Most of us aim to live a ‘healthy’ life, but quite often the busy-ness and stressors in our lives can see us compromising these good intentions and making less healthy choices for the sake of convenience. It’s not just food we’re talking about here.  In fact, there are a number of factors that contribute to, or detract from, your health.

We understand that no one is perfect and things will slip from time to time, but there are certain things that should always be prioritized for good health. Our Food Matters Practitioners have shared their 7 non-negotiables when it comes to health and the benefits they provide to our inner and outer wellbeing.

Let’s get started!

1. Sleep

It sounds simple, and something most people enjoy doing, but hardly any of us get enough of it! More than 40 percent of Australians get too little sleep to feel rested and able to function at their best, while only 8 percent are lucky enough to get more than 9 hours. This is cause for concern with sleep playing a vital role in mental health, physical health, quality of life and even safety.

If you’re sleep deficient, you’ll notice a significant disadvantage in brain function and your inner wellbeing. This can cause trouble making decisions, solving problems, controlling emotions and increased adverse reactions to coping with change. Further studies have also made correlations between sleep deficiency, depression, suicide, and risk-taking behavior.

And if that wasn’t proof enough to get a good night’s rest, Dermatogist Dr. Heidi A. Waldorf notes that beauty sleep is not only real, it plays a pivotal role in our skin regeneration. “Think of sleep time as rest, regenerate, and repair time” and if you don’t get enough of it, “your appearance will pay the price in the form of puffy eyes and flare-ups of whatever your dermatologic issue might be”.

2. Nourishing, Real Food

Treating your body like a temple is easier said than done when deadlines are pressing or life circumstances overwhelm. However, it’s in your best interest to feed your body nutrient-rich whole foods as it’s the only way your body obtains physical energy.

While many may argue that they don’t have time to prepare meals and find it easier to opt for ready-made processed food, the short-lasting benefits of a convenient snack are far outweighed by the health benefits of a real meal.

The key to better energy, greater vitality and a focused mind lies through whole, hand-prepared, fresh foods.

To make ‘real food’ more convenient, try meal prepping a week’s worth of food on a weekend so you’re ready for whatever the days ahead throw at you. With quality food ready to go, you’ll not only save time but you’ll also be better equipped to manage busy, stressful days.

3. Positive Thinking

Positive thinking is about finding the silver lining in a bad situation, looking at the glass as half full, and ultimately finding the opportunity in the cards you are dealt.

What we call the ‘power’ in positive thinking has been scientifically linked to increased mindfulness, purpose in life, social support and decreased illness symptoms. Positive thinkers can also reap the increased benefits of longer, more fulfilled lives with optimists living on average 7.5 years longer than subjects who were of a pessimistic nature. Other benefits also include lower levels of distress, lower rates of depression, better coping skills during hardships and better cardiovascular health – to name a few.

4. Movement

We’ve known for a long time that exercise and movement are part of a healthy lifestyle, but did you also know that movement can impact your mental and emotional health? Movement and mood are intrinsically linked; when you’re tired, lethargic or just plain exhausted, you can be physically affected and move slower. Similarly, the way you move can affect your brain, too!

Aerobic exercise can reduce your levels of anxiety by calming your brain’s “flight or fight” reaction. This can assist your body’s reactive system in dealing with stress-related issues through developing a tolerance for such symptoms as a rapid heartbeat – making issues such as what nut milk to buy at the supermarket a breeze.

Meditative movement has been shown to alleviate depressive symptoms through a type of exercise which interconnects your brain with your bodily sensations, position in space and your gut feelings.

5. Getting Out Into Nature

“Green Therapy” (also known as eco-therapy) is fast becoming a practice adopted by many psychologists and nature enthusiasts alike, with recent scientific studies showing increased benefits of outdoor immersion. New findings from the University of Essex reveal that Eco-therapy improves mental wellbeing, improves physical health, boosts self-esteem and reduces social isolation. These are all important factors that can both improve mental health and prevent mental health problems to start with.

Nature immersion can also assist the large majority of us that live in a high-tech society, creating what author Richard Louv coins “Nature Deficit Disorder”. Louv believes that reconnecting with ‘green’ can help lift depression and improve energy while protecting and enhancing the health of individuals experiencing chronic mental, emotional and physical health difficulties.

6. Greens

As we discussed in our previous article Curious To Try a Plant-Based Diet, eating greens is flattering on both our waistlines and inner wellbeing. Recent studies show that plant-based diets have a direct correlation in ameliorating insulin resistance, including promotion of a healthy body weight.

Additionally, a plant-based diet can also prevent cataract and macular degeneration along with protecting your skin from sun damage and stimulating the production of collagen.

7. Ditching Gluten

Gluten is a protein found mostly in wheat, rye, spelt, barley, kamut, bulgur, and triticale. This appropriately named protein is glue-like in nature and is often an ingredient used to hold food together.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past few years, you might have noticed cafés, supermarkets and restaurants opting for various “gluten-free” alternatives on their menu or shelves. This is largely due to the bad rap gluten has been getting over scientific research suggesting it is largely to blame for various medical conditions including leaky gut, nutrient deficiencies, weight gain, dangerous visceral fat and more.

By reducing your exposure to wheat and gluten you can also reduce your risk of leaky gut and the related chronic health conditions while encouraging a healthy microbiome and regular bowel movements – keeping you on top of your A-game.

So there you have it! Our 7 non-negotiables when it comes to your health. If you would like more information on ways to keep your health in check, speak to one of our Food Matters Health Practitioners to help you reach your health goals.

Tell us your non-negotiables in the comments below.