell it and taste each bite. When feeling stressed or overwhelmed, try a round of deep breaths before a meal, as stress can inhibit peristalsis, that is the involuntary movement of the digestive muscles that push the food along the digestive system. When peristalsis is impaired then we might struggle to digest food properly.
Although they seem like easy steps to take, it might take several weeks to implement some or all the suggestions above. Be kind to yourself and let body and mind adjust to the changes gradually. Each step you take shows a commitment to yourself, be proud of it. If you get stuck, or need more guidance, I am here to help!