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We’re back for another round of health and wellness. Everyone is on their own health journey and it looks different for everyone. Austin is a great city to live in because the possibilities are endless. So whether you’re just getting started, getting back to it, or just need a pick me up, here are three things you can do right now to boost your health and wellness journey!
There’s no better time than the present to prioritize your health and wellness, and Austin is one of the best places to be able to do it with ease. As we find ourselves further into an unprecedented time with serious health implications, it has become more important than ever to look at what we can do in our own lives to improve our health and immunity, now and in the future.
This week, Mina from @wellwithmina is highlighting three focus areas that you can easily begin to incorporate some healthy changes for immediate and lasting benefits. Having a healthy mind and body pays off, especially during times like these when a proper functioning immune system is the most reliable form of protection.
Stress Management – Find Your Zen!
It sounds simple enough, but managing stress is one of the most challenging aspects of the health journey because life can be… well, stressful! It’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day demands of work and life leaving you feeling exhausted, on-edge, overwhelmed, or all of the above. I once heard this quote on meditation that I think really paints the picture well: “If you think you need to meditate, you probably do. If you don’t think you need to meditate, you definitely do!”
Chronic stress is an accumulation of small stressors adding up over time that can wreak havoc on your health. When we get stressed, our bodies go into a fight or flight mode triggering the release of cortisol too often and for too long. This can damage your health both physically and mentally, with one of the biggest effects being immune system dysfunction. Manage your stress before it gets out of control by trying some, or all, of these self-care activities: acupuncture at PK Acupuncture & Wellness Center, massage at Spa Sway, yoga at Alive + Well Austin, or an outdoor meditation at Pease Park.
Nutrition – Eat Real Food
We’ve talked about the importance of mindful eating and the health benefits of buying local, seasonal foods over the past few weeks. Today, I’m going to share some specific nutrition upgrades you can implement right away that will have a huge impact on your overall health. The very first thing that you want to do is remove processed foods from your diet. This one seems obvious, but it continues to be one of the most effective ways to transform your health. When you remove processed foods, even the ones that are marketed as healthy, you get rid of the three big offenders – refined grains, seed oils, and sugars.
These processed ingredients are hidden in almost all packaged food products and they are at the root of so many health problems. Most of the time you hear about grains and sugar, but it’s the seed oils that are most important to eliminate. Industrially processed “vegetable” oils (canola, soybean, corn safflower, sunflower, rapeseed, rice bran) are not actually food at all. They are highly refined, chemically processed by-products of the farming industry that cause inflammation and cellular damage throughout the body. Get rid of these toxic oils and watch your health turn around!
One of the biggest risk factors for COVID is obesity, which is directly linked to consuming these processed foods. Dr. Aseem Malhotra is a cardiologist out of the U.K. who has been on the forefront of highlighting the dangers of these food-like products and how they are making people sick. He says that in just a few shorts weeks of eating healthy whole foods and avoiding processed ones, you can see an improvement in your health.
If there was one thing I could recommend to every American it would be to stop consuming these harmful oils and replace them with healthy fats like coconut, avocado, sustainable palm oils, tallow, lard, butter, olive oil and ghee. These traditional foods eaten in the absence of refined grains, seed oils, and sugar provide your body with fat-soluble nutrients needed to function optimally. Check out the delicious Texas-made olive oil from Texas Hill Country Olive Co and get some bacon from Salt & Time Butcher Shop to start collecting grease for cooking. I have a mason jar in the fridge full of lard that I use when frying Shirttail Creek Farm eggs. Pastured pork fat contains 300% more vitamin E and 74% more selenium than conventional pork. Healthy animals = superior nutrient density!
Vitamin D – The Super Hormone
The “vitamin” we all know we need, but most don’t get enough of. Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that acts like a hormone in the way that it functions in the body. Cholesterol in the skin gets converted to vitamin D when skin is exposed to sunlight, which is why you want to get sensible sun exposure regularly. Vitamin D is involved in some critical roles in the body including – utilizing calcium and improving absorption of key nutrients, like vitamins A and C. The vitamin D you get from sun exposure lasts twice as long in your body as it does from supplements and your body regulates how much it produces by tanning the skin, so you don’t get too much.
Vitamin D can be obtained from food sources and comes in two forms (D2 and D3), both of which need to be converted by the body into calcitriol to be used. D2 primarily comes from fortified foods and a few plant foods, while D3 comes from animal sources and sunlight making it the more readily used form by the body. Did you know that one tablespoon of lard from pastured pork contains 10,000 IUs of vitamin D? That’s on the same level as cold-water fish roe! Getting an adequate vitamin D level from food is more difficult to obtain than it is from sunlight, but it’s an important way to supplement a lack of sun exposure during less sunny months. Supplements can also be helpful in times of need, but I always suggest going for sunlight and food when possible.
A huge benefit of keeping your vitamin D levels optimal is to support your immune system. Deficiencies have been shown to increase your risk of infection and are associated with upper respiratory tract infections. So, it’s good to know your vitamin D status and take the necessary steps to boost your levels if they’re too low. Luckily, that shouldn’t be too difficult living in a sunny place like Austin. Take advantage of the year-round sunlight by getting outside for 10-30 minutes a day and letting your skin soak up some rays! Wear non-toxic sunscreen on your face and hands if you want some extra protection, and get out of the sun before you start turning pink. A few of my favorite ways to get vitamin D in Austin are – a picnic at Zilker Park, a walk on the Butler Hike & Bike Trail, laying out at Auditorium Shores, and swimming at Bull Creek Greenbelt.
There you have it! Focus on improving these three areas of life and watch how good you’ll feel. Health and wellness doesn’t have to be complicated. All it takes is knowing what to do and how to start.
Let’s #KeepAustinHealthy together.
Author – Jasmina Carbaugh, Primal Health Coach Institute Student & Wellness Enthusiast
Follow Mina on her Instagram: @wellwithmina