Everything Gets Better

You have heard from me about my increased energy, better sleep, and overall feeling of health. Today I discovered another benefit of improving your diet.

Since I was 12 I have worn glasses. Every few years I find that I have become slightly more near-sighted and need a slightly stronger prescription. This has gone on with a certain consistency that I have never questioned. I have heard one can improve their vision,  have heard that diet and even eye exercises etc to improve ones vision but have never given it the time or effort to see any results. As the decline in my vision has been so slight, I have never really worried myself too much about it.

Today I went to the eye doctor as I have noticed that the glasses I purchased 3 years ago seem slightly off and I knew it was time to find out my new prescription. I was surprised with the news “your current glasses are over-correcting.”

Yes, I don’t know why I didn’t think of it before, but now that I am consuming a diet composed of mostly fruits and vegetables why wouldn’t my vision improve? A little Google-ing shows that there are studies to show vision improves with vitamins (usually ending in recommendations to take supplements). I like how one website I found was titled “Improve vision naturally” but ended with a list of supplements. Well here is a testimony that one can improve vision “naturally” with fruits and vegetables! [Note, I do take a vitamin D supplement in the winter months as I do not get enough sun, but I fully believe a very good diet supersedes the need for supplementation]

Once again I am just astonished that our standard American diet has led us into a path of poorer vision, like poorer health, increased rates of again, and so many other undesirable side effects yet we have done little to question these habits. I am reminded again how grateful I am to have  been directed into a new way of eating, and improved health!

Helping Digestion With Right Food Combinations

Helping your body digest food is one of the easiest ways to improve the absorption of nutrients from your food as well as improving your energy, performance and sleep. Simple changes in your menu planning can result in great benefits, and if you ever suffer from the following you may be experiencing the results of poor food combining:

  • Gas
  • Heartburn
  • Low energy
  • Poor sleep
  • Unexplained headaches
  • Upset stomach
  • Difficult bowel movements
Here are some general rules that can improve your digestive function, and prevent fermentation and putrification in your digestive tract. I am listing these in the order I feel is most important.
  1. Do not combine sugar with fat. This is probably the worst combination of foods and leads to the sugars fermenting rather than being absorbed by the system. So if you are looking at combining foods with sweet foods such as fruit, try to minimize any food that is high in fat. Some examples are fruit with nuts, avocado in a fruit salad, for those transitioning to a plant based diet, any meat or dairy, especially cheese with fruit. If you do have fruit and fat in the same meal, be sure to eat the fruit first, so it has a chance to move through your stomach before the fat.
  2. Do not combine acid with starch. Acidity will greatly slow down the digestion of starches. Some examples are tomatoes with potatoes or pasta, tomatoes on a bread sandwich, and a common mistake I used to make, bananas with oranges in a smoothie.
  3. Limit the number of fatty foods to one in a meal. Examples, avocado with nuts, or if transitioning, dairy with meat.
  4. Sugar with starch, especially cooked starch. The best example here is a donuts, or any baked bread product with sugar or glaze. I don’t recommend these anyway, but if you do consume them use extreme moderation and eat them all by themselves.
  5. Proteins with starch. I add this one primarily for those transitioning to a plant-based diet as the examples here are meat and potatoes or pasta and cheese, or sandwiches with meat and/or cheese.
You’ll notice my lack of vegetables on this list, and that is because vegetables combine well with pretty much anything.  However they do digest slightly slower than fruit, so when planning a meal it is best to eat fruit first and then vegetables, especially if the vegetables are cooked. Here is a list of foods and the rate at which they digest:
  • Very Slow: oils, nuts, meat, dairy.
  • Slow: grains, breads, rice, pasta, avocado.
  • Medium: cooked vegetables, starchy vegetables (potatoes etc).
  • Fast: most vegetables, greens, less juicy fruits (apple, banana)
  • Very Fast: Juicy fruits (orange, pineapple, melon).
So if you do combine foods, choose ones that are in the same group, or one group away. If you are adding foods 2  groups away from each other use moderation, and if 3-4 groups away avoid or use extreme moderation.
Overall, the more you can enjoy your foods separately the better off you are, but if you are combining foods try to follow the above rules as much as possible to help your body maximize its ability to properly digest everything you eat.

Low Energy Today?

When switching to a plant-based diet, you should fairly quckly notice an increase in energy. After 7-1/2 months of a plant-based diet I am amazed at how much more energy I have every day. I have a hard time getting through a day without doing some sort of strenuous excersize, wich in the past I had to work hard to get myself motivated to do.

There were however some days, especially in the first couple months that I had less, not more energy then before starting on a plant-based diet, and for some this can carry on throughout their transition. Let me list a few things that may be prolonging your transition to a consistent energy filled day.

  • Fatty foods and oil
  • Not enough, or consistant rest
  • Not enough water
  • Stress, worries, depression
  • Sugar, caffeine, tobacco and alcohol
  • Lack of daily excercise and fresh air

Fatty foods and oil

We need far less fat in our diet than the typical American diet contains. Americans consume as much as 45% of their diet in fat. A good goal on a plant-based diet is 15-18%, some say as low as 10%, but I have found through tracking my own diet that 15% is a much more attainable goal. What this means is filling your diet with lots of fruit, and then lots of vegetables, then beans nuts and seeds (in that order), and a very small amount of fatty things like avacado, nuts and nut butters. What is a small amount? About 1/2 an avacado/day, or a fistfull of nuts, or 2-3 tablespoons of nut butter. Now that said, don’t beat yourself up if you go overboard now and then, and remember my philosophy that it is easier to obtain a goal like this if you fill your day with fruits and vegetables that you like that don’t have any fat so that it will leave fewer opportunities for cravings.

I have enjoyed learning to cook without oil. A few drops of oil in your food can slow down digestion for up to 2 hours. Especially avoid any oil, or fatty food with fruit or sugar as our body looses its extreme efficiency in digesting the fruit and turning it to energy when oil is added. I used to eat raisins with nuts, and put flax and salba seed in my smoothies until I learned this, now I make sure that my fruit is either solo or only with veggies to optimize digestion, and I have noticed a difference in my energy after a smoothie. It is better to eat anything that has fat, even in small amounts, with your vegitable meals.

Not enough or consistant rest

I wont say much about this because I’m sure everyone understands that our bodies get used to a certain amount of rest each day, and when it comes at a consistant time, our bodies adjust to this and give us full energy during our waking hours. The good news is that a plant-based diet really helps us as our bodies aren’t keeping us awake while having a difficult time with digestion. Everyone who makes a complete transition, and even those on a partial transition notice that it becomes easier to fall asleep, and feel less groggy in the morning. This makes it much easier to get consistent rest.

Not enough water

We need enough water throughout the body for so many functions to happen correctly. I wrote about water in a previous post, and here is a nifty calculator to figure out your goal amount. Water helps with so many functions in our bodies, and once you get in the habit, it really is not that hard to get enough water each day.

Stress, worries, depression

The mind can easily overcome gains realized by change in diet. If you find yourself stressed out, worried about things or suffering from depression, this needs to be addressed before looking at diet to improve energy. Meditation is a great way to overcome mild to moderate challenges. I make sure to spend some time every day just sitting and taking deep breaths, and I sure notice if I missed doing it for a day or two. I also use a mindfulness bell throughout the day to help me return to that place I was in while sitting. You don’t need a fancy meditation technique, though many are great, and recommended, but don’t let that stop you from simply sitting, breathing and being in the present moment.

Be sure that changes in your diet do not add to your stress. If you find this happening, then back off a bit and enjoy a treat, or take a day off. Better yet reach out for help, contact me, or contact someone you know that can help you with the process.

Sugar, caffeine, tobacco and alcohol

This is another one that I didn’t completely believe until I tried it. All of these things can really mess with your adrenal glands which which has a direct impact on your available energy. If you do still partake in any substances that affect your adrenal system you will notice a big difference when you reduce or stop. I still have the occasional beer and occasional cup of coffee, but I really limit it to special occasions, and avoid daily use. If you would like more information, just ‘google’ “adrenal glands and __________” (fill in the blank with any of the four substances).

Lack of daily excersice and fresh air.

Another one that I don’t think I need to say much about as hopefully everyone already realized this. However I will add one note and that is about vitamin D, which is so important for digestion of other foods and digestive function as well as cholesterol control. The best source of vitamin D is the sun. I try every day to get 15 minutes, in shorts and shirt off, to get my daily dose. It is important during this time not to wear sunscreen as this blocks the UV rays necessary for our body to create the vitamin D. I’ll write more about this important vitamin in a future post.

In conclusion, take what advice as you are willing from this post, I know it is a lot to consider, but all progress is helpful, so try at your own pace to begin to realize the beneficial energy gains, and consistency you will realize as you change your habits. Let me know if I can help.