In our previous two blogs on holistic health, we discussed the importance of physical fitness and the obstacles some people may face when it comes to changing their lifestyle. One obstacle that can be very tough to overcome is diet, which is the topic of today’s blog.
Let’s get something straight first. A diet is not meant to be a temporary thing - the idea that we should go on a strict, unbalanced plan for 8 weeks, lose a bunch of weight, and then come off the diet to only gain more than what we lost is damaging and unhealthy. Diets are a temporary fix to a greater problem - your lifestyle. In order to create real, lasting, and most importantly, healthy change, you have to make adjustments to your lifestyle instead of making temporary and unrealistic adjustments to your diet for a certain window of time. Of course, balance is extremely important as well - it’s important to take care of yourself and to pay attention to what you put in your body, but it’s completely okay to splurge and treat yourself sometimes. Health requires discipline, but not so much that you feel miserable!
So why is diet such a big part of holistic health? Most obviously, what you eat overall plays a big role in how healthy you are. Typically speaking, someone who eats junk food all the time is not going to be as healthy as they could be, especially compared to someone who eats healthy, balanced meals. What’s more, eating healthily will help fuel your workouts (as mentioned in the previous article) while providing the added benefit of an improved mood and well-being; in fact, there are multiple studies like this that indicate a lifestyle involving a high fruit and vegetable intake can be directly linked to increased well-being and overall health, both mentally and physically.
So where can you begin? Assuming that you’ve already begun increasing your amount of exercise, you’ll probably have already started eating healthier without realizing it, as it’s hard to exercise more if you’re eating junk food that leaves you feeling bloated and without energy. Even then it can still be hard to know what to eat - but all it takes is understanding the numbers behind your food.
First, let’s talk protein. Protein is the essential building block for many of your body’s natural processes, as protein is broken down in your body to be used for life sustaining processes, such as tissue regeneration and repair. While the amount of protein you eat is important, the quality of that protein is equally important - this is because the amino acid structure of each type of protein varies. Structurally, animal protein is similar, but not the same as plant-based protein. If you eat animal protein every day, this isn’t really something to worry about, but plant-based protein sources often lack certain amino acids and minerals that we need to sustain life and good health. This can be easily remedied with proper supplementation, however. As far as how much protein you need, protein should typically take up about 30% of your net calories for the day; so for someone eating 2000 calories a day, you can expect to eat about 150 grams of protein daily (protein is approximately 4 calories per gram). Plus, eating more protein is going to help fuel your exercise and keep you full between meals - so adding extra protein onto your plate will serve you well!
Then there’s carbohydrates and fat - both of which are 4 calories per gram and 9 calories per gram, respectively. Carbs serve as a short-term energy source for your body, while fat serves as a more efficient, long-term energy source for your body. Consumption of these two macronutrients must be balanced, however, as they both can be stored as visceral fat if eaten in excess, which leads to weight gain. Carbs and fat should make up about 40 and 30 percent of your daily intake respectively, though these ratios can be adjusted depending on your goals. Diet plans such as the Keto diet rely on a high fat, low-to-no carb approach to encourage aggressive weight loss, while diet plans with an opposite, high carb/low fat approach allow the dieter to eat more filling foods with the same amount of calories. Everyone is different, and will likely respond to each type of eating plan differently. For more on eating plans, you can actually check out an article we published here that touches on four of the most popular diet trends right now and which ones may be right for you. While we love Paleo here at Caveman, it may not be the right choice for you - and what matters most is finding a plan that you can stick to that makes you happy!
Finally, in case you haven’t been already, make sure that you drink enough water and eat enough fiber. Both of these are key components for processing food efficiently, among other things that your body needs, such as electrolyte balance and digestive regularity. The average adult should eat 25 to 30 grams of fiber a day, while drinking at least 8 to 12 glasses of water a day (approximately two to three liters).
That covers the basics of dietary health! In the next and final part, we’ll be covering mental health and wrapping up this blog series. If you want more information in the meantime, you can always check out the rest of our blog for more information on Paleo dieting and getting back to better, the Caveman way. As always, thanks for reading and we’ll see you in the next blog.