There are so many different diets and nutritional ideologies out there today, which can make it difficult to know what’s best for your mind, body and soul
he truth is, our gut microbiomes are so complex and unique that it’s impossible to prescribe a cookie-cutter diet that will help everyone find their optimal health.
We know that our diet and lifestyle affects our weight, digestion, energy levels, immunity, mood, and so much more. Still, with the overload of information available at our fingertips, the fundamentals of thriving have been lost and forgotten.
Here’s the thing. Thriving comes from simplicity, rather than over-complicating our most basic instincts. So let’s get back to basics! Here are the 6 nutrition fundamentals for your mind, body and soul.
Avoid compromise on food quality
The ancient Greeks introduced the world to the concept of energetics and how it affects the health of humans, animals and plants. With the understanding that we are all spiritually connected by energy, they practised ‘wisdom healing,’ using food to nourish the mind, body and soul.
It goes much deeper than macronutrients, vitamins and minerals, but it’s really quite simple; the very nature of our food has an impact on the kind of mind-body-soul system we’re building for ourselves.
We are made of energy and need to take in more energy in the form of food, air and water for sustenance and good health. Different foods have different energies; even two otherwise identical vegetables can have a very different impact on your body if one was grown organically, in rich fertile soil with love in grandma’s backyard, while the other is contaminated with pesticides and harvested with indifference.
Along with eliminating toxic thoughts and relationships, we can also raise our standards by eating highly nutritious foods. So when deciding on your next meal, ask your entire energetic body what it would love, rather than just asking your tongue what it would like.
Eat a wide variety of sustainable whole foods
No single food can provide all the vitamins and minerals you need to thrive in your body, mind and soul. You must enjoy a wide variety of whole foods every day to ensure you meet your nutritional needs.
Fruits and vegetables come in many different colours because of their different health-promoting compounds, mesonutrients and antioxidants. Eating whole foods with a wide variety of colours is one of the easiest ways to ensure you’re getting all the nutrients required for your mind and body to function optimally.
It’s also important to change up your protein sources, remembering you can also get protein from plant foods. Making more sustainable choices, through buying organic local produce is not only good for the planet but great for the soul too.
Our mental and emotional state impacts our ability to digest
Come to a state of rest before eating
You could be eating the healthiest meal, but you won’t be able to receive its full nutritional value if you aren’t in a relaxed state. Just because a food has a certain nutrient content, doesn’t mean we will absorb all those nutrients.
When it comes to how we metabolise our food, the mind has a massive influence on how well the body can complete this task. Our mental and emotional state impacts our ability to digest and absorb what we eat. In other words, our psychology affects our physiology.
Did you know that stress can seriously compromise your nutrition, regardless of what you’re eating? Perhaps what you’re eating is not the issue. Stress compromises nutrition in the following ways:
- Deregulates appetite and drives us to eat too much or too little
- Increases cortisol and insulin which leads to us storing extra body fat, no matter how healthily we eat or how much we workout
- Inhibits muscle growth
- Causes digestive upset
- Leads to intense nutrient excretion
- Kills healthy gut bacteria
- Can lower thyroid and growth hormone levels
- Can make us more susceptible to food allergies
Rest is the optimal state for digestion, assimilation, and energy production - so prioritise finding your inner peace before you eat!
Enjoy food slowly and mindfully
Have you ever eaten so quickly and distractedly that you wondered where your meal went and what on earth it tasted like? Eating in this way usually indicates that we are not mentally present or in a rested state, and can sometimes be followed by uncomfortable digestion and an energy slump.
The solution? Practice mindfulness techniques before and during your meal to calm your mind and prepare your body to rest and digest. Whether it’s through prayer, breathwork, a quick meditation, or simply through sensory awareness, make mindful eating a priority.
Put your phone away and resist the urge to watch your favourite show. Pay attention to the sights and scents coming from your plate. With each mouthful, savour the flavours and notice any thoughts or emotions that come up. Eat without judgement or criticism of yourself, and bring your focus to your physical presence, as well as how you feel internally. Eat with your mind, body and soul fully present, so that all three aspects of the self can be completely nourished.
Eat enough food to meet your individual needs and goals
If you’re eating a wide variety of organic, plant-rich meals, restricting your intake rarely is the answer for a health concern. Even if your goal is to lose weight, steer clear of low-calorie diets and nutritionally restrictive fads. Just as restricting your calories isn’t the answer, cutting out an entire macronutrient for most people is not a sustainable long term solution. Always remember that for the fast majority of people a balance diet of protein, carbs and fats from whole-food sources is the ideal for optimal health and wellbeing.
The mind, body and soul can’t thrive without enough food, but fortunately, there are clear signs of under-eating to look out for. The first step is to work out an estimate of your daily calorie requirements, then make adjustments based on your energy levels, mood, and any changes to your body weight.
And remember - the number of calories you need each day won’t always stay the same! As you get fitter and stronger, for example, you’ll need to eat more. On the other hand, if you switch from an active job to a sedentary job, you might require a bit less food to maintain good health.
A food diary can help you figure out which parts of your diet are not serving you
Keep a food diary
Your optimal diet will not necessarily be the same as anyone else’s. If you’re not feeling your best, but not sure where you’re going wrong with your diet, a food diary can help you figure out which parts of your diet are not serving you. Recording your food intake while you’re feeling great can also help you clarify which foods are your friends.
Keep a record of what you eat and how much you eat, as well as your appetite levels, emotions, how you're feeling physically, energy levels, digestive ease, and anything else that comes to mind. You may be surprised by what your food diary reveals!
To recap: Eat high-quality, nutrient-dense foods to keep you feeling on top of your game; focus on sustainable, colourful whole foods; stay calm and present while eating; always eat enough, and keep a record of what you eat and how you feel! Pretty simple, isn’t it?