1. Don’t eat unless you’re hungry
Give your gut a break. Digestion needs energy too, which your body has to divert from elsewhere in your body, such as your brain. Eating less makes you feel like a light traveller instead of one who has to pay for excess baggage.
2. Eat food
This is less obvious than it seems. Food is what the body needs and recognises when we first smell, taste and chew on a meal; this primes our bodies to digest and assimilate food easily. Our craving for certain tastes (sweet, sour, salty, pungent, bitter, astringent) at different times is the body’s way of telling us what kinds of food and nutrition it needs at that moment.
On the other hand, so-called packaged food is industrially processed for convenience, for both takeaway and home cooking. The artificial flavourings used in its mass manufacture are meant to compensate for the original flavours lost in the processing; they trick the body into thinking it’s getting the nutrition it needs. So, eat food.
3. How to recognise food
Not carbs, fats or proteins, but mangoes, papaya, pumpkin, fish, chicken, lamb, etc. These are examples of food that are found fresh and whole at your local market, i.e. they haven’t been processed into ingredients for mass-manufactured products and a long shelf life. Whole foods are never purely protein, carbs or fat but a combination of the three, and many other unique traits. When we reduce them to carbs, fats or proteins, we reduce nature’s bounty to a sketchy and misleading measure of nutrition.
4. Eat food fresh for good gut health
Peel an orange and the skin shrivels and dries up. Ditto for an apple or any other fruit. So why does it stay fresh when it’s still part of the fruit? Whatever it is that’s keeping the whole fruit fresh (scientists don’t yet know) could also be why we so easily taste the freshness of whole foods, and why they’re good prebiotics for our gut bacteria and a thriving digestive system.
5. Don’t eat in between meals
The gastric (secretion of digestive acids) or stomach phase of digestion takes three to four hours to complete. If you keep eating before it is complete, you delay it. If you do this for long and often, the food will be in more or less a permanent state of incomplete digestion. What happens next is rapid weight gain as your body deals with undigested food mass by trying to place it outside of your congested gastrointestinal tract, like your hips, gluteus maximus and ankles (hello, gout).
6. What about “healthy snacking”?
Let’s define what a snack is: something to tide you over when you feel hungry but haven’t yet eaten your main meal. For example, you have a workout session scheduled in two hours, but have been stuck in meetings all day and haven’t had lunch. So you pop a small handful of dates and nuts for the energy you need. That’s healthy snacking.
7. Moving along: exercise and gut health
Peristalsis, the movement of food through our alimentary canal as it’s being digested, is stimulated by mild exercise such as walking and gentle stretching after a main meal. (But always sit and never eat on the run; eating and running are physiologically incompatible activities). If you haven’t just eaten, then exercise can be an even more effective way of toning the intestinal muscles. Talk to our Certified Fitness Coaches to find out how.