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Universality of Health

What does it mean to be “healthy”? The concept of health can seem rather complex and it can differ amongst every individual. Often, people tend to over complicate the idea of health and being healthy by falling for the most current and popular diet or exercise regimes. Nonetheless, health does not have to be a complex theme. There is no quick fix to get fit and it does not involve outrageous exercises, foods or diet claims. There exists a vital core to living a healthy lifestyle and it can be regarded as a commonality amongst all people in every community around the world.

The vital core I’m referring to has two components: movement and food for fuel. In terms of movement, everyone should be active in a least one form or another. Whether that be walking, running, weight lifting or playing sports it is so important to allow your body to move to encourage circulation and fluidity. If you have a job where you’re sitting most of the time, ensuring that you take regular walking and stretching breaks is especially important.

In terms of exercise, if you remain moderately active and eat well, simple exercises like long walks or light jogs will suffice. However, you must consider what your goals are. Someone who wants to build muscle and be super “fit” will exercise differently than someone who simply wishes to maintain their current body weight. Certain environmental factors come into play as well. If you live in a cold climate all year round, the chances that you’ll go for long walks or runs is smaller than someone who lives in consistently warm weather, so, perhaps you would be more inclined to frequent a gym. The most important part to remember is that half of the secret to being healthy and staying healthy is being active. Find what motivates you to move and use it as part of your healthy lifestyle equation.

When it comes to fuel, of course I’m talking about food. To be healthy, look healthy and feel healthy, food is the most important aspect to consider. A lot can be said about what we should eat and avoid and why, but I’m hoping to make it simple for the time being. There are three possible categories of food that we can eat known as macronutrients: carbohydrates, proteins and fats. Almost every food contains a combination of these macronutrients and in each category, there exists artificial or manmade versions that should be avoided at all costs.

In the carbohydrate category, there are fruits, vegetables, grains and wheat, beans and legumes, sugars and starches. Although we need carbs to survive because our body uses them for energy, in an ideal world one would stick to fruits, veggies and a few grains like quinoa and brown rice. All other refined starches and sugars like white bread, white pasta, baked goods and pastries and plain old sugar should be eliminated in our daily diets. Now, gluten is a protein found in wheat and although this doesn’t sound terrible, it can cause stomach upsets and indigestion for many, so it is best to be avoided for most. Although, if it isn’t a problem for you opt for sprouted whole grain breads like Ezekiel bread, as they are much more easily digestible and less processed.

When it comes to protein, it is very important to ensure you are eating enough. A general rule of thumb is that you have a source of protein at every meal. Unlike carbohydrates, the main protein sources to avoid are a little more obvious. Processed meats like deli meat, prepackaged lunches, hot dogs, hamburgers and canned meat should be avoided. It is best to opt for poultry (chicken, eggs), fish and lean cuts of red meat. If you are a vegetarian or vegan, eating meat is obviously not an option and it is much more difficult to find protein sources.

Nonetheless, many plant-based foods like collard greens, beans, quinoa, nuts and seeds contain a lot more protein than you would think.

Finally, onto fats. Healthy fats, in my opinion, are probably the most important dietary category to consider when it comes to living a healthy lifestyle. Your body needs fat to survive and your brain is the largest consumer of healthy fats. When I say fats however, take note that I don’t mean the kind of fat you find in fried foods or sweet treats. At all costs, highly refined oils like hydrogenated ones should be strictly eliminated from your diet. On the other hand, healthy fats like those from nuts, seeds, flax, hemp, chia, avocados and coconut should be plentiful in your diet.

Even though I’ve mentioned this “vital core” to healthy living that exists amongst all global communities, there is still room for variations. These variations will depend on the individual and their environment. For example, fruits and vegetables that are readily available in sunny California, won’t necessarily be as fresh and accessible in the middle of Iceland. Although this is a comparison of two extremes, it’s important to acknowledge that your healthy lifestyle must be suited to your environment and your daily habits. The key is to incorporate the basic principles of diet and exercise (mentioned above) as the basis of your healthy living journey.

I hope that this post has provided enlightenment in terms of what it means to be healthy and how living a healthy lifestyle can be applicable no matter who you are or where you live. One way of eating or exercising won’t work for everyone, but the idea of being active and eating clean is applicable to all. Remember to always have fun with your diet and exercise regimes and listen to your body to practice what makes you happy.

xx Leah

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