[This post was written by Cristina Cavanaugh, a registered dietitican on Amwell.]
Practice these 3 healthy habits to instantly improve your nutritional wellness:
Habit #1: Hara Hachi Bu
Eat until you are 80% full
This is a habit of the Okinawan culture, to only eat until you are 80% full. Compared to Americans, Okinawans have a lower BMI, 80% lower incidence of heart disease and 50-80% lower incidence of cancer thanks to this habit and to following an antioxidant rich, plant-based diet. Americans have a problem called portion distortion, we expect gigantic servings sizes! We plate up individual meals that can feed a whole family! Give it a try! Practice Hara Hachi Bu for at least one meal this week. Sit at the table without distractions (no reading, no tv, no Facebook), chew your food slowly and listen to your body. Stop eating when you feel pleasantly full instead of finishing everything on your plate. You may notice it takes a lot less food than you think to feel 80% full!
Habit #2: Fasting
I’m not talking about an extreme water fast here! I’m talking about fasting while we sleep. Simple enough, right? Give your body a 12 hour break to complete digestion and move on to detoxification and healing. During the day our body uses energy to digest the food we consume. At night our body needs to use that energy for detoxification and healing. If we eat a huge meal late at night, we don’t give our bodies the time to “clean house.” All our energy is used for digestion instead! Try to eat your last meal or snack 12 hours before you have breakfast. For example, have dinner at 7 pm and have breakfast after 7 am the next day.
Habit #3: Have a Morning Tonic
After a long night of sleep, one of the best things you can do to “break the fast” is to drink a glass of water. Water will help flush out toxins accumulated during the night. Kick it up a notch with my morning tonic! One of my favorite combinations is warm water, juice from 1/2 lemon, drop of maple syrup, a dash of cayenne pepper and a pinch natural sea salt.
Here’s why I love this combination:
- Lemon: Lemon is a natural diuretic and detoxifier. Drinking lemon juice first thing in the morning will help flush out the toxins that your body worked so hard to eliminate during the night. The high vitamin C content in lemon also helps to boost immunity. Pectin found in fresh lemon juice will also keep hunger in check throughout the day!
- Cayenne Pepper: Cayenne pepper contains a compound called capsaicin, which is a known digestive aid and pain reducer. A study in the New England Journal of Medicine stated that daily doses of cayenne pepper reduced the symptoms of indigestion in a placebo-controlled trial. Cayenne pepper is also beneficial for heart health by reducing cholesterol and triglyceride levels. Plus, it has the ability to increase our basal metabolic rate triggering stored body fat to be used as energy!
- Sea Salt: Adding a tiny pinch of pure sea salt will help combat dehydration. Unlike table salt, natural sea salt contains many trace minerals and electrolytes including sodium, chloride, potassium copper, iodine, magnesium and zinc. I especially like adding sea salt to my morning tonic on days that I run to prevent dehydration. My favorite is pink Himalayan sea salt!
- Maple Syrup: I add a drop of maple syrup mainly for sweetness. However, maple syrup does have health benefits! Maple syrup contains manganese, which is a cofactor in enzymatic reactions important for fighting free radicals and energy production. Maple syrup also contains zinc, an immunity booster!
Some people swear by using apple cider vinegar instead of lemon juice. While I love apple cider vinegar in salad dressings, I’m not too keen on drinking it in the morning! Some people find lemon juice too acidic. Start with a drop and see how your body reacts. If lemon juice isn’t your thing, try steeping a few pieces of sliced ginger root in warm water. Similar to lemon juice, ginger has many detoxifying qualities and aids in digestion. At the very least, just have a glass of pure water!
It’s all about finding what works best for your body!