Holistic health emphasises the connections between physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health.
It features several key pillars, including balance, which can have implications for your diet. For instance, a balanced diet of natural, organic food can help nourish your body.
THE IMPORTANCE OF NUTRITION
Everything that’s living feeds itself in some way. In the rainforest and elsewhere on Earth, green plants use a process called photosynthesis to convert the sun’s energy into food. At the most basic level, we humans eat to gain energy to live, grow and repair ourselves. Our food can also provide us with nutrients such as calcium, which strengthens bone, and protein, which builds lean muscle.
A CLOSER LOOK
Your body needs three key food components to function well:
- Macronutrients – carbohydrates, proteins and fats. These provide energy.
- Micronutrients like vitamins and minerals, which can support a variety of functions in the body.
- Fibre, a type of carbohydrate that supports your digestive system health.
WHAT DOES A BALANCED DIET LOOK LIKE?
To gain a wide variety of nutrients, try to base around 70 per cent of your diet on: fruits; vegetables and legumes; whole grain bread, oats, cereals, rice and wholemeal pasta.
Nuts and seeds can further complement your protein intake, as well as healthy fats like extra virgin olive oil to provide a range of vitamins and minerals. Vitamins and minerals help process the carbohydrates, proteins and fats from the foods we eat.
As for drinking, the best choice is water, of course. Fruit juice is also an option – but not too much. Have half a glass occasionally or dilute it with water. Also, consider tea, especially black and green types, which contain antioxidants.
EATING FOR YOUR MICROBES
A balanced diet is great for your microbiome, the ecosystem of trillions of tiny microbes that live on and inside our bodies. Just as a rainforest contains a breathtaking diversity of plant and animal life, so a healthy microbiome should contain large numbers and many different types of bacteria.
While you need to eat a variety of foods from each food group, leafy green vegetables are particularly good at nourishing healthy gut flora.
Then there are prebiotics, which are basically food for your microbes. Because you can’t digest them properly, they’re able to support the growth of friendly bacteria in your large intestine. Prebiotic foods include bananas, sweetcorn, chickpeas, kidney beans, nectarines, couscous, and oats.
Antioxidants counter the effects of free radicals. The most well-known antioxidants are vitamins C and E, beta-carotene and polyphenols. The best way to reap their benefits is to eat whole fruits, veggies and whole grains, since these contain rich networks of antioxidants, which work together like a hive of bees.
A balanced, holistic diet helps keep your body in good health, sustaining your energy levels and enhancing diversity in your microbiome. It’s like the trunk of a tree, from which all the other branches grow.