Pre-Socratic Greek philosopher, mathematician, and astronomer Thales of Miletus came up with the saying “a sound mind in a sound body” while explaining the close links between a strong body, mental equilibrium and the ability to enjoy life. In other words, we need to be healthy so we can unleash our full potential and really relish all the good things life has to offer.
While most people usually kick off their get healthy routines as part of their New Year’s resolutions, spring can be just as perfect. It’s a time of new life (and new possibilities), making it the ideal season for physical activity, which provides your body with energy and vitality, can prevent or minimise complications from chronic diseases and boosts immunity. We can’t think of anything that can amp up the feel good factor more than a walk or jog in the great outdoors while surrounded by some beautiful-smelling, colourful blooms. What’s more, being outdoors actually makes you want to work out more and for longer periods. Plus, with all those light-filled evenings, you don’t have to worry about having enough time or getting too hot.
Good nutrition is of course the other integral part of maintaining a healthy body and mind so we can fully embrace life. Your food choices affect your health, and by combining physical activity with a nutritious diet, you reduce the risk of chronic diseases and promote your overall wellbeing. With that in mind, it’s great knowing spring is the time to visit the farmer’s market and get out all those refreshing, vibrant and innovative salad and barbecue recipes.
Joumana Dabbagh, a nutritionist at Nestlé Middle East, shares four easy healthy eating habits for an improved life and gives tips on how to follow them through. The great news is with a little culinary creativity, you can easily turn the nutritious into the delicious!
1. Eat Fat, Sugar and Salt Moderately
- Invest in a wok and perfect your stir-fry skills. By cooking in a wok, you’re using 10 times less fat than frying.
- While grilling, use a rack to get rid of all the fat drippings. You’ll end up with the same great taste, but with fewer calories.
- Cook your food in the oven more frequently, using covered cookware with a little extra liquid. This allows you to control the amount of oil and add a variety of ingredients.
- Steaming vegetables is a fat-free way of cooking them. It also helps retain the many vitamins and minerals packed in them.
- Add more vegetables that are naturally low in salt, such as carrots, peppers and onions, to provide richer flavours to your dishes.
- Rinse any canned or pickled products you want to use to reduce their salt content. In fact, it’s better to avoid these kinds of products when possible.
- Marinate food using lemon and vinegar to give a flavourful boost.
- Try to get your sugar from natural produce, such as fruits, and avoid unhealthy sources like sugary beverages or sweets.
- Include semi-skimmed and skimmed dairy products more often in your daily diet to help reduce your fat intake.
- Choose lean white meat like chicken and fish more often than red meat.
2. Enhance your Immunity with Immune-Boosting Foods
- Choose whole grains like whole wheat bread, whole wheat pasta, brown rice, corn and oats, which provide you with plenty of antioxidants, such as Vitamins A, C, E and selenium. Whole grains are also a major source of zinc, which plays a positive role in boosting immunity.
- Include onion and garlic in your cooking as the powerful immunity-promoters are a rich source of phyto-nutrients, which also help detoxify carcinogens.
- Enjoy fatty fish like salmon and sardines, which are excellent sources of omega-3 fatty acids, known for their very positive role in immunity enhancement. Fish is also known to be a good source of zinc and vitamin B6, which further develop your immunity.
- Make room for beans, a very good source of vitamin B6 and iron, which are both good immunity boosters.
- Snacking on almonds and walnuts provides a good source of vitamin E, which fights off the harmful effects of free radicals. These nuts are also rich in vitamin B6 and healthy fats.
- Add flaxseed, a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids, to your diet. You can use flaxseed in bread or muffin recipes. Another great way to enjoy them is to sprinkle some on your breakfast cereal in the morning.
- Have yogurt fortified with probiotics as studies have shown they can play an effective role in boosting the body’s natural defenses.
- Add spices and natural herbs rich in antioxidants, such as cumin, cinnamon, turmeric, basil and thyme, for a flavour-filled kick.
- Use healthy oils such as olive, canola, corn or sunflower, which are rich in vitamin E, a natural antioxidant.
3. Ensure Adequate Water Intake
On average, you should be drinking at least eight glasses of water daily, though you will need more when there are extreme weather conditions, or when you increase your physical activity. Try to also raise your fluid intake by consuming fruits and veggies that have high water content. Cucumbers, tomatoes and watermelons are some of the options that can help keep your body hydrated.
4. Make Smart Food Choices
Review food labels whenever you shop for groceries, checking nutritional facts on products, including information on the per serving amount of saturated fat, trans fat, added sugars, cholesterol, sodium and other ingredients that can raise health concerns. In addition, nutrient reference values expressed as % Daily Values within the nutrition facts help you understand how a specific food fits into your overall daily diet.