Sprinkle Some Extra Health into Your Day

By Brandy Carrillo, UC Davis Healthy Aggies Peer Counselor

With everything going on in the world right now, maintaining a healthy lifestyle can seem very overwhelming and out of reach. Healthy living isn’t confined to how many hours you worked out this week or eating salad for every single meal, it’s composed of simple small things we can do daily to improve overall wellness.

Today I’ll be honing in on the nutritional component of healthy living and sharing 5 tips and tricks to help boost the nutritional value of our food and improve your overall health.

Tip #1: Hydration is Key

We all know that it’s super important for you to enough water throughout the day, but it’s even better to start off your day with a full glass of water. As we sleep, our bodies can lose a fair amount of water through breathing, sweating, etc., so when get up each morning, we’re essentially waking up from 8 hours of dehydration. Hydrating first thing in the morning before any food can help curb any pseudo-hunger, aid your digestion and rehydrate your skin.

Tip #2: Incorporate Some Super Seeds

Seeds are the starting point for complex adult plants, so it makes a lot of sense that they’re extremely healthy and nutritious. Seeds are little pockets packed with fiber, unsaturated fats, minerals, vitamins, and antioxidants. Incorporating seeds is super simple and easy and can help improve the nutritional value of your meal! You can add any of these to a salad, oatmeal, smoothie, cereal… the possibilities are endless!

  • Flax seeds are a great source of fiber and omega-3 fatty acids! (But make sure to grind them first because of their fibrous outer shell)
  •  Pumpkin seeds are a really good source of minerals like phosphorous and manganese, unsaturated fats, and omega-6 fatty acids
  • Hemp seeds are great source of plant based protein and are one of the few plant foods that are a complete protein (they contain all the essential amino acids)

Tip #3: Use Veggies as Your Food Foundation

When cooking a meal, a good rule of thumb is to fill up half your plate vegetables. But to take this tip to another level, you can use vegetables as the focal point and build the rest of your meal from there. This not only increases your vegetable intake, but also helps with portion control and intuitive eating. Some of my favorites include using spiraled zucchini, spaghetti squash, and cauliflower rice. Doing this for one of your meals will definitely help you achieve the daily recommended intake of 2 to 3 cups of veggies for the average adult.

Tip #4: Vitamin C and Iron are Best Friends

Iron deficiency is one of the most common nutrient deficiencies in the U.S. Iron is crucial to your body’s ability to transport oxygen throughout your body and a deficiency  can eventually result in anemia. One tip I have is to pair vitamin C rich foods with iron rich foods as vitamin C helps improve our body’s absorption of iron.

Some foods high in vitamin C include:

  • Strawberry
  • Orange
  • Lemon
  • Bell pepper

Foods high in iron include:

  • Spinach
  • Legumes
  • Beef
  • Shellfish
  • Quinoa

Tip #5: Chew Your Food

I know this tip may seem a bit silly and obvious… but hear me out. Something as simple as taking the extra time to chew your food for a bit longer can maximize the nutritional value of your food and aid digestion. Chewing more thoroughly essentially helps increase your food’s surface area and makes it easier for the enzymes in your body to break down your food and absorb those nutrients a lot more effectively. It also improves digestion since we’re not eating large chunks of food and eating quickly.

Healthy eating isn’t about swearing off specific foods but more so about incorporating smaller steps into your usual eating habits to create a healthier eating pattern over a period of time. You can definitely tweak a few things here and there in your typical eating habits that will build up your nutritional health in the long run.  What things have you tried lately?

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