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Living a Healthy Lifestyle

healthy Photo credit: Anna Pelzer on Unsplash

From my experience as a practising community pharmacist for over 50 years, I have arrived at the conclusion that many common illnesses can be prevented, and even treated, simply by changing one's lifestyle. In this article I will show you some ways to feel healthier.

Whilst some medications are vital for treating disease, many conditions can be prevented and/or alleviated by introducing new habits to the daily routine, including moving to a plant-based diet.

Always be aware that prescribed medications can cause side effects, especially if taken for prolonged periods. For instance, the commonly prescribed gastric acid inhibitor drugs such as Losec and Nexium do a great job of alleviating reflux, but in the long term can cause more serious illnesses, such as malabsorption of calcium and magnesium leading to osteoporosis, and suppression of stomach acid causing other gut disorders.

Drink more water – at least 2 liters per day, depending on conditions, and especially as one grows older. Body dehydration can present as headaches, constipation, urinary tract infections, and more. One useful hint is to drink 2 glasses of water on rising in the morning to stimulate the body into action, and 1 glass before you go to bed, which allows the replenishing body functions to continue whilst you sleep.

Do some kind of exercise every day. For the non-sporty types, this can start off as a simple five-minute stretching with a You Tube video. There is so much choice available - you can search on such key words as Pilates for Beginners, Easy Yoga, Chair Exercises, Keep Fit for Seniors etc. As you find one or two you like, you can build up to 15 or 30 minutes each day. If you spend a lot of time at the computer or any other sedentary occupation, stop every hour or so and stretch your legs, take a short walk, or just get your body moving in some way.

Maintaining a healthy lifestyle is a vital aspect of living a happy and fulfilling life. Our diet plays a significant role in determining our overall health and wellbeing, and it has consistently been shown that a plant-based diet reduces the risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease, type-2 diabetes, and some forms of cancer.

Aim towards eating a plant-based diet. This would be based on fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, nuts, and seeds, and reducing your intake of animal products such as meat and dairy. The primary focus should be on whole, minimally processed foods, rich in vitamins, minerals, and fibre. These antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compounds protect against chronic inflammation and oxidative stress that contribute to many chronic diseases.

Meal suggestion: Stir-fried red onion, mushrooms and mangold
on a bed of mashed potato, sweet potato and white cabbage.

Vegetarian diets are also great for weight management because they are generally lower in calories and higher in fibre, which helps you feel fuller for longer and reduce overeating. By making healthier food choices, and cutting out sugary and salty snacks, you can enjoy a healthier weight and a healthier lifestyle overall.

Don't worry that you would lack protein. The following gives you a guide to the quantity of protein in various foods (approx. amounts):

1.Legumes: beans, lentils, chickpeas, and peas are all high in protein. (1 cup of cooked lentils - 18 g. protein).

2.Nuts and seeds: almonds, cashews, chia seeds, hemp seeds, and pumpkin seeds are all good sources of protein. (1/4 cup of almonds -7 g. protein).

3.Soy products: tofu, tempeh, and edamame are all high in protein. (1/2 cup of firm tofu - 10 g. of protein).

4.Grains: some grains are high in protein, in particular quinoa and buckwheat. (1 cup of cooked quinoa - 8 g. protein).

5.Vegetables: some vegetables are also high in protein, such as broccoli, spinach, and Brussels sprouts. (1 cup of cooked spinach - 5 g. of protein).

Meal suggestion:a quick stir-fry meal based on quinoa (3 colors),
onion, garlic, carrots, celery, spinach and tofu.

While individual veggies and grains may not be as high in protein as meat or dairy, consuming a wide variety of plant-based foods, together with mushrooms, eggs, and fish, can still provide all the essential amino acids necessary for a healthy diet whist considerably reducing the risk of chronic disease.
NB Protein is not stored in the body; excess protein is excreted in the urine which causes extra work for the kidneys.

Would you get enough calcium? You can rest assured that eating a wide variety of veggies, including all the dark green leaves, will give you enough calcium, which is better absorbed into the body, especially as compared to swallowing a calcium tablet.
According to a report from Harvard School of Public Health "… eating 1 cup of cooked bok choy has as much bioavailable calcium as a small cup of milk".

It is recommended to soak nuts for an hour or so before eating them.This leaches out phytic acid enabling maximum absorption of calcium and other minerals. Likewise, soaking beans and legumes (which are also rich in calcium) for several hours before cooking, changing the water several times, not only gets rid of the harmful phytic acid, but also reduces the bloating and gas that they often cause.

Eat at least 3 different fruits per day and aim to eat a wide variety different colored veggies - white, green, orange, red and purple. And don't forget to add a variety of nuts and seeds to your daily diet.

Eating just two Brazil nuts a day provides you with enough of the trace element selenium, which ensures a healthy thyroid and helps to keep your immune system functioning at its best.

Mental Health issues. Studies have shown that a plant-based diet can reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety due to the nutrients that support brain function and mood regulation. Aim to reduce sugar spikes by eating a sweet snack together with yoghurt or nuts.

Last, but not least - add some kind of fermented food to your daily diet, whether sauerkraut, kimchi, miso, kombucha, kvass or kefir. Fermented foods contain live microorganisms and are rich in probiotics which help promote a healthy gut microbiome. The gut microbiome plays a crucial role in our overall health by supporting our immune system, aiding in digestion and nutrient absorption, and regulating inflammation.

Kefir can be bought in health food stores, or easily made at home. It is a fermented drink that contains a unique combination of live bacteria and yeast cultures, an excellent source of beneficial microorganisms that can improve digestion and boost the immune system. Regular consumption of kefir may also have other health benefits, such as reducing inflammation, lowering cholesterol levels, and improving bone health. Kefir is also a good source of protein, calcium, and other essential nutrients. Additionally, some studies suggest that kefir may have anti-cancer properties. Overall, drinking kefir is a great way to support overall health and wellbeing.

And as a bonus, limiting your consumption of animal produce also reduces your carbon footprint. Animal agriculture is a significant contributor to greenhouse gas emissions and environmental degradation. By consuming plant-based foods, especially locally grown, you can reduce your impact on the environment and promote sustainable living.

This article is just an introduction to the fascinating world of a healthy plant-based lifestyle. If you want to read more or want to make a comment or ask a question, then go to my interactive blog.

Frankie Cronin has a B.Sc. degree from Manchester University and has worked as a pharmacist in hospital, institutional and neighbourhood pharmacies in England and Israel for over 50 years. 



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Friday, 19 July 2024

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